The ultimate gift

There seems to be some confusion from many quarters about an opportunity I’ve taken up recently.  To be specific, I know a young fellow in New England who is in need of a kidney.  I am pursuing the possibility that I may be able to give him one of mine.

As I discussed this with friends and family, I was stunned that some parties were actually against it – vehemently.  This completely boggles my mind.  I literally could not conceive of anyone wanting to stand in the way of an act of true and compassionate generosity.  Other seem to be merely confused with a lot of “what makes this guy so special?” kinds of questions.  Maybe the best way to explain my process – and make no mistake, it is a process – is to write it all out here.

(And perhaps by this, others will be compelled to consider the same path, but that’s their choice.)

I’m not going to name names, but let me tell you about this fellow.  He’s a young man, 21 years old, and he was born with one bum kidney and the other only operating at 20% capacity.  It held out for a few years, but it finally gave up the ghost in his early childhood and he was blessed with a transplanted kidney.  This one worked for quite a very long time and only ceased functioning over three years ago.  Since then, this young man has been on dialysis three times a week, rain or shine.  He was also born with other medical issues, but they were all resolved.  This is the “hold out”.

As a person, he’s bright, clever, slightly cynical, artistic, creative, and has a great outlook on life.  He’s openly gay, supports others being themselves, no matter what, and has a great deal of love and support from his amazing mother and step-father.  He loves to build prop pieces for theatrical productions, goes to steampunk LARP events as often as possible, and enjoys video games and horror movies.

He’s an ordinary kid with extraordinary potential – which is precisely the same potential that every other “ordinary kid” possesses.  The difference is that he doesn’t have years and years left in his life to real-ize that potential.  The studies on how long someone can live on dialysis are shaky.  He’s young, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, and that’s all well and good, but these things don’t automatically mean that he can use the Machine indefinitely.  The Machine is not as efficient as an actual kidney, and toxins build up, causing stress on other organs.  The longer he’s on dialysis, the less time he’ll have in the long run – and the harder it will be for his body to accept a new kidney.

The first phase of determining compatibility is blood type, and we are both Type O.  He’s negative and I’m positive, but that doesn’t come into play so much.  We’re also both fairly small people, and size does matter in these instances.  I will have my blood drawn at a nephrology clinic here in Dallas and sent up to the transplant team in New England to determine if I’m compatible enough to enter into the next phase of screening.  If I make it that far, I’ll go up there for further testing, and if that passes, I’ll stay for a few weeks and go through a routine surgery by one of the best transplant teams in the nation to give my kidney to someone who needs it more than I do.

After all, I was born with a spare.  He wasn’t.

I am not so daft as to pretend that there aren’t questions and fears in my own heart as well about this – “low-risk” is not the same as “no-risk”, after all – but when I’m being challenged on my beliefs and stances, I am far less inclined to discuss them openly.  Still, they need airing, as they are important to acknowledge. (As we say, “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die“.)

Yes, I know I’m a single mom with four kids, and that they are my top priority.  If this were even a mid-risk procedure, I’d have to decline.  However, everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve spoken to in the field – including transplant specialists – assures me that complications are minimal and that a little forethought and preparation can keep the worst of the worst from happening.  Recovery time is only six to eight weeks at the outside, which is as much time as it would take to recover from a severely broken bone or having a baby (which I’ve done a few times).  In the worst-case scenario that something happened to me, though, I also trust my co-parents and family and friends to step up and help raise the kids in the best way possible.

If someone had to lose a parent, would you want them to have to say “car accident” or “war casualty” or “mugging”, or would you prefer something more like “giving their life in an act of ultimate generosity”?  I trust that I have raised my children to know that risks exist, that things happen, and that a negative outcome does not make an act of ultimate love a wrong thing.

My gut says that this is a moot point, that nothing bad will happen at all, and that life will go on afterwards just as it did before (albeit probably with a cup or two less of coffee per day), but it’s a question that bears answering.

