On March 31, 1999, I donated my left kidney to my brother. He was in end-stage renal failure but was not yet on dialysis when we did the transplant. I was the only donor tested from my family and fortunately, even though we are different blood types (I’m O+, he’s B+) we matched 4 out of 6. The decision to be tested was very easy for me but honestly I thought I would be happier when we found out I was the match. My feelings when I found out I was the match were more along the lines of “okay, I figured it would be me, now what do we do?”
My emotional support came from our immediate family (two parents and two other siblings beside us), extended family (cousins, aunts and uncles), my classmates and coworkers, and most of all, my boyfriend. My teachers and classmates were very understanding of my need to take off school for the medical testing. We were able to schedule the transplant for spring break, so I only missed two weeks of actual class time and everyone was great about my physical limitations once I came back to school. Family were amazingly supportive and solicitous about my health as well as my brother’s.
Most of all, my boyfriend took the greatest care of me during and after the transplant. He lived through the “old lady shuffle” for six weeks, when I moved at the speed of Heinz ketchup. More importantly, we got through the first month when I was having trouble with the nerve endings in my groin — when I couldn’t always feel while I was urinating and had a lot of trouble coming to orgasm. (Has this happened to anyone else? I never thought to ask the transplant coordinator before the surgery. I wonder, though, would she have been honest with me? The fear of losing the ability to orgasm would have certainly made me think twice about being so eager to donate, although it would not have stopped me from doing so.)
I have not experienced any other negative effects after my surgery aside from a nagging numbness around the incision. I am quite proud of my 10-inch flank incision, which has healed beautifully, and I will still “whip it out” on request for anyone who shows any interest.
I am now 41 years old. I have no children, nor do I ever expect to have any in this lifetime, so my donation story is my version of childbirth. Thanks for the opportunity to tell part of my story. I’m willing to chat with any potential living donors, or with any other interested people — but be forewarned, I’m terrible at checking my mail!