I just got off the phone with a staff person at the transplant center that’s handling my dad’s potential kidney transplantation. This is a situation that has largely galvanized my family and their close friends, but that is also frought with difficult emotional and personal issues. My dad suffered kidney failure about six years ago, and has been on dialysis since. Initially and again most recently after surgery and a hospital stay, he has been on hemodialysis, but most of this time he has used peritoneal dialysis, which has allowed him to dialyze from home or even on vacation, giving him a little more freedom and also seeming to be easier physically.
Since the onset of his kidney disease, I along with several members of the family have offered to be tested as potential organ donors for him. Until now, Dad has always flatly refused to even consider it. He held out hope that he would get a kidney transplant through the normal channels. The “system,” though, has just offered snafu after snafu, culminating in a discovery during his recent hospital stay that his records didn’t indicate his full eligibility, noting that he’d only been eligible for less than a year rather than for the six years they should have recorded.
This most recent peritoneal infection and hospitalization were extremely difficult and painful. Dad says he’s never experienced pain that severe. Additionally, the infection eventually required the removal of his peritoneal catheter, which means that for several months, at least, he’s back on the more unpleasant, restrictive, and physically demanding and exhausting hemodialysis. These facts, combined with the discovery above about the mixup with his records, have left him finally ready, indeed eager, to allow a volunteer donor transplant. The family, including relations only by marriage, and even unrelated friends and church members, has responded very positively, and the blood testing has begun.
Not all is hunky-dory, though. Underlying tensions between a family friend — formerly my sister’s best friend — and my sister herself have escalated to the point that while they’re both being tested, they’re not now speaking to one another. For my own part, I feel that the family simultaneously encourages me to enter into consideration and subtly discourages me from doing so. While I was working 70-80 hour weeks, my health was suffering. Now that I’m not working, that carries its own stresses, of course; but overall, I’m probably healthier now — at least I feel better — than in the last four years. And even at my Prevacid-popping worst I was still at *least* as healthy and physically fit as any other adult member of my immediate family.
What really concerns me, though, is the timing and its potential impact on my own life; I don’t think any hesitation I feel comes from a sense of worry or fear about the surgery itself or its potential medical consequences, but from my own insecure future.
Because of the testing involved, and an intervening vacation my parents already had planned, any surgery couldn’t take place before July at the earliest, and my dad has latched onto August/September as the likeliest timeframe. If I find a new job between now and then, it will be extremely unlikely that I would be able to secure the necessary time off for surgery and recuperation. If I don’t find a job by then, the recovery time obviously won’t be a problem, but that situation will have its own repercussions in terms of my financial security. I’d likely need to sell or rent my home, and leave DC to move back in with my parents. While I love my parents, and they would gladly take me in, I’m really not eager to give up my life here.
So the soul-searching, and the questions begin. None of it necessarily beneficial, and some of it premature; it’s possible that I wouldn’t be a good match at all, and the decision would be made for me. But is it better to know whether or not I’m a match? Should I withdraw from the testing now, in the hopes but with absolutely no assurance that I’ll find a new job in the next couple of months? If I find out that I am the best match, what then? Should I stop looking for work? Should I begin making the difficult decision to give up my condo and my life here? Whose quality of life takes precedence? How do you even begin to *measure* relative quality of life?