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Alternative piece of time - part 1

Before my brother Mike went into the hospital for the last time, I visited him from time to time and talked, some of the time, about his condition. I offered one of my kidneys. He went for various tests, he was put off, the doctors said he wasn't a good risk. I kept waiting for that second opinion. I even thought of how I would arrange for the time I was in the hospital, away from work, away from my home.

It never got to that. Here is a conversation I did not have:

"Mike, I am offering you a kidney. I am not offering it to anyone else, so if you don't take it I keep it. So if you are strong enough to make it through the operation, which I think you are, then the main reason you are not being given a chance is that the insurance company does not want to pay for it."

"Sounds right to me."

"Let's confront them."

Here I take down phone numbers and make calls and write letters to find out the real story. I talk to Mike's doctor, see if there are other reasons he should not be given a new kidney. Maybe there are. Maybe there aren't; maybe it comes down to this: he is not a good risk because he will probably keep drinking, and they don't want to pay for that.

Is that any of their business, though? Every day incredible sums are spent on keeping someone alive who is a "poor risk" for one reason or another. Maybe just because they're old. Mike wasn't that old. He was in his early 60s. He wasn't in great health but a new kidney might have given him the impetus to make changes. Who plays god in these cases?

Of course what I am saying is that I did not do any of this. I offered the kidney, then let Mike do what he could, and it wasn't much. I was more than ready to get on the operating table; it was never a matter of doubt for me. But I wasn't ready to fight the doctors or the insurance companies.

I doubt I have changed so much that I would do so now. I have long admired those who will stand out there, beating at the door, letting themselves appear foolish or ignorant or worse, because they single-mindedly want a change. I think these are the real heroes.

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