kidney hunting

Aside from Sounds of Silence, Sgt. Peppers, Blue (Joni Mitchell) and most any song by Eric Clapton, Ten Years After’s “I’d Love to Change the World” from their 1971 album is probably one of my favorite songs (and lyrics) of all time. It’s easy to listen to, it’s haunting words (and chorus). It does a good job to capture the protest and rumination of our age.  It seems fresh and entirely appropriate for today, 48 years after its original release.  It covers the continued corruption, warring, racism and economic inequality.

“ Tax the rich …. Feed the poor …. Til there are no ….. Rich no more

I’d love to change the world ….But I don’t know what to do ….So I’ll leave it up to you

Population Keeps on breeding …. Nation bleeding …Still more feeding, economy

Life is funny ….Skies are sunny ….Bees make honey ….Who needs money? No, not poor me

I’d love to change the world …But I don’t know what to do …So I’ll leave it up to you

World pollution …is no solution …Execution …Electrocution …It’s black and white ….Rich or poor …. Them and us ….Stop the war

“Ten Years After” inspires me to do something good before I leave this Earth.  Help the afflicted, help mitigate the climate crisis (and one’s own carbon footprint), feed the poor, help the homeless, the addicted, the people who are born into the wrong environment, the wrong country, the wrong city, the wrong social class.

So when a friend asked me to be her “Kidney Coach” a few weeks back, I jumped at the opportunity to help her find a kidney so she could get off three-days a week dialysis, and live with a good kidney for a few more decades. (We’re born with two kidneys, and only need one to function.  A live donor is preferable to a cadaver, but organs are not plentiful, so any outreach seeking a donor works in one’s benefit).

Having been interested in providing research services to employment agencies, helping candidates find employment, I’m now going to be a kidney hunter rather than a headhunter.  In this case, I’m going to help save the life of someone rather than just find that person a new job.

A new organ is needed by someone every 12 minutes. Tens of thousands of people needing organs don’t find them, but I’m not going to let this get in my way.  I truly believe that one person can change the world, and there are a number of living donors who have recognized the need and been altruistic. There are donors out there who will decide to give a kidney if motivated by a compelling story to do so.

We’re not waiting for a kidney.  We’re on a mission to find someone who wants to give life to another human being.  It’s like hitchhiking on a lonely road. We only need one driver to pick us up.

I’m going to make a little study to determine the profile of the “typical donor”. So far I’ve learned some exhibit altruistic or giving behavior in other medical activities.  Some give blood, some give bone marrow.  They may have been touched by a personal family member or friend who has benefited from acts of kindness.  Some see it as their duty.  How do I reach these people?

You may be interested yourself or know someone who has done it already. There are five kinds of kidney donations:

1. Direct donation. Generally knows the recipient.

2. Paired exchange donation. One donates to a recipient in exchange for a compatible kidney for their loved one.

3. Good Samaritan donation. A donation is made to a stranger, and starts a chain of transplants.

4. Advance donation. Same as “paired exchange”, but separated by time.

5. Remote donation. Able to receive a donation without travel to a distant city.

We’re just getting started. A lengthy human interest video that tells her story is in the works.

If you’d like to learn more about kidney donations and/or are interested in helping me spread the word, or maybe you’re interested in being a donor yourself, please contact me at halpern2127@comcast.net

 

 

 

The people you meet while traveling

While the draw for visiting Norway is undoubtably nature’s bounty, the fjords, gorgeous steep and dark mountains, forests of trees (including birch, my favorite), and the ocean, the fellow travelers on board our “Norway in a Nutshell” trip were as unusual and varied as the landscape we peered at from our comfortable seats.

Consider Nick, a young man from Huntsville, Alabama who was traveling alone and was en route to his own kind of adventure: camping, kayaking and sky diving.  He was a world traveler really, who had spent lots of time in numerous countries, and when not traveling worked in logistics and operations; he really knew how to plan a trip. He had spent twelve years in the military defusing explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent tragic accidents and death in the field.  There was also Sally sitting behind Nick on the train who hearing his story, jumped up and asked if she could join in on the conversation.  She shared her story upon questioning. She had just returned to the States after spending 14 years in China, along with her (soon-to-be-ex-) husband, raising four children (the youngest, a boy, was eight).  She had made some significant changes in her life; she decided to return to teaching high school biology.  Remarkably, she was in Norway for only four days, deciding on a whim to visit and stay with a friend, and to track down a historical family site.  And then there was my wife, Arlyn, who volunteered her story with gusto.  How she had attended boarding school in Massachusetts as a teen, traveled to Israel and fell in love with a Swedish man,  got engaged to him, moved to Sweden, living with his family for 18 months.  She had never been to Norway.   Having been invited to stay in Sweden for about a week with an acquaintance associated with the boarding school, we decided to visit Norway and Sweden back to back.

