Posted in: Ana & Isa's Blog, Journal On The Road, On The Road | By Ana
5-18-10 I am sitting on the Shinkansen , or bullet train, on May 18 enjoying the beautiful scenery of Japan. We are passing rice fields, bamboo forests and traditional homes sprinkled between narrow roads, man-made canals, and dense forested mountains. Between traditional views are modern buildings, industrial centers and a milieu of railways and roads. We are passing at speeds over 100 mph which makes photography difficult, so I am left to reflect by writing instead.
We are enroute from Takamatsu to Osaka, after spending the most splendid two days in the city where we lived 15 years ago. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be back there. After almost five days straight of 4-6 hours of sleep per night due to jetlag, I am delirious but infused with adrenaline with my eyes wildly open to the realization that I am back to a place that I once called home. We were greeted by Dr. Kiyomoto and Dr. Tokuda at the Takamatsu airport on May 16, 2010. In March, they had come as chaperones with a group of Japanese medical student s to Stanford and we lectured to them about organ donation as part of our volunteer work with California Transplant Donor Network. These two physicians are organ donation supporters so we informed them we were coming to Japan in May and they invited us to speak at Kagawa Medical School , the same med school where Isa taught English back in 1995. These two gentlemen arranged the most generous welcome for us, including flowers, gifts, two nights stay in a traditional Japanese inn where we slept on futons on a tatami floor and enjoyed an “onsen,” or hot springs. The hotel had the most scrumptious Japanese breakfast of the region’s specialty of udon, as well as other goods like natto, fish, rice, and various roots, seaweeds, and radishes. Dr.Kiyomoto is a nephrologist, who studied in San Antonio and spoke wonderful English. I have never met a physician as personable, caring, humorous, supportive and open minded as him. Unlike most Japanese men, he was verbose and outgoing, a non-smoker, highly familiar with American lifestyle, and didn’t hesitate in sharing his opinion, humor and compassion with a huge smile. When we commented to him how wonderful he was, he smiled and shouted ” I am a samurai!!!” and made us laugh aloud.
Upon our arrival we headed straight to a press conference where we did an impromptu TV and newspaper interview about organ donation and our goals, efforts and experiences. I couldn’t believe that I was speaking Japanese again with relatively little pain.
The next morning, the day began with a lecture in the morning to Kagawa University undergraduates. As is typical, due to severe sleep deprivation, several students fell asleep immediately, but the majority were wide eyed and interested, since organ donation and the patient’s experience are very rare topics to cover.
After the lecture we had two hours free and Dr. Kiyomoto took us sightseeing to Mt. Yashima, one of the most famous battlefield sites of ancient Japan. At the top of a mountain, we could overlook the Seto Inland sea, which is speckled with dozens of islands that stick out of the sea like triangles covered in dense pine and bamboo forests. One of the islands is famous for caves; the other is famous for an overpoplulation of monkeys. We could see far and wide during the beautiful clear spring day. As we walked Dr. Kiyomoto shared his family background, that his grandfather was a imprisoned for war crimes and as a result became Catholic and donated his body for research after his death. He also told about his relative who received a cadaveric kidney transplant after waiting many, many years. At the end of a short walk, we headed to a 200 year old traditional restaurant for more famous Sanuki udon; we were served the freshest homemade udon I had ever tasted. I decided on the large size which was over a ½ pound of noodles and I downed the carbohydrate overload over conversation with Dr. Kiyomoto abou the buying and selling of organs in China and the Philipines. The stories we heard were so disturbing. For large sums of money, some people from Japan who are desperate for kidney transplants are going abroad to receive them. Dr. Kiyomoto accompanied one of his kidney patients to China to oversee medical matters. The Chinese hospital requested that the patient arrive on a specific date for their scheduled surgery date for the cadaveric donor. When the doctor inquired how the cadaveric transplant could be a scheduled event, he was told that was the date of the prisoner’s execution. After the successful transplant, Dr. Kiyomoto asked what the prisoner was executed for … and it was for selling porn! The prisoners don’t have any informed consent for donation. This is, to me, wrong and an abuse that is painful to hear about. We also heard stories about falsified medical records about a potential donor’s HIV or hepatitis records. Yet, because there is a demand, this continues. This demand will continue since organs are not available in Japan. It creates ethical dilemmas on so many levels, it is beyond the scope of my blog.
TO READ THEIR ENTIRE ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE POWER OF TWO. THEIR MOVIE "THE POWER OF TWO" WILL BE RELEASED IN 2011. PLEASE HELP THEM CONTINUE THEIR GOOD WORK BY MAKING A CONTRIBUTION. AT THE SAME TIME, IF YOU HAVE NOT DONE SO ALREADY, PLEASE REGISTER TO BE AN ORGAN DONOR BY CLICKING ON THE LINKS BELOW: