After a great Olympics, and excellent Olympic coverage, I’m disappointed in NBC’s coverage of the Olympics today. Chris Klug, the only athlete ever to compete in the Olympics after getting an organ transplant, finished seventh in the men’s parallel giant slalom snowboarding event. This story, about a liver transplant recipient competing in the Olympics, was tailor-made for NBC to do a feature, but they didn’t do anything on it. The commentators barely mentioned it, and talked more about a competitor who was a blueberry farmer and another one who sold sausages to raise money. When they did mention it, it wasn’t even in prime time.
On the one hand, it’s not a big deal in the sense that Klug, like many transplant recipients, is now living a normal life. But it’s a story that is interesting and that probably would have been told had it been any number of different illnesses.
I think that our American me-first culture, along with a lack of interest in education, or call it a lack of intellectual curiosity, and a low attention span are contributing factors to why we don’t hear more about stories like this. About 15 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant, and two-thirds of those are waiting for kidneys. Everybody has two but only needs one, and donors can be out of the hospital within a couple of days. Risks are minimal for healthy donors. But only about 6,000 Americans donate each year even though 84,000 people need kidneys in the U.S.
We have about 300 million people in America. So you figure, take away those under 18 and over 60, and then take away those not healthy enough to donate, and there are still about 200 million people left eligible to donate kidneys. So with 6,000 people donating each year, only about one out of every 33,333 eligible people donate.
Now take a look at health care reform. A majority of Americans are against it. Part of it is that they don’t understand it, but I think a lot of it is just that a majority of people – let’s say about two-thirds – do have good health care, so why should they care about those who either don’t have health care or have less than adequate health care? Some people get dropped from coverage for pre-existing conditions, but again, most people — well more than half — don’t have pre-existing conditions, so it’s no problem for them.
So, we’re just generally selfish, but we make fun of countries that invest in health care and education.
As an aside, with snowboarding’s popularity, it was strange to put so little of this event on prime time. When most people snowboard, they do it down a hill, not in a halfpipe.