- Posted December 15, 2013 by
I'm not a doctor, but I play one...
- hhanks, CNN iReport producer
I played a doctor on the TV show House for a year. My husband Dave’s character on Brothers & Sisters briefly went to medical school, and ultimately ended up being a paramedic. And though we deny it, we somehow think that we know more about medicine than the average person. As an actor, you buy into the universe you’re channeling – you forget that it’s not real. I never heard Hugh Laurie’s British accent until well into the season we worked together, and I thought of him as American. So you can imagine the false sense of confidence I built up over the course of the hundred or so procedures I did during 22 episodes.
Along with every script, I was given an appendix listing definitions for all the technical terms. I would meet with Bobbin, a real onset nurse, before every table read and scene. Bobbin would come in and show you exactly how to properly perform the procedure, giving context and outcomes. How to put the ultrasound gel on, an IV, a catheter, a surgery…the hardest thing I ever had to do was draw blood, because there are four or five steps to it, and everyone has seen it done before, so you need to get it right. Putting on gloves was very challenging for me as well. The rigors of medical training, I told myself.
Here I was on my high horse focusing on my life, and I didn’t even realize my aunt/godmother was sick. The way it works in my Cuban family is, they don’t want the younger generation to be burdened by bad news. My favorite person in the world, Aunt Miriam, was sick for months before they told me.
Her kidneys started giving out at 22 years old. After multiple failed surgeries, she ultimately had to remove both kidneys. She was on the list for a transplant and missed her turn for the first one because she was visiting me in LA and the donor was across the country, and by the time she would be able to receive the kidney it was going to be too late. Seriously. Nothing could demystify the Hollywood sense of “I’m special” quicker than a sick family member missing treatment because they were in LA.
Then in 2008, she finally received a transplant with a functional kidney, which brings us to the current, a few years later, when it failed. Needless to say I am not a donor match. BUT – she just got on the waiting list! Now here’s where it gets tricky:
1) Around 100,000 Americans are on a waiting list and the average wait time is six to eight years.
2) According to KidneyLink.org, “Some people awaiting a kidney transplant will take their case to the media. While this can raise awareness of organ donation overall, it will not help their chances of receiving a deceased donor kidney. It can be helpful in the process for a living donation if the message falls upon the right ears…”
KidneyLink.org clearly thinks I should take my case to the media! It’s nervy, I know, because why should I get preferential treatment? I made the mistake of letting playing a doctor go to my head, so I didn’t want to go down the same path with my aunt. So I asked myself two things:
1) Would I be appealing to media, both traditional and social, if I weren’t an actress? I checked Twitter and quickly saw that almost everyone on there immediately tweets to airlines, rental car companies and retailers when they have any issue. Check.
2) Before I was an actress, would my instincts have been the same? I didn’t need to go far for this one: when an introverted, 4 year-old me went out for my first audition ever for the role of “kindergartner Rosa” in Kindergarten Cop, I went in unaware I was even auditioning. But once the casting director started talking to me and asked what songs I liked, I realized what were doing there, and broke into a rendition of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Instinct kicks in and you do what you need to do in the moment. The same is true with Miriam – I’ll do whatever I can to help.
Please tweet me at @odetteannable or email email@example.com if you might know a donor for my Aunt Miriam. Click here for more information on helping her and others in need: https://ufhealth.org/kidney-transplant, http://www.donatelife.net/