Shira Gura
The Living Deliberately Approach

How to be Mentally Prepared to Be a Kidney Donor

How to be mentally prepared to be a kidney donor. (Credit: Canva)

Do you plan to be (or do you know of anyone who plans to be) a kidney donor? If so, this article is a must read.

I’d like to share with you a story about a friend of mine whose kidney donating ended in a complete disappointment, but first I want to share with you a story leading up to that in order to elucidate how my friend could have avoided the disappointment she experienced.

Story #1 – A gift to my friend who moved into a new home

I have a friend who recently moved into a new home. In fact, she not only moved into a new home, she moved to Israel which is a big thing. I was so excited both for her (and me as we would be new neighbors!) that I wanted to gift her something really special.

Rather than buying a gift, I decided I wanted to make something handmade that would really show the thought came from the heart. I decided to make for her a string of beautifully hand-made flags that could be hung across the entrance of her new home.

While I love to be artsy, I’m not an art maven. I don’t have a sewing machine, I don’t even know how to use a sewing machine, I don’t even have scissors that cut fabric. But I was up for the challenge. And after buying the material and getting a quick sewing lesson, I created the flags of my vision. And I actually think they came out beautiful.

Getting CLEAR

So, after my friend made aliyah and completed her two weeks of mandatory quarantine, I brought over a bunch of things for her new house, including my gift, which I explained to her was handmade. But, here’s the thing. I got CLEAR ahead of time. (And by clear, I’m not using that word in the generic sense, but the actual method, The CLEAR Way).

I uncovered the expectations I had of my friend’s possible responses to the gift, accepted the possibility that she may not like or want the flags I made, and committed to not taking her response personally if she didn’t like them.

I gave her the flags, she seemed to like them, and she thanked me.

It was only a few weeks later when she was all settled in, that she came over one day to return some things I gave her that she didn’t need, including my hand-made flags.

And here’s the thing: I wasn’t shocked, I wasn’t surprised, nor was I offended. I did not get stuck!

When I noticed them in the pile of things she returned to me, I was more curious than anything, like, “Oh, ok. She doesn’t want them. I wonder who else may?”

And that was it. It was the end of the story. I didn’t get stuck, I wasn’t upset with my friend, nor was I offended that she didn’t like my gift. And the reason is because I had gotten CLEAR ahead of time. It was going through the steps of The CLEAR Way that saved me from getting stuck, which is why I practice getting CLEAR every single day, both in my personal and professional life.

Story #2 – My friend, the kidney donor

This story is about another friend of mine who lives in my community and who gave me permission to share her story. Her name is Tehila.

The Gift of Life – Matnat Chaim

About two years ago, Tehila was reading the newspaper here in Israel and read a story about someone who donated a kidney to save the life of someone else. In reading more into the story, Tehila learned that there’s a non-profit organization in Israel called Matnat Chaim, which means, “gift of life.”

I looked up the organization on the internet and this is what is said on the home page:

Our organization recruits and supports healthy volunteers to donate a kidney to someone in need of a transplant. The kidney donors receive no monetary compensation for their donation and the recipients do not pay for their transplants. All kidney donations are done on a voluntary and altruistic basis. The sole motivation of the organization and the kidney donors is the desire to help others and save lives.”

This Israeli organization was formed in the memory of Rabbi Heber who was on dialysis at the time and received a kidney that prolonged his life for about 10 years. It was during that time that he formed this organization and his wife has subsequently taken over since his passing just a few months ago from Corona complications. This rabbi was said to have touched the hearts of thousands with his extraordinary modest, generosity, and humanity.

So, Tehila read this story in the newspaper and decided then and there she wanted to be a kidney donor, which in and of itself is remarkable to me. The fact that someone would want to undergo major surgery AND give away an essential organ (even though you do have two) to save the life of someone you don’t even know, is simply extraordinary.

Radical generosity

Tehila applied to be a kidney donor, in which you have to go through a number of physical and psychological tests, and wait for match. For Tehila, it was a year and a half long process from the application to the actual surgery. I remember the excitement I felt when I was told Tehila was in the hospital ready to go in for her surgery. I was on the list of friends on Kibbutz Hannaton ready to prepare a meal for her upon her return.

