The Robot That Performed My Kidney Transplant Declined to Be Interviewed


“I planned to ask brief questions about the robot the morning of the surgery ... Did it make cool noises? Was there a green button that said ‘go!’ that I could push? But as they wheeled me into the operating room, anesthesia took hold. I believe I muttered ‘Robot!’; then there was blackness.”CreditJaime Danehey
Ten years ago, I did not expect my brand new Twitter account to have much of an impact on my life. Yet it certainly has — affecting my career, my choice of where to live, my friendships, my adoption of pets, my intellectual lifestyle and even my emoji use. Now, Twitter has cost me a body organ. Yet my (voluntary!) loss is another Twitter user’s gain: I recently donated a kidney to a fellow journalist, Michelle Minkoff, who works at The Associated Press.

Michelle and I do similar jobs, writing both words and code for our separate news outlets. Our dual skills form an ill-defined newsroom role frequently called data journalism, which is a bland term for a diverse set of people, skills and interests.

Still, the small community of “news nerds” is strong and supportive. As active members, Michelle and I have many friends and peers in common, in addition to our jobs. Yet until the morning of the transplant itself, we had never met in person.

Ten years ago, Michelle was facing her first kidney transplant surgery after an autoimmune disease, IgA nephropathy, had weakened her kidneys to the point of failure. Michelle’s aunt, Karen Kwan, donated Michelle’s first transplanted kidney in 2006. Continue reading