“Sometimes He Jokes About the ‘Good Wee’ He’s Just had, and It’s a Lovely Implicit Thank You”

In 2009, British citizen Katherine Kearns donated one of her kidneys to her husband, Simon. A year previously, he had become a “crash-lander”—someone whose kidneys stopped functioning suddenly and without warning. Sometimes, kidneys lose function slowly, giving time to get used to what is happening and time to decide what to do. Katherine said in a 2012 interview, “I was incredibly frightened. Simon was fading before my eyes—he became very frail and vague, confined to a hospital bed. He was so vulnerable my protective instincts kicked in. I was losing my husband; something had to be done.” She thought of donating one of her kidneys to Simon, and as soon as she thought that, she began to think of the kidney as belonging to Simon—she was simply taking care of it until the transplant could take place. She said, “After I offered, Simon was hesitant; he felt I shouldn’t have to lose a vital organ, but he soon saw how determined I was. I was clear from the start—he shouldn’t feel any guilt, this was a gift, freely given. What’s more, it was a solution. I would get to bring my husband back to health.” A year after his kidney problems started, the transplant took place. It was a success. In 2012, she said, “Three years on, we’re both in our 40s, Simon’s kidney is still functioning well and we are back to normal life. As time passes, I am learning to relax a little. I realised the other day I hadn’t asked about the results of his latest check-up. We enjoy a private competition of dropping our story into conversation with strangers to see who can make jaws drop the lowest—I’m so glad it’s become something to laugh about. Sometimes he jokes about the ‘good wee’ he’s just had, and it’s a lovely implicit thank you. After the surgery, Simon bought me a ring and we call it my kidney ring, but I don’t expect endless gratitude—just seeing him healthy and happy is reward enough.”

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