Thanks from a donor's perspective: Sometime in the early evening, Wednesday, Nov. 23, I came to. It’s a strange feeling coming off anesthesia – like waking up drunk after a long nap.

I was wrecked. Groggy. Bleary-eyed. Sore. From my left arm my eyes followed two IV lines up to the equipment that shared space next to my bed: A saline bag, a mechanical pump dosing morphine into my bloodstream, and a couple of oxygen and heart-rate monitors. After taking all of this in, my first cogent thought: How’s Brian doing?

Eight hours earlier, Brian and I had wished each other good luck and were shuttled off to separate operating rooms. If all went well, my childhood friend who I loved like a brother would get another chance at life. He was looking forward to a future doing the normal things again, like raising his young boy Filip and traveling abroad to his wife Helena’s home country… he just needed my extra kidney.

It took me awhile to conceive that one of my kidneys was extra. Surely removing one would put a greater burden on the other, create risks for my welfare, and shorten my lifespan. But the more research I did the more I learned about the reality of living kidney transplantation. Having one versus two isn’t much more of a liability.

And then I learned about the procedure. These days most kidneys are harvested with a combination of arthroscopic incisions and one larger cut to remove the organ, like a C-section. It’s major surgery, and it doesn’t feelgood, but in the end I bit the bullet and volunteered my services. Brian, the most humble, self-sufficient person I know, had to step outside of his comfort zone to accept, but we went for it.

Eight weeks after the surgery, I feel fine. The bad part lasted about a week, the discomfort about three weeks and the occasional “ouch” about six. Although Brian’s end of the surgery was much more intense, he instantly felt better than he had in years. He even brought the family for a visit to my home in Reno, unencumbered by a daily dialysis regiment that used to leave him feeling sick half the time, and without energy the other half. He can eat regular food now, go on long walks with his family and he’s even planning that trip to Europe.

And I’m sure Brian will fall over himself telling me thanks for the rest of our lives but I’ve got a secret: Through this experience I get to see my friend live life the way he should be able to live, and that’s a beautiful thing... I think maybe I’m the one who should be saying thanks.


Jim is a father or two, writer and marketing professional. He lives in Reno, Nevada.

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