Jan 29, 2023
Ned Brooks, who at the age of 65 and mostly retired, decided to donate one of his kidneys to a stranger. The decision was sparked by a Freakonomics Radio Podcast he was listening to with his wife, Louise, about a professor who enabled multiple kidney patients to receive transplants from living donors in a cascading chain. Ned was struck by the concept of leverage, and the idea that one altruistic donor could impact multiple patients through the donation of one redundant kidney.
Ned's wife, Louise, was hesitant about the idea of hospitals and the potential risks associated with the surgery. However, after 33 years of marriage, she trusted Ned and supported his decision. Ned contacted the National Kidney Registry and started the process of being tested to see if he was a suitable donor.
During the testing process, Ned learned that kidney donation is major surgery, but that the odds of a serious complication arising during surgery is one in 3,000. He also learned that the human body has two kidneys, combined that have four times the capacity that is needed to be healthy, and that when a person donates a kidney, the remaining kidney grows larger and retains twice the capacity needed. An additional benefit, studies have shown that there is a measurable improvement in the quality of life of the donor.
Ned also found out that his instant inclination to donate his kidney is symptomatic of a certain type of individual. Professor Abigail Marsh of Georgetown has done extensive research on non-directed donors and has shown that as a group, non-directed donors have a significantly enlarged amygdala. This means that people who are inclined to donate their kidneys, like Ned, have a heightened sense of empathy and emotional response.
However, Ned also mentions that this group of people is not quite normal and they are the last group you want to have with you at the apocalypse, as they would be the first to be eaten and would probably offer to help with the cooking.
After completing the testing and being accepted as a donor, Ned had to inform his children about his decision. His youngest child was supportive, his oldest had a laundry list of questions and concerns, and his middle child, who is his daughter, was against the idea. Ned worked through his daughter's concerns and in the end, she reluctantly agreed to support him.
The surgery took place on September 23rd and all went well. Ned's recovery was uneventful and he returned to his normal activities within a few weeks. Ned's experience as a donor has been positive. He felt a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction knowing that he made a difference in someone else's life. He also mentions that his quality of life has improved since the surgery. Ned did meet with the recipient of his donation, Danielle, in a Freakonomics interview they had with him.
Ned's decision to donate his kidney to a stranger was a life-changing experience. He learned about the process of kidney donation and the benefits that come with it. He also discovered that his inclination to donate his kidney was symptomatic of a certain type of individual, those with a heightened sense of empathy and emotional response. Ned's decision to donate his kidney has not only helped someone in need of a transplant, but it has also improved his own quality of life. He encourages others to consider organ donation and to not be afraid of the risks associated with it.
Ned Brooks is the founder and CEO of the National Kidney Donation Organization (NKDO), a 501.c.3 foundation. The organization is dedicated to providing support and protections to potential living kidney donors and their families during the donation process. Brooks himself is a non-directed kidney donor who kickstarted a chain of three transplants in 2015. The NKDO team is composed of 20 donors and recipients who advocate for both donors and patients. The organization has facilitated numerous transplants and helped find living donors for patients in need of a kidney transplant. All team members are volunteers located across the country.
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