The Super Fun Kids' Graphic Novel Sale

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


A Dearth of Organs

Time out to talk about a larger issue here. An issue that's way bigger than Larry, way bigger than Larry's Kidney, but that lies at the heart of this discussion:

The need for people to donate organs.

Wait!— Don't go away. This is urgent. Do you realize that FEWER people are donating organs this year than in previous years? Apparently this is the first time this has happened since they started tracking donor statistics two decades ago.

At the same time, MORE people are in dire need of organs. The number of people languishing on the waiting list is growing by leaps and bounds — some 50,000 more people will join the list in 2009.

Seventeen Americans die each day, waiting for organs that never materialize in time.Seventeen Americans die each day, waiting for organs that never materialize in time.

That's 17 mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, brothers, sisters... Seventeen neighbors and cousins and teachers and mailmen and grocery store cashiers.

Seventeen a day. People who are alive every bit as much as you and I are alive.

THAT'S why Larry was forced to go to China with me to hunt down a kidney. His American doctors told him he'd have to wait SEVEN TO TEN YEARS for a kidney (after two years already on dialysis).

As for countless other patients, this was tantamount to a death sentence. If you've ever seen anyone who's undergone dialysis, the process leaves you with no life. If you've ever seen anyone who's undergone dialysis, the process leaves you with no life. You are hooked up to a machine for four hours three times a week, and you're so drained afterwards that each treatment is typically followed by 12 hours of addled sleep.

As Larry told me in no uncertain terms, he was not going to settle for being "an invalid in a chair."

He would have killed himself if he'd had to keep waiting, with no guarantee that after seven to ten years he'd get a kidney anyway.

The brutal fact is that as long as Americans can't get the organs they need right here in America, they will be forced to go to the ends of the earth to find them.

Breaking laws, stretching moral constraints.

They're forced to, because the organs they need cannot be had at home.

Mmm, mmm... Chinese kidneys, anyone?

Fortunately, an extremely simple solution is at hand. So simple that most of us put it off, relegating it to some future date when we think we'll have more time to attend to it.

That's to sign up to be an organ donor.

A procedure that'll take you about a minute and a half. All you have to do is click on a website called From there, you'll be directed to a site in whatever state you live in, and the rest is a cinch.

Bear with me a minute more. Here are a few assurances that need to be more widely spread:

Assurance 1: When a patient is identified as a donor, the hospital staff will work JUST AS HARD to save his or her life. The organs will be used only as the very last resort, when the life is already lost.

Assurance 2: Organ donation does not go against religious beliefs. Quite the contrary: every major religion stresses selflessness.

Assurance 3: You're never too old to be an organ donor.

Assurance 4: You can still have an open casket funeral.Assurance 4: You can still have an open casket funeral. "Donation takes place under the same strict, sterile conditions as any surgical procedure," say doctors. "A donor is treated with extreme care and respect, and the body is not disfigured in any manner whatsoever."

Assurance 5: Your family will not be charged for your donation. Once the donor is declared brain dead, the insurance provider of the recipient takes over ALL the costs.

OK? Sorry to interrupt this discussion of Larry's Kidney, but I think it's important to provide context for what made our (mis)adventures necessary in the first place. Tomorrow we'll go back to the hilariously poignant particulars of Larry and the book I wrote about him.

In the meantime...

Visit and get started!

÷ ÷ ÷

Daniel Asa Rose has won an O. Henry Prize, two PEN Fiction Awards, and an NEA Fellowship. Formerly arts and culture editor of Forward and currently an editor of the international literary magazine the Reading Room, he has written for the New Yorker, Esquire, Vanity Fair, GQ, and the New York Times Magazine, and is the author of the acclaimed memoir Hiding Places: A Father and His Sons Retrace Their Family's Escape from the Holocaust. He lives in a colonial farmhouse in Massachusetts.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Hiding Places: A Father and His Sons... Used Hardcover $4.95

Daniel Asa Rose is the author of Larry's Kidney: Being the Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride...

2 Responses to "A Dearth of Organs"

    Miss Gretchen May 20th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    So, in China, the people are more prone to consenting to organ donation?

    Eric Stephenson October 1st, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I am willing to accept a good donation for my kidney or anything else I don't need, Anyone in need of anything just email me at

Post a comment:

Get Your Gravatar

  1. Please note:
  2. All comments require moderation by staff.
  3. Comments submitted on weekends might take until Monday to appear.
PowellsBooks.Blog uses Gravatar to allow you to personalize the icon that appears beside your name when you post. If you don't have one already, get your Gravatar today!
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at