It is after midnight.
The two women sit in the living room in comfortable, soft chairs. One is focussed on a puzzle book — crossword or Sudoku or Kukuru, she does them all. The other is reading a novel.
Rarely do they speak.
They don’t have to talk in order to communicate . . . they are joined at the kidney.
As proof that time waits for no one, more than six years have passed since one of them
gave up a kidney so that the other could live again.
But their relationship goes back much farther than that, back to the early 1970s when they worked together in a mental health centre, well before people who are much smarter than I am chose to shut it down.
They no longer live in the same community; in fact, they now are separated by more than 1,700 kilometres and a few mountains. No matter. The friendship endures; in fact, now in their 60s, they are closer than they have ever been, seemingly growing even tighter as time races on.
When one of them needed dialysis to help cope with kidney disease, the other was adamant that she would donate a kidney to her friend. The recipient had been diagnosed with kidney disease — it was discovered that she had been born with just one kidney and that it was malformed and slowly starting to fail — more than 30 years before the transplant. Of course, the friend had been saying for more than 30 years that she would donate a kidney when the time came.
And when that time came, she was true to her word.
When it turned out that they weren’t a match, she said that didn’t matter; they would enter the Living Donor Paired Exchange Program. She would give up a kidney, but only if her best friend got one.
It wasn’t quite that simple, but that’s exactly what ended up happening.
As luck would have it, they ended up in the same hospital so were able to check on each other in the days immediately after surgery.
The donor never has said much about what she did. In fact, when she was away from home for a while those six years ago, there were friends and neighbours who didn’t have any idea where she had gone or what she was doing.
She has never wanted attention. Whenever the subject of her sacrifice or generosity — or pick any other word — is mentioned, she simply shrugs it off. Without having to ask, she knows what would have happened had the shoe been on the other foot.
And now they try to spend time together twice a year — once in the spring and again on or about the anniversary of the transplant.
A year ago, it was the fifth anniversary, so the donor and her husband drove through four provinces in order to participate in a Kidney Walk with the recipient and her family.
A year later, they are sitting quietly in a living room, each in her own world, but you know they are in each other’s world at the same time. Earlier, they were baking scones and making conversation as they worked together. Their children are married now. There are young grandchildren. There is lots to talk about, including all that comes with advancing age.
The one thing that never is heard is a discouraging word, nor is there ever a disagreement.
No. They aren’t sisters. They are closer than that.
Yes, there is chaos out there. There also are good things happening. . . . Give this tweet and its thread a read; it will make you feel good. . . .
If you are thinking about being a donor, feel free to call the donor nurse co-ordinator at St. Paul’s Hospital (604-806-9027 or 1-877-922-9822), or email firstname.lastname@example.org