Go to the talk,” my wife insisted. I wasn’t really interested, but went anyway to humor her since she wasn’t able to go at the time. The talk turned out to be fascinating: a personal account of kidney donation delivered by Dr. Tamar Green. Thank G-d for my wife. Three months later, I walked into an operating room to donate my own kidney. Why? Why put myself through the ordeal of surgery, of recovery, of being out of work for a month? I think this can best be answered in the same fashion as President Kennedy when he asked and answered a question about sending a man to the moon: if this was easy, there wouldn’t be any difficulty finding donors. But it isn’t easy, both in qualifying to be a donor and in going through with it.
I decided to donate my kidney because I could, not because it was easy. It wasn’t easy. Pain medications don’t work well on me, so I had more pain than most; still, I was able to return to work a month post-surgery. But the end result was to see my recipient at a seuda a year later, healthy and able to enjoy life again after nearly forty years of suffering. I suffered for a mere week to end someone’s lifetime of suffering. I could not have done it without the support of my wife, my rabbi, my company, and Renewal.
In an added twist, my personal benefit extended far beyond the initial donation. During a checkup about 6 months afterwards, the doctor found an extremely early tumor in my thyroid; it was essentially undetectable, and would not have been found if not for the donation. My donating a kidney saved not only the recipient’s life, but my own as well.