Monday, August 22, 2011

Now What?-Part Deux

Last week I shared some of my feeling of "Now What" in a blog post. I was lamenting how I still felt like I needed to do more in support of kidney donation. While I am very proud of what I did the circle didn't feel complete just yet-and still doesn't. That isn't a good thing or a bad thing-it just is what it is. There are a lot of emotions to process after donating a kidney and I know my feelings are very normal.

As much as I have been writing this blog to create awareness for the need for more living donors and to educate people on how (relatively) easy it is to donate, this blog has also been something I've more than anything written for me. It's been an outlet, a place where I could celebrate the good times and talk through the less than good times to find resolution. Along the way I've been pleasantly surprised when I've had feedback from people outside my circle of family and friends. I guess I'm just surprised people are not just finding the blog but are reading it too.

I referenced Olympian Kyle Shewfelt in the "Now What " post and  some of the learnings I had from hearing him speak at #SMBYYC. Over the weekend he did a follow up blog post of his own about the event we had both attended which I happened to read. One part of his post really stood out for me:

Mark Tewksbury once told me that the best way to know you are a good speaker is when people come up to you after your presentation and tell you about how you made them feel.

I think the same thing can be said for the people who have left comments on some of my blog posts over the past few months. I might not be a speaker but I am still communicating right? Well yesterday was a record day for comments from readers and they all meant a lot to me. It is good to know I am having an impact and that fact encourages me to do more. In addition I received this email which I have permission to publish (the author wanted to post it as a comment but Blogger was acting up). It really reminded me that even though I have  more I want to do to support living donation, I've accomplished a lot. And I think this letter applies to anyone and everyone who is considering becoming a donor or who already has, non-directed or otherwise.

Hi Lauren,

You are truly a hero! I am in awe of you and what you have done. Donating your kidney altruistically is an incredibly selfless act that takes an amazing amount of courage and commitment. There are very few people in the world who have done or will ever do what you have done and you should feel incredibly proud of the contribution and impact you have made on the world and the life of the very fortunate recipient who received "leftie".

I found your blog about a month ago (from a tweet with #kidney in it) and have been reading every new post with great interest. I am also looking forward to reading all your older posts (for reasons I’ll explain another time). Your commitment to writing this blog is also a great gift to others. You are such a great writer and communicator - I so enjoy reading all your posts.

Since I first found your blog, I have wanted to reach out to you and let you know how amazing I think you are for what you have done. I'm sure many people tell you that but what I think is most important is that YOU believe that and never underestimate – or take for granted - the impact of your action.

What compelled me to comment on this post is one particular line in the second last paragraph "Despite the fact that I helped one person.....". I want you to know that you have helped way more than just one person. Sure, you directly helped one recipient but you also helped countless others ; foremost the recipient’s family and friends. You have positively impacted all of their lives in immeasurable ways. And with every post you write and every person you share you story with you continue to help everyone who is affected by kidney failure and everyone who is in need of any organ transplant.

I understand the fundamental life-saving and life-changing impact of your kidney donation because our family has first-hand experience with a kidney transplant. My sister, Jacqueline, received a deceased donor kidney transplant 24 years ago at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary when she was just 20 years old (yes I experienced a few “whoa what a small world it is” moments as I read about your story and continue to learn about your life). To say the transplant dramatically changed her life is an understatement. Jacquie had been on dialysis for 3 years prior to the transplant and within a day of receiving the new kidney she felt more energy than she had in years; despite the pain associated with recovering from surgery. Fast forward 24 years and Jacquie has full life with a loving husband and 3 beautiful daughters. Thanks to the kidney transplant I now have I 3 nieces, my parents have 3 granddaughters, my kids have 3 cousins, etc. If it weren’t for the kidney transplant the chances of her having children would have been slim to none (some studies show that only 1% to 7% of dialysis patients will become pregnant).

So you see, the transplant my sister received didn’t just positively affect her life – it affected all our lives, it allowed her to have children, it affected all the lives of our extended family and friends. It has given her a gift every day of her life since she is able to live a more “normal” life than could ever be hoped for as a dialysis patient. In the same way, your donation has fundamentally affected – in an incredibly positive way - the life of the recipient and all of the recipient’s family and friends. Perhaps that recipient will now be able to have children; to create life with the life saving gift you have given.

I wanted to share my sister’s story with you to give you just one example of the overwhelming positive affect your donation can have on someone’s life. I can completely understand why you would have a “let down” following the surgery especially since you have no connection to the recipient and have no information about how your donation has affected that person – today, tomorrow and into the future. You can read more about my sister’s story on the blog I created

I’m sure you would agree that part of the excitement about giving a gift of any kind is watching the excitement in the face of the person who receives it; feeling their gratitude, receiving a warm hug, hearing them say thank you and seeing them enjoy or thrive with the gift you have given. Due to the anonymous nature of your donation, you haven’t received that and I’m sure this has contributed to that feeling of let down or of “what next” – it’s hard to have closure when you don’t know the recipient. When I read your post about the fact that someone in your donor chain did not want to meet and go public at a press conference I felt disappointed for you but also for the organ donation cause; it’s such a missed opportunity in so many way. I think would be great for you to have the opportunity to meet the person you donated to and to see first-hand how you affected their lives. And yes, it would have been so nice for you to hear “thank you” directly from the recipient.

I hope that one day you do get the opportunity to meet your recipient or learn about his or her life but if you don’t you could think about my sister’s life and how the kidney transplant she received changed the entire trajectory of her life and created opportunities and experiences that simply would not have been possible otherwise.

I think it will be great for you to meet and talk to transplant recipients and their families during the Kidney March in September. Perhaps you can take a little piece of all of their stories and imagine your own story about how leftie positively impacts – every single day – the life of the fortunate recipient (and his/her family and friends) who received your kidney.I hope you fully celebrate and realize what you have done. In the span of one year - 2011 – you have done more for the world than most people do in a life time. And I am not exaggerating. First and foremost, you are an altruistic living kidney donor – there are only 25 people in all of Canada who have done this since the LDPE program started. You are an engaged, vocal and committed advocate of living donation and organ donation in general. You are participating in the Kidney March a few short months post-donation. You are a committed blood donor and have gone back to it just a few short months post surgery. And all this while living a full life and holding down a career. That’s pretty amazing.

I applaud your generosity and your continued commitment to the kidney and organ donation cause. You are definitely a hero.

Kerry Mortimer


  1. Wow...what a gift this story is....and it is absolutely true. Never doubt the hugeness of what you have done. You are a hero.

    It is how I feel about your adoption and about Shen's, so many lives were touched, are touched and will be touched in the future...and all for the better I think.

    With much love and pride,


  2. What a beautiful letter! I'm sure you are humbled by the kind words, but you know you have changed the life for your recipient and their family. YOU ROCK!