Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Christians Are

I've a friend who recently did something I think is truly amazing. When I tell him that, though, he just shrugs his shoulders and tells me that he doesn't see it that way at all. I asked him to share his story with us, and he agreed as long as I don't mention his name. Here it is:

I know an elderly couple with a forty-year-old son who's been a dialysis patient for the past four years. He's only a few years older than me, and he also has an eleven-year-old son (the same age as my oldest.) His dad told me he'd been on a waiting list for a transplant from a cadaver kidney for quite a while. I knew from having a grandmother on dialysis that four years is usually well over the half way point once the weekly treatments begin. So I told the dad I'd sign up to be a living kidney donor for his son.

When I found out I didn't have compatible blood type to donate to him directly, I was told about the paired donation program, by which information on groups of prospective donors and recipients are put into a data base where they are crossed matched, so that I could donate to a compatible stranger and another compatible stranger could donate to my newfound friend.

I went through all the screening to make sure I was healthy enough to donate. Three months later a match for both of us was found. Shortly thereafter, we went through surgery. Now I'm a few ounces lighter, and he's no longer a regular at the dialysis center. And hopefully it will be a few more decades before his son has to worry about living without a dad.

Several people have asked me about my motivations for donating. My first response is that I'm a Christian, and this is what I believe Christ would do. That made it a fairly simple decision. Some people (even in my own church) were shocked at this, but being shocked at a Christian donating a kidney to a dialysis patient is like being shocked at a policeman arresting a robber or a fireman putting out a fire; this is who we are and what we do.

In a more general sense, anyone who hates disease and is saddened at the thought of an eleven-year-old boy at his dad's funeral should be able to see the wisdom in kidney donation. The cost for the donor (basically a little time off work and soreness for a few weeks) is disproportionate to the great benefit for the recipient. Yes, there's always some level of risk with surgery, but what can we do of any significance that doesn't entail some kind of risk.

I also can't help commenting here on the logical outcome of kidney donations and other such pursuits for society as a whole. There are tens of thousands of people on dialysis hoping for a kidney transplant to avoid a premature departure from their loved ones, and there are more than enough healthy, potential donors. It is overwhelming to think of the suffering that could be prevented if every eligible person sought to donate a kidney to someone who would otherwise die of kidney failure. And not only that, but it stuns the imagination to consider the magnitude of anguish that could be prevented if all the resources expended in the production and consumption of something like pornography or illicit drugs were focused on medical and economic developments that would cure diseases.

Thinking of all this brings to mind two sobering quotes:

"When we examine the amazing capabilities humans possess and then compare it to what we have done with them, we have a hard time explaining the contrast." William Wilberforce

"I was going to ask God why he didn't do more to prevent human suffering, but I was afraid he would ask me the same question." Anonymous

I still think it's amazing to give a kidney to someone you don't even know whether my friend does or not.