BUT (and that is a big BUT…) – would I have the courage and kindness to be like Amanda Nicastro and donate an organ while I am still ALIVE?? That, to me, takes the question to a whole other level.
We met Amanda at the Orlando Fringe Festival when she was performing her show “I’m Just Kidneying”. We were lucky enough to see it and it really made me think a lot afterward. When I started this project about Kindness Activists, I knew I wanted to feature Amanda and have her share her story with you, so that you could be inspired like I was.
|Amanda performing at the Orlando Fringe Festival|
Well, even though Amanda herself wasn’t a match, she explained to me, “More and more hospitals have started putting together “paired donation programs”. Basically through this program we were paired with another recipient/donor pair and we swapped kidneys. Sometimes the chains of people are very long. In our case it was a direct swap. We actually got to meet the other pair - a husband and wife. The wife and I were matches; she has my kidney. The husband and my sister were matches; she has his kidney.”
Did you follow that??? Amanda donated her kidney to a woman, and that woman’s husband donated HIS kidney to Amanda’s sister! It was like “musical chairs” with kidneys, only the result was good for EVERYONE!! I love it. What a concept!
|:) - she is a kidney donor!!|
|Amanda and her sister - Thing 1 and Thing 2|
When I talk with people for this project, I typically ask how they think the recipient of their kindness felt. I like to try and think of it from all angles. Amanda said, “I really don't know exactly how my sister felt. I think she appreciated it and she loves me, too. I remember her saying at one point before surgery she was really happy that through the paired donation program we were also helping someone else and that it wasn't just helping herself. I think the paired donation program is amazing for that dual purpose. Patients are receiving help but they are also making it possible for others to be helped as well. I think my sister is pretty awesome for being able to accept a kidney from a stranger so that someone else is helped by receiving my kidney.”
I agree – the whole thing is awesome. I didn’t know about PAIRED DONATION and I am really glad she explained it to me. It makes perfect sense and definitely seems to be the right way for medicine to move.
You would think a show about donating a kidney would be a serious affair, right? But Amanda’s take on it is funny, refreshing, and educational. I asked her about the show – why/how she wrote it, and how it went over. She said, “Honestly, I decided to write a show about it because a bunch of funny things happened during the evaluation process. One of them being I had to take a cooler full of my own pee on the subway. During evaluation you do a 24 hour urine collection and it has to stay cold until it gets to the lab for testing. I live in New York City and don't own a car so I had to take my cooler with the pee jugs in it on the subway. A stranger on the platform kept asking me what I had in the cooler. I thought it was just too funny of a situation. I wish I could say the main reason I wrote the show was to get the word out about organ donation, but it was more I thought I had a good story to tell that would make people laugh. It wasn't until after I started getting responses from others affected by kidney disease that I really thought about how much good the show could also do outside of just being entertaining.” Side note: I was quite embarrassed after getting this reply from her, because to tell you the truth, we had seen Amanda carrying around a prop for her show (the COOLER) and I remember asking my partner, “I wonder what that girl has in her cooler??”. Yup, I was like the annoying stranger on the subway platform.
Amanda is now volunteering with “LiveOnNY”, a non-profit responsible for registering New Yorkers to be organ donors. I think it is so important to register to be an organ donor, and to talk about that decision. Amanda told me, “Oftentimes when I approach people I find that most are in favor of transplantation. But a lot of people, even if they look upon organ donation favorably, still haven't registered as organ donors simply because they don't want to think about their own death. Unfortunately, making the decision about being a registered organ donor does come with thinking about what your legacy will be after you die. I understand the fear and anxiety that surrounds all of that. Nobody wants to die and it can be unpleasant to think about. But I think being kind, living kindly, and doing acts of kindness depends on our ability to look at our lives and make courageous assessments of ourselves and being able to accept the realities of our world. Everyone dies. Everyone at some point is touched by death. Avoiding it might feel good in the short term, but avoiding it doesn't help ourselves and it certainly doesn't help others.”
So well put. So let me ask you, are YOU a registered organ donor? Does your family know that you are?? Please take time to think about it, register, and inform those who love you. You can find more information on organ donation here: here
I wish I could tell you that “I'm Just Kidneying" will be at a theatre near you soon so that you could see it. But Amanda has taken some time off to get married (congratulations!!) and work with her sketch writing partner. She is considering doing another tour of the show, so keep your eyes open for it. You can connect with Amanda on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/imjustkindeying/?fref=ts , on her website at www.amandanicastro.net, or on Twitter @TheLastAmanda
Let’s give Amanda the last word here. “Being kind isn't about lofty ideals or grand gestures. It's simply living in the moment, accepting that the world is sometimes not perfect, and asking yourself, ‘What can I do right now, no matter how small, to make the world a kinder place for others and for myself?’ .”
Thanks Amanda – thanks for being such a force of kindness in this world, for sharing your story, and for working to ensure more people donate organs.
|Bonus photo - Amanda getting married. Congratulations!!|