Sunday, December 18, 2005

The REAL Gift Is In The Giving!

My brother dancing with my best friend at a birthday party this past summer.

A quick review of my blog so far will illustrate a running theme: My family is important to me. My intention when I created this site, was not to spend so much time writing about my family, however, for some inexplicable reason, things have turned out that way so far. In the very near future, I promise I will focus on other more topical issues, but today's post, like those in the past is also motivated by my family, though topical, and I think, a must read.

In our society, almost anything you might ever need or want is available for a cost, and by hook or crook, most of us will find a way to pay the cost to get those things if we want or need them badly enough. On the other hand, they say "The best things in life are free", which though true makes having the best things in life (such as life itself)sound easier than it is, as this saying doesn't take into account that "free ain't necessarily synonymous with easy to come by". Currently, there are many individuals waiting and hoping to come by organs for transplant which though "free", are rarely available, especially to individuals in the black community who are in need of a transplant to survive or improve their quality of life.

My brother who is 45 years old was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure almost five years ago, resulting in his being placed on dialysis for 4 hours a day 3 times a week a year ago. In the absence of properly functioning kidneys, dialysis is a Godsend as it literally saves lives. This notwithstanding, and at the risk of sounding as if I'm "looking a gift horse in the mouth", if you've ever been close to someone on dialysis, you know that the quality of life that person is able to live is significantly decreased. My brother is a young, attractive, otherwise healthy, single, black man who is unable to do what most of us his age take for granted. Things like four day weekend trips are not an option for him. His diet dictates that he can't even partake of a baked potato or a plate of spaghetti for fear his potassium levels will be off-balance. At a time when having the support of someone who loves you means so much, he and others in this situation hesitate to date or become involved in relationships, not wanting to "burden" someone else with their problems. Without question, his condition in some way or other impacts every part of his life, and dictates what will or won't be.
After working hard to be compliant with his treatment in an attempt to demonstrate his dedication to protecting any kidney he might possibly receive in the future, my brother has been cleared to begin the process of trying to become a kidney recipient. I volunteered to be tested as a potential match for my brother, or in the event that we did not match, I agreed to participate in a "cross-match" scenario where my kidney could be given to another recipient who had a donor with whom they did not match but who matched my brother. When the transplant center called to tell us that our tests for compatability had been scheduled to take place on December first, I took that to be a good omen as December first is our mother's birthday. We both had to go in and give blood to be matched and crossed matched on a wide range of parameters. As the initial vial was filled, the phlebotomist removed it and attached another, then another, then another times "15 anothers" until I finally asked her if she was secretly feeding a family of homeless vampires or what! She smiled and told me to "buck brother had to give up twice as much!" The test was as simple as that.
The results were not due back until around New Years, but for some reason they came back early. Unable to reach my brother, the transplant coordinator contacted me with the news. I immediately left my brother a message to call me as soon as he could. In the interim, I twiddled my thumbs and about lost my mind. Finally, after two and a half hours he called. Acting nonchalant, I casually told him that the transplant center had called and said that if I wanted to, and had nothing better to do with my time, I could give him my "extra kidney". He was momentarily in shock, and then expressed his gratitude with a silence that was louder than any verbal thank you I have ever received. In his silence, I could actually hear his joy, right through the phone without even being able to see his face...BEAUTIFUL! Once he had recovered himself, he whooped and hollered and pretty much acted a stone-cold fool like we had been bred to do since before conception...its in our DNA and we're proud of it.
After a few minutes, I interrupted his glee saying I needed to say something. He immediately got quiet again and asked me what I needed to say. I responded, "I know you realize this means your ass ain't getting nothing for Christmas so don't be looking for no box labeled from me to you under that damned tree next week ;-)".
All jokes aside, I wish I could make anyone reading this post know how I feel about being able to do this for my brother. Though he will still need to take medication to keep from rejecting my kidney, (soon to be his as once you give something away, it is no longer yours!, "Right Mama?"), my brother will mostly have his life back and pretty damn close to what it used to be. My grandmother, once she heard the news was overjoyed at first, then immediate concern for me registered on her face. She turned to me and asked if I was going to do it and if so was I afraid. I answered, "Of course I'm going to do be tested, match, then say no would be just MEAN! Am I scared?, not at all." Call me stupid, but I prayed to be a match, and now that we know that I am, I know everything is going to be alright...this is the way it is supposed to be. Without question, God is Good, All the time!
Everyone who learns of this has complimented me on my generosity, and gone on and on about what I'm doing for my brother. I smile and say thank you, then I try to explain that being able to do something like this for someone I love is a priveledge, an honor. My brother has made it abundantly clear, how much he appreciates what "I'm doing for him", but I want him and the world at large to know that in fact, I'm the one actually receiving the real gift. The excitement, anticipation, joy, happiness, and peace I feel as the donor, is waaaaaayyyyyyyyy bigger than anything I have ever felt as a consequence of something I was receiving.
My mother told me about the theory of "cellular memory" which purports that memory is stored not only in the brain, but in every cell of our bodies. If there is any truth to this hypothesis, my brother may one day know how great I feel to be a part of this. He may also one day know some stuff he ain't got no business knowing as well. If that is true big brother, do me a favor and keep your mouth shut...afterall, we've all got our secrets!
Without question, GIVING IS THE REAL GIFT! Thank you big brother and I love you!


Serenity23 said...

This is great Sharon. When my mother died, I donated her organs and I plan to have my organs donated upon death as well. So many people don't even think to do this or they refuse to for fear that they may need them in the afterlife I guess. I'm so glad you are a match and he can get his life back. God Bless You!

anu said...

Wow Sharon you are an angel. What a lovely gift you have given to your brother this Christmas..a kidney!

Merry Christmas and god bless.

LadyLee said...

What a gift, what a gift...

I agree with you... "The REAL Gift Is in the Giving"

And I hope you DON't stop posting about these wonderful uplifting tales of your family. They are so wonderful!

Sepiatonz said...

Sharon that is truly wonderful.. My little sister had kidney failure from age 3 and was on and off dialysis for years and even had a transplant. Although it eventually rejected after some years, and she passed at 17 in 1992, it was amazing having her around for the time that the kidney worked. Your brother is very fortunate to have a sister like you!

Anonymous said...

I love this entry Tete! What a wonderful gift to give!