Tehila’s surgery was a success. Tehila came out fine, but of course, very weak and her body would need quite a while to heal from that life-threatening surgery, because truly any surgery can be a matter of life or death. The kidney was then transplanted into her donor, who Tehila had the opportunity to meet face to face a few days later.

An unsuccessful transplant

But, there was a problem that was detected just a few hours after the surgery. The transplanted kidney was sitting on top of an artery and blocked blood flow, which nearly led to recipient’s death. So, the recipient had to undergo emergency surgery to gently move the kidney into place. That was surgery #2. Soon after, this poor recipient underwent surgery #3 to remove Tehila’s kidney from the recipient’s body, because the kidney just didn’t take.

A huge disappointment.

By that time, Tehila and her recipient had met and spoke and connected, one human being to another. One soul to another. Tehila simply wanting to give for the sake of giving, and the recipient simply wanting to receive for the sake of saving her own life.

But, it didn’t go as expected. And both women were devastated.

A healing circle

When our community learned about what happened, we asked Tehila what we could do to help and support her, and that’s when she decided to organize a healing circle so she could share and process through her story, so that the women in her community could hold space for her and listen, and so her friends could share their thoughts and love back to her. It was a powerful, moving, and loving night where you really felt the sense of togetherness of everyone present.

But, Tehila was stuck. She was stuck on disappointment, and rightfully so. She certainly didn’t go through that whole long year and half process and give up a kidney for no reason! She did this to save a life! And that didn’t happen. So what was it all worth? She wondered to herself. What meaning could come from this? How could this make any sense? Why would this happen to her? And to her recipient?

We held Tehila as she expressed her story in depth.

What about Getting CLEAR?

Before Tehila’s surgery, she went through one final interview from a hospital staff member who asked her to recite all of the possible risks and outcomes that may arise. Tehila had been given a very long list of risks and potential outcomes, but she certainly didn’t memorize them by heart. She was caught off guard. This staff person explained this is standard procedure to be sure the donor is clear going in to the precarious situation.

This is the point in Tehila’s story that I got stopped in my tracks. “THIS is how they got you CLEAR? This??? By asking you what the possible risks and outcomes are? THIS is not how you get CLEAR! That won’t get you CLEAR! That won’t get you mentally prepared for the worst – just by naming off a list of possible risks!” Hearing this part of the story set me off like nothing else.

But, Tehila had never heard about The CLEAR Way. I explained to her it’s a powerful self-help tool I created that guides you to uncover your expectations (like that she expected the surgery would go successfully on both ends), and it’s about radically accepting the possibility that what she was hoping for may not manifest, (that is, that the surgery may not be successful), and it’s about the individual taking full responsibility for who she wants to be no matter what happens (such as being generous, being hopeful, and being peaceful with whatever happens, no matter what).

When I explained this to her, it was quite obvious that no one walked her through such a thorough cognitive process, but now, in retrospect, the steps made a lot of sense to her. She recognized she totally could have done this process had the staff at the hospital been educated with this powerful tool. But, they weren’t, and that’s what led Tehila to get stuck.

And it’s such a shame because she didn’t need to get stuck. And this is why I’m on a mission to share my tools: The unSTUCK Method for when you are stuck, and The CLEAR Way, to avoid getting stuck in the first place, with as many people as possible and to train as many people in my methods so that they can then pass these tools forward with the people in their lives.

While the recipient’s story did not end up as expected, Tehila survived her surgery and continues to live up to her namesake – “glory.” I do believe her story will continue to have ripple effects on those who read about it. And I hope, that because of it, more people will learn how to get CLEAR going into any anticipated future moment, such a kidney donations, so that they don’t get stuck in disappointment like Tehila did.

Where can getting CLEAR be valuable in your personal or professional life?

(You can hear the podcast version of this story here.)

About the Author
Shira Gura is an award-winning author and authority on emotional health and well-being with over two decades of experience in the wellness field. Her background as an occupational therapist, yoga instructor, and mindfulness teacher led her to create two ground-breaking self-help tools, The unSTUCK Method® and The CLEAR Way®. Shira is the author of the books, Getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being (winner of the 2017 International Book Award in self-help) and The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Shira is also the host of the weekly, Living Deliberately podcast. Through her coaching, courses, and community, Shira guides people to Live Deliberately.
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