by George Taniwaki

Well, this is the day. It’s 5:00am. I’m leaving in a few minutes to check in at the surgical pavilion at the University of Washington Medical Center to have my kidney removed (right donor nephrectomy). It’s the culmination of three years of waiting to find a program and a hospital to accept my offer of a kidney. I slept fine last night (except having to get up twice to go to the bathroom), but I’m a still a bit tired and a bit nervous.


Over the past several months, a lot of people have asked me how it feels to be a potential kidney donor. They want to know if I’m getting excited or if I’m scared. Some of the people asking me that are also donors themselves. In July, Angela Stimpson, who has a wonderful kidney donor blog called OK Solo, asked me if I was excited. My response to her then follows.

“…Anyway, I’m not excited yet. I guess part of it is because I’m not an excitable kind of guy. Another part is that I’ve been waiting so long that I’ve had time to read, think, watch YouTube videos, and write about what I’m doing. So most of the mystery is gone. And another part is that it seems so passive. It’s not like getting ready for a vacation, climbing Mt. Rainier, or running a marathon. There isn’t any planning or training involved. And once my big day arrives, the first thing that will happen is they’ll knock me out, so there won’t be anything to see or remember. (Too bad I can’t just have a local, just so I can stay awake and watch… Or maybe not, since I might ask too many questions and distract the surgeon.)

“I’m sure I won’t sleep well the day before my surgery, but other than that, I don’t expect much of an adrenaline rush. But afterwards, if I get to meet the recipient, that will be pretty emotional.

“Hoping you the best with your donor surgery (which with any luck will happen before mine)…”

[Incidentally, Ms. Stimpson’s donor surgery was Sep 21, so it did happen before mine.]

OKSolo Image from OK Solo

And I dug up another email exchange. This one with Cara Yesawich who donated a kidney on Apr 25 and has a lovely blog called Simply Cara. In early June (when my donor surgery was scheduled for Jun 29), she asked if I was getting excited yet. My response:

“Eh, no excitement yet. But I still have 3-1/2 weeks left to go.”


Cara and transplant recipient Dan Becker. Photo from Simply Cara

Actually, maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t get too emotional. My original donor surgery was cancelled less than a week before the scheduled date. It would have been a lot tougher on me psychologically if I was heavily invested in completing it on that specific day. And if I was the nervous or superstitious type, maybe I would have taken it as an omen and cancelled the whole thing. Instead, I took it somewhat in stride and picked a new donor surgery date three months later.


Well, time to go. If you never see another post from me again, you’ll know why. Just kidding. (Though I guess it’s true. And not just today for me. It’s true every day and for every person you know, including yourself.) Life is precious and ephemeral. So do stuff now that makes it worthwhile. Don’t wait and regret what could have been.

For more information on becoming a kidney donor, see my Kidney donor guide.