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).

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