Ellen’s Story

Will Smith’s Kidney Transplant – October 2, 2001 – Donor: Ellen F. Souviney

This is a story of how a personal trainer changed my life and then I was fortunate enough to help change his life with a living kidney donation.

In October 1999, I joined my husband, Bill Myatt, training at Will Smith’s Better U Fitness Studio. Bill, having suffered two heart attacks in recent years, was getting out of shape and overweight again. Concerned for his health as he approached 50, the age his father and grandfather died of heart disease, Bill met with Will Smith to talk about a weight lifting program to help his physical condition. Will was very busy but Bill did not give up his effort to get into a training program with him. In September Bill started lifting weights with Will’s close supervision three times a week for one-hour sessions in Will’s personal fitness studio. Within a month, Bill was feeling terrific about himself and the strength he was gaining. I asked Bill if he thought Will could help me. Bill was excited that I wanted to join him in training.

My health was becoming a serious concern for me. I began putting on weight after I turned forty, and by now at age 45 I was 180 lbs. and size 16. I tried my usual weight loss method, cutting down on what I ate, but since I was lucky if I ate 2 meals a day, there was not much I could do. I was very depressed and ashamed about how I looked. I was now the fat sister at family gatherings. From the time of high school, I had been known as a person who had a big smile on my face all the time. It was true; I had been a very happy person and smiled all the time. Now my smile was gone. I noticed that my drive time smile was gone. I used to smile the whole time I drove to work, and now there was no drive time smile. I worried that as fat was growing on my body so might other things like cancer. I knew that obesity was a risk factor for many ailments, especially at my age. I had no hope and was resigned to the idea that I would just die young and fat.

Will agreed to try to train Bill and me together. We agreed to a 12-week commitment. Wow, it was hard work. I never asked how much weight we were lifting; I just lifted whatever Will said to lift. Within a month, the pain in my shoulders, that I had accepted as age-related, was greatly diminished. It turns out that my shoulder pain was from inactivity and deterioration, and the weight bearing exercise turned it around. So far so good!

Within that first three months the change in our bodies and minds was very exciting. Will had taught us how to eat right. We now eat five – six healthy meals each day. I have not skipped breakfast a single day in the last two years. I carry my Tupperware to all business lunches. We are no longer best friends with the waitress at the local Italian restaurant and we don’t have their gold punch card any more. Our weight was dropping to the point that we had to start shopping for smaller sized clothing and we felt strong and positive. I had gained the confidence to tell my boss to stop bullying me. He gained new respect for me.

Will told Bill and me about his illness early in our training. He just wanted us to know that his kidney failure might sometimes affect his training schedule. Then it was not discussed much after that. As soon as Will told us that he was on the transplant list because of End Stage Renal Disease, I thought and told my husband that I would like to consider donating a kidney to Will. Early in our association with Will, I did not really feel healthy enough to be considered and I didn’t know much about the possibility of living organ donation. After saying, “Maybe I could donate,” I said, “Well, if Will ever gets sick, I’ll get tested.” I let it go that way for a year, until my 24-year-old son, Luke Small, asked Bill and me, “when can Will get off dialysis?” We told him, when he gets a transplant. Luke quickly said, “I’ll donate a kidney.” We commended him on his generosity. He then said, “Well, if Will ever gets sick, let me know and I will get tested.” That is when the light bulb came on for me. I knew that even though Will did not let us see signs of his illness, he truly was sick and it was not right to wait until he got sicker to try to help.

I began research on the Internet. There are a lot of great websites, telling facts, transplant data, and personal journals of kidney transplantation. I learned so much that when I called the Portland Maine Transplant facility, I really only had one question left unresolved. Could I, a middle aged, white lady donate to a black man? They assured me that the advances in the immunosuppressant medications made it possible for live donation to cross most of the old boundaries. Genetic factors no longer played the part they used to. The transplant coordinator strongly recommended that I talk with Will about my desire to be tested and donate a kidney. I too, felt that I needed to talk with him for many reasons. Since Will did not talk much about his illness, I did not know for sure if he was ready for a transplant. It seemed to me that he was getting along all right on dialysis and there are many risks involved in receiving a new organ and the medicines and possible complications that come with it. I needed to be sure that this was what he wanted at this time in his life, before I imposed my wishes on him.

Generally Will is a very proud and private person and would never ask for or accept help with anything, so I worried that he might say, “No, I can’t let a client do this.” I decided that this was a subject that I should discuss with him with no one else around. I thought that if my husband was present Will would be macho and reject my request to get tested. With Will’s busy schedule, and Bill and me always training together, it took months for me to find the right time to approach the subject. I had written a speech with points, from all of the research I had done, to counter any arguments he posed and I listed all of the reasons that it would be OK for me to donate a kidney to him.

On June 8, 2001, I trained alone with Will and the subject of possible kidney donors came up. Will said if someone wanted to get tested, he would prefer that they just do it and let him know if they matched. He did not want to be a part of their decision on whether or not to donate. He did not want his family to get their hopes up if it was not going to happen. I explained that the transplant coordinators recommend that it be discussed with the recipient first. He