From donating blood to donating a kidney

My wife and I celebrated Valentine's Day a little early this year. I spent February 14 on an operating table at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton, donating a kidney to an anonymous recipient.

Why did I do this? Because I could.

The whole thing started when two friends shared the story of someone they knew who badly needed a kidney. I didn’t know him, but he had young kids and I was moved. So, I started the process to get screened as a donor. The day before I was cleared to donate, I learned that he had found another donor. But, I had said that I would donate anonymously if I was a match for someone else, and I kept going.

I saw donating a kidney as the natural extension of being a regular blood donor, though obviously a much bigger commitment. The surgery is low risk, but not zero risk. To put it in perspective, driving down Highway 6 to Hamilton was far riskier.

But, I had every test imaginable (some twice) to ensure that my body could handle the surgery and that I could lead a normal life with one kidney. When the doctor calls you "remarkably healthy for a man of your age, or really any age", it's kind of reassuring.

My amazing wife thought I was a little crazy for doing this, but supported my right to make decisions about my body, as I would support her doing the same. She also knows that I have a compelling need to save the world in every way I possibly can. She gets to save lives every day as a nurse; this was my chance.

My employer was great, facilitating a medical leave of up to six weeks, though I ended up being back at work in my home office right after Family Day.

I asked the Transplant Co-ordinator how the surgery went at the other end. This was her response: “I can honestly say AMAZING. Your kidney started to function soon as the clamps were released on the OR table. You have made an incredible difference in this individual's life.”

The doctor said that I was the first organ donor to ever ask how long I had to wait before donating blood again. It turned out that there were no restrictions after I got my strength back, so I made my 139th blood donation on March 25.


Waterloo, Ontario

Blood donor holding sign featuring a blood drop and number 100