How Donating a Kidney to My Son Brought the Family Together

For decades we’ve been trying to find out whether
There’s a sure-fire way to bring families together;
To get them to give love, compassion, and support
And shun negativity of every sort.
Inadvertently I found a magic wand
That instantly creates a tighter family bond.
When someone gets sick (my son), just do a good deed
And offer the organ (kidney) that he will soon need!

Once you say you’ll donate an organ, it’s no surprise,
Your status goes way up in everybody’s eyes!
(Particularly the loving family members who,
Now no longer feel guilty for not offering too).
I’m told I’m being so brave and noble, so nice!

But for a Mom, not giving is the true sacrifice.
So, now I am protector of the family’s jewel;
The life-saving kidney, so now, as a rule,
All I do is questioned and I have to endure
Well-meaning advice on how best to ensure
That I stay in good shape to keep donor approval
(Yes, a board can vote for donor status removal).

Tree of life

As the journey continues for donor and donee
We forge our, now conjoined, medical history.
We wait for my approval as a donor – and wait,
And wait, as well, for a kidney transplant date;
Which won’t come till kidney function is so low
That the recipient’s other organs start to go.

We give blood and urine and have lots of EKG’s
As they test me for every documented disease.
A social worker must deem me “mentally sound”
To do what I need to, to keep my son around.
We analyze each blood test with close attention
Like brokers with stocks at a financial convention.

Through years of uncertainty the family gamely tries
To deal with the lows as gracefully as the highs.
We all make sure that we stay in closer touch,
Emails and calls don’t go unanswered as much,
Everyone keeps up with all the lab reports,
We follow transplant stories as avidly as sports.

As my son’s kidney function steadily declines
And he confronts a series of medical land mines,
The whole clan goes into support overdrive,
Like cheerleaders, willing the kidney to survive.
But as transplant day inevitably draws near
Our loved ones are overcome with devotion and fear
As it sinks in – this is not a TV drama
But an impending multiple body trauma.

After surgery, everyone rallies around;
Texts and emails are flying, good feelings abound.
Feuds are forgotten as we share each update;
Relief and joy let old hostilities abate.
Relatives can express their love and gratitude
Even those not known for a caring attitude.
Our recovery is bumpy and way too long
But family togetherness and spirit stay strong.

Now, I don’t recommend this for treating family woes
On a regular basis, though everyone knows
The prospect of losing someone you love dearly
Quickly makes you see life’s priorities more clearly.
For us, a kidney transplant turned out to be
The ultimate in extreme family therapy.
I know there are definitely better ways
To get closer, that don’t involve hospital stays.

But donate, cause it’s an amazing thing to do,
And don’t be surprised if some benefits accrue;
Like reducing petty family tension and strife
And deepening connections, all while saving a life!
Donate to a stranger – keep another family whole
While filling your heart and inspiring your soul!
Who knew, when you give up a part of yourself, that you’re
Going to end up more fulfilled and “complete” than before!

NOTE: My son, David, was the recipient of the kidney I donated. In case you didn’t guess.

Categories: #Health, Family, Medical, poem

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6 replies

  1. David is very lucky he has you. VERY lucky.


  2. Beautiful – the greatest gift of all – life


    • Thank you! It is a gift to a Mom to be able to give life to a child twice, a second time after the first time doesn’t work out so well. So I feel I was given a gift by being able to donate a kidney to my son.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ellin, you are truly one of the special ones.., I am so very impressed. A close friend of mine recently passed quite before his time and I didn’t know that he was an organ donor. His corneas went to another person who later contacted my friend’s wife to thank her for his new found sight. It made me start thinking about being an organ donor myself.

        Your act is made even more poignant by the fact that you have done this while still alive. I think I love you sister.


        • To be a post mortum organ donor, all you have to do is go to the DMV and check a box on your driver’s license. In many other western countries, your organs are automatically donated after death unless you specify otherwise. That’s called an opt out system. In the States, you have an opt in system – you have to do something that most people don’t know about or understand or you are automatically considered NOT to be a donor. The donor rates in other countries are in the 80-90 percentiles. Here it is in the teens, which I think is shameful. Why can’t we assume people will do the right and good thing here instead of assuming the worst in people?


  3. Love it, Ellin! This is so inspirational.


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