Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I'm Donating a Kidney for My Son...But Not Like That

In 5 weeks, I'm traveling from NYC to Charleston, SC to donate one of my kidneys- the left one, to be exact- to my friend Erin.

When people learn I'm doing this, they say one of three things, and I kind of rustle at all three.

Wow, she must be a really good friend.

No, not really.  I have known Erin for over 25 years, though we've never been close.  I don't know her birthday or middle name, favorite foods or music, and I'm not sure I even have her email address.

Though in some ways, I feel like I know Erin a lot better than I actually do, because she reminds me so much of me.  We are the same age, we are both actors with spouses who work in theatre as well, we've both moved around a bit, we both have cats (for what that's worth)...and I'd like to think that someone would step up and donate for me if I ever needed a kidney.  Or donate their hair if I needed a wig- that'd be cool, too.

So, while she's not a close friend, she's kind of me.  Only with more talent and darker hair.  And fewer pets.  And a car.

You're a hero.

No, I'm someone with two kidneys, and I only need one.  I'm someone who is no longer afraid of surgery or recovery, after the c-section delivery of my son two years ago.  I'm someone who maybe doesn't realize the magnitude of the gesture or the impact it will make.  I'm someone who likes to get things done, and just happened to go through the donor screening process quicker than anyone else.

So, I'm not a hero, I'm just efficient and not so scared of hospitals.   And someone said that a hero "ain't nothing but a sandwich," which really just makes me hungry.

What if your son needs a kidney, and you're not able to give him one?

This one is the toughest one to hear.  I don't worry about this at all because my son has a father and tons of relatives who would gladly donate for him.  And maybe someone not related will remember that I did this, and they'll step up to lend a hand...or a kidney.  Or maybe, just maybe, he will stay healthy and never need someone to donate anything other than money to support the non-profit he will one day start to help orphans or homeless pets.

But really, my son is the biggest reason I'm donating.  Having him has given me confidence and made me kind of fearless.  He's made me strong, made me brave.  He's made me live more in the moment and not worry so much about "what if?"

I hope that my donating a kidney will teach my son to be generous and compassionate.  I hope he, too, will live his life in the moment, and without worry for what misfortunes the future might hold.  I hope he is loving and caring, healthy and happy, and always willing to lend a hand.  And tell a good joke- people like jokes.

I've learned a lot about organ donation and insurance as I've gone through this process.  I've learned that insurance only covers the actual medical bills, but not the bills for help at home, transportation or hotels, lost wages, or a host of other things.  Doctors tell me I'm not allowed to lift anything heavier than a jug of milk for 4-6 weeks after the surgery, and I have a toddler who wants to be picked up about 50 times a day.  Wish me luck with that one.

I have the most supportive husband in the world, and we're determined to make it work.  Because spending money or being uncomfortable for a few weeks is a small price to pay for someone to keep on living.

And if my son one day thinks I'm even remotely cool for donating a kidney to a friend, then it will have DEFINITELY been worth it.

And I'll call Erin and tell her.  Because she'll still be here.

(And if you'd like to donate, please click here.  And thank you so much.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Home is Where the Toddler Is

I've taught my child a new party trick.  It goes like this:

ME:  "Sweetie, how old are you?"
MY SON:  "Two!"
ME:  "And how old is Mommy?"
MY SON:  "Twenty-nine!"

Our son turned two at the end of June, and I swear, every day he blows our minds with what he can say and do.  His vocabulary is growing exponentially, and is so advanced, I think he knows enough words to get a job at the local Duane Reade, should it come to that.  (And with the price of preschool in NYC, it just might.)  He strings together crazy long sentences like, "Daddy took our car away, Metrocard ride bus go see Rory's house OK."  (In my husband's defense, "our car" was a ZipCar, and had to be returned.)

His sense of humor is getting more refined, too.  He makes so many faces-his latest one involves kind of a coy pucker- a face reminiscent of Dr. Evil or Pee Wee Herman.  He pairs it with a sideways glance- and he knows it's hilarious.  His laugh is a genuine belly laugh, and sounds like tinkling bells or a happy waterfall, or maybe angels and fairies playing ping pong.  Something damn adorable and whimsical, I can tell you that.

I am more in love with our son now than I think I have ever been, and I'm dying a tiny bit inside because I'm going to leave him for five nights while I go out of town to shoot a film. 

Aaaaaaaggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  That's me screaming from way upstate. Can you hear me?

My mother in law is coming to town to lend my husband a hand for a few days, and I know my son will be in the excellent care of his daddy and grandma, one does things like Mommy does them.

Mommy knows how he likes his avocado cut, how long spaghetti noodles should be, and the perfect jelly-to-peanut butter ratio for his PB&J.  Mommy packs the perfect bag for outings (usually) and keeps a few surprises hidden away for when emotions run high- usually his, though sometimes mine. (Long lost truck for him, sippy cup of wine for me.)  Mommy's arms fit perfectly around him, and her face nestles exactly in that little crook between his head and shoulder.  Or maybe it's the other way around.  Either way, there's nothing like it.

When I was in first grade, I was a Brownie.  I lasted about a year, maybe two, partly because my mom hated being the Troop's Cookie Chairman, but also because I hated camp outs and sleep-aways.  I was always homesick, even when my mom was a chaperone.  With my Brownie days behind me, I thought homesickness was behind me, too.  But tonight it's becoming clear that I haven't REALLY felt homesick yet.  I have a hunch that this week is going to be really, really hard.

