The beginning

A couple of months ago, I heard about altruistic kidney donation in a lecture. I’d never heard of it before - in fact it had never really occurred to me that you could donate anything other than blood while you were still alive. As I read more about it, I found myself entranced by the idea.

We all have two kidneys, but we only need one. There are 5,500 people in the UK waiting for a kidney. 300 people a year die because they don’t get one in time. While patients are waiting, they often have to be on dialysis, which costs the NHS £20,000 per year and has a massive impact on quality of life. Kidney donors actually live longer than the general population because they are thoroughly screened before they are allowed to donate.

I can’t think of any reason not to donate a kidney. I have a spare one that I don’t even need. I could give it to someone and it would be life-changing for them, and it’d save the NHS the equivalent of a healthcare assistant’s salary every year because they wouldn’t have to pay the cost of dialysis.

Time went by. I thought about it some more and did some googling. Then I rang the kidney unit at my local hospital and had a telephone screening. Then I filled in a referral form. Then I made an appointment with the consultant nurse. Yesterday I met the consultant nurse.

Since then I have thought about it a lot. The big issue for me is that recovery from the operation takes 4–8 weeks. I have only one possible gap between now and the end of my degree in June 2017 in which I could have the operation. It is in August this year, squeezed in between my clinical placement and the start of my fourth year. My gap is four weeks long. Straight after this, I begin my dissertation.

So here come the what if’s. What if I don’t recover quickly enough? What if I’m tempted to overdo it? What if I can’t work as hard as usual because I’m still getting over major surgery? What if the university force me to delay my degree for a year? What if the kidney transplant team refuse to let me do it because they think I’m a reckless fool?

The alternative is to wait until after my degree is finished and do it then. This is what a sensible person would do. I don’t want to. Patience isn’t my strong point.

I want to give my kidney away NOW, as soon as possible! But everyone I know tells me this is completely mad. But to me, there’s no reason not to. I’m healthy, fit, have good kidney function, and can do something positive. Why wouldn’t I?