Growing up, I was one of those kids who could be washed with a fire hose and still have dirt between my toes. Mud was the best toy in the world. I used it like Play-Doh to build entire forts, and my twin sister said she could always tell when I was coming before she saw me because of the squelching sound.
Bugs? Bring it on. I’d eat one for a dollar. Painting? My whole body was both brush and canvas. Maybe you’d find me baking a cake with my sister. We looked almost identical, but you could easily tell us apart because she would be wearing disposable gloves up to her elbow while my whole face was buried in the bowl to lick the batter.
That’s what makes it so unfair that she got sick and I didn’t. It started with her feet and ankles swelling up. I thought she was just starting to gain weight, and I forced her to jog with me in the morning before school. She kept trying to push through, but she couldn’t keep up with me like she used to. I shouldn’t have made her feel bad for it, but I was only 17 then. I thought she just wasn’t trying. I didn’t understand that she was trying twice as hard as me, or that trying sometimes wasn’t enough.
A month later, she could barely walk without throwing up. She was exhausted and dizzy all the time, and I felt so helpless watching her drift away from me. She was diagnosed with a polycystic kidney disease which was causing both of her kidneys to fail. She tried dialysis for awhile, but it quickly became clear that she was going to need a transplant.
I didn’t even have to think about it. She was my other half. If her body was sick, my body was sick, and if there was something I could do to make her better, then I that was the end of the discussion. It was just bad luck for her to express the inherited condition while I didn’t, and it could have just as easily been me. It was going to be a routine enough operation though, and once she had one of my kidneys there was no reason for the cysts to form anymore. We were both going to be okay. Yeah we’d have to be on medications for the rest of our life, but as long as she’d be taking it with me, it would be fair. Besides, what twin doesn’t want to have matching scars?
We were prepared for the surgery together in the same room. We made a game out of drinking the nauseating laxatives which were necessary before the operation: first one to get through it gets to choose which kidney to have. It wasn’t even close to fair because she started out nauseous and I had always been the one who could stomach anything, so I made a big show of spitting it up and let her win. Her gloating about beating me was the happiest I had seen her in a long time.
It was so embarrassing because she wouldn’t stop giggling while the male nurse shaved the little hairs on our abdomen. I started laughing too, and the nurse looked so uncomfortable that he had to excuse himself from the room to ‘check something’.
“Come back!” she yelled after him. “We can do you next. It’ll be fun!”
Her smile was glowing despite everything she had to go through. I want to always remember her like that.
The surgery was terminated half-way through. There had been a complication, and her body had gone into shock the moment her first kidney was removed. They said she woke up for a moment and held my hand right before she went, but they might have just been saying that to try and make me feel better. It didn’t work.
The doctor said I could see the body if I wanted, but what was the point? All I had to do was look in the mirror. All the pain and loss on my face – hers must have looked the same way. Then the doctor leaned in real close – like he didn’t want anyone else to hear – and he whispered something to me.
“Since you’re all prepared for the surgery anyway, do you want to still go through with it?”
“She’s gone. What’s the point?”
“There’s someone else who is also a match. You could be saving their life instead.”
What did he think this was, a charity? I wasn’t just giving organs away. I was only doing this because she was my sister and I would have given anything for her. I wasn’t about to risk my life for –
“The recipient is willing to compensate you with 250,000 dollars.”
I choked on my reply. It’s amazing how quickly you’re able to justify something for that kind of money. I had already been prepared to give it up. Was there really anything wrong with selling it? I would be able to help my family with all the medical costs my sister had wracked up from her illness. Besides that, I would be able to help so many more people…
I nodded. The anesthesia mask went back over my face and I slipped back into oblivion.
I didn’t tell anyone about the money which was discreetly wired into my bank account. There was an unwholesomeness about it somehow, but maybe that was just because the whole incident was so close to my sister’s death.
I paid off all of my parents bills and told them they were covered by an anonymous donor, which I guess was true. Over the next three years, I funneled the rest into a non-profit organization which helped people get their medical procedures.
Three years. It went fast. I’d expected that kind of money to be able to help people for a lifetime, but people came from everywhere to make use of the fund.
Co-pay for cancer medications, necessary operations which were denied by insurance, health screenings for those without insurance – three years and the entire 250k was spent. But I received so many letters and gift baskets and people hugging me sobbing about how I saved their life. It was a rough estimation, but I figure in that time I saved the lives of at least 30 people.
30 people for a kidney! I was a 20 year old college girl. There was nothing special about me at all. But knowing that such a small sacrifice had made such a huge impact – I couldn’t just stop now.
I went back to the doctor who performed the operation, and he confided that there was a constant market for other organs. I asked about harvesting from cadavers or something, but he said only live donations or incredibly fresh harvests would bring that kind of money.
Getting volunteers though? Next to impossible. And it was illegal to advertise buying that sort of thing. Even if I managed to raise awareness about it around campus without getting arrested, then people would probably keep the money for themselves instead of helping others. If I wanted my foundation to continue, I was going to need to get the organs myself.
It made me angry to even think about how greedy people were. The potential for good each body contained was astronomical. It was selfish – almost criminal to think that they valued their own life over the lives of dozens of others. I had several meetings with the doctor trying to brainstorm ideas to collect, and that’s when he told me a secret which he had sworn to keep for life.
The man who had my kidney killed my sister. He’d paid the nurse 100,000 to do it so he could get my kidney instead. The doctor had found out too late to stop him – his own life was even at risk if he didn’t extend the offer to me.
I finally found the first person to join my Organ Harvesting Club.
I tracked him down with the doctor’s help and waited for him to come home. Getting in was easy – I just rang the doorbell and he opened it.
My plan was just to get information on him and his house on my first visit, but I couldn’t hold myself back. His blood was flowing through my kidney. My sister’s blood was on his hands. I punched him square in the face and tackled him straight to the ground.
He was twice my size, but he was fat and old and I was an animal. If I had prepared better, I wouldn’t have gouged my fingers into his eyes (worth 750$ each). I wouldn’t have broken his teeth with my elbow (about 1,000$) or spilled so much blood when I slit his throat with my switchblade (337$ a pint).
I didn’t even get his body to the doctor in time to get top dollar on the rest of the organs, but I’ll be more careful next time. I expect to get close to 600k for the nurse who killed her.
Can you think of any other club which can potentially save hundreds of lives with each new member that’s added? I hope my sister is watching somewhere, and that she knows how much good has come from her death. She can stay pure and clean and perfect, but I was never afraid to get my hands dirty.