Last December, I joined the approximately 400 Americans who anonymously donate a kidney to a total stranger every year.

Donating isn’t as hard as you think it would be; in December 2020, I reached out to the National Kidney Registry about donating, and they connected me with the fine folks at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian.

I had a few video consultations with them to better understand the process, spoke to two prior donors (including my mom’s friend who was also an altruistic donor) and went in for a day of testing in March 2021 to make sure I was in good health and of sound mind. The tests were non-invasive. The hardest part was that I had to collect my urine for a full 24 hours beforehand and then carry a jug of urine on the subway for 45 minutes (but knowing the state of NYC subways, there is a decent chance that I wasn’t the only person with a jug of urine that day).

After receiving pre-clearance, I was put on their hold list until I was able to line up time off from work and my parents’ schedules who would take care of me after the surgery. I received some additional testing at home and had a short pre-op before the big day.

On December 7th, I went to Weill Cornell at 5AM, was put under at 7AM and woke up at 11AM with one less internal organ, and the good humor to tell the attendant nurse, “You took my kidney?! I asked you to fix my knee,” which he had the good grace to laugh about politely before giving me the strongest pain killer I have ever received in my life.

I stayed at the hospital for two nights and was discharged on the third evening evening. I felt well enough to go to a holiday party the following weekend and returned to work full time about a week and a half after my surgery.

The long-term effects are pretty mild. I have a slightly elevated risk of kidney failure, and there is a slight increase in pregnancy complications for donors. I can’t take Advil/Ibuprofen for the rest of my life, which is kinda annoying but it’s manageable. Donors have the same life expectancy as non-donors, and the surgery itself is actually safer than a c-section. My remaining kidney actually grows in size and strength, so I ~only~ lose 20-30% of my kidney function. And, if I ever need a replacement. I’m immediately put at the top of the list (as are my immediate family members!).

It’s been about a month and a half since the surgery and I’m basically back to normal. I’m back to running 3X per week. I have to be careful about lifting heavy objects for a few more weeks (kinda funny b/c I’m a 6 foot tall man lifting granny weights at the gym), but I’ll be back to my pre-surgery regimen within the next 2-4 weeks.

This definitely isn’t for everyone, and at some level, I’m privileged to have done this. I’m financially very secure, have a job with a generous time off policy and parents who could take care of me while I recover (even if my mom told me that was “incredibly pissed” that I was doing this five minutes before I went to the operating room). But also the federal government has recently rolled out a generous program to supplement lost wages and reimburse childcare/travel expenses, so it’s getting easier.

40,000 Americans die of kidney failure annually and there are actually thousands of Americans who want to donate to loved ones every year who can’t because their kidneys aren’t a close enough genetic match. So, oftentimes those would-be donors agree to donate to another stranger if an “altruistic donor” (e.g. me) opts to donate to their loved one, so each altruistic donor can actually facilitate multiple additional donations.

I guess what it comes down to for me, is that if someone asked me if I would go on bedrest for less than a week and suffer some abdominal pain to save someone’s life, it feels like a no-brainer. And, most people probably don’t think like that, but if you are at all interested in donating or just about the process, I would love to talk to you.

Proof submitted to IAMA mods b/c it has confidential medical information and reposting today w/ approval from them. Apologies to all who asked questions yesterday.

Edit #1: Please don't Reddit Gold/Silver this lol. If this post inspires you to give away money, I would encourage you to donate to GiveWell which distributes your money to evidence-proven high-impact interventions in the developing world which save lives and dramatically transform people's quality of life.

Comments: 587 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

NYC_L0veLight330 karma

Does this have any long-term impact your health insurance? I'd be concerned (as an American) subjecting myself to a voluntary procedure that could put my health - and by extension, finances - in jeopardy down the road.

genericwhitemale11488 karma

Nope! Insurers are banned from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and having one kidney counts as a pre-existing condition. Also, the recipient's insurance handles the entire donation process (as far as insurers go).

