By Michelle Rogers
In my 45 years, I had never thought of donating a kidney, despite having a career as a journalist and editor, and reading articles about how others had donated their kidneys to save or extend the life of a loved one, even complete strangers.
I can’t say for certain why it never crossed my mind, but I am guessing it was never personal enough for me. As a hard-nosed editor, I was disassociated.
That is until my boyfriend, Jim Walsh, walked into my office in the middle of the afternoon while on the telephone with his sister. I overheard their conversation as his sister, Nancy Noble, shared devastating news that she had received from her nephrologist.
I didn’t even know what a nephrologist was at the time. I am the type of person who rarely gets sick and doesn’t even have a thermometer in the house. I am lucky to find a Band-Aid when I need one, which is maybe once every five years or so. On the rare occasion that I have a sore throat, the only cough drops I can find are three or more years old.
During that conversation, I learned Nancy had kidney disease and her kidney function had declined rapidly in the last year and she would either need to find a live donor, get added to a wait list for a donated kidney and/or go on dialysis very soon.
My heart broke for Nancy when I heard this. It’s such scary news. It’s especially scary and heartbreaking when you consider the family’s history with disease and loss. Their brother died of a brain tumor when he was a teenager; they lost one of their sisters to breast cancer in her early 30s and after giving birth to her second child; their father died of complications relating to diabetes; they lost their stepfather to Alzheimer’s disease; and their mother has multiple sclerosis and has been wheelchair-bound for years.
I thought to myself, “I will not let another tragedy come to this family, if I can prevent it.”
But, selfishly, I thought about her siblings as donors first, not me. I told Jim to let Nancy know “we” would be there for her and do anything “we” could to help. Little did I know that that “we” would turn into “I.”
Last October, Nancy told us about a meeting at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, where a team of doctors, nurses, kidney donors and recipients would talk. We agreed to attend in support of Nancy and her husband, Mark. I didn’t go with the intention of getting information to become a donor. In fact, when they handed out informational packets for “potential donors,” I grabbed one for her brother, not myself.
It was after I heard everyone speak — and felt educated and inspired to help — that I grabbed a packet for myself on the way out. I told Jim later that we should go through testing, still thinking he would be the one who would ultimately donate. I knew it might be scary for him to donate an organ and go through surgery — with all the risks involved — after losing two siblings, but I reassured him he could do it and I would be there for him.
But he couldn’t do it. A heart problem as a child ruled him out as a potential donor. And their other sister, Loren, didn’t have a blood match.
Still determined to help, I thought I’d start off the process and rally support for Nancy and her needs by getting my blood tested. Maybe it would inspire others, I thought.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had Type O blood, which is universal and would allow me to donate to Nancy if all the other testing — and the stars — aligned. More testing was still needed and I wasn’t quite sure yet if I would donate in the end, but I wanted to continue my show of support.
Stay tuned for what happened next and what the driving force was behind my decision to donate, beyond helping Nancy and the Walsh-Noble family.