Today’s post is in praise of altruism: In Yakima, Washington, 9-year-old ray of sunshine Laynee Schneider is going to get the kidney she needs because strangers are lining up to volunteer to be her living donor. A story from Sunday’s Yakima Herald Republic reports that 21 people requested paperwork to become a potential donor for Laynee, only seven or eight of whom were family and friends. Said little Laynee, “I don’t know these people, but I still think they’re nice and kind.” So wise at just 9!
Anonymous donation, sometimes also called “non-directed” living donation because the donor is not “directing” his or her organ go to any certain individual, is becoming increasingly common. UNOS reports that there was one anonymous kidney donation in the United States in 1988, compared to 97 of them in 2007.
Back when I was blogging about my own living donor transplant in 2006, I came face to face with anonymous living donation when an inspiring young man named Mike emailed me out of the blue from London, Ontario. He had seen a news report about a baby girl who was dying of biliary artesia, had a rare blood type,and needed a liver. He was the right blood type (and, of course, he had a liver). More than 600 people contacted the news station to find out whether they might be suitable to donate; he became the donor. Mike and I wrote to each other often throughout his ordeal, and eventually met and continue to chat ongoing. He doesn’t see what he did as at all heroic. Just the right thing to do. Later, a young mother of a child with the same disease wrote to me to say that an anonymous donor had surfaced to save her child’s life, and that she was feeling guilty and conflicted about the overwhelming generosity. Her suspicion is understandable given the mindset that the average American might have about living donation for a total stranger: “Most normal people would not do it.” (That’s a quote from a living donor and a donor advocate at Virginia Mason hospital, from the Yakima Herald story.) I introduced her to Mike and they had a long conference call with her family so they could better understand his motivation. The exercise was therapeutic for both of them!
In any case, some normal people do become living donors for total strangers. I love those people. Laynee has it right. They are nice and kind to the extreme.