Giving the Gift

By Amanda Smith

My donation story begins in early December 2007. My aunt has Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and was told she needed a transplant or she would have to start dialysis. My mother, my uncle, and I immediately volunteered as we all have the same blood type as my aunt. My aunt wasn’t comfortable with me volunteering at first because of my age (I was 22). I knew that I would be a match from the beginning, something inside me just knew (maybe it was my kidney). After talking it over with my aunt and uncle my mom went through all of the testing first and it was going smoothly until the cross-match. The day the test came back everyone seemed to lose hope. The cross-match not only came back positive (which means my aunt would reject my mother’s kidney) but the test also showed that my aunt would only be able to accept a kidney from five percent of the world’s population. At this point I think I was the only one who still felt the transplant was an option. I called my aunt and begged her to let me get tested, she finally gave in. I had my blood drawn the following Monday. Two days later I was driving to school when I received the call from the transplant office, I was a match! I had to pull over on the side of the road I was so excited. I called my husband and my mom, then I went to see my aunt at work to tell her the news in person. It was beyond a miracle. The feeling I had that day is undescribable it was an amazing experience.  After receiving the great news my aunt and I went through the extensive testing and received the go ahead from the doctors, the transplant would take place May 9th.

My family was overly supportive with my decision and extremely helpful after the surgery helping my husband and I take care of our 2 year old daughter.  I never second guessed my choice to give my aunt the gift of life. As a daughter and mother I could not stand the thought of my cousins losing their mother when there was something I could do about it.  I spent the month before the transplant learning everything I could about the surgery. I even watched a video of a laparoscopic kidney removal. I met a woman on a living donor website who was scheduled for a transplant the same week as ours in the same hospital. It was comforting to email someone who was going through the same thing we were.

The day before the surgery my aunt and I had to be at the hospital by noon. The drive to the hospital seemed to take forever. Once we were admitted into the hospital IV’s were started and more blood was taken. We also got to meet the woman I had been e-mailing. Her transplant was successful! She was up and walking in the halls when we came to the floor, the donor (her son) had already been discharged that afternoon. It was really inspirational to both my aunt and myself. The night went by so fast and before I knew it I was being wheeled down to the OR the last thing I remember was crying, I was so happy that my aunt would be healthy again. When I woke up the first thing I asked about was my aunt. The nurse told me that my aunt’s new kidney started working on the table! I was so happy, I couldn’t wait to see her. When she finally came back to the floor my sister wheeled me into my aunt’s room so we could visit and compare our battle wounds. After a couple days of recovery I was able to go home. My aunt came home just a few days later. My aunt has been able to return to her full time job and has been give a second chance at good health. Her recovery has been amazing to watch. I feel so lucky to have been able to give my aunt her health back through living donation.