Yesterday was the airing of the highly controversial show “De grote donorshow” (The big donor show) on the BNN network in the Netherlands. The show was about three candidates, patients suffering from kidney failure, contesting for one of the kidneys of a dying woman. The audience at home was able to give advice through text messaging in an
Idols-kind-of-way. Pretty macabre TV-show, right? It would have been if it were real. Thankfully it was a hoax, and more a publicity stunt and a cry for action to our government to do something about the donor registration in the Netherlands. There was no donor (the woman was an actress), and the patients knew that beforehand.
The publicity they got was overwhelming. No less than 85 international news crews were at the show, and all the news shows and talk shows this evening on Dutch television had this show as a subject. Our politicians discussed it all week, and condemned the unethical nature of it. It lead to a great deal of questions in our Tweede Kamer (our house of representatives).
Dealing with an uncertain future
What struck me in the show, besides the issue at hand, was the enormous difference in vision of the future of the three patients. All three were bound to daily dialysis,
so they are severely limited as they depend on these machines for their life. Life expectancy for patients with kidney failure is also an unknown, and they handled this in a very different way.
One of the patients did not really think about the future. She seemed to think about it as a concept, something that might be. The future was today, maybe next week. She seemed to be very present, and very aware of everything she experienced, and had hopes for a better health. One of the other patients however was very ambitious. He had big plans, and regarded the future as a time where he would achieve great things. His kidney condition was something that was holding him back, but it did not stop him in making plans and believing in them. The third candidate was very much focussed on experiencing things, now and in the future. She would drink a lot (not alcoholic beverages) when she would get a new kidney (in her condition she was only allowed to drink half a liter
a day). And she would instantly travel to Australia (great country!) to experience life there.
All of these strategies have their beauty. They were somewhat extreme in nature, but when you’re facing an uncertain future with a shorter than average life expectancy, what can you expect? One of the techniques to learn what values are most important to you, is a visit to your own funeral. For most of us this is a shocking and (hopefully) enlightening
experience, for them it’s a reality. I learned the following lessons from them:
- Value what you have now
- Always make plans and believe in them
- Don’t procrastinate! Plan, Do, Experience.
And the last moment of the show, before they announced the real nature of it, reminded me of a scene in the movie Sophie’s choice. The “dying woman” had to choose between two people to give one kidney. Making a choice between life and death…
The founder of BNN, Bart de Graaff was a patient with kidney failure. He died on May 25, 2002 aged 35. Only 5 years after his second kidney transplant.