My Donor Story

Over 15 months ago, God placed it upon my heart to donate a kidney. The first seed was planted when my 55-year-old cousin was in her final stages of breast cancer. When I asked the proverbial “is there anything I can do?” her brother answered with, “Do you have a spare liver?” That got me thinking. Hmm, I don’t have a spare liver, but I do have a spare kidney…

Around the same time, I found out that another cousin’s wife had been on the kidney transplant list for several years. It had come to the point that she was on dialysis 3 days a week. Her schedule consisted of dialysis at 5:00 am, work for eight hours and then home to take care of her four young children. I could not imagine the pain she was going through and there was no end in sight.

So, without telling my cousin-n-law, I sent my paperwork to the UC Davis Transplant Team. It took a few months for review and then the long process began; one in which I had to change my diet and exercise before I could proceed. At times I grew frustrated and thought about giving up, but God kept those doors open. I believe He was doing it for a reason – to give me opportunities to pray, think, talk to others and research the whole procedure. I had to relinquish all control and that was very difficult.

In the meantime, my cousin-in-law found a kidney. It came from an altruistic donor in Wisconsin. More specifically, she was part of a paired donation in which a friend donated his kidney to someone on her behalf and then she received her kidney from Wisconsin at virtually the same time. I was contacted in July, told of this new development and asked if I wanted to be taken off the list. After talking with my husband, my response was, “No, a life is a life…family or not.” I continued my journey. By the way, my cousin is doing AWESOME and living life to the fullest!

For nine more months I changed my lifestyle…exercising regularly, limiting sugar, increasing my fluid intake. I lost 10 pounds and felt better than ever. After medical tests galore, I got the call that we could proceed. I was so excited! Finally! Although I was getting impatient, I am thankful for the transplant team and their conservative approach. They by no means wanted to put me at risk in any way.

The next step was to find a recipient. Since I have type AB blood, it was not an easy task and took several weeks to find the perfect match. But I believe that God knew exactly who that person was from the beginning. I was just a piece in His sovereign plan.

On April 10, I had a single incision laparoscopic nephrectomy under the hand of Dr. Christopher Troppmann at UC Davis. I was in the hospital for 3three days and am almost 100 percent. Well, let’s say 85 percent right now… I still get tired easily and have some pain at the incision sight and in my right hip. My GI tract was the most affected…nausea and lack of appetite for the first five days, and cramping until yesterday. That was the hardest. I am taking Tylenol for pain but overall doing very well.

I know very little about my recipient but hope to meet her soon. I’ve been wondering what that moment will look like. My prayer is that she would accept this as a gift from God and not from me. He’s the one who created me with a healthy body, the one who saved me as an adult, and the one who continues to love me unconditionally. Only through His grace, power and sovereignty could this have been possible.

I have learned so many lessons, but the first that comes to mind is that I am so thankful for my health. I work in the healthcare industry and deal with ill people every day. This whole experience has taught me the value of a healthy body. As I was in the hospital struggling with the pain, all I could think about was how my condition was only temporary. Some people experience pain all the time and there is no telling when or even if that pain will ever end. If God could use me to help someone else, then that is my desire.

Becoming a living donor is a personal choice that cannot be taken lightly. For this reason I do not wish to try and “convince” people to become living donors. I don’t believe that it is for everyone. This is between you, your God and your family. I will be completely honest – people will think you are crazy and start with the what ifs. What if you need that kidney someday? What if there are complications from surgery? What if…??? But if we lived our lives in what ifs, we may as well live in a plastic bubble!

There are a few things I think you should consider if you are contemplating donation. First, I believe you need to be at least 45 years old so you have an idea of what your body is going to do in the future. Second, you need to be in good shape, physically, mentally and spiritually. Third, you need a strong support group, especially your immediate family. Most of all, you and your family need to be prepared for the worst case scenarios. Yes, things can happen, but I believe in every situation…good or bad…there is a lesson that God has for us. Before I went into surgery, I told my 20 year-old son, “Good or bad, NO REGRETS.” None of us have had any regrets …this has been the most amazing experience for all of us. Now we have a new mission – to encourage living donor awareness in our community.

One last thing. My 18 year-old son said he thinks God gave us two kidneys so that we can give one away. I have never thought about it that way, but it is definitely a possibility! April 21, 2012 .