Ten years back, I and with me my husband and our family went through an experience that left us changed forever. I was diagnosed with kidney failure and my sister Lakshmi saved my life quite literally with the gift of her kidney.
As part of the preparation for the transplant, both myself and Lakshmi, and our husbands went through counseling sessions mandated by the hospital. Guilt is a big factor when it comes to transplant. The recipient can get emotionally and physically derailed by the sheer flood of emotions brought about by the feeling of guilt. Guilt from having to put another person through a surgery and asking them for a part of their flesh so you can live.
Like anyone else going through this, I too felt the pangs of guilt and questioned my heart, mind and soul more than once – did I want to live at the expense of putting my sister through this?
Our counselor had seen more than her share of transplant cases and knew the kind of emotional upheaval it brings with it, besides the physical trauma of two people undergoing surgery, the whole waiting game to see if your body has accepted the transplanted organ, a lifetime of immunosuppressants and everything that comes with that.
She shared a few stories with us about how a few of these cases that she had helped counsel on resulted in rejection because the recipient could not shake off this feeling of guilt. She encouraged me to replace guilt with gratitude and treat this as a second lease on life.
I even spoke to my sister’s husband, and my neice and nephew. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the unconditional, firm and resounding yes that came from all of them. Lakshmi’s entire family stood behind her decision and that strengthened both our minds as well that this was the way to go.
After that day, gratitude replaced guilt in my life. Three months after my transplant, I was back working part time and soon went back to full time and even 24/7 shift work after consulting my doctor that it was safe to do so.
The transplant took place on 27th April 2010. It’s over ten years now and by God’s grace and the positive energy of those around me, I continue to have a lot to be grateful for.
Last week, all the thanksgiving related posts reminded me of this tradition of thanksgiving that we have embraced for the last ten years.
To keep the gratitude forever alive, I began to wish Lakshmi a “Happy Kidneyversary” on every 27th of the month. I thank her and my sisters for their ever-present support and I never let myself take what happened for granted.
I put my heart and soul into the business of living a life as close to normal as I could. In my mind, the only way to repay my sister for her gift of life was to ensure I lived mine to the best of my abilities and not take anything for granted.
I hope this little snippet from my life helps those like me who invariably struggle from time to time with guilt. I do too. But every time I do, I replace that guilt with a good dose of gratitude and remind myself of the privilege bestowed on me.
I whisper a “thank you” to my sister, my family and friends, my healthcare support system, the universe. And set out to live my life.