One donor's story: Bruno Franck
Let me start by explaining that my kidney donation process took 2.5 years from start to finish, from late 2018 until mid-2021. Much of the delay was from COVID shutting down all but emergency surgeries, but also because what started as a directed donation, became a paired donation, and ended up as non-directed.
My wife and I learned from a friend that that his wife needed a kidney because her dialysis was becoming increasingly problematic. We asked for more information and found out the most essential requirement was to have the proper blood type – which my wife didn’t but I did. Pretty much from that moment I decided to do what I could to help. Then there were a barrage of tests over several weeks that determined I (at age 64) was healthy enough and that the match was close enough to proceed.
To be a donor you need to be healthy to start with and be prepared to make some life changes to get even healthier – physically, mentally, and spiritually; donors must expect that. That’s important leading up to the surgery, during the surgery, and afterwards – because the rest of your life is changed and it’s not quite as easy as I thought. Speaking as an adoptive parent, I think a kidney donation is akin to an adoption process. In both, there were lots of hurdles, conditions, and requirements over which I had no control. And while I never doubted that this was the right decision, there were definitely down moments as I was going through the long process. One of the hardest was when the long delays resulted in a change in my friend’s health making us no longer compatible. Then after both joining the paired donation program, we learned there was almost no chance at all for that to be successful. At that point I could have just stopped, but instead decided that since I’d already come so far in the process, I would continue as a non-directed donor – I kept remembering that someone out there really needed my kidney to have a life.
I was (and still am) amazed how quick my initial recovery was. The surgery was Tuesday morning, I was home by noon that Thursday, on Friday I walked a mile, and that Sunday walked three miles. Then three months later, I was hiking at 12,000 feet in the mountains in New Mexico, covering 30,000 steps in one day. And as I worked through my emotions over the months after the surgery I began to more deeply know what it means to donate an organ – as a man, I was able to give life to another person.
It’s now 11 months after my donation at the time of this writing. I still have some down moments, some from the normal recovery process, but mostly because COVID restrictions prevented me from being with friends in person, doing things in social settings, and generally talking through all this with more people. In addition, during the six months after the surgery before the donor and recipient are allowed to meet, I didn’t realize how much I had hoped to have a really strong relationship with the recipient. When that didn’t happen, I had to work hard to accept that was just the way it was, turn my mind around, and move on with all the good things in my life.
Speaking only from my own perspective, I knew it was the right decision when I made it, and even now that I really understand the implications, I have no regrets – without hesitation, I would make the same decision again.