Please don’t say you’ll sell your kidney for a concert ticket

"Come to think of it, an organ that's less than P100,000? That'd be a bargain, especially if you're healthy. You don't care. You just want concert tickets, right?"

This year’s earthings! Fantasy Festival was supposed to run for five days, but at the very last minute we had to shorten it to four. One of our contributors had to back off due to health concerns.

You know Anna, right? She joined us for the first ever Fantasy Festival. She did the stage with all those acts that connected to Incubus. She’s a big Incubus fan, although I first came across her in the days after Dia Frampton announced her first concert in Manila, the impromptu one I ended up reviewing. She loved Meg & Dia and wouldn’t miss up the chance to watch at least one half of the band.

She did. She wrote about it. We were tweeting, but we never got to say yes to each other at the Hard Rock Café. I did see her, though, as the lines for the CD signing swelled, and I made a beeline to the exit because, well, I already had my CD signed. While I skipped her second concert the following year – this time with Meg in tow – she went there too.

We’ve become good friends since, albeit in the “we have never officially met offline” vein. Chances are, if there’s an entry on this blog that I’m particularly proud of, I had run it through her for her feedback.

Last December she was suddenly in the hospital, and we had heard little of her. Turns out she’s been diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome when she was three. Essentially, her kidneys don’t work as well as they should. This developed to end stage renal disease as she grew older. It’s not the worst stage yet, she cleared – she wrote about it on her blog; it’s worth a read – and she was able to keep things normal through strict monitoring of the food she eats and regular check-ups.

But she fell off the wagon, so to speak, when she went to college, when staying up late and eating all those things weren’t easy to avoid. It all reached a critical point last December, when doctors found that creatinine levels in her blood went up to very high levels.

Creatinine, simply put, is a product of the breakdown of muscle tissues, a normal biological process. This should be filtered out by the kidneys. If levels of creatinine are unusually high, that means your kidneys aren’t working as well as they should.

Anna’s doctors had her undergo regular dialysis, with the view of getting a kidney transplant as soon as possible.

“Let me get this straight,” I asked Anna last week. “You can’t go out a lot because you’re undergoing regular dialysis?”

“Yes,” she answered. We were talking on Twitter, of course. “It takes up much of my time and by the end of every session I’m too drained and weak to do any other activities. And undergoing dialysis weakens one’s immune system, too. Can’t go to crowded areas where I could catch viruses and get ill easily too. I’m also sensitive to temperature changes. Humid weather makes me ill agad. Same with rain. Maambunan lang, there’s a chance I’ll get the flu which is possible to turn into pneumonia like what happened last time.”

That happened the week before this year’s Fantasy Festival came together.

“But you can still go out once in a while?”

“Yeah. Once in a while lang, tapos hindi sunud-sunod na araw.”

“Right, kaya dapat nasa aircon yung pinupuntahan mo.”

“Yep. ‘Di na puwedeng magbabad sa initan. ‘Di rin naman ako puwedeng mag-swimming to relieve myself from the humid weather because my catheter must be always dry and clean at all times.”

“How often do you undergo dialysis?”

“Twice a week, from morning to noon.”

“And that’s until you get a transplant, and whether that will work isn’t guaranteed too, right?”

“That transplant will work. What isn’t guaranteed is if it will last throughout your lifetime, if you don’t take care of it properly. You have lifetime meds to take so your body doesn’t reject the organ.”

“Ah. I thought whether your body will accept it or not is still up in the air.”

“I think I mentioned in a recent post na it’s a never ending work in progress after dialysis, and if makakapag-transplant ka, you’re still worried about your kidney. You won’t exactly go back to your normal life before your kidneys stop working.”

Anna works as a freelance web designer, but she blogs regularly too. Before all this happened, she frequented concerts, mostly taking photos of the acts. I think she was at the first Jack TV MAD Fest to take photos, too.

I must also point out that the kidney transplant experience goes differently for everyone. Some bounce back much better than others.

“You’re supposed to undergo all these tests before they operate on you and the donor,” she continued. “First is blood type compatibility, then tissue typing, then cross-matching. ‘Pag all good, then you both take the standard tests to make sure walang infection or other current sickness in your body.”

“Not to mention it’s quite expensive,” I went.

“Yeah. This would suck big time if walang aid from PhilHealth. If I were a senior, I’d get more privileges, probably, pero what I got now, pwede na. Best I could get, I guess.”

