When her friend and Washington Post colleague Warren Brown needed a new kidney, Martha McNeil Hamilton startled some—and unnerved herself—by offering one of hers.
With improved surgery, reduced risks and powerful anti-rejection agents no longer limiting donors to close blood relations, this kind of collegial organ donation is increasing. It is also raising subtle but irresistible questions about what it means to be a friend, a co-worker or any sort of fellow traveler.
Though Hamilton and Brown are veteran collaborators, neither knew what to expect from this shared project. We asked them to keep journals of their experiences, and assigned staff writer and physician Susan Okie to observe the surgeries to record the portions Hamilton and Brown would miss. Staff photographer Michael Williamson documented the events from preparation through recovery.