“This is my old, piece-of-crap kidney. They let me keep it, but I ended up flushing it down my hotel toilet after this.”
It cost $7,000 to buy the actual kidney, $1,000 to fly round-trip to Cape Town, South Africa, where the operation could be done legally, and $1,200 to fly the Brazilian bricklayer whose kidney is now inside me to Cape Town from São Paulo. Oh, and $1,422 all told for my hotel and $732 for his. I’m leaving out incidentals like food and cabs. So… hold on, let me just pull up my little calculator widget here (have you checked out these widget things? They’re addictive as hell)… crunching these numbers here… so that’s $11,354 to save my life and spare my wife and daughter unbelievable misery. Doesn’t seem like a lot to me.
I suffered acute renal failure in August of 2003. I found out that the waiting list for a new kidney was about 3,000 people long. Then I found out that the waiting list for a new kidney that matched my blood type was about 6,000 people long. Dialysis would have kept me alive—barely—at the cost of being hooked up to a series of machines and tubes for the rest of my life. I won’t even go into how much money either of these options was going to set me back.
So, like 3,500 other Americans this year, I dug around Google and finally came up with a Cape Town surgeon who specializes in transplanting kidneys into wealthy foreigners (he told me that most come from Mauritius). At first he was put off that I didn’t have a relative lined up, but after a few more calls he gave me the number of a Brazilian man who runs what they call a “compensated gifting” service. It took that guy maybe four minutes to call me back with the name of my donor. Seriously.
My doctor here forwarded all my records to the hospital in South Africa, they did a crossmatch test on the Brazilian guy to make sure my body wouldn’t shit out his kidney right after the op, and within five days I was on a plane heading down. At the hospital they gave me an enema and a sedative then wheeled me up to the window of the OR so I could watch the doc pulling out my new kidney as I went under.
Now that the American Medicare system has flopped and nobody in Canada can help you out, it’s time to take the Hippocratic oath into our own hands. “I’m dying over here,” I would yell at the medical staff of New York. “Eat my wet asshole,” they would almost always yell back. So I went to South Africa, closed my eyes, and waited to be saved.
When I came to, I dry-heaved so hard that I passed out. This, they said, was from coming off the anesthetic while starting the cyclosporine, the antirejection drug. When I came back to, however, I felt like I’d woken up back in my body at age 20. And all this for the cost of a Geo.