Breaking My Silence: A Kidney Donor Speaks Up

08/22/2016 11:35 am ET Updated Oct 14, 2016

You’re at Starbucks during your lunch break when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet at your desk. Feeling embarrassed, you turn to the coworker standing behind you on line and reluctantly ask, “do you mind paying for my coffee today?”

If asking a friend to buy you a coffee can feel utterly embarrassing and uncomfortable, imagine the discomfort for a renal patient who must turn to a friend or neighbor and ask them for a kidney. While the guilt associated with such a request can often be crippling, what choice do they have? For over 100,000 Americans and 4 million people worldwide, this is their reality. The one thing that stands between life and death is putting forth that awkward request in the hopes that a kind stranger will willingly give them a piece of their body.

Yet, kidney patients are not the only ones who struggle to speak up. Five years ago, with no personal connection to kidney donation, I went on a personal journey to explore what was involved. I spent a year learning, contemplating and weighing the risks of kidney donation. The process itself was transformative and I am grateful that at the end of it, I was given the opportunity to share a piece of myself with another person and give her the gift of life.

Aside from my immeasurable gratitude for being given the opportunity to save Ronit, a single mother of three children, I still live with my own feelings of shame and guilt when it comes to talking about my kidney donation. I recently conducted an unofficial online poll, asking whether kidney donors should remain humble about their deed, or talk openly about it with others. I was surprised to find that more than 60% of respondents said that kidney donors should remain quiet, as if the act of donation may be a noble one, but it is a private matter and not something to brag about.

However, as a donor, I have already given. I’ve done what I can. Yet, sadly, in the United States alone, on average 12 people day die each while waiting for a kidney. Thus, if my commitment to save one life could be extended to saving many, I feel the need to break my silence and speak up, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular it may be.

It is for that reason, that I have written The Kidney Donor’s Journey: 100 Questions I Asked Before Donating My Kidney. It is a moving and informative book, aimed at educating and inspiring others to explore the journey of kidney donation. When I first began the process, it was confusing and unclear, and I was completely skeptical. Although, as the year-long journey unfolded, I went through a personal transformation, one that gave me a new perspective on the value of life.

Since kidney patients find it remarkably painful to speak up and ask others for a donation, the goal of breaking my silence is to give them a voice and empower them with a different question - an easier one to ask. Instead, they will now be able to turn to a friend, neighbor or stranger and simply ask, “would you be willing to read a book?”

Currently, no book like it exists, aimed at walking people through the struggles, questions, and answers of the entire process, all through the lens of a skeptical donor. Therefore, by crafting this book as a moving and inspiring roadmap, it has the potential to save countless lives. However, my goal is not to convince people to donate. Instead, I aim to inform and inspire, so that with heightened awareness, more can be done on a global level to help those who are waiting, praying and hoping for the generous gift of life.

Please join me in breaking the silence by adding your voice to this important cause. Simply by sharing this article and spreading the book worldwide, we can inspire hearts and minds to speak up and start saving more lives.

Ari & Ronit - Donor & Recipient
Ari & Ronit - Donor & Recipient
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