NYC_L0veLight169 karma

Discriminating, no. But any future medical issues relating to your kidney donation would still cost money and, depending on the severity of the issue, could be substantial. Does that concern you? That's been the one thing holding me back from exploring donation myself.

genericwhitemale11176 karma

Honestly, the risk is so low, that I'm not really worried. I also don't have any genetic predisposition towards kidney failure, so I think as long as I stay healthy generally, I'll be good. If you wanna DM me, I'm happy to find a time to talk on the phone to answer questions 1:1 since you said you're interested in donating.

westwoodtoys209 karma

Would you say you're a good or bad art friend?

genericwhitemale11171 karma

You have no idea the amount of Bad Art Friend jokes I get haha. While on the subject, I have two thoughts about Bad Art Friend, actually.

Firstly, on a positive note, I was having some anxiety a few days before a donated and wrote a letter to the recipient, imagining what their life is like and what it would be like upon getting my kidney. This was inspired by Bad Art Friend, but I didn’t send the letter or post it online (nor do I plan to). Writing the letter helped me feel totally secure in my decision.

Secondly, on a negative note, I’ve always thought it’s a bit dispiriting how the two most widely read articles that deal with kidney donation are Bad Art Friend and another by a guy who donated when he was very young (18 years old, IIRC) and regretted it very much, both cast the whole endeavor in a negative light. There are never stories that go viral about the mother who can go to his daughter’s soccer game again or the best man who is able to appear at his childhood friend’s wedding. And, I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, something with the media or if it’s innate to humanity, but it’s just dispiriting that those are such popular articles.

onthewingsofangels65 karma

FWIW, she didn't post the letter publicly. Only to a small invite only support group where she was sharing all the details of her journey. My friend with stage 4 cancer has a blog where she writes about her experience and I think it's much the same idea. That article badly misrepresented a perfectly nice person who was gaslighted and bullied by a bunch of more successful writers (yes I went down a one week rabbit hole back then).

ourobboros205 karma

Can you drink? If yes, what’s the limit?

genericwhitemale11361 karma

I actually am sober for personal reasons (never was an alcoholic, but reached a point where I had to stop drinking). But, kidney donors can continue to drink once they've recovered. Generally, it's recommended to drink in moderation. My mom's friend is a kidney donor and she can still 2-4 glasses of wine (or she does when she and my mom hangout lol).

outerheaven77156 karma

Why did you choose to donate anonymously? If given the opportunity would you like to meet your recipient?

genericwhitemale1175 karma

Hey! Copying from another pair of responses since this has a lot of upvotes

1) I believe the vast majority of donations to strangers are anonymous. The hospital system puts up a lot of guardrails, so you can't talk to the recipient easily because there have been some crazy stories about donors not feeling as though the recipient is grateful enough. I ~think~ the recipient can get into contact with me, if they so choose, and it's easier than me reaching out to them, but I also think I can also give the hospital (say) a letter to give the recipient.
2) I'd be happy to meet my recipient and learn about them what their life is like. But, also it might be kinda weird since I would just be meeting another random person who could feel deeply, deeply indebted to me. I wouldn't want to put that on someone I guess. If they ever reach out, I'm happy to chat.

Bexin149 karma

Did you choose the left vs. right kidney? How did they determine which one?

genericwhitemale11280 karma

Donor-side surgeons prefer the left kidney since the vessels are slightly longer which makes the operation easier, so most people who donate give up their left kidney unless their is some sort of issue with it.

fbimemedivision110 karma

Do you plan to do it again in the future?

genericwhitemale11185 karma

Well, I'm an organ donor, so depending on how I die, you never know :~)

UnitedAdagio484895 karma

I guess what it comes down to for me, is that if someone asked me if I would go on bedrest for less than a week and suffer some abdominal pain to save someone’s life, it feels like a no-brainer.

Honestly, that's such a great perspective, I think I am going to do this too (assuming I am eligible). There's not much in the way of downsides and enormous upside for someone else. Thanks for sharing your story.

Is the National Kidney Registry the best place to start, or are there multiple avenues for donation?

genericwhitemale1139 karma

Yes! That is a great starting place. Go to their website and say you're interested in donating. Someone will be in touch pretty quickly. If you wanna DM me to learn more, I'd love to find a time to talk on the phone.

theKnunk80 karma

why donate when you can sell on black market for $40k??

genericwhitemale11128 karma

You know buddy, I don't know. I don't know.

