We had no idea how our lives would change. We had no way of knowing how the relationship would form or how, eight years later, we would feel like the rug had been yanked out from under us.
On March 11, 2005, James had a surgery that would change our lives. Everything was OK, thank goodness: he had no adverse reaction to anesthesia; he was discharged from the hospital in good time. It was nothing medical that changed us, per se. It was the connection we formed with the family on the other end of his surgery. On March 11, 2005, James donated his kidney. To a perfect stranger. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. We met. Approximately 45 minutes before surgery. But over the years, we became more like family than like friends. Whatever the “aunt” version of “in loco parentis” was, that was what Shani was to me.
“Ann…I heard you hurt yourself?”
“Um, yeah…I lost my temper and put my hand through a glass window…?”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…just make something up.”
“Make something up! I got so tired of people asking me how I twisted my ankle, once, I started telling people I did it bungee jumping! They’re going to talk, anyway…”
In June of this year, my phone rang. Both of them, actually. I finally checked caller ID and saw that it was a local friend—someone with whom I hadn’t chatted in a while.
“Hi, Ann…I hate to be the bearer of bad news…unless, did someone already reach James?”
“Shira, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Shani died this morning.”
The string of expletives that left my mouth were certainly more than Shira had bargained for. I called James. I texted him. Finally, in desperation, I called his boss and sobbed that she had to find him for me so I could pick him up and take him to a funeral.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” I said when I finally reached him.
“I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now.”
“Nothing, actually. I don’t feel anything.”
In the eight plus years since James’ surgery, nothing changed. Nothing. Not the procedure, not the recovery, nothing. Except *we* had changed. Our children have parents with THREE kidneys between them. Not four. Forget that. We have CHILDREN.
I had thought about everything before James’ surgery. I assure you I had. All of your ignorant, unsupportive questions (Sorry. I’m still a little bitter.) I had already considered. I grilled the surgeon, I interrogated the nurses. I stalked the nephrologist. And when people asked, “But what if Gavriella needs a kidney?” I confidently answered, “James isn’t her blood type anyway. I am.”
Yet somehow, I forgot.
Shortly before Shani’s death, she shared with us that she was ill and the search had begun for another kidney. Not one to replace James’, as she said, but one to “help” it. What she didn’t know—what YOU don’t know—is that I had taken the preliminary steps to begin testing for a donor nephrectomy. In plain English, I wanted to donate my kidney, too.
But despite the more than positive experience we had with James’ surgery, with Shani, indeed with her whole family, the fact remains that I am mother to three children. And until they can step forward and donate to each other, I plan to hang on to both of my kidneys.
I’m not sure it’s the right choice, but it is the choice I’ve made.
For more information on kidney donation, please visit www.HODS.org.
May Shani’s memory forever be a blessing.