Surprising to me no one asked me for my story; I don’t know why.  Do I give off a vibe that discourages inquiry?  Was Arlyn’s story considered “sufficient” for the two of us?  I don’t really have one that compares to Nick, Sally or Arlyn, knowing that it’s all really in the eye of the beholder and to compare is irrelevant.

Retirement, for me, in the six short months lived it has been my great, exotic adventure.  It’s been a joy.   I’m volunteering with the local Franklin Democratic Committee leading voter registration efforts, and in September start volunteering at hospital in their Cardiac ICU.  I’ll finally be starting a drawing class in October.  And there’s this blog too. And my cooking.

I grew up in Natick and Wayland, Massachusetts in a middle class family.  My father was in the snack food manufacturing business and my mother was a homemaker, originally born in Germany, who came to this country at age twelve, escaping Hitler.  While my older brother traveled to Morocco in college (kind of exotic), I set up a junior year abroad initiative on my own to University Cardiff, Wales (not as exotic).  There I attended classes and roomed with men from Saudi Arabia, England, Egypt, India, Spain and elsewhere (kind of exotic now that I think about it.)

In Sweden, our hostess Karin made mention of someone I would have never had met in my travels: Peter Singer “the world’s most influential living philosopher”, as one of her greatest influences.  His book “The Most Good You Can Do” (Yale University Press, 2015) explores the simple but profound idea that living a fully ethical life means restructuring one’s life in accordance with doing the most good for others, and how living altruistically often leads to greater personal fulfillment than living for oneself.  He calls it “effective altruism”.  Karin, a retired nurse, has helped build a hospital in Romania, and is helping a Syrian immigrant family get settled in Sweden.   Living less selfishly and giving away money and time and resources to strangers, future generations and animals too — is a guiding principle that can define one’s life and one’s everyday decisions and behavior.   Not just at retirement but at any stage. Living modestly and donating a large part of one’s income – often more than the typical amount and/or choosing a career where people can give more to those charities that can give the most good to those who need it the most – is taking hold.  Maybe this is what the Millenials are talking about when they speak of balance in their lives?   Singer describes numerous people who have incorporated effective altruism into their lives for the good of mankind. He believes acting for the good of others might be the best course of action to follow to save our planet too.

My decision to give away all my organs, including my brain, tissues and blood to whomever needs it, when I’m deceased, is an example of effective altruism.  And I didn’t even learn of this approach to living until I learned about Peter Singer through my travels to Sweden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man amongst men

Man amongst men

When it’s just you and your hand-picked crew of five, along with the stars in the skies and enough provisions for 100 days and nights on a balsa wood raft, with no sign of land yet the presence of an occasional whale shark swimming around you, you get to thinking about your place in the world.  Thor Heyerdahl tested his belief that ancient people in the Pacific Ocean could have made long sea voyages from South America centuries earlier.  In 1947 he sailed from Peru to the French Polynesian islands in his Kon-Tiki.

Of course one doesn’t have to go to such extremes to conjure up one’s place in the cosmos, and the meaning of life, but it’s not unusual to find unusual circumstances like this forcing the issue.  Heyerdahl was unusual in this respect for making this his way in the world.  He was a man among men not just because of his mental and physical stamina and endurance but because he understood spiritual truths and grew from them.  Being alone with himself, he must have been able to improve his own awareness and then apply it.  This is true despite the fact he could not swim and was morbidly afraid of the water!

Reading of his life, Thor decided early on his life to commune with nature.  He attended the University of Oslo and specialized in zoology and geography, but quit and set out to make an expedition to the South Seas, finananced by his father.  This was the first of several expeditions in his lifetime to remote islands around the globe, each time trying to prove that ancient civilizations had come from a common source through land and sea migrations. Over many decades he traveled with crews to the Galapagos Islands, Maldives Islands, Easter Islands, and to Egypt, Morocco and other remote locations.  He was still at it in his 60s.

