Audrey Donates To Her Cousin’s Husband

In January of this year (2008), my husband, Tim, and I flew to Chicago so that I could donate my kidney to my cousin Vinette’s husband, Joe.  Joe and I are both in our 50’s and he had been diagnosed with PKD several years before.  He was on dialysis for almost a year while he got well enough for the transplant.  Tim and I live in Northern California, so we looked at this as a big adventure.  It took almost a year from the time I tested until the transplant, which was scheduled at Loyola University Hospital.

Here I will put in a couple of good words for American Airlines, and the Residence Inn and Suites in Oak Brook, IL.  When I explained to American Airlines the reason for our trip, they credited our frequent flyer miles with enough to fly home first class.  They even booked us in the front row so I could stand up and stretch as much as I needed during the flight.

The Residence Inn gave us a special “Loyola” rate, almost half of the regular rate.  Tim stayed there while I was hospitalized, and I stayed there before the surgery.  What a wonderful hotel!  We plan to stay there next time we visit the Chicago area, for whatever reason.

I have had only one other major surgery, more than 20 years ago, but as long as they were going to knock me out, I wasn’t apprehensive.  (Now put me in the dentist chair and work on my teeth while I’m awake, and I turn into a quivering mass of jelly.)  I do tend to get nauseous from anesthesia, but the anesthesiologist said he’d do his best to give me meds that would prevent me getting sick.  Joe and I went in to the hospital the night before and we shared a room.  I had to have IV hydration, necessitating the early admit.  At 6 a.m. I said goodbye to Tim, Vinette and Joe and they took me to pre-op.

The next thing I knew, I was in post-op and they were preparing to take me back to my room.  I had laparoscopic nephrectomy, and verything went as uneventfully as possible for me.  One of the surgeons on the transplant team told me the next day that my kidney was “beautiful”, and that I was born to be a kidney donor.  Vinette told me later that they had been given a post-it note in the waiting room that said “the kidney has gone to Joe’s room”.  She immediately had a picture of my kidney with a big smiley face, jumping off my table and running next door to Joe’s room.  Kind of like an M&M cartoon.  To this day we laugh every time we think of it.

I only got a little nauseous that first night, but was able to get up and about the next day.  I was discharged two days post-op.  Tim and I stayed with my Aunt Dorothy at her home in the country for two weeks before heading back to California.  I saw lots of family and took some interesting drives to parts of Chicago where my family lived in the early 1900’s.  Except for the average temperature of about 2 degrees, we had a nice relaxing time.

Joe was discharged the day after I was, and we had lunch with him and Vinette the day before we flew home.  He had already started gaining weight, and was enjoying eating the foods that were forbidden during dialysis.  Today we are seven months post-op, and Joe has not had any rejection episodes.  His lab results are great and his anti-rejection meds have been tapered.  He went back to work six weeks post-op, the same as I did.  He did have an unrelated medical problem that cropped up at work, and he went back to his Loyola physicians for treatment.  Other than that, he’s been great.

Joe calls every week and we talk about everything, not necessarily kidneys!  He always thanks me, and I always assure him I was glad to do it for him and Vinette and their kids.  I’d do it again in heartbeat if I could.  I hope my story encourages others to consider donation if they hear of a friend or family member in need.

Montara, California