Luck, Extra Days and Unnecessary Roadblocks

I haven’t been feeling too altruistic lately. Which isn’t a good thing. There is no substitute for giving. I suspect you know what I mean.

We can give in different ways. Our money. Time. Effort. Lives. The list is endless. I’ve previously discussed my problem with the money route. Simply put, most charities and other nonprofits are poor stewards of their money and other resources. I’m tired of the waste and, in many cases, the subterfuge. At this point in my life, I’m more interested in effective altruism than simply throwing more money at nonprofits.

So, lately, I’ve been thinking about what I can do besides writing a check. I tried volunteering at a local hospital but found myself doing things that really didn’t need to be done. Or that could (and should) be done by employees. I don’t want to be taking a paying job from anyone. Or doing makeshift work.

One good thing that came out of my hospital volunteer work, however, was an awareness of a particular dire need. I came into contact with families of patients who were receiving organ transplants. Sometimes from deceased donors. Sometimes from living donors. (A kidney from a living donor is far better. It’s more likely to work and last a lot longer.)

Witnessing the joy the gift of an organ brought to others was inspiring to say the least. A donated kidney was tantamount to a new lease on life for many of these organ recipients and their families. Yet I discovered that about 95,000 Americans are awaiting kidney transplants. Many people will die prematurely because they weren’t lucky enough to receive a kidney. And many will be sick, tired and have to live on disability because of dialysis. To think that life and death can be left to luck when we have the power to change it is troubling indeed.

But I have two kidneys and need only one, I thought. I ended up watching this video, which was made at another local hospital that does a lot of transplants, this one from Johns Hopkins, this one from the Mayo Clinic and this one from UCLA (as well as many more). I did a lot of other research, too.

This is something I might be able to do, I thought. For someone who needs it — in order to survive. To live untethered from a dialysis machine. For their kids. For their spouses and parents. So bad luck wouldn’t be their destiny.

It seems like the right thing to do — not to hoard all my good luck and good fortune, that is. Moreover, I am mindful of the extra days I’ve been given. I survived an auto accident last year that easily could have claimed my life. Since regaining consciousness in that car, I’ve been acutely aware that each and every day has been an extra day. Anyone who has felt like they’ve been given extra days probably knows what I’m talking about.

Being able to give someone else some extra days would be a blessing, far more than a sacrifice. And so I asked myself, Why would I turn my back on a blessing?

Which is where the president and his minions on the Hill came into the picture. Mr. Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. That’s the act that, among other things, protects people with preexisting conditions. But if the ACA is repealed, we’ll return to pre-ACA practices, where insurers will deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions or require them to pay substantially higher premiums. Which could be a big problem for me.

Having only one kidney was a preexisting condition in the pre-ACA era. Which would be a huge problem for a one-kidney me because I’ll be in the market for a health insurance policy next year. And soon be in the market for a Medigap policy. So the bottom line is, Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans are posing a risk for me, far greater, in my mind, than the risk of donating a kidney (which is a very low risk). I can’t run the risk of not being able to obtain health insurance or having to pay through my nose for it for the remainder of my life.

This is the kind of world people like Mr. Trump and many of his fellow Republicans want — a world in which everything is left to the almighty “Market,” which, frankly, is just another way of saying that money is the most important thing in the world. Or perhaps it’s the only thing that matters to some of these people.

Why so many of my fellow Americans buy into this idea is beyond me. But they do. And the rest of us can’t escape it, no matter how insane it seems to us.

So at least for now I’ll be keeping both kidneys, which, of course, doesn’t hurt me. But it does deny a father, mother, son, daughter, wife or husband a kidney they so desperately need — for no other reason than stupid public policy and cold-hearted, narcissistic politicians.

Mr. Obama was far from a perfect president. But at least he cared about something other than himself and money. There’s something to be said for that.

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