Editor's note: Today a group of kidney donors and recipients who participated in a five-way match last summer will meet at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis for a reunion lunch. The series of 10 operations was made possible by a single anonymous donor who agreed to give a kidney to an unspecified recipient. That donor wrote the following commentary.
By Nicki Hayes
On my Top 10 list of the All Time Best Moments of My Life so far is July 13, 2010. That is the day that I got to donate a kidney, anonymously, through the University of Minnesota. The process is not a quick one. It's full of testing, hoping and waiting, but it finally happened.
The love and gratitude that I feel in regard to the kidney donation are too big for words. Here I thought I was the one who was giving, but I've received far more than I can measure.
My husband's uncle was in need of a kidney. By the time I seriously looked at donating, it was too late for him to have that type of surgery. Sadly, he passed away.
That fueled my fire to do more and more research on kidney donation. The number of people waiting astounded me. Worse than that was the number of people who die waiting.
I couldn't find any reason not to donate. We need one kidney to live; we have two. My mind was set. Mine is a giving family, in general. I believe the best way to say thank you to the world, or to God, to Buddha or whoever, is by showing gratitude. For us, that means doing things like organizing a neighborhood food drive and making dinners at the homeless shelter, because we always have food to eat. Or gathering items for the crisis nursery, because we have the money and resources to do so. Or shaving our heads for children's cancer research, because I have four healthy children. I can't imagine what it would feel like to have a child fighting cancer.
Here my body has been running on two kidneys when it can run fine on one, and someone else is on dialysis, waiting. Why? Why wouldn't I show my thankfulness for my incredible body by sharing my health with someone else?
I used to lie in bed and dream about the day a family got the good news that there was a kidney for a loved one. How many activities had to be planned around dialysis? How tired were they? How many tears were shed by people who loved them, watching them go through this? Would the recipient wake up from surgery feeling better than when he or she went in?
Is there any reason in the world to not give someone hope?
I donated a kidney anonymously because I could do it. I'm not afraid, and nothing makes me happier than being able to share the abundance of love that I have. To participate in a chain of kidney transplants made sense because I was going to donate anyway, and if more than one person could find health in my donation, the better. That there are four other people in this chain who donated blows me away. I love their hearts and I can't wait to meet these brave souls today, when we will have a reunion. Their donations meant that more families could receive good news, shed tears of joy and feel an upwelling of hope. It's magic, plain and simple.
My surgery went perfectly, and although I was sore for a couple of days, I'd do it again in a millisecond if I could. If people understood how easy this was, how emotionally rewarding it continues to be and how physically good I feel, we would wipe out that waiting list in no time at all.
I daresay that I'm getting more out of this than my recipient. No matter what kind of tragedies happen, I know there's good in the world. Every day I think of the people in the chain and send them all the love I have. If we do unto others as we'd have done to ourselves, magic happens.
Nicki Hayes, 34, of Bloomington, is a married mother of four.