In five weeks, I'm traveling from New York City to Charleston, SC to donate one of my kidneys -- the left one, to be exact -- to my friend Erin.
When people learn I'm doing this, they say one of three things, and I kind of bristle at all three.
Wow, she must be a really good friend.
No, not really. I have known Erin for over 25 years, though we've never been close. I don't know her birthday or middle name, favorite foods or music, and I'm not sure I even have her email address.
Though in some ways, I feel like I know Erin a lot better than I actually do, because she reminds me so much of me. We are the same age, we are both actors with spouses who work in theatre as well, we've both moved around a bit, we both have cats (for what that's worth)... and I'd like to think that someone would step up and donate for me if I ever needed a kidney. Or donate their hair if I needed a wig -- that'd be cool, too.
So, while she's not a close friend, she's kind of me. Only with more talent and darker hair. And fewer pets. And a car.
You're a hero.
No, I'm someone with two kidneys, and I only need one. I'm someone who is no longer afraid of surgery or recovery after the c-section delivery of my son two years ago. I'm someone who maybe doesn't realize the magnitude of the gesture or the impact it will make. I'm someone who likes to get things done, and just happened to go through the donor screening process quicker than anyone else.
So, I'm not a hero, I'm just efficient and not so scared of hospitals. And someone said that a hero "ain't nothing but a sandwich," which really just makes me hungry.
What if your son needs a kidney, and you're not able to give him one?
This one is the toughest one to hear. I don't worry about this at all because my son has a father and tons of relatives who would gladly donate for him. And maybe someone not related will remember that I did this, and they'll step up to lend a hand... or a kidney. Or maybe, just maybe, he will stay healthy and never need someone to donate anything other than money to support the non-profit he will one day start to help orphans or homeless pets.
But really, my son is the biggest reason I'm donating. Having him has given me confidence and made me kind of fearless. He's made me strong, made me brave. He's made me live more in the moment and not worry so much about "what if?"
I hope that my donating a kidney will teach my son to be generous and compassionate. I hope he, too, will live his life in the moment, and without worry for what misfortunes the future might hold. I hope he is loving and caring, healthy and happy, and always willing to lend a hand. And tell a good joke -- people like jokes.
I've learned a lot about organ donation and insurance as I've gone through this process. I've learned that insurance only covers the actual medical bills, but not the bills for help at home, transportation or hotels, lost wages or a host of other things. Doctors tell me I'm not allowed to lift anything heavier than a jug of milk for four to six weeks after the surgery, and I have a toddler who wants to be picked up about 50 times a day. Wish me luck with that one.
I have the most supportive husband in the world, and we're determined to make it work. Because spending money or being uncomfortable for a few weeks is a small price to pay for someone to keep on living.
And if my son one day thinks I'm even remotely cool for donating a kidney to a friend, then it will have DEFINITELY been worth it.
And I'll call Erin and tell her. Because she'll still be here.