We often see stories on the news about living donors and wonder how that person or family found someone to donate. It can seem daunting to start the process of asking someone to give that generously. In reality, asking people isn't nearly as important as telling people. That is, sharing your story openly with others is the most effective way to engage the people around you and find a potential donor.
How Do I Start the Process?
First and foremost, talk to your doctor and transplant center and make sure you are on the waiting list. Transplant centers will not screen potential living donors for you if you are not on the waiting list.
Make sure you have correct contact information for your transplant center to give any potential living donors, and include that information every time you share your story.
Once you are on the waiting list, bring together a small group of people to be your supporters. These could be close friends, family or even leaders at your place of worship. These are folks you trust who are willing to share your story with their friends and family. It takes a village, so make sure you have your villagers ready!
Crafting Your Story
Next, consider your story. Why do you want a transplant? To see your grandchildren grow up? So you can go to college and pursue your dream career? To continue singing in your church choir? To be a partner to your spouse for more years? These are the details that capture the interest of those who might consider donation.
If you don't feel comfortable writing your own story (many people don't), enlist the help of one of your villagers (see above)! Share your information with them and let them create a story for you (with your approval, of course).
Here is an example:
My name is Mary. My passion in life is teaching third grade children. I love seeing that moment when they understand something new, I love their amazing questions about the world, and I love seeing them grow. My first class of third graders are now parents themselves, and that gives me great joy. Without a kidney transplant, however, I may not see my current class grow up to be adults. You can change that by sharing my story and, if you feel called, to be my living kidney donor. Here is a link for more information. Can you be my hero today?
Your story doesn't need to be long, it just needs to be your story.
Sharing Your Story/Getting the Word Out
The best story in the world won't make a difference if you don't share it with others. This can often be uncomfortable, and this is where your team of supporters comes into play. Most of us would gladly shine a light on someone else's story, although we may not want to do that for ourselves. Share your story with the supporters you identified above, and ask them to please share it widely with people in their circles. Some ideas include:
- Social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
- A local newspaper
- Local places of worship
- Civic organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis
- Fraternities, sororities and other social groups
You may be surprised at the results!
Being patient while your story is shared can be one of the most frustrating experiences. We may imagine that people will see the story and immediately contact the transplant center to get tested, and that would be wonderful! In reality, though, it may take people some time and conversations with family before they are ready to commit to living donation. And some people may want to donate, but don't pass the screenings due to health issues of their own. Your transplant center will not share this information with you due to privacy laws, so no news does not mean bad news!
Stay patient and keep sharing your story!