Letter from a Kidney Donor
Issue 12, April 2004
The opportunity to share vital life enhancing body parts by way of a mutual organ transplant operation is a privilege relatively few New Zealanders will ever experience. Although the benefits are heightened for the live donor, the possibility of organ donation is also uplifting for the prospective giver. These benefits are psycho/spiritual: the act of giving instils a state of 'structural' equanimity and joy within the donor and tends to inwardly affirm life's essential paradox that our deeper potential is sacrificial.
Participating as a live donor in a transplant engenders an intense feeling of union between giver and receiver and acts as a transformer of latent negative emotional energy to the positive for both parties.
Today, around 400 New Zealanders await a kidney transplant. These, I expect, would all currently be on renal dialysis. Apparently New Zealand has one of the lowest proportional rates of donation of kidneys (both live and cadaveral) internationally. This saddens me as it probably indicates a mix of emotional reticence and fear, and the need for greater education about the considerable advantage now being offered by modern surgical practice?
Prior to my brother's and my transplant in 1992, and the preceding examination phase to verify our suitability for the act, I was quite unaware of the possibilities, and it was only a well informed letter from my brother outlining a raft of relevant facts and probabilities that opened up the prospect.
Subsequent enquiry to renal specialists clarified the process for me, and I was able to proceed with detailed assessments of my bodily condition and suitability via blood and tissue typing. I was quite fascinated by the technical process of the 'arteriogram' scan, whereby a catheter is passed up the central artery and into the kidney region imparting a pigment into each kidney and then 'photographed'! To see a detailed 'photogram' of all the nephrons on a large overhead screen was quite an experience.
Now twelve years 'down the track' from our transplant, enthusiasm for this mode of health restoration is confirmed. My departed kidney is doing well in its new home, well accepted by the other organs and peacefully tolerated by its two hybernating polycystic confreres (original kidneys). There has been no 'glitch' to my own health as a consequence, the remaining kidney on the 'starboard' side is efficiently 'doing its thing' apparently having enlarged 40% within two years of the operation.
At the age of 65, I am able to persist with quite a demanding physical feat of bee-keeping, forestry work and building, and am optimistically looking forward to the next 65.
The emotional dilemma that surfaces for most New Zealanders over this issue could be partly alleviated by a better spread of factual information. It is with interest that I read of greater educational initiatives on transplants being fostered and encouraged through the national press, and the possibility of financial input to aid information-giving agencies. I hope that this can extend as far as inclusion in secondary school health programmes.
What does need urgent addressing is the manner in which potential cadaveral offerings could be more empathetically managed. More listings on drivers' licences or even a registry with organ donation agencies are insufficient in the light of emotional traumas faced by relatives/close friends immersed in sudden death/accident cases. There have to be ways devised whereby both relatives and intensive care staff are alleviated of this sudden burden of judgement. It will prove challenging to bring new strategies into effect, but as with all worthwhile aspects of life on this planet, if we wish to progress further along the path to a genuine peace, we have to face up to the impediments and allow them to be transcended.
With love (no kid(ney)ing)
Alan Quin is a qualified Architect, Builder and Bee-keeper in the Hokianga.