JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL
made a living kidney donation to his brother in October 2021
My brother and I each had a 50% chance of inheriting polycystic kidneys from our father. I was the lucky one, who got to make a choice. My father was the recipient of two kidneys in the 1970s in the earliest days of kidney transplantation. He got a new lease on life although he battled with the side effects of the heavy drugs then used to combat organ rejection. I had been a regular blood donor for years.. If I could safely donate a kidney, I was prepared to do so. I was nervous, of course.
The question as to whether or not I would be asked to donate was in the back of my mind in the 20 plus years since my brother’s kidney disease was diagnosed. Getting the news that my brother needed a transplant, despite the knowledge this could come at any time, suddenly forced a decision and made a stark decision necessary. The support of my wife and family made the decision to go ahead to be tested for health and compatibility easier. I no longer took my physical health for granted as I faced a battery of intrusive tests. Despite a few mild concerns and some false positives, I got the green light. I committed. My family jokes that I said at that time, “I suddenly went from being the family jerk to the family hero.” I don’t recall saying that, but their love and affection poured out. The alternative choice not to donate would have haunted me for years despite being told that my brother had serious donor candidates including his wife and friends. Being able to donate felt like one of the most selfless things I could do. I made a serious decision and had weighed the risks. The decision was a huge success for all. My brother has been fortunate enough to enjoy 22 years of good health (micro-managed by him), which has included an extended career, philanthropy, and care for others.
Donating to a family member is a comparatively easy decision. Giving to an anonymous donor is an act of generosity and philanthropy of a different magnitude. The concerns about one’s own health are real, of course. However, prior to donating, you will receive the million dollar physical. If you are not in very good health, you will be disqualified. This includes your mental health as donating should never be due to family pressures, self-interest, etc. My experience was one of the most positive things I have ever done. There has never been a moment that I regretted my decision.
I have no doubt that I received world-class medical treatment at Johns Hopkins. My surgery was 22 years ago, and I have little doubt that the surgery and recovery are even better today. I had little pain and discomfort that I recall. I recall walking the halls of the hospital the day after the surgery and being discharged after a couple of days. I was on an airplane within a week of surgery. I have never had any complications so I am truthfully able to say that it was an easy recovery. As a footnote, Johns Hopkins was the first place in the country to do the kidney removal laparoscopically so my recovery time was a small fraction of the time (and pain) that the older technique of cutting through multiple ribs via a 6” plus incision.
I am now 75. I was 53 when I donated a kidney. I have been self-employed this entire time, still working because I enjoy doing what I do. I exercise most days. My health, despite my fair share of ups and downs, is quite good. I suspect my kidney transplant has played a small, if any, role in my general health. Living with one kidney has never limited me. I drink moderately and have never smoked. Life is good.