Recognizing a true act of selflessness

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Kathy Dorsey is one of the bravest individuals I know. But she says that’s not true. To Dorsey, her actions are not extraordinary. I say she’s just being humble. For most of the three years I’ve known Dorsey, I had no idea she donated a kidney to a stranger in 2003. I’m in frequent contact with her since Dorsey owns Wardrobe in downtown Lincoln and writes the Scene to be Seen column for The News Messenger. I learned about her kidney donation after asking Dorsey a few weeks ago why she was suddenly tired. Dorsey explained that she gave up one of her two kidneys. As a result of having only one kidney, Dorsey said, the body “sometimes has to recalibrate itself.” She didn’t just volunteer to have her kidney removed because it was bothering her. Rather, Dorsey agreed to have surgery – and live life forever after with just one kidney – to help a stranger have a chance of staying alive. I couldn’t help asking her why she gave up a healthy kidney so that someone she didn’t know might survive. It was the most magnanimous and unselfish gesture made by any of my friends or peers. If you’re like me, just the thought of giving blood during a community-wide blood drive makes me weak in the knees. And yet Dorsey this week downplays her donation that gave hope to a school vice principal in the Bay Area almost a decade ago. The school official’s first transplant in 1979 was rapidly deteriorating and doctors told him he would soon require either dialysis or a new kidney donor. He wrote letters to school staff and parents and talked to his family. But no one could help him; that is, until Dorsey heard about the vice principal’s plight through a friend’s e-mail. She immediately volunteered and entered the UCSF Medical’s six-month screening process. That e-mail asking for help is no longer in her possession. “It must have been a heck of an e-mail,” Dorsey reminisced. “On that particular day, it made sense. At the time, I remember thinking I could do it. My grandfather had one kidney.” Almost a decade later and Dorsey still doesn’t think her gift of life was anything out of the ordinary. “I would do it again. I didn’t suffer any physical effects, apart from discomfort,” Dorsey said. “It was minimally invasive, laparoscopic surgery. I was healthy.” Other than Dorsey, though, no one I’ve ever met has volunteered a kidney to a stranger. To Dorsey, though, it’s not a big deal. “I’d do it again absolutely. I have a donor sticker on my ID (driver’s license). A lot of people say I wouldn’t do it. I’d say, if you have a family member who needs it, do it,” Dorsey said. “UCSF is not in the business to make people sick; they want to make people healthy.” I’m proud to know Dorsey.