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Reflections from a DOVE living kidney donor

As I sit on my porch swing drinking my cup of coffee enjoying the calm before the morning chaos that are my three wonderful children ages 6, 4 and 2.

I am amazed at the almost indescribable sense of peace and happiness I’ve felt since donating my kidney a month ago. It’s hard to believe it’s only been four weeks considering how good I feel. I walk anywhere from one to four miles a day and besides a slight twinge in my stomach if I try and use my stomach muscles in a way they aren’t ready to be used quite yet it’s easy to forget I just had a major operation.

As I sit back and reflect on this amazing whirlwind of a journey I just embarked on one thing sticks out in the fore front of my mind.

People’s reaction when I told them I was going to donate my kidney. It’s the reactions I'm still getting whenever it comes up and not something a lot of donors bring up when talking to potential candidates. It wasn’t until I reached out on one of my Facebook support groups that I realized the reaction was quite common.

It would go something like this...

Me: I’m donating my kidney!

Other person: But why?

The first time I was asked this it threw me off guard just a little --

What do you mean but why? This is what you do, you help people if you’re able to. A concept that seemed so simple to me. I have two and I only need one, someone else need’s one or they’ll die.

But the more and more I got this reaction the more discouraged I felt. There was also the other reaction of “You’re a better person than I am. I could never do something like that.” That remark always left me scrambling for a response. By the fifth time I heard that I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and shout I'M NOT BETTER THAN YOU!

I don’t think every single person is meant to be a kidney donor, I think we all have a set of skills that can be aimed to helping a portion of the vast array of need in our world. I also don’t think I’m better than you just because my journey led me to donating a kidney.

If you donate blood, which saves up to three lives with one donation and can be done every 56 days, or if you donate food to a local food pantry, or give your winter coats to a clothing drive those are all life changing acts that will help someone in need.

Being a donor is something I’ve wanted to do my entire life. When I turned eighteen I joined the live tissue and bone marrow registry. I figured, like most people, if I was a match for someone I’d get a phone call and that’d be it and to be quite honest I forgot about it until one day, about three months ago, I was reading my favorite magazine and I came across a small article about DOVE.

DOVE works with our nations veterans to find them living kidney donors. So I sent an email and a few days later I was talking to Sharyn.

What happened next was this amazing, crazy, thrill of a ride that ultimately led me to donating my left kidney to Candice on June 23rd of this year. I knew from the very beginning that this was something I was meant to do. I relied very heavily on my faith during this time as I anxiously did testing and awaited results. Even though I knew I was going to go through with this like with any major procedure there was some moments of doubt, not made helpful but people with good intentions, asking the simple yet frustrating question of but why?

I understood why strangers would ask this of me but to those who knew me I felt like the answer should’ve been obvious but in today's world we are so focused on ourselves and what we need to get done just to survive at the end of the day that the mere thought of going out of our way and helping someone, especially a stranger, is just so exhausting we simply don’t think about it.

After all there is no benefit to the donor (a thought I disagree with but that’s another article) and it’s not like you know the person ( in cases of altruistic donation) so why did I donate my kidney?

Because I knew Candice was someone else’s daughter, sister and loved one.

Because I knew that if the situation was reversed I would be praying that someone would step up and answer the call to help save my life. We all have someone we would go to the ends of the world to help save, but what if we couldn’t because we weren’t a match?

There’s a quote I love and it says “if you’re ever in a position to help someone do so, you may be answering their prayers.” I have been on the receiving end of many prayers being answered because someone offered to help me.

One year on our way home from a camping trip our truck broke down on the side of a road while hauling our RV. We had no cell service and the nearest town was 15 miles back. It was the middle of summer and we were dead in the water. Luckily two ranchers stopped and soon we had a whole group of people helping us. We were complete strangers to this community but that didn’t stop them from towing us to one of their farms, bringing us food and water, calling a tow truck for us and offering to let us stay with them.

I was overwhelmed to the point of tears as we ended up being stranded for a few days in this tiny town and they continued to swing by and check on us even taking us to the store, while refusing payment the entire time.

It makes me uncomfortable when people tell me I’m a hero for what I did. I understand to Candice and her family I am but all I did was answer the call and do what anyone should do when presented with an opportunity to help someone in need.

There’s a line from one of our favorite movies Transformers that comes to mind. As Bumblebee has just finished this fight in front of Sam and Makayla he wants them to get in. Sam turns to Makayla and goes “fifty years from now, when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?”

Well, do you?

Hayley S.


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