It’s been an important few weeks for us Yellies. Steve, my stepdad, has just undergone an operation removing his kidney. He’s not ill, thank goodness, he’s just decided to donate it. To a stranger.
Donating an organ to a stranger is a lengthy, costly and exhausting procedure. Steve has undergone around a year of medical tests to make sure his kidney is up to scratch, and that he’s in a physical (and psychological) state strong enough to wave goodbye to an organ. He lost weight, took countless blood tests, fasted and cycled across west Yorkshire to get to hospital appointments.
The operation was a success, and he’s now recovering in his onesie and a beanie hat at home for the next few weeks. He can’t do anything too strenuous, his meds can make him ill, his appetite is off, and he can’t drive or take the dog for a walk. Instead of feeling lighter, due to the absence of a hunk of meat inside of him, he is bloated from the things that have been pumped inside of him. He feels like a ‘rearranged suitcase’.
It all seems a lot. Especially when you consider he has never met, and most likely never will meet the person who’s receiving the spare organ. But he hasn’t complained- even where he’s had to cut out his beloved slice of bread before tea, or after an unpleasant stay in the hospital. He’s saving someone’s life, and that’s enough for him.
I couldn’t be prouder. He has no reason to voluntarily offer up his kidney, other than wanting to improve a life of a complete stranger. If you ever doubted altruism existed, then this would put you straight. Wanting no recognition or praise for his undoubtedly noble act, he’s quite content shuffling around the house making Coke Floats, happy in the knowledge that somewhere, a person can continue to live because of him.
Could you donate an organ? I’m sure we’d all like to think we’re dutifully to chop off limbs and spare bits to save a loved one in a desperate and unfortunate situation- but could you do it for a stranger?
It’s quite easy to donate blood- safe in the knowledge that our hearts will be powering to replete our levels. Once you offer up something your body can’t simply restock, it’s a different story.
Steve is one of the first hundred people in the UK to donate to a stranger. The name for a living donor of organs is an “altruistic giver”, and is spot on. Steve, and my family members, went to some lengths to ensure this donation would run smoothly. It’s not always been a walk in the park, and there are considerable improvements to be made to the entire donation procedure. But somewhere in London, a young woman has been given a new lease of life. And that’s the important thing.
Here is my virtual hat off, round of applause and tear of pride in my eye to Steve Yates.
If you fancy following in Steve’s footsteps and handing over your spare kidney to someone who could really do with it, or if you’re just interested in the process and people’s motivations for altruistic giving, check out this amazing but small campaign: One’s Enough. There’s also a fascinating article on the rise of altruistic givers in The Guardian here.