At least for me.

My son will be eating ice cream for breakfast.  And if that distracts him from being sad, that's fine by me.

In fact, bring me a pint of Cherry Garcia.

Maybe I'll be fine, too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Asking is the Hardest Part. (And Surgery Probably Isn't that Fun, Either.)

I'm giving someone a kidney.

It's not for my best friend, it's not for a relative. It's for a woman I greatly admire, a woman who reminds me of me, someone whose family has made my family possible.

It has never occurred to me to not give her my kidney.  People find that strange.  I think even she might.

Surgery is scheduled for November 12th, and so far, my biggest concern is booking flights for my husband, son, and myself to Charleston, SC where the transplant will occur.

My OTHER big concern (OK, there are a few) is how our two families are going to pay for all the aftercare.  She will have much different needs than I will, but the list of potential problems- the list of needs and can'ts- gets longer every time I start it.  I'm sure it is the same- and lengthier- for her.

I was disappointed to learn that a donor (that's me) is barred from lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk for 4-6 weeks after surgery.  It seems like my toddler drinks a gallon of milk a day.  That means not picking up my son for 4-6 weeks.  That's a tough one.

For her, there are endless doctor visits and medications- some to suppress her immune system to keep her body from rejecting the kidney. There are needs not yet realized.  There are special meetings to find out just what those will be.  Phone calls to insurance companies to hear what isn't covered.  Another long list.

Both of us will need extra care at home, extra help with things we probably will hate admitting we need help with. I felt that way after my C-Section.  Helpless, a burden.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this, except to say we will need some good juju directed our way.  We may ask for help in various forms.  Maybe you can bring one of us dinner (She's in SC, I'm in NYC.) Maybe you can watch our pets/child.  Maybe you can make us mix tapes.  Maybe you can spread the word about living kidney donation.  We will be asking.  We hope you will be open and willing to listen.

When it comes down to it, it's just a kidney.  Most of us have one to spare.  We just need a little help after we let it go.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Not an Acceptance Speech, but a Pat on My Own Back

I'm going to cut to the chase.

I am really proud of myself.  

I have friends who do this stuff every day, who can turn on the TV any time and see themselves on a national commercial, or as a series regular on a TV show, or who have a long list of IMDB credits.  And I know they all worked really hard to get to those places.

And you know, I worked hard to get myself on LAW AND ORDER:SVU this Wednesday night at 9pm EST on NBC, check your local listings. 

I played it cool in the car, riding to set in Staten Island with Danny Pino.  I played it cool when Mariska and I talked about our childbirth experiences between takes.  I let my cool drop a bit when I asked to take a photo with Mariska at the last possible moment at the end of our day of shooting- but I regained my cool by NOT posting it on Facebook (though I did text it to a select few friends and family.)

But I'm really, really excited to see this episode on Wednesday night at 9pm EST, check your local listings.

Dean and I moved to NYC 3.5 years ago to pursue our dreams.  My pursuit idled a bit while I was pregnant with Elrod (though I did stifle my urge to vomit long enough to do a play and a film out of town in my first trimester), and the pursuit continued to simmer on the back burner for the first year I stayed home with him- and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

But you know what?  I knew when the time was right to jump back in, and I did.  I jumped and I took swimming lessons, and I swam and I met the lifeguards, and I learned to love the sand, and....I can't carry this metaphor on any longer- it was pretty weak to begin with.

My point is that I am proud that I got myself on a TV show that almost everyone has seen, and I look forward to one Saturday afternoon a year or six from now, watching a LAW AND ORDER:SVU marathon on TBS, and seeing myself on screen again, and then waiting three months for that residual check for $1.09 to arrive in the mail.  And some of you will recognize why a check for $1.09 is so meaningful to me.  I know Iron Balls McGinty will.

If you're like me, you might be thinking, "Well, this is good, but what if it's the only thing you do?  What if there aren't any more TV gigs in your future?  Hundreds of actors have been on this show over the years.  Maybe even THOUSANDS.  So what?"  And to you I say, "Will YOU be on SVU this Wednesday night at 9pm EST, check your local listings?"  And if you're a friend of mine who has been on the show, well, then...please be more supportive and optimistic.

This may be all I do.  It may be the last good credit on my resume.  Or it may be the first.  Or second, because I did do ARMY WIVES, and that's not too shabby.  (For you SC actors, people up here are impressed by it, and don't know that a bunch of us locals got cast.) But I hope it's not the last good thing.  I don't feel like it's time to get out of the pool yet, I'm just ditching my water wings.  (Too soon to revisit the crappy metaphor?)

If you're a friend and you're planning to watch it, thank you so much.  It makes me tear up and happy and embarrassed and excited.  If you don't like me and are planning on watching it, don't you have anything better to do than read my blog and watch me on TV? (High five with my friends.)

I will be watching the show this Wednesday night at 9pm EST in my living room with our good friend Stephen Stafford (Dean is in Nashville this week, being a kick-ass playwright.)  Elrod will be sleeping in the next room, so we will have to be very quiet while we sip champagne and wait for my big moment.  And then I will blush and feel proud and probably text my mom and cry a little.

Unless they cut me out.  Then I'll cry a lot.

DISCLAIMER:  I had to go rerecord some dialogue for the episode last week (called "looping"), and they didn't cut me out.  In fact, it looks awesome.