My personal biggest fear is that I will be able to do this thing, that the transplant will take place, and then the kidney won’t last very long, that it’ll be rejected and that he’ll be back where he started in only a few years.  There are ways around this – the transplant team may be talking about doing a bone marrow transplant at the same time to lower those chances – but if I’m able to give a gift of this magnitude, I want it to last for multiple decades.  That may be selfish… that’s not the right word, but I can’t think of the right one… because I know that it will last as long as it can, possibly for the rest of his life, however long that is.

Perhaps the point that escapes the masses is that there is a sense of urgency, but not so much that it can’t be thought through.  Yes, I’ve considered the possibility that maybe one of my own kids might need a kidney in the future, and I’d like to think that making a “karmic deposit” like this would increase their chances of finding a donor since I would not be able to.  And at the same time, with my own knowledge of how to keep a healthy body running well, I’d like to think that such a thing would not be necessary.

There is another aspect of “karmic deposit” as well that is even more personal, and that is that one of my nieces also needs a transplant – but it’s not for a kidney.  It’s for a heart.  That is an enormous thing because you obviously can’t provide a living donation for a heart, but I’d like to believe that whomever in the future could grant her this gift of life would do so with the same spirit of unconditional love and generosity.

This act only takes a moment out of a two huge, full lives.  Who among us has the word “donor” on our driver’s license in absolute honesty?  If it is because you don’t really care what happens after you die, that is still commendable because you are still enhancing lives, but if it’s because you truly believe that literally giving of yourself so that someone else may live is the right thing to do, then you stand with me.

Do not misconstrue my statements and take away from it that I feel that everyone should be a living donor if they’re capable.  You must live in your own highest conscience.  I only wish to explain why I feel that I can, and I ask that you respect my highest conscience as well.


An Open Letter to Yahoos

Compliments of 1000searches

Dear Yahoos,

Please note that I am addressing a rough collective of individuals, not the company.  (That would be a whole other rant.)

One of my e-kids had a great quote in their signature a few years ago that I absolutely adore:  “Being well-adjusted to an unhealthy society is not a sign of good mental health.”  What this means is that there are certain universal principles of decency and compassion that supersede politics and social conventions, and that there is nothing wrong with a person if they recognize that politics and social conventions are not consistent with those universal principles.  Rather, there is something very, very right with a person if they recognize these things.

But how does society enforce unhealthy standards among individuals?  This occurs when a social convention is challenged by an individual, but the surrounding individuals do not perceive that the convention must be challenged (for whatever reason), so they in turn challenge the original individual.

See, there are actually two potential endings to “the Emperor’s New Clothes”.  To refresh your memory, the gist of the story was that a couple of swindler’s pretended to make a suit for the Emperor that you can’t see if you’re really stupid, which meant that everyone pretended to see how beautiful it was to avoid looking stupid.  When the little boy points out that the Emperor is stark raving naked, either everyone around him realizes that they’ve been duped and they point and laugh at the “Crown Jewels” OR they insist on clinging to their disinformation about the nature of the cloth (and thus their stupidity) and turn on the boy for being stupid himself.

In this day and age, it’s now become very en vogue to fall squarely into the latter category.  That’s incredibly obvious in the political (governmental) arena, but remember that a society cannot act against the nature of its individuals, and so that same defense of dogma (“Of course there are clothes there!”) is turned internally both on direct associates and within the selves (we suspect).

To cut to the chase a bit, when someone starts thinking outside the box and they are not supported by their peers, there’s usually one of two reasons.  The first is that their peers cannot relate to the outside-the-box thinking presented by  this someone.  The second is that the peers have an invested interest in that someone adhering to the original social convention.  In other words, the peer group is served (often in unhealthy ways) by the individuals keeping with an unhealthy perspective.

Here’s an example:  Abby is going to school for accounting.  Her friends Brad and Cynthia totally “support” her in her pursuit of an accounting degree.  Brad “helps” Abby by “letting” her do his taxes for his business.  He’s receiving a direct benefit from her experience by getting his taxes done essentially for free.  Cynthia is also in a business major and loves studying with Abby in many classes.  Then, one day, Abby realizes that she doesn’t really like accounting.  She only got into it because her parents said it would be a “stable career”.  Abby really loves nature and geology and archaeology and things like that, and she’s thinking of switching majors and following her dreams of being the next Indiana Jones.

