Monday, October 31, 2011

A kidney, from the heart: Update

My sister wrote an update on Facebook today:

"September 6 came and went, Dan still with two kidneys. The surgery had been postponed at the last minute. The phone call came while we were sitting on the couch watching TV. We had spent Labor Day doing the sort of contradictory things you do before a big event--hurrying up and making last minute arangements while trying to somehow stockpile relaxtion time. 

We were later told the recipient was sick, sicker than the transplant coordinator had been led to believe. So, the surgery was on hold indefinitely until the recipient got well. Dan got up and went to to work the next day. He said it was surreal; he'd spent the weeks prior to the surgery getting his work projects to a point where he could hand them over. Then he walked in the door that Wednesday having to figure out how to take them back. It was all disorienting.

The recipient got well. The surgery was rescheduled for Nov. 1. Back into anticipation/preparation mode. Then, weeks later, another phone call. A glitch in scheduling that now meant Dan would have to wait for his recipient to be ready--probably after the first of next year--or he could stick with the Nov. 1 date and donate to someone else.

He called me, sounding nearly frantic. "I don't know what to do," he said. Loyalty to his original recipient made him want to wait around until the scheduling worked out. But he was mentally geared up for Nov. 1, and he knew there had to be other people who needed a kidney. He called the transplant coordinator back. "If I choose to give to someone else, how many people are on the waiting list at Barnes?" he asked. "Eight hundred people," she replied. When he told me, I said, "Give it to someone else. There are too many sick people waiting who are ready now."

He called back with his decision and was told the transplant team would begin the cross-matching process to find a new recipient. Within days, he heard back from the coordinator. She was so excited, she couldn't contain it. Organ donation is a completely blind process--when an altruistic donor offers a kidney, he is told no details about his recipient. Everything is kept confidential until the process is over and until both parties decide if they want to meet. But this was big news. This recipient had been matched with people before, and 97% of the the available donors were incompatible. Until then. Dan was a match. He was told the surgeon called the recipient and said, "You've won the lottery." I still get choked up every time I tell the story. I can't even imagine that phone call.

At times I've pictured the process as sort of a dramatic movie montage--some doctor in a lab, wearing a white coat, entering long series of numbers into a computer and then seeing some equation appear on the screen that means this person has now been given a new lease on life. I picture the lab where they mix the blood from Dan and this complete stranger and watch and wait and see that nothing's going wrong, which now means a surgeon gets to make a phone call he never expected to make. It makes all of this feel like a miracle, not science.

If altruistic organ donors are the rarest of the rare, and this person had a 3% chance of ever getting a kidney, I can't even wrap my head around the improbability of it all. My heart is full, and I am in awe of a God whose plans are so much better than anything I ever imagine."

So there you go. That's the latest! Thanks for your prayers.

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