It has been just over two years since I donated one of my kidneys to my father. The exact date of the procedure being December 18th, 2014. It is a unique life experience that has brought me both joy and sense of accomplishment, but it has not been without its fair share of pain. I still don’t know exactly how to react to people’s shocked expressions when they find out about my story. A part of me feels good and is thankful for their kind words, but another part of me dislikes the false halo they’ve cast upon a young man who doesn’t have the slightest clue what he’s doing with his life. I definitely hate/feel uncomfortable when people say the word “hero”. That’s definitely not me. I don’t even like typing it. What I did wasn’t incredible. What was incredible was the cutting edge laparoscopic technology that top notch doctors used to make the procedure as minimally invasive as possible. I’m not brave. I was scared out of my mind. I don’t think I could go through something like that again without my guardian angel by my side every step of the way. Other than getting my wisdom teeth removed, I hadn’t had any type of surgery before that day, and even though my amazing mother donated her kidney and my lovely grandma received one, everyone experiences things differently. In that long week I spent in the hospital, I think I aged by twenty years. I saw first hand what running out of hope looks like as I made my nightly walker-assisted strolls down the halls of UCSF’s 9-Long. Eyes that are too dry to cry. It was a sight that reinforced my beliefs on maintaining close family relationships. I by no means did this out of some profound need to help people. I love my family, and my family loves me. They were in a time of great need, and I just so happened to be able to help. They would’ve done the same for me. It’s really just that plain and simple.
When you’re incapacitated in a hospital bed, you get to see who the people who really care about you are. Which friends come to visit, which relatives who are too far away to see you at least make a phone call, and how the most important person in your life decides to act during your time of need. I never even had to ask that person to stay. She was the first thing I saw waking up, and the last thing I saw falling asleep. For almost over a month she was my arms, legs, and my only sense of positive spirit. You helped me get in and out of bed, walk, shower, and even get dressed, and for that I am forever grateful. I still have so many mixed emotions about the whole ordeal and I don’t really understand why. I don’t regret anything I did, in fact I would do it again if it were both possible and or needed of me. Donating my kidney has changed how certain people see me. It’s granted me love from strangers along with opportunities I might otherwise have never had, but nothing is all sunshine and rainbows. Being one of the youngest living donors isn’t necessarily a title you want to have at only nineteen years of age. I’m twenty one now, and I’ll forever have dietary restrictions in order to keep my one remaining kidney healthy. People I thought I’d always know, have become distant strangers in my life. I suspect that the university I got accepted to, is realizing that perhaps they made a mistake letting in a kid who never even took the SATs or ever received a 4.0 report card. And scars that I were told would heal and fade away, are clear as ever across my body. I sometimes wonder if these changes are something I should take back if I could. But then, in that moment of doubt, I think back to my dad. I think about the fear and pain he experienced having to go through dialysis. I think about the late nights hearing my mom cry, as she tried her best to keep him calm and let him know that whatever happens we’ll make it work. And then, just like that, everything becomes as clear as my decision two years ago. I regret nothing.
This brings me to one of my favorite classic children’s stories, and my newest/most painful tattoo yet. I wanted to get something that didn’t necessarily highlight my personal story, and yet somehow still captured the essence of the gift of giving. I understand that it’s a sad story and that some people find it frustrating that the tree so willingly gives everything she has to a seemingly unappreciative boy, but I find her total selflessness as a proper step towards happiness. Sometimes we give away too much of ourselves and end up loosing a piece of who we are as part of the process. Other times it’s so bad that we let the world kill our kindness and vow a life of solitude. Then again, sometimes we are lucky enough to come across a soul that matches our own. We find someone that we actually want to give every part of ourself to. I’ve grown up in a middle class household. I don’t come from money, and yet I’ve been raised to see the world as an opportunity to lend a helping hand. I am not this positive of a person. To this day I struggle with how much I want to give to people. Whether it’s those who are closest to me, or the same homeless people I see scattered across the city on a daily basis, we all only have so much we can give to this world. I am by no means a giving tree. In fact, I’m not always even simply a kind/good person, but I think there is a profoundness is finding those worth giving everything for. I think pure bliss comes in finding people we’re willing to give all our leaves and branches to without hesitation, so that when we all eventually become stumps and think we have nothing left to give to this world, we can at least be happy. We can at least be reminded, that no matter what, we can always give love.