Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wooing the donors

Our niece Beth made a comment on my last posting regarding financial remuneration for kidney donation (Crossing the Line from No to Yes). I had said that for me, guaranteed health care for life wasn’t what pushed me from no to yes. Beth replied, “As someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, making a commitment such as this without knowing I was secure financially during the surgery and recuperation would be a big deal -- home care wouldn't be enough -- I'd need to know my bills were being paid, my rent covered.”

I had the same fear before I made my decision. What if the operation left me weak and unable to go back to work for several months? That would be a situation we could ill afford. This is why I suggested a publicity campaign -- to dispel that fear. Perhaps there are some people who really are debilitated by the donation of a kidney, but obviously the percentage isn't very high. A few months before the operation there was an information meeting on kidney transplants held at our local hospital in Alkmaar, where Jim was undergoing dialysis. The meeting was conducted by doctors and by the head of the transplant team at the AMC in Amsterdam. It was a very good, informative meeting, but I wonder how much better it would have been if a recent kidney donor had also taken part? We could have asked that person loads of questions: did it hurt much? How does it affect your quality of life today?

Beth is right, of course. You can’t go into something like this without knowing all your bases are covered. I realize the health care systems in the US and the Netherlands are very different, and there are more safety nets here -- but even so, people do donate kidneys in the US. How do they manage it? That would have to be part of the publicity campaign. The Dutch Kidney Foundation is a very powerful and helpful institution here, and the American Kidney Foundation is no different. Certainly they would have advice. The thing is: if particular societies want to encourage kidney donation, they have to woo the donors. Everybody’s got different needs. Some people need to have their bills paid, others need to have their small children cared for while recovering. And no one should lose his livelihood or his health insurance because he decided to donate a kidney!

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