By Vanessa Copeland
I think most people have defining moments that split their lives into before and after the event. These events can be good or tragic: the loss of a parent, a near death experience, a marriage, the birth of a child, etc. Good or bad, these things divide our lives into before and after. For me, it was the birth of my son. People who knew me before would not recognize who I am today. And while I give most of the credit to my son for making me a better person, I happen to have a second event my life that should get some of the credit. It is something that divided the after-my-son portion of my life into another before and after. On September 4, 2015, I became a living donor.
I’m sure most of you reading this are familiar with the term “living donor.” On the off
chance you’ve no idea what that is, a living donor is a person who donates all or a portion of one of their organs to someone in need. Anyone who knows me has heard my and Brandy’s story dozens of times. One day in early 2015, I happened across a Facebook post of an acquaintance in need of a kidney. You may think “acquaintance” seems a bit impersonal for someone who is walking around with one of my body parts, but the truth is, at that time, an acquaintance is all she was. I was pretty good friends with her husband in high school and had seen her in social settings, but I really didn’t know her. I didn’t even know she had kidney issues prior to the day I saw the post. But when I saw her post I immediately messaged her to let her know that I am 0+ and that I would be willing to get tested. I had no contact with her again until July of that year when I found out, of all the people who had come forward and had been tested, I was the best match. I would later learn that I was also the first person to volunteer to be tested. I truly believe that divine intervention was at work.
When people learned what was happening, I was asked several times and in several different ways, “What if?” “What if your son needs a kidney down the road?” “What if you don’t make it?” “What if her body rejects it?” It wasn’t until I was asked those questions that I fully realized why I was doing it. Why risk your life for someone you barely know? That’s when I realized, I wasn’t doing it for her. I was doing this for my son. I just kept thinking, “You’re right. What if some day my son needs something and the person that can help is too afraid to step up?” I believe in taking care of each other. I believe in helping others when we are able. If I failed to do this because it was too big, what message would I be sending to my son? I never once questioned whether I was doing the right thing for him.
At the end of it all, my life was made infinitely better. I came out the other side with one
less kidney, but I gained a beautiful life-long friendship. Most days I forget that I only have one kidney. It has not changed my life in any noticeably physical way. My surgery scars aren’t even that bad. Plus, I had an excuse to get a hilarious kidney tattoo. The thing that changed the most was my heart. I would like to think I had a giving spirit before, but after this I am a much better person. I have continued to work on bringing more beauty and love into the world. If people remember anything about me when I’m gone, I hope they remember that I tried to leave the world a better place than I found it. I believe to my core that the best gift you can give yourself is giving to others.