Fourth-generation West Orange resident Diane Allen is preparing herself to donate a kidney next week to a stranger.
As a who takes a holistic approach to her work, Allen said it does not seem a coincidence she was drawn to donate a kidney as it is believed to be the source of the essential life force for existence, or chi, in Eastern medicine.
“It feels good to be able to put that kind of energy out there,” said Allen, “and I have already been the recipient of so much good will.”
Allen said while she eventually came to the decision to be a donor, the idea germinated from her family. Four years ago, Allen was remarried to her now husband, David. With two sons of her own and now the addition of two daughters from her husband, Allen said she and her husband decided not to have another child.
“We are kind of a Brady Bunch family,” said Allen with a laugh. “We are a modern family.”
However, the desire to give life was still there, and Allen said donating her kidney was a way of filling that desire.
“What motivated me to do this,” said Allen, “was the idea of [wanting] to manifest that love that we have: not wanting to have a child but wanting to put forth life.”
It all began to fall in place during a routine medical check-up. A doctor suggested Allen go to a kidney specialist due to an abnormality which turned out to be innocuous. While in the doctor’s office, Allen said she saw a sign that moved her: “Love is good deeds.”
Right then and there, Allen asked about donating a kidney and the process was underway.
The surgery will be done at nearby St. Barnabas Medical Center, whose Living Donor Institute is one of the top centers in the country. The surgery will be on Tuesday.
Allen does not know whom she is donating the kidney to. The only thing she knows about the donor that he or she is at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.
However, Allen said she and the recipient can meet after the operation if they choose.
When questioned about why she is donating a kidney to a stranger, Allen was quick to say, “As far as I’m concerned, it is just a friend I haven’t met yet. It is serendipity.”
And Allen’s good deed is not only limited to one person. She is one of four other donors in a chain that will allow five people to receive kidneys.
As her operation date draws near, Allen said she is not as nervous as people would believe. There is a common fear associated with a kidney transplant operations that it is dangerous and will leave large scars, said Allen.
But that is not the case anymore. The surgery is now minimally invasive and done through small incisions. She expects to only stay overnight at the hospital.
And that is one of her goals: to spread the word that donating a kidney is a safe procedure and something that more people should do considering there are tens of thousands of people on waiting lists for kidney transplants.
“My overarching life goal is to create the greatest possible good in the world and the least amount of harm while living my life,” said Allen. “This is something I can do to show people that, ‘Hey, you can do this.’”
To spread the word, she expects to write a memoir about the experience. In addition, she is looking forward to speaking to others about her experience through Believe, Inspire, Grow (B.I.G.), a business support group and networking organization for women.
“It is one thing to put good karma out there,” said Allen, "but to walk the talk" is something else.