I Gave HOPE - Become a Living Donor
by Brittany Burton
Living Kidney Donation
In 2017, I was one of the approximately 1200 people in the United States who became a living kidney donor to an unrelated or unknown transplant recipient. Although lengthy, the testing, the surgery, and the recovery were fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. What was complicated was trying to explain the motives behind my donation. At the time, there were many questions about why I would donate an organ to someone I didn’t know. To be honest, most of those questions still remain unanswered. The simplest and easiest explanation I can provide to those who might be curious about my (what some may consider extreme) altruism, was the desire I felt to add some good back into a world that often feels overwhelmingly bad.
The experiences in my life have led me to believe that there are no good and bad people. Only people- who do good and bad things. And at the end of the day, my hope is that the good I do outweighs the bad- some of which comes with just simply being human. In the years since my donation I’ve studied, researched, and pondered the “why’s” behind the “what”. Why would someone donate to a stranger? Why would they risk themselves for the greater, collective, good? Why wouldn’t they? There are no right or wrong answers here. Honestly, sometimes, it seems there are no answers at all.
For me, the relationship I’ve developed with my recipient and his family has provided a lens to recognize the true impact of this gift. A husband and father of two, he has since gone on to see his son graduate from high school, his daughter excel at literally everything (and I mean everything) she attempts, and his wife continue to make the world a better place through her work and activism. He fills his days playing baseball, learning guitar, writing, biking, and just enjoying time with his loved ones. At the risk of sounding self-important, that’s exactly what I have given him- TIME. And, to me, there is no more precious resource, no better good.
Recently, I had the opportunity to be featured on a billboard in Durham, NC promoting living donation through the activist group, Donate Life NC. Maybe aside from watching a video of your kidney working in someone else’s body, there is no stranger experience than seeing a 20 foot “you” on the side of the highway. My hope is that seeing my giant head will encourage others, even fleetingly, to consider doing some good of their own. That the split second it takes a passerby to read the words “I gave hope” next to my photo may be the catalyst for them to do just that. In fact, my real hope is that together we can do so much good that we can not only cancel out our own bad, but also some of the bad done by others. Donating an organ to a stranger is an extreme example (for some), but if you are reading this, I challenge you, too, to do too much good. Do good in ways that feel reckless and scary and uncomfortable. You may be surprised at how much joy it brings to you.