Odler Robert Jeanlouie, MD
Alicia is 34, she is Puerto Rican born. Brad's grandparents
immigrated from Ireland. Brad is 36. Both, Alicia and Brad work for
an accounting firm in the Bronx. They have been dating for about a
year and half...
But, this is not when this story starts. It began when Alicia was 12
years old. She was then diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. She spent
her adolescence and early adulthood injecting herself with insulin.
She did well. She completed college without any trouble, except
one episode of hypoglycemia, low blood sugar. She took her insulin
while forgetting to eat.
A year ago, she was told that her kidneys were failing. She would
need either to go on dialysis or have a transplant. Have a transplant?
Someone would need to give her a kidney.
However, no one in her family was ready for such a gift. No one among
her friends would even consider it. Everyone was unconcerned by the
fact that they don't need two kidneys to survive. One is plenty
So, Alicia got herself ready for dialysis. Dialysis is a dreadful
procedure. Not painful, but superiorly constraining. The patient is
supposed to make it three times a week to a dialysis center, where he
remains attached to a machine for 3 to 4 hours. The machine cleans his
blood while he is reading his magazines or watching TV.
Some people do well on dialysis. Living long lives. But, for most
dialysis patients, the average life expectancy is around 5 years. And,
these patients don't have a choice, if they don't start dialysis after
their kidneys are gone, they die within 3 to 4 weeks at most.
Now, just imagine the plight of the dialysis patient. Scheduling
everything around the dialysis sessions. At least 3 in a week.
Forget about traveling it requires meticulous planning and the
guarantee that at destination there is a center ready to serve
him... Of course, he could switch to home dialysis, but sometimes
the problems are worse, and I don't want to get into them here.
So, Alicia went to Dan, revealed her problem, described her health
status, and explained to him that at this point, it was better for the
them to take a break from the relationship, since she is going to be too
busy anyway making it on time at her dialysis. Besides, the
prospect for her to have babies and to advance in her career had just
Guess what was Dan's answer? He told her that if the matching tests
were acceptable, he would give her the kidney that she was unable to
obtain from anyone in her family or from her friends. The tests went
well, and three months later, he gave the gift was completed.
The kidney so far, three months later, is faring well. No major
complications. Dan and Alicia are still dating. They do not even
live together. Both came to transplant clinic on Tuesday. Alicia is
on 11 different medications for her hypertension, her diabetes, her
immunosuppression... Dan knows all of them by heart. I mean names,
doses and timing!
I stopped long ago believing in true love. But, is this one case of
true love? Would you give a kidney to a guy or a girl you have been
dating for only a year? Would your best friend deserve that gift?
(OdlerRobert Jeanlouie, Friday, Sep 10, 1999).