HStaz62 karma

Did you choose to stay anonymous or is it a requirement for the program?

genericwhitemale11131 karma

The hospital system puts up a lot of guardrails, so you can't talk to the recipient easily because there have been some crazy stories about donors not feeling as though the recipient is grateful enough. I ~think~ the recipient can get into contact with me, if they so choose, and it's easier than me reaching out to them, but I also think I can also give the hospital (say) a letter to give the recipient.

bewarethes0ckm0nster44 karma

Are you unable to take all NSAIDS? You mentioned Advil/ibuprofen, what about things like diclofenac and naproxen? I’m currently starting the process to see if I can donate a kidney if not to a specific person, then through a cross match process that would get my specific person a kidney. I do have some chronic illnesses though, and I’m concerned that these might exclude me. I also take Naproxen every day for pain management, but I would be willing to give that up if it meant I could donate my kidney.

genericwhitemale1157 karma

I believe all NSAIDs are off the table except in moderation. I would recommend talking to your doctor/the hospital about this obviously. If you wanna DM me to talk about the general kidney donation process, happy to set up a time to talk on the phone.

_themaninacan_40 karma

So it puts you at a slightly elevated risk of kidney failure. How would you feel if at some point in the future you needed a kidney and couldn't get one?

genericwhitemale11115 karma

Great question! Since I'm an altruistic donor, I am put to the top of the list if I ever need a kidney (and so are my parents and both my siblings). So, I'm not worried about that happening. If we live in a world where there are no more kidney donations, we likely have much larger issues at that point ;)

But, suppose that did happen, it would feel kinda shitty because I like having a functioning renal system. But, the elevation isn't so great that it isn't inconceivable that I could have needed a kidney regardless of whether I donated or not. So, it would suck, but I guess that's how the world works. It's a risk that is very small and that I'm willing to live with.

thekamakiri11 karma

If/ when you get married, would that extend to spouse and kids? Would it kick your parents/ siblings off the list?

genericwhitemale1156 karma

Unfortunately, it doesn't extend to them. Those fuckers (i.e. my future wife and children) will have to fend for themselves.

dmbf20 karma

That’s interesting is it because they don’t exist yet or in general. I’d donate a kidney yesterday for my kids or SO but I’d def have to have a think for my parents or sibling.

Dark but true.

genericwhitemale1133 karma

You're given 5 additional kidney donation "vouchers" for loved ones to get a kidney in case they need one and you have to choose how to allocate them before you donate.

msnmck26 karma

I watched a kidney transplant on television once and they were absolutely manhandling it.

Had you ever seen photos or videos of the process beforehand, or did you want to go in purely on the information you received from the doctors and donors? I know a lot of medical science looks and/or sounds scarier than it's meant to be. That tv program pretty much noped me for life, I think.

genericwhitemale1154 karma

I have refused to look at any video or learn anything about the actual procedure haha. I'm pretty squeamish with that sort of stuff. When I was finding verification documentation for the AMA, I came across the surgeon's description of the surgery and immediately nope'd out of my browser.

SanderVdW26 karma

Are you in any way restricted now with only 1 kidney?

genericwhitemale1147 karma

Not really! As I've mentioned, I can't take advil. I guess I also have to give up on my dreams of being an MMA champion, but that's really it.

SanderVdW6 karma

You could still do an all nighter bingedrinking and or take loads of drugs? Not that I'm implying you do, just asking if you could, you know for a friend

genericwhitemale1117 karma

To answer your friend's question: cocaine is entirely off the table because it's processed by the kidney. I think you have to be careful about heavy drinking as well, but I'm sober, so I don't know the specifics.

BaronVonCrunch22 karma

I have seriously considered doing this, and even took steps toward donating. However, I have had kidney stones a couple times, and I seriously worry that donating a kidney could make future kidney stone episodes much, much worse. Did your doctors talk to you about how donation might affect that?

genericwhitemale1132 karma

I don't have a history of kidney stones, so it was never brought up. But, when you go in for testing, you can and should bring that up with the doctors and they can make a determination about whether you should donate or not. If you're interested in the process, feel free to DM me and I'm happy to find time for us to talk on the phone about it.

Army-CID16 karma

Have you attempted to find out any info on the recipient or reach out ?

genericwhitemale1168 karma

No, not really. To be honest, I don't even know what I would say to them. It would feel like I was reaching out to someone just to hear them say thank you to me, which strikes me as perverse. If they want to reach out to me, they can. But, I wouldn't want to impose that conversation on someone.

