My recipient and I are very different. We are different nationalities, ethnicities and genders. I met Taro many years ago in the college cafeteria. My friends and I were looking for a table and I saw Taro sitting by himself looking very much like the shy Japanese foreign student he was. I asked if we could join him. He smiled and said “yes. ” There were friendly introductions all around and our friendship began. Taro it emerged was older than I was at 19. A lifelong kidney disorder had interfered with his education. At the time it seemed a shame that his education had been delayed. Now we both know that it was providence.
Despite living in different countries we remained good friends, always getting together when one of us breezed into town. In 2004 he came to London and we decided to have dinner. Because of our travel schedules I had not seen Taro for nearly two years. His appearance was distressing. He looked thin and wan and there was an ever so slight grayish tinge to his complexion. We spoke about work and our families and then the subject moved to eventual retirement. Where did we think we would retire and what projects would we engage in? The next words he uttered changed my life forever. He said “if I am still alive in five years…” I never caught the end of the sentence. I was stunned. He had not spoken about his kidney condition since college so I had no idea it had come to this.
He now explained that his kidneys had failed, that he was on dialysis, that it was only a matter of time. Despite being on donor lists in the US and Japan he was not counting on them. His whole manner was relaxed and matter of fact. He might have been talking about his travel schedule or some detail of a meeting. Now I was more than stunned. I was in inner turmoil. I realised that he had not spoken of it before because he had reconciled himself to dying sooner rather than later. We moved on to other conversation topics but the explosion happening to my emotions continued because the very moment he said he was looking for a donor I knew that I should offer. By the time we left the restaurant I was determined to do so. I remembered my squeamishness when my husband told me about his organ donor card. When I got home I flew onto the internet searching kidney diseases and transplants until my husband George came home. When I heard the key in the door I rapidly switched to computer solitaire. It was a pattern I followed for weeks to come.