On December 12, 2008, I watched ABC News’ 20/20 and I was left slack-jawed by an incredible story about a boss that donated a kidney to an employee. At initial viewing, you are led to coo and ohh, but when you pause to think about the facts behind the story, you being to become outraged at selfishness dressing itself in motherhood.
One thing we have to get out of the way is the Tim Russert-like, sanctimonious, self-congratulatory tone of the 20/20 story because everyone involved works at ABC News. Would this silly story have been broadcast-worthy if not for the internal, narcissistic, nepotistic angle? We think not.
Here’s how the story began on 20/20…
Ani first experienced chronic kidney failure in her 20s — doctors
don’t know why — and she received a kidney transplant at the age of
When she married Wil Whitney in her mid-30s, one of their goals
was to have a baby, despite the additional strain it might put on Ani’s
transplanted kidney. It was a risk her doctors agreed to and Joan
understood how much Ani had invested emotionally in the prospect.
“It’s probably the greatest thing she’s ever wanted in her life,” Joan said. The
problems arose in the third trimester of Ani’s pregnancy. Her kidney
function began to decline. Doctors monitored her constantly, but saw no
…and there we have it, flitteringly mentioned, but still there in the bare essence of it all:
Ani received a kidney transplant at the age of 25.
Then she decided she wanted to have a baby and, even though her doctors warned her against it, Ani decided to damn the medical community, and her healthy donated kidney, and the future of her unborn child, by getting pregnant.
Ani swapped the one good kidney she had for a positive pregnancy test — and that is the nut of the tragedy in this cooing story.
Ani felt she had a right to have a baby even if it imperiled her life and the life of her child — but in our self-satisfaction society, only wants and wishes matter. Reality and despair be damned, full speed ahead into the intoxicating idea of being your own creator of life even if means you lose your own.
This is the deadly Wendy Wasserstein method of mothering and it must stop now and it should never be celebrated on television as something to admire and imitate! Ani was reckless and irresponsible. She only mattered to herself.
The one thing you quickly ascertain about Ani is that she is incredibly manipulative. You can see how she controls and dominates everything she touches.
Her boss, Joan, is passive and giving and thoughtful — all dangerous traits to hold when someone below you looks up and sees you’re holding two healthy and prized kidneys — and Joan quickly became a mark for the grifting.
While it was unspoken on the television show, you know Ani was counting on her “I want be a mommy” sob story working over Joan into giving up a kidney if the pregnancy proved lethal to her first donated kidney.
The only person in this mess of a tragedy that seemed to be on to Ani’s snakiness was Joan’s husband — probably because, as he confesses, he, too, played on Joan’s soft heart for his rescuing as a failed musician.
In the end, Ani got her baby and her second kidney — while Joan got a piece done on her “selfless generosity” on ABC News where she works.
The 20/20 piece mentioned another woman who was willing to give up her kidney for Ani — and so the trap is likely being inevitably set as Ani perhaps ponders swapping another donated kidney for another baby.