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Stepping out of the shadows of illness and bravely asking for help

Help awaits us, sometimes from the most unexpected people

A quick review of my blog posts will reveal that I have a love for superheroes. And since summer movie season is upon us, you will no doubt see me wax poetic about comics and superheroes from time to time in my column. (I nearly convulsed after watching the Man of Steel, Wolverine, and Thor: Dark World trailers before Iron Man 3 recently.) But for a moment I am not going to talk about Superman or Wolverine. I am going to talk about a superhero a little bit closer to home--my mom. 

Ten years ago, on May 14, 2003, my mom donated her kidney to a friend from church. What is now a very close friendship between two Norwegian women named Karen--who have shared the same kidney--started out as a casual friendship. My mom was not the obvious choice to donate her kidney to Karen. There were family members and closer friends to be sure. But because of their shared Scandinavian lineage, my mom was a possible donor. I remember when my mom called to let me know of her decision to have her blood tested--I was not surprised by my mom's compassion for someone who was suffering from significant health problems. Her greatest concern was how my brothers and I would feel about her decision. We could ultimately stop her from going through with it…but of course we gave her our blessing. Little did we know she would be a match and in no time at all, starting preparing for kidney donation surgery. 

In the ten years since my mom's selfless gift, her friend Karen has been able to watch her two daughters grow up, graduate and get married; and she has pursued her own advanced studies and taken her career to new heights. Our families have been forever bonded and we have all become advocates for organ donation. 

What is amazing to me is that my mom heard a simple request for help and didn't hesitate to respond in a super-heroic way. Her impact has been immeasurable.

But there is another story of heroism here. As someone who struggles daily with super health challenges, I am equally amazed by the bravery of a person who desperately needed a kidney and reached out to her community for help. So often we live in the shadows with our illnesses, ashamed of being sick and feeling somehow responsible for our diseases. And so often there is help awaiting us, sometimes from the most unexpected people, if only we step out and bravely ask for it. 

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