Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Would you give a kidney to a stranger?

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.”
     Again, why?
     “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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  1. Wow. Now she seems really cool!

  2. What a wonderful, delightful and human story! I hope it inspires more such generosity, particularly of the multiplying kind.


  3. Donating a kidney is nice I suppose, but a person should be allowed to sell a kidney. The going rate for the transplant procedure is a cool $400K. A reasonable starting price of 5%, or $20K seems fair. People should be free to negotiate the amount. If you're life or that of a loved one is at stake, are you seriously going to say well the additional cost is a deal breaker? Currently, there are over 93,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, and about a dozen people die each day waiting for a kidney. Changes to our archaic laws would go a long way towards reducing these numbers. In particular it would motivate family members of a deceased person to okay organ removal. The proceeds could easily cover funeral expenses.
    It is also the same situation with bone marrow donation. Currently donors receive a pittance of $250. There are 18,000 people waiting for bone marrow transplants, let them be able to negotiate an agreeable price.

  4. Most people probably wouldn't give one to a relative. I went through the screening process some years ago when my uncle need one. I don't remember feeling quite so cavalier about it.

    Headed down today for a last visit. His sons donation gave him many years of additional life.

  5. This is rare and special person. As Neil writes, we don’t have to be as special as her to be generous and compassionate. Registering as an organ donor is one way. Giving blood, another. The options are unlimited.

  6. My driver's license say's I'm a potential donor, but don't think my organs would be worth much. I know they say you can get along with one kidney, but would like to see some long term vitality studies of donors.
    I agree she's a rare person.


  7. I meant to ask yesterday, what was the significance of the header photo topping this column, with the snakes?

    1. None. For some reason, I didn't want to use the photo of the sisters as the header. Sometimes I slip in a non-sequitur, such as that artist decorating a wall by the Lifeline Theater.


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