The Thor Heyerdahl Museum as just one of some fifty museums in Oslo, on the Bygdoy peninsula, accessible by ferry and by train within the capital of Norway. It is located near the Viking Ship Museum, Norwegian Maritime Museum and Fram Museum.  We were enthralled by his story yesterday.

Groupie

All I knew about Tennessee prior to arriving in Memphis in late March of this year was that Al Gore lost his state in the 2000 election, and that Memphis was the home of Elvis. I didn’t know that it was the home of the multimedia and worthwhile Civil Rights Museum and this year on April 4, marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, as he got struck down by one bullet in his neck at the Lorraine Motel. The actual room that he stayed in is part of the museum, which is situated at the site of the assassination as well.  Kind of eerie. But it puts you right in the thick of things.  No virtual or augmented reality required, as you’re in the same space as he was; you are a witness to history.  You are there.  And you come upon his bedroom after reading and viewing personal accounts of figures like Rosa Parks and many others, people you may have never heard of.  I knew of Marion Barry, who later became a Washington DC congressman (or was it mayor?).  He was one of the many who were introduced and honors in the museum, a good guy early in his public life before he became a drug addict, busted for corruption and crack cocaine possession and use.

Luminaries throughout the museum present their position on race and equality. Lyndon Johnson in March 1965 declared:  “There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem …. Their cause must be our cause too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy and injustice ….”

Aside from this political history, Memphis is known for its contribution to American music.  We could have listened to blues, R&B and rock ‘n roll for much longer but we had a commitment, a schedule to be elsewhere and couldn’t stay in Memphis more than 3 days.

The BB King Cafe on Beale Street , not far away from the Lorraine, is one of the famed blues clubs we entered.  Across the street is the Blues City Cafe where we ate and met a couple from England who were experiencing American music too.   The Blues emerged from the Deep South and had its roots in songs of the field workers and the rural black Church.  The blues was an expression against shame and humiliation, personal and political, the denial of blacks to fully participate in American democracy.  Memphis Jones, a local artist, played a spirited set at BB King’s club mixed with local color commentary for the jam-packed late afternoon/early evening crowd.  A $5 cover was all it took to stand close to the performers, and I did what I usually do when present at a musical venue: bob my head, cautiously swing from side-to-side, and visually take it all in.  Reminiscent of  high school, when the Valkyries played in the crepe-paper decorated high school gymnasium in Wayland, At BB King’s, I stood near the amps, whereas Arlyn’s physical and kinetic energy was in full force, to the extent that an anonymous young man half her age swept her off her feet onto the dance floor, dancing side by side, until she respectfully told him her husband was nearby.  He got the message, came off the floor, shook my hand, thanked me for the opportunity to dance for a few minutes with Arlyn. He was harmless, just having a good time. I didn’t smell any liquor but Arlyn did.  His performance prompted me to join her on the dance floor myself, though I was not as good a dancer as he.  She accepts me anyways.

Sam Phillips (Phillips with two l’s) discovered Elvis, along with BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Ike Turner and the Million Dollar Quartet too.  Sun started in 1950 a few years before I was born. He was record producer, engineer, business man, marketer who believed that music and the black man’s music in particular could improve race relations and foster peace.  Originally Johnny Cash wanted to be known as John Cash, while at the time he met Sam, John called himself JB.  Sam didn’t like that and argued that “Johnny” worked better. JB became Johnny. Sam was always Sam.  He packaged and produced and promoted his performers, worked with distributors (and ocasionally his brother) and others in the earliest days of Elvis, Johnny and BB King creating their sound and brand.  He suffered at least two major nervous breakdowns in his formative years, received ECTs as a result and still became a legend in his own right.  He was an original. As original as the performers he recorded.

As a kid, six or seven or eight years old growing up in Natick (MA), I fantasized along with my childhood friend Jimmy Powers of being a disc jockey, having our own radio show playing the same songs and hanging out with the same performers and learning the inside stories of Sam Phillips at his Sun Recording Studios of Memphis.  Jimmy and I never did anything other than role play in our backyards and make up a fictitious radio station call letters  (“W-I-K-E that’s for me”).  I guess I was always interested in communications and broadcast from my earliest days.  My father listened to Duke Ellington, Bobby Short, Lena Horne, Billie Holliday, Johnny Hodges and other free form jazz performers as that’s what jazz is about, unlike the blues Several years ago I tried to find Jimmy through Facebook; I believe he sells insurance in Florida.