Close-ups

A Patient's Perspective

My Kidney Donation: Unexpected Twists

 

Am Fam Physician. 2019 Jun 1;99(11):672.

Some years ago, a close family friend told me his chronic kidney disease had progressed and he would need a new kidney to avoid dialysis. I volunteered to donate my kidney, and as it turned out, I was a near perfect match. But, our celebration did not last long. While I was being worked up for surgery, the transplant team found some ureteral abnormalities that made me ineligible for the donation.

A few years later, I began experiencing flank pain, which was bad enough to send me to the emergency room. I was told my right kidney was no longer functional and would have to be removed. The surgery went smoothly. It was hard to believe that a nephrectomy could seem like minor surgery (although admittedly, recovery was slow).

Still, this was not the outcome I had hoped for: instead of losing my kidney to give life, my surgery brought me face-to-face with my own mortality. Fortunately, I am now in good health. I am working again and have rejoined my running group. To our great joy, my friend finally reached the top of the transplant list and is doing beautifully with his new kidney.—M.K.

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Commentary

M.K.'s story brings to mind Johanna Shapiro's definition of empathy: an engaged act in which “the physician must draw closer to the patient, putting the interests of others above those of self, even at some sacrifice to oneself.” M.K, a physician herself, is one of those people for whom altruism is a natural way of life. She inspires us to reenvision the reach of relationship-centered care, while reminding us that even when things do not turn out as we intend, we are all connected in unexpected ways.

Resources

National Kidney Foundation: https://www.kidney.org/transplantation/beadonor

Reese PP, Allen MB, Carney C, et al. Outcomes for individuals turned down for living kidney donation. Clin Transplant. 2018;32(12):e13408.

Tong A, Chapman JR, Wong G, Kanellis J, McCarthy G, Craig JC. The motivations and experiences of living kidney donors: a thematic synthesis. Am J Kidney Dis. 2012;60(1):15–26.

This series is coordinated by Caroline Wellbery, MD, Associate Deputy Editor, with assistance from Amy Crawford-Faucher, MD; Jo Marie Reilly, MD; and Sanaz Majd, MD.

A collection of Close-ups published in AFP is available at https://www.aafp.org/afp/closeups.

The editors of AFP welcome submissions for Close-ups. Guidelines for contributing to this feature can be found in the Authors' Guide at http://www.aafp.org/afp/authors.

 

 

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