We’re just the same age, by the way. Maybe she’s a year, a few months, younger than me. I’m 27.

“Would you have an idea how much?” I finally ask.

She shows me a scan of the estimates from the hospital, taking note that prices have likely gone up since.

If the kidney donor is a living relative, the transplant would cost between P850,000 to P1,000,000. It costs the same if you’re getting the organ from a deceased relative, although there’s a P400,000 “retrieval package”, which Anna characterizes as some sort of financial aid for the bereaved. If the donor is not a relative, the transplant would cost between P1,200,000 to P1,600,000.

“You’re also in charge for screening, and tests, and pre- and post-check-up fees, tapos medical fees if [the donor is] not related.”

“That is a lot.”

“I know,” she sighed. “Even if may donor, I don’t feel encouraged to go through [the whole thing] because of that amount.”

Two weeks back, rumors of Coldplay finally coming to Manila, after a decade and a half of hits, were swirling. Somewhere along the way there were rumors of U2 and Adele coming too, but Coldplay was the big story, at the receiving end of a concerted PR effort to make it look like there were leaks, leading to the conclusion that the concert is actually happening, supposedly in November, and the only thing missing is an official announcement.

That meant a lot of people tweeting about how expensive tickets for this still hypothetical Coldplay concert would be. “I would sell my kidney for Coldplay concert tickets” is a post you’d normally see on social media.

“I never liked this statement,” Anna wrote on Facebook. “I think it is an ignorant statement.”

I saw that post and it all clicked into place for me. Perhaps it took knowing someone who really does need a kidney for all of this to come together.

“Come to think of it, an organ that’s less than P100,000?” she continued. “That’d be a bargain, especially if you’re healthy. You don’t care. You just want concert tickets, right?”

While on a week-long break, I tweeted that this blog will be a “will sell my kidneys for concert tickets” free zone.

Is it me being way too politically correct? Perhaps, I thought. It’s just a metaphor, the whole kidney thing – they clearly don’t mean it.

But then I saw one of the media outlets I follow use that exact metaphor, and I realized I had to write this essay.

Please don’t say you’ll sell your kidney for a concert ticket.

I’m not saying this just because I know someone who actually needs a kidney. I’m saying this because that someone, whether she gets a kidney or not, could never get back to her old ways, of braving the elements and the rowdier crowds so she could watch a concert and take photos.

Sure, I’m not really a guy who enjoys music in a live setting. I get the rush, but I’m not always comfortable with both dropping my inhibitions to show my love for the act, or just jostling for a good spot with faces that are familiar with each other. That said, I have no problem with the act of promoting concerts, of promoting live music in general. There’s something you can get with seeing someone you love, or someone you’ve never heard of before, in a setting where mistakes can be immortalized and the safety net of a recording is mostly non-existent. You can’t deny the magic made when you watch Armi Millare sing “Oo” in front of you, rather than on YouTube.

That said, let’s put some perspective on things. Live music is not the be-all and end-all of everything. Stop acting like the most important thing in life, ever, is to get to watch whichever foreign act you’re peddling in the flesh.

Sure, I can go gaga at the idea of a favorite act of mine coming here. I have gone gaga when I heard that Kimbra was coming here, for example. But let’s be practical. We won’t always have the money, nor the connections to people who can score us free tickets. We won’t always have the time to drop everything and brave the traffic and the lines to watch whoever. That’s fine. We may have missed our favorites, and we may never get the chance to see them again, but life goes on. We’re still fans. Not seeing our favorites live does not make us any less of a fan.

But please, stop acting like the most important thing in life, ever, is to get to watch whichever foreign act you’re peddling in the flesh. Or whichever local act, for that matter. This goes to you, concert organizers. This goes to you, tour promoters. This goes to you, members of the press, whether online or offline. Stop acting like concerts are that important, so important that anyone will drop everything to get the money to get the best seats. Those kids, frenzied and fearful of missing out, will say stupid shit like, I don’t know, “I’ll sell my kidney ASAP so I can buy a concert ticket!”

It’s just a concert. It’s okay to miss out on the live experience. It’s not okay to miss out on a kidney.

Sure, it’s just an expression. But that’s just a concert, and this is one of your two kidneys.

Sure, you just can’t go to concerts because you can’t afford them. But there are people out there who can’t go to concerts because their kidneys have failed them. [NB]

[You can follow Anna’s blog at Her “Dialysis Diaries” are in one place here.]

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