03 September 2013

A kingdom for a kidney

I have more than enough blood, so a few times per year I give some away. I'm sure there are people who have a good use for it. I'm a registered organ donor too, but that's quite a theoretical matter: I'm not dead, after all. But then I came across the Facebook page "a million likes for a kidney for Matthew". It's a page set up by the parents of the Matthew in question, who has some condition that has lead to him having had both kidneys removed. They are trying to get attention for the fact that you can donate a kidney while being quite alive. And they would really wish someone who is a good match with their young son to do just that! And I had never really thought of it. I'm probably not the only one who associates organ donation with being dead first. But clearly, that's an oversimplification. I figured I have two kidneys, and I am quite healthy, and this kid has none. So maybe I should indeed see if I could give one away. So I called.

I got an answering machine. But the lady called me back, and after asking me some questions on things such as my health, my blood type, and my address she promised to send me a health questionnaire. It didn't go so smooth; the line was bad, and when I said I lived in York she thought I meant New York. New York? The website had clearly stated you needed to be a resident of the UK to qualify. But I stayed patient; I explained I meant York, in North Yorkshire. 

The address on the envelope, and a sample of the print quality of the form.  How NOT to make an effort to lure potential donors in...

Some time later I received an envelope addressed to "the parents of Margo Saher". And the town was named as "North Yorkshire". Luckily the mail services can make do with a postcode and a house number. The form was also clearly a copy of a scan of a copy of a scan or something like that. It was hardly readable. It all seemed like quite a bad start. I was angry; why address it to my parents? You can deal with me, thank you very much. The woman had even verified I was over 18, thereby mentioning I clearly was, but she was obliged to ask. And why not send a decent, readable form?

I filled it in anyway and sent it back, with an added letter stating that I would not guarantee I would consider any other mail that was not addressed directly to me. But I had been a bit too strict; the woman phoned me back, explained that she works for a children's hospital, and almost exclusively with children, so writes "to the parents of" on an envelope with the same routine as you and I lock our house when we leave. She hadn't meant to treat me like a child! And upon receiving my questionnaire, she phoned me back to invite me to come to Leeds to have some blood taken. I was slightly annoyed I had to come to Leeds for that: York is teeming with people who can take blood superbly! But well, in the greater scheme of things it's not a big effort. I scheduled the meeting the day after I would waved Marieke goodbye on the railway station.

That day I drove to Leeds, had my blood taken, and stood outside hospital again after about 20 minutes. And now it's a waiting game! I'm a bit nervous about it. Chances of me being a good match seem only to be 3:10.000. But once I've been tissue-typed anyway, they can just as well run my data past any other people in the UK who need a kidney. I don't know Matthew and I'm willing to consider giving him my kidney; so why not give it someone I've never even heard of? It would give someone an entire new start.

The hospital in Leeds

But if I'm a match with someone that's not the whole story; the kidney-removal-surgery is quite heavy, so you need a) to be able to take time off work b) have someone around who looks after you in the first days. And that is harder than it sounds! I don't know how long I'd be out of the office. And who would look after me? My mother already volunteered, but how do I get from Birmingham (where I think this would take place) to Amersfoort if I'm fresh out of an operation theatre and in a lot of pain? So even if I'm a match with someone, it might have to wait until I have a job I can take weeks of sick leave from (I don't know if I can here; maybe I should discuss before I know if I'm a match...), and have such a stable life there are people nearby that would nurse me back to health. And who knows when that will be... Matthew, hang in there!

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