I'm also not really given any info aside from the person's age, gender and state of residence, so I really couldn't find them even if I tried.

ilovemacandcheese6 karma

How would you feel if you found out your recipient was an unrepentant neo-nazi or something like that?

genericwhitemale1122 karma

I mean, that's not great, especially because I'm Jewish. But, the vast, vast majority of people are not unrepentant neo-nazis, and there's no way that I could have known that beforehand, so I wouldn't regret it. Also, candidly, I believe that like 99.999999999% of human life has value for its own sake, and I think you have to look at the sum total of someone's life. Idk, maybe this is too easy to say in the abstract, but neo-nazis have brothers, fathers, wives, best friends, etc. They have people who care about them. And, maybe if they weren't actively killing people or encouraging others to, then, I would still be unhappy obviously, but maybe I could rationalize that it's still a good thing? idk. But also, maybe they would learn it came from a Jewish person and their mind would change?

OldGentleBen10 karma

who anonymously donate a kidney to a total stranger every year.

How do you donate a kidney every year???!?! How many you got?

genericwhitemale1120 karma

shhhh we don't talk about the extras

Craiss9 karma

What are the health and demographic requirements to be a donor?

genericwhitemale1121 karma

Great question! You have to be 18 years old or older and generally in solid physical and mental health w/ good kidney donation. They run a battery of tests on you and I can't speak to the particular requirements, unfortunately. But, before my tests, I would consider myself of average health for a man in his mid-to-late 20s (exercised 3-5 times per week, didn't smoke cigarettes, ate healthy-ish) and all of my tests came back good.

QuaileyJit4 karma

Are any of these things exclusionary to your knowledge? Past history of smoking, High alcohol consumption, obesity, or diabetes?

genericwhitemale1110 karma

I smoked for ~4 years when I was in college and a bit after, but it was generally very light (3-4 cigs per day), and I quit 2+ years ago. Don't know about the others.

Lawman1828 karma

How has it affected your life? I have a friend who needs a kidney and I don’t know if the lifestyle change would be too much or if I should keep it for if one of my kids needs it in the future.

genericwhitemale1125 karma

Honestly, 1.5 months out, it hasn't affected my life at all. I'm basically back to normal. I have to be careful about heavy lifting for another few weeks, but that's it.

IMHO, the chance that someone will need a kidney donation in their life is pretty small, so if you have a friend or loved one that needs a kidney, I'd recommend donating instead of waiting for a future, hypothetical situation. But that's your prerogative of course.

Lawman1826 karma

How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?

genericwhitemale1128 karma

26! So, take everything I say with a grain of salt and youthful optimism.

pryjar6 karma

What's the most painful thing you've ever experienced?

genericwhitemale1144 karma

My girlfriend breaking up with me when I was 20 years old. Hby?

darr765 karma

I know you get moved to the top of the donor list should you need a kidney, but do they provide any statistics of how many people end up in that situation? That, and the fact that 1 kidney makes a high risk pregnancy, is why my spouse has been fighting me on being a living donor.

genericwhitemale1115 karma

This is obviously a super cursory search, but according to WebMD (edited slightly for clarity):

Just how likely is it that you’d need to take advantage of priority status as a donor? Between 2010 and 2015, about 200 people in the U.S. who had been kidney donors were added to the national kidney waiting list. That’s an average of 40 a year.

Compare that with the more than 5,000 people who become living kidney donors each year, and you’ll see that you have a low chance -- less than one in a hundred -- of needing a kidney transplant after donating one of yours.

If you wanna chat about the donating, feel free to DM me any questions or we can set up a time to talk on the phone.

ganjaman_4071 karma

Have you ever seen To Catch a Predator and if so, why would you pick that username?

genericwhitemale112 karma

oh i haven't...what am i missing here...

MegaMarkZero-7 karma

Did you do this AMA because you regret donating anonymously and now want attention?

genericwhitemale1131 karma

Hahaha, not really. I got plenty of attention from my friends and family after donating. I'm doing the AMA because I think that it would help demystify kidney donations and maybe encourage someone else to donate.

provocatrixless13 karma

I anonymously donated my left kidney

User has been verified

Not anonymously enough, I guess.

genericwhitemale110 karma

haha, the subreddit needs verification and it generally isn't great to post medical records publicly