Keeping It in the Family
Back in 2002 Robyn Cleeland’s brother was diagnosed with kidney disease, with the prognosis that within two or three years he would have to go on a dialysis machine for up to twelve hours every second day. This was shocking and heartbreaking news; he was 44, with five young children, and running a large, successful building company. She says:
As it turned out, he was on dialysis within twelve months of the diagnosis. I wasn’t really aware of what this involved, but I was glad that something could be done to keep him alive. He lives in Sydney [Australia] and I live in Albury (565 kms/351 miles away) so I didn’t see the effect the dialysis was having on him and his family.
When my elderly parents said that they were having tests to see if they could be kidney donors, I was very concerned. I thought that perhaps I could offer to donate my kidney. But my deluded mind came up with a thousand reasons why it would not be a good idea. They seemed valid at the time and I wasn’t aware that it was fear driving these mental delusions.
I didn’t want to make the offer to my brother until I was very sure I could go through with the procedure. I thought it would be cruel to offer that kind of hope and then withdraw the offer. So I mulled it over, and realized that I needed a Dharma perspective on the situation. We have a kind person who comes to Albury to teach the Dharma on a fairly regular basis and I asked his advice. I was prepared for a long discussion, but to my surprise he said, “Fantastic, of course you have to do it. Why would you even question?”
In that short moment everything was made very clear. All my sound and good reasons for not offering suddenly seemed trivial and silly. Of course I would offer. Thinking so often gets in the way of the decision-making process!
But I needed to be sure I was a match… There are six components that could possibly match, and to do a transplant there has to be a minimum of three components matching. Then the first miracle happened. My brother and I scored a perfect six out of six. This, according to the nurse, was very rare and put the odds of success in our favor.
The transplant was to go ahead early in 2004.
Although I was confident that it was the right thing to do, I was still very afraid. My greatest fears were that something could go wrong and that one of us could be left somehow physically disabled. I have enjoyed very good health and have devoted a lot of time maintaining my physical well-being. This new challenge revealed the extent of my attachment to my good health and this body! Interestingly, I was not afraid of either of us dying, but I was afraid of living an impaired life…