A stranger, a kidney and signs of hope for humanity
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The first weeks of dialysis were the best ones.
Three days a week my mother would go to the dialysis center. Long a diabetic, her kidneys failed in her 40s. She was cheerful as she sat there hooked to a machine that would clean her blood over about a three-hour period, doing the job her kidneys couldn’t.
Mom would read and watch TV, she’d chat with visitors, like me, who would come keep her company. The nurses and medical technicians loved her vibrant personality.
Look around the room though, and things were a bit more glum. Other patients, most of them older than my mother, looked down or away. They were frail and quiet. They were surviving.
There was really only one way she would avoid becoming just like them. She needed a kidney transplant.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the memories of those decades-ago days flooded to the forefront of my mind last week while reading about 1-year-old Michael Loness. As reported by the Post-Dispatch’s Erin Heffernan, Michael’s kidneys didn’t work when he was born. He has been on dialysis for nearly all of his young life. At least he was until a total stranger, Robyn Rosenberger, a 33-year-old mother of three, donated her kidney. Rosenberger had met Michael because she runs a business called TinySuperheroes that makes capes for children overcoming illnesses.
She delivered one to Michael, heard about his need for a kidney, and made the decision to investigate donating one of her own.
It’s not an easy process.
As dialysis started getting more difficult on my mother, I talked to her and the doctors about giving her one of my kidneys. There were tests upon tests. Blood tests, heart tests, mental tests. I had to be checked for diabetes. There were questions about my weight and whether I could handle the surgery. I had to lose 15 pounds. I got down to 214. It was the lightest I remember being as an adult, until my own cancer treatment a couple of years ago knocked me below that number.
The surgery was scheduled and there was one last test.
I failed. I don’t remember anymore what it was. Whatever it was increased the likelihood of rejection.
I’m not sure who was more heartbroken, my mother or me.
For me, it was an easy decision to try to donate. She was my mother. As Michael’s mother, Sarah Loness, told Heffernan about her own son, she gave me life.
I wish I could have returned the favor.
Eventually, kidney failure and years of dialysis led to heart failure. My mother was on donation lists for a while, carrying her trusty beeper everywhere, but eventually doctors told her she was too weak and she couldn’t handle the needed heart-pancreas-kidney transplant surgery. She put her beeper away, took a vacation, and died.
Michael’s story is more hopeful.
His surgery was a success. Now, with Rosenberger’s kidney inside his little body, his life has promise. A stranger gave him the gifts of hope and life.
Amid the turmoil and tumult of life these days — from negative political news to racial and religious strife and fears of mass shootings — Michael’s story and Rosenberger’s inner goodness offered a reminder of the humanity around us.
Recently, I’ve felt a strong dose of that humanity.
Not long ago I wrote of veteran Tom Constantin, who gave up his emotional support dog in preparation for a move to the St. Louis Veterans Home that never happened. He was behind in his rent and being sued by his landlord. He missed his dog. Readers wanted to help. They offered money and support. Now, Constantin has an attorney helping him stay in his apartment while he still tries to get into a veterans home. He has good days. He has bad days. But he knows there is a community out there that appreciates his service.
Then there was Victoria Branson. She’s the St. Francois County woman who had been put in prison by Judge Sandra Martinez because she couldn’t afford the court costs rising in her years-old child support case for a son who is now grown. Branson, out of jail but worried that she still couldn’t pay her court costs and restitution, is worrying no more.
Post-Dispatch readers paid off her costs. Her case has been dismissed. Calls came from as far away as New York. People wanted to help.
That’s the thing about humans. We have our weaknesses. We can get caught up in the day-to-day grind. But when push comes to shove, we care about each other. We step up when we can.
Today a little boy in St. Louis has a kidney because a stranger cared.
Not every story has a happy ending, but that one does.
Sometimes a little humanity goes a long way.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com