Brad is going to lose his free tax prep, so he tells Abby that it’s a terrible idea and that she’s wasting her talents on this pie-in-the-sky thing, there are hardly any jobs in archaeology, and it’s very irresponsible of her.  Cynthia wants to be a good friend even though she’s afraid of losing her study partner – which is something that she really needs sometimes – so she says that she understands Abby’s feelings on this, but maybe she should think about teaching or managerial development instead.

Neither is actually listening or even really caring about what Abby wants or how Abby feels.  They each want her to continue serving their purposes, which often comes with an element of convenience for them – and people are, in general, deeply devoted to their conveniences.

Here’s the really, really tough part:  Hardly anyone will ever recognize that they are being a Brad or a Cynthia.  They will tend to think that they are being the True Friend and Being Wise And Supportive.  It takes balls (ovarios?) to look at yourself and honestly examine your own motives and truly put someone else’s true nature and true needs ahead of your own.

There is a situation like this that I’m dealing with as we speak.  I’m not going to get into specifics or name names or anything, but I realized somewhere in the last couple of days that the phrase or sentiment “think of the children!” is the worst underhanded manipulation one can use.  It’s designed to turn off the higher brain functions and force the individual to act purely from a sentimental point of view, and we all know that emotions can be much more easily manipulated than reason.  And because everyone has an opinion about “how to raise kids well”not all of which is based on direct experience – when actions are suggested that go counter to a “conventional” model, there is a great deal of panic and fear, often resulting in attempted manipulations.

Here’s a direct message that will mostly make sense to those for whom it is intended, and will act as a warning to anyone who might fancy pulling the same type of crap in the future:  Handle up on your own emotions before calling mine into question.  I am not mentally unstable because I find fault in a known broken system.  I am not irrational because I insist on exploring options to not fall prey to that broken system.  A little clarity and honesty from you would go a long way to bridge the problem, but more than that, listening honestly and not putting my words through your filter will go even further.

I am not one to suffer fools lightly.  I’ve actually tried this in the past, but I realized that in leaving room for people who Just Don’t Get It, I was giving them room and permission to wreak havoc in my life.  I will not make that mistake again.

It’s another way to say, “Stand with me, cheer me on, or get the hell out of my way.”  My “potential” has been the stuff of legends for years, and now that I’m preparing to realize it, gods help the soul that tries to interfere.  That’s not to say I don’t want input – I love input, it’s good stuff – but the first sign of emotional manipulation or half-truths, and there will be hell to pay.


Love, Me.

Emotions aren’t the boss of you

Originally published at the normality factor. You can comment here or there.

I know I was going to continue talking about Mark Morford’s fictitious baby and how the studies on the inherent ineffectiveness of antidepressants make me feel incredibly vindicated, but I really need to talk about this first:

One of the great debates about the path to mental health and good decision making is to try to strike some kind of a balance between the mental and emotional sides of the self.  On one hand, the intellectual mind alleges to provide purely logical, objective thought processes, whereas the heart provides motivation and intuitive guidance.  Which way to go?  Which way, which way?

Normally, it’s not that big of a deal, but sometimes the heart and head do not agree, and then it’s a matter who “which one is right”.

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On respect

Originally published at the normality factor. You can comment here or there.

It’s a tough topic, and one that not many people seem to understand.

It is one of the main principles of proper human behavior along with compassion, honesty and communication.  However, it falls roughly into the same category as trust because it is an element that requires you to make a choice and sometimes to make a leap of faith.  (Trust is, as has been discussed otherwise, the decision that you make to expect acceptable behavior from a person.  ”Distrust” is essentially expecting unacceptable behavior from a person.)

It works something like this:  You meet a person, and you begin with a basic level of respect.  That respect involves recognizing the boundaries of behavior that are appropriate for each of you.  If you know someone primarily from a mosh pit, then getting hit by them or hitting them back is not going to be a “deal-breaker” – it’s just part of the environment and marginally considered acceptable.  Outside of that environment, the rules are different.

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