Thanks for all your advice (but I’m gonna ignore it)…

For a while now someone I love has been trying to convince me that I lack empathy and now I see that it’s true.  I expected that news that I was looking into living kidney donation would be met by my friends and family with a sort of “ok, right, fair enough” response but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  In fact it’s not a popular decision so I’m going to attempt to justify my interest…

 The easiest place to begin would be to address safety concerns: as far as my well being is concerned my risk of death from undergoing surgery would be 1:3000. The screening process and follow up care is thorough for altruistic donation which is still relatively rare (around 100 altruistic donors have come forward in the UK since legalisation of the practice in 2006), though being pushed because of it’s benefits to society. Here is a great site set up by a previous altruistic kidney donor who, on this page, discusses the risks of the operation and impact on their life and health afterwards:

 As far as my sons are concerned I live in the hope that they will never need a kidney transplant, much as when I take them out of the house (or as they get older I intend to let them out) I hope they won’t be hit by a car. 109 people per million of the population need kidney transplants at any given time, the incidence increasing dramatically with age. In comparison with this 42.2 per million are killed on the roads per year, 127.3 per million of males aged between 15-19. But it would be insane to keep even young males under house arrest in response to this risk, right? Same for my spare kidney as far as I’m concerned. Plus I think we should remember that I’m in fact not the only person in their family- and altruistic donor numbers have been doubling every year since 2006 so I’m pretty confident that if it came to it they’d find a match without me.
And, the thing about children is that they are more than collections of skin, muscles, bones and organs and I believe that the best way of nurturing the intangible part of them, their ‘soul’ if you will, is to lead by example.  This is why it feels easy for me to prioritise being a brave, strong, moral, ethical, altruistic person over safeguarding against the possibility of an exceptionally minor future health risk for them.  I want them to really understand that they are responsible for creating the kind of world that they want to live in and that they want for their children, if they have any. Not that I’m naive enough to think that we can fundamentally change the change the world- but I do believe we can touch a few lives, spread a little love and I believe that living with integrity is essential for the ‘wholeness’ of a person.


So this utopia I’m working towards, it’s based on a rejection of small self serving familial groups that are so integral to our current (Capitalist) system. For me, there are better ways of being that are more inclusive for the vulnerable members of society and less stressful for the active ones. I’m also a strong believer in leading by example. Whilst I appreciate that it’s a perfectly reasonable response to hold onto your kidneys in case one of your family needs it; I feel that collectively we’re perpetuating an insane situation where our species has roughly twice the number it needs yet people suffer for the lack of one. I believe that in order to care for our own- as part of a wider society- our default position should be a willingness to go through procedures like this.

 I don’t want to force my views on anyone- if I pass the screening and get matched I’d document it because I think it’s all very interesting and I’d love to be part of the promotion of altruistic donation by sharing my experience- but I do resent the strength of some people’s convictions in trying to dissuade me. As a mother I’ve given up my bodily autonomy for a total of 53 months of my life already with pregnancies and breastfeeding and I accept limitations such as limiting alcohol, forgoing promiscuity, exhibitionism and drugs for my entire life- but these are limitations I impose on myself based on my own judgements, I will not allow peer pressure to govern what I do with my person. Which is part of another wider belief of mine which is that mothers should be given pretty much unconditional support in their choices- whether it’s how to feed, whether to stay at home or work, whatever, rare is the mother who doesn’t take account of her children’s well being in every minute decision and they deserve respect and encouragement for that.

 My turbulent journey into adulthood has thrown up some startling truths, the strangest for me being that while I was almost fatally depressed people kept a sensitive distance and silence but as I’ve recovered every little thing I’ve done (all of which has had some aim of rebuilding my sense of self in order to protect myself and my family) has been open to criticism. This strikes me as a counter intuitive way of showing love for someone and enabling them to live in as healthy a manner as possible. When I was going through my ‘rough patch’ one of the tools I used for getting through the days was vivid visualisation of suicide and death. Lost in these imaginings I would feel pure bliss… Until the very last moment of life where the enormous reality of having left my (one) kid (at the time) without his mother would hit me. Then I’d open my eyes thankful that it was a fiction. So that’s why I dragged myself out of that state, although it would have been far easier to die. And that is why now I plough resources into fortifying myself. Better a selfish mother than a dead one, surely? So I disclose all this personal information, I get tattoos nobody but me likes, I’m argumentative online getting way too political and I want to donate a vital organ to a stranger despite the wishes of my family and friends… The truth is that the only opinion I really care about is my own. I mean it’s natural to feel good when you’re receiving acceptance from the outside world, as social animals we need that, but for me faking my way to that acceptance just isn’t gratifying. As far as my kids are concerned of course I have a particular desire for them to like me when they grow up-but I’d rather they like themselves and are liberated, as I’m trying to teach them, by example.

Here is a half hour film that may be of interest from More 4 called “My Kidney and Me” which follows an altruistic donor and explores the contention between him, his family and friends:



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