Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Journey's Full Circle

Three months ago I donated my kidney in what was the largest kidney domino swap ever accomplished. I gave my kidney in hopes that my friend and co-worker, Robert, could get a kidney and resume a healthy life free of the torture of dialysis.

This week marked an end of sorts in this journey. On Monday, Robert returned to work. He is healthy and happy. His body is showing no signs of rejecting the kidney he received from an anonymous donor in Oklahoma. I almost burst with joy whenever I see him around the Hospital.

Last week, I had the honor to meet the recipient of my kidney who lives outside St. Louis. It wasn't important for me to meet her - it was enough to know that she was healthy. But meeting her brought closure that I didn't know I wanted. She has a beautiful story that I may feel comfortable sharing with her permission later. She is a vibrant, beautiful woman who said that three months ago she spent her days sleeping. She could not even cook, clean house or shop for her family. Now she happily can do all of those things.

Everyday someone asks me how it feels to have gone through this journey. I have not found the right words yet and maybe I never will. I came across a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr that describes my feelings beautifully so I will use it until I find my own way to express it.

"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart."

The journey has changed me. I wake up every morning feeling different - not physically different, but spiritually and emotionally different. It may sound like a cliche, but I feel more alive, unburdened and lighter (though I did gain about 7 pounds). I feel very confident of my place in the world and I want to experience everything life has to offer. The most inexplicable change I have experienced is that I have lost my fear - I don't seem to be afraid of anything or anyone. I suppose that may pass, but for now I enjoy my fearlessness. At the same time I have lost some of my patience and tolerance for what I see as unfairness and complaints by others about minor infractions, discomforts or inconveniences. But when all is said and done, I think I am a better person.

This portion of my life has come full circle. On Friday afternoon around 4:00, Robert stopped by my office with a big bunch of flowers for me. My heart nearly burst again. I asked him how his first week back had been and we shared how we each were feeling. As I walked him out into that same hallway where our fateful conversation had taken place a couple of years ago, I asked him if there was anything he needed, was there anything I could do for him. He turned and smiled, "No, I'm fine. There is nothing I need."