December 21, 2008

I've been reading a lot lately about kidney problems. Every other week it seems there's a story about someone with kidney disease. Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers had some trouble but now it seems he's OK. There was also a story about two best friends - one who needed a kidney, the other who donated. That's got to put a strain on a friendship.

Naturally it made me wonder what would happen if I found myself in that situation. I suspect it wouldn't be easy. I have a hard time getting my friends to come downtown for sushi - what are the chances anyone would be willing to give up a kidney?

"If it were a matter of life and death, I would," said Liza. Then she added: "But if it were because you felt sick or you thought it had just gone bad - I would say no."

I found it touching that she was considering it. Even though she was essentially saying she didn't trust me to distinguish between a terminal illness and a lower backache. I thanked her and told her I'd take that as a yes. She paused. "Let's talk about it later," She said.

I called my friend Laura. She was far more definitive. "Nope." She declared, instantly. "What if my husband needs one? I'm saving it."

I understood. At least she was saving it for her spouse. It would be awful if she'd said she was saving it for someone else and when I asked who she replied, "The doorman."

After talking to Laura I could definitely see why getting married has its perks. Built-in kidney-donor. If I ever get engaged I'm making sure my fiancé has the right blood. From now on when someone asks what my type is I'm going to respond: O negative.

Isn't that romantic? No wonder I'll die alone.

My friend Audrey was another non-committer. "Maybe" she said. "It depends on my family."

That's a good one. Of course I asked how many people are in the family. "Small," she said, trying to sound positive. "My sister, my brother-in-law, my niece and my nephew." That doesn't sound so small to me. Plus, she's including an in-law she d oesn't even like. Second on the waiting list is promising. But fifth?

I moved on. It was not looking good. My friend Sherry told me I wouldn't want her kidney because it's not in great shape and my friend Bill never got back to me. Simon, my British friend, was very polite. He would give me a kidney if it stopped me from dying, but he'd need to know more. Like what? Documentation. My ex boyfriend told me he didn't think we were a match.

Even my own father was reluctant. I sent him an e-mail and at first he said "Anything to make you happy." But seconds later he wrote back, "Hang on…a kidney? Let me think about it."

How is it that no one I'm close to would give me a kidney? Would I have to go to my new Facebook friends for support? And what if no one online responded. I can see it now - the status update says: Looking for kidney donor. The comments: zero.

Not that I blame people. I'm not so sure I'm up for donating either. Not because I'm saving it for anyone. Or because my kidney isn't working properly. Or because I'm worried about the aftermath. It's the potential resentment I'd have to live with. I'm worried that whomever I gave it to would do something to upset me and then I'd want it back. I'd be stuck. I'd end saying something like, 'I gave up a vital organ for you and you can't return an e mail?"

I don't want to be that person.

Then, just as I was resigned to accept my fate of life on a transplant list, Sophie called. "I'd give you a kidney." She said. "Why not."

Really? I was thrilled. She explained she was pretty ambivalent about life at the moment - so she didn't mind. I took that as a magnanimous gesture.

In fact I was so grateful I mentioned that if she ever felt enthusiastic about life again and changed her mind, I wouldn't hold it against her. It's the thought that counts. I probably wouldn't want a new kidney anyway.