Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Negative Nellies

As much as I don’t want to spend much time at all focusing on the negatives of this experience, its time to talk about the “Negative Nellies”.  That way if someone finds this one day and is considering making a living donation, they haven’t been mislead into thinking that the feedback I have received is all sunshine and lollipops.
When you decide to look into donating a kidney and you start to tell people that, you have to be ready for the feedback good and bad. People love to give their opinions and many assume that you are telling them your plans because you are uncertain and in need of advice. Many assume you are asking for their approval.  While this almost always wasn’t the case for me, I still had to take a deep breath and deal with whatever reactions came my way.
When people are saying something positive, the likelihood of it “coming out the wrong way” is pretty low. But if people are concerned, emotional or down right against an idea, there is a very good chance they won’t choose their words carefully or curb their “tone”.  Here are some examples of some of the concerned, emotional and negative feedback I have received so far (keep in mind it was a big deal for me to tell some people and I was really putting myself out there when I did)
On the subject of my donation idea in general
“Isn’t donating blood enough?”
“This could be career limiting”
“That’s just a stupid idea”
“This is going to turn into some kind of Seven Pounds thing isn’t it and you are going to end up in a bathtub full of ice with a jellyfish”
“Do you think you have magic kidneys?”
“I think you just need a hobby”
On the subject of the fact I have thought it through/researched my decision
“I think you must have misread your research.  The risks of this sort of thing are very high”
“I don’t think you've really thought this through.  If you had you wouldn't be thinking about it”
“Just because someone donates an organ on Grey’s Anatomy Lauren doesn't mean you should do it.  You do understand that is a TV show right?”
On “Donating to a Stranger”:
“Who are you giving it to?...No I mean who....A stranger?  What do you mean a stranger? Why would you want to help a stranger?”
“Well that’s just selfish.  What if someone in your family needs a kidney down the road? You won’t be able to help them”
There has also been a small little group of people who aren’t negative-but they aren’t positive either.  It’s like what I told them went into a giant black hole never to be spoken of again.  These are people I interact with regularly and they don’t talk about it, ask about it and they never made a single comment when I told them about it.  They glossed over the news and in doing so have created a bit of the elephant in the room.
I know from previous life experience that life doesn't come with a manual. Our initial reactions to things are natural and we can’t always react "appropriately" to news that surprises us.  I guess what I don’t get is the aftermath-why so many of these comments are made after they've had time to digest and choose their words more carefully or why people don’t come back after they have reflected and try to “fix” any damage they may have caused.  I’m not referring to strangers here-these are people I know and consider myself to be close with.
In the end if any good can come from this relatively small ‘bad” part of what has been an overall positive experience, I would like to offer a couple of suggestions.  If someone is telling you of a major life decision they’ve made, organ donation or not, just listen.  Be honest and genuine but be sensitive.  Try to choose your words carefully and try not to leave them hanging (say SOMETHING!).You don’t have to agree with their decision but at the same time there is no good that can come out of making them feel bad about it.
And that's all the time I am going to dedicate to Negative Nellies.


  1. Wow, those people have really made me mad. How rude! They should be so lucky to have a stranger consider helping them should they ever experience a time in need. I have been humbled in my life as a person in need. Those who immediately reached out and had a positive impact, helping me to cope were strangers, not friends or family.

    I think that too many people are blinded by their "stuff" and allow it to get in the way of their ability to accept the decisions others make as a part of individual growth and learning in life. Boo to the Negative Nellies.

  2. Hi Lauren,
    I've read every one of your posts and I enjoy them. I certainly think that you're making an "informed decision" as the medical community refers to these things. I honestly don't know if I'd make the same decision, but I'd be there in a flash if any of my loved ones needed my kidney.

    The closest I've come to the experience is the situation of a great woman I know who suffered terribly from arthritis. The medication she was on finally destroyed her kidney and her equally wonderful husband donated his to her. This was probably 4 or 5 years ago. I met them recently and she told me her body is rejecting the kidney. They're trying to reverse the rejection - I don't really know how it's going. I hope it works.

    Anyway, the bottom line is I applaud your decision. I'd like to think there is another kidney out there for my friend, donated by an equally wonderful "stranger"!

    Take care! Lots of love, Lynda

  3. Yes Crystal...Booo! But at the same time I appreciate people are scared or they dont understand so they react badly. For me though it has just reminded me that I need to make sure I react appropriately when people share these kind of things with me!
    And Linda-thanks for your support and the story. Hopefully they can reverse the rejection with your friend-I have read that recently they have really been able to pin point rejection now with better, earlier, tests which helps them get the right level of drugs administered which can reverse the rejection. I have also read that rejection (acute) is normal and occurs in 99% of transplants-it sounds like thats what she has. So its normal but still scary!