Donating Stool or Organs: A Unique Type of Philanthropy

As I was drinking my morning tea (vanilla rooibos, if you must know) and engaging in one of my all-time favorite pastimes on a Sunday morning: reading the New York Times, I saw this fascinating article by a woman who donated her stool (no, not the furniture) to help a friend who was desperately ill.

I think I might have mentioned in one of my earlier posts about being a psychology major in college, but I might add — I was also a biology minor. Naturally, I’m drawn to any topic that has to do with health and illness much like a moth who is incredibly attracted to light. The only reason I didn’t make it my major is that I didn’t want to take organic chemistry!

So on any given day, you might find me reading some work of nonfiction about stool-like topics (thank you NYT, New Yorker, and all those other great magazines — when I have time to read you). For instance, when I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, I could not put it down. Likewise, with When the Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. These books and other research are wonderful insights into the ways a particular perspective of someone’s race and culture often shapes Western medicine’s view of health and illness and the patient’s subsequent treatment.

Anyway, this article got me thinking about how helping friends who are ill is, in fact, a form of philanthropy. I mean, how great is it that this woman wants to donate poop to someone?!

I was reminded of the HUGE need for organ donations. I have a friend who has been on the waiting list for a kidney for several years. According to UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are currently approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting to receive a kidney. Buying organs for use in transplants is apparently illegal in this country, and there is a rampant black market overseas. It’s legal in Iran, according to this 2012  Guardian article.

A Scientific American article explains that one kidney is enough for you to survive. Still, I’ll be honest, I don’t have the guts to donate my kidney to a stranger. But if it came down to it, I’d do it for a family member.

As a teenager, I actually almost became a donor candidate for my oldest brother’s kidney transplant but was quickly ruled out because I was too young.

My father and my middle brother were tested to see if they were potential donors. In the end, my middle brother at 23 years old, was the one who ended up donating his kidney. This act of generosity forever bound together these two men, who are only 14 months apart and once fought like cats and dogs as youngsters. And every year in November, they call each other in gratitude and speak about that day which was almost 30 years ago.

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One Response to Donating Stool or Organs: A Unique Type of Philanthropy

  1. Karen Story says:

    Wow, this is an incredible posting Elizabeth. Not only is that NYT article absolutely fascinating, but I was blown away by the story of your brothers. You could write a whole blog just about that (or a whole book). And thank you for the two book suggestions – I’ve ordered them from the library. Have you read “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World,” by Steven Johnson? I thought it was excellent.

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