In honor of upcoming Independence Day, I humbly introduce you all to U.S. Marines Staff Sergeant Darren Smiley (left, in the hat), who returned from a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006 and, hearing over Thanksgiving dinner that his seldom-seen wife’s cousin needed a kidney, became his living donor. This news is more than a year old, so some of you may have heard of him before. Either way, you’ll likely enjoy hearing Darren and his kidney recipient, Daniel, tell their story in their own words on the most recent episode of Kidney Talk, a podcast by the ever positive and lovely Lori Hartwell. (Lori is the author of Chronically Happy – Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, and co-hosts the podcast with actor/director Stephen Furst. He may be the only human being I can name who has both a donated kidney and a sizable role in the 1978 film Animal House.)
Meanwhile, you can read more about Darren’s gift in the Military Times article that appeared in 2007.
In my journey through living donation, and in the year and half since, I have been called a hero several times. I mostly tended to deny it, to shrug it off, to shake my head no and insist that anyone would do it, that it wasn’t that hard. A close friend who would probably wish to remain unnamed once scolded me for that. “Don’t deny us the opportunity to be inspired by you,” he told me. “The word ‘hero’ might not mean to you what it means to the people who call you one. To them, you might fit their definition perfectly. And if you do, there is no greater honor than for them to say so. So say thanks, and enjoy deserving it.” Great advice that was easy to follow, until I look at the marvelous footsteps that Darren is leaving as he walks. He, friends, is a hero.
Happy 4th of July!