Sharing Something Personal: Telling the Kids

I’ve always had mixed feelings and a knot of tension about sharing my plan to donate a kidney with others.  I don’t want to be a braggart.  On the other hand, I don’t want to hide something that is important in my life from people that I normally share things with.

Also, I do want to raise awareness of this issue of living donation.  Perhaps my story can help those called to consider this who haven’t yet realized it.  I didn’t recognize that call in myself until someone else shared their story with me.

In any event, after telling my wife of my desire to donate, I looked forward to telling our three children.  I was hopeful that they would take it well.


May 6, 2011

“You’re getting a tattoo.”  That was my 21-year-old son’s response when I said I had something personal to share.

“No, but it does have to do with my body.”

“Just tell me.”  So I did.


“I have an extra kidney and others need one, so why not?”

He got it, noting that people die every day for lack of a kidney.  He said he wasn’t surprised that I wanted to do this, and was immediately supportive.  “But the kidney has to match someone who needs it.”

“Yes.”  I eagerly explained the National Kidney Registry, which I had just learned about.

“If mom is okay with this, who is anyone else to stand in your way?”  I appreciated this affirmation of what I was thinking myself.

I mentioned a transplant center at the same medical center where we took him years earlier when his knee was so swollen that he could not walk.  We had already broken one stroller from wheeling him around like a toddler.  Our fear was juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  Fortunately it was an early case of treatable lyme disease.  The doctor stuck a needle into his knee to drain out fluid.  He remembered the doctor prescribing ice cream and how he thought that was the wisest doctor ever for knowing what a little boy needed after such a procedure.

Anyway, that night I felt more affirmation, albeit oblique.  He told my wife he’d heard about “dad’s latest crazy idea.”

May 9, 2011

My younger daughter smiled and sounded happy about my prospect of donating.  This encouraged me to launch into telling her many things I had learned, including how the kidneys of living donors tend to last about twice as long as those from – and then she cut me off.

“I know,” she said.  She was 15, and had recently attended a special school presentation by a kidney recipient.  She did not want to hear me say the word cadaver.  But she did not object to my kidney being cut out, and I appreciated that.  In fact, she asked if women can donate too.

I told her that today the donor doesn’t have to travel, because the kidney can be shipped to where the recipient is, adding “but it’s not handled like regular airline baggage.”

Laughing, she reminded me of scenes from the movie The Rat Race, in which a heart was being shipped, non too delicately.

“I think it’s great!”  She asked for a hug.  “I’m proud to be your daughter.”

May 14, 2011

I was glad that I had a trip planned to Vermont to visit my older daughter, so that I could also tell her in person.  As we shared samples of beer at a Middlebury brewery, I told her I was getting excited about something like nothing since Y2K (a very different story, which I will spare you).

After she heard what it was, she smiled.  “That’s cool.”

I ran down the critical need, how it is minimally invasive, its cost-effectiveness, and how if a chain resulted, there could be several folks that would get a kidney as a consequence.  “Maybe I’ll donate one too.”  Aha, I’m raising awareness.  I also thought how she, unlike me, still has plenty of time to consider this.

We discussed how kidney donation today makes a lot of sense, and how the issue needs to get more exposure – that if it can reach a certain threshold, perhaps enough chains can take care of the shortage.  She knows from her experience how important repeated exposure to an issue is, and we discussed my interest in blogging.  Back in her apartment she introduced me to the website I am using to create this blog, from her experience doing a wonderful blog during a college semester in Chile.


None of my children expressed any hesitation or concern about my going ahead with this.  All were supportive.  For that matter, all adults with whom I’ve shared this to date have been more or less supportive.  For this I am thankful.  Not all donors have been so blessed, especially the earlier donors who paved the way.  My hope is that more and more people will see their second kidney as a spare to share.

About Ray Mueller

Husband, father, Christian, pro-life, kidney donor, video producer & editor
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