|Barb Neff (right) with her sister Carolyn Ritten. Though neither feels Neff is a “selfless person,” she still gave one of her kidneys to a stranger.|
Barb Neff thought about doing it for two decades.
Which is a pair of decades longer than most people would consider following her example.
Most wouldn’t consider it for two seconds.
But in mid-July, Neff, 52, who grew up in Elmhurst, donated her left kidney to a stranger.
“I’d been thinking about it, on and off, for 20 years,” she said.
But why? It’s tough enough to spur families to donate the organs of loved ones after they’ve died. So-called “altruistic donation” — giving an organ to a stranger while you are alive — is so rare, and such a quantum leap in human generosity, that some health experts agonize whether it is actually selflessness or closer to emotional imbalance.
When Neff was 30, one of her closest friends lost a kidney.
“Liposarcoma, or fatty cancer,” said Neff. “They ended up taking out a 20-pound tumor, a kidney, her spleen, some colon.”
Neff was ready to give her friend a kidney.
“It was a no-brainer,” she said. “But that never transpired. About 10 years later, I heard a podcast about it. It hadn’t even occurred to me that you could give a stranger your kidney. I thought that was something I should look into.”
“Because it just seemed ... more of a ‘Why not?’ than a ‘Why?’” she said. “I think I’m a little more nonchalant about surgery than most people are. It didn’t strike me as that big of a deal.”
And for her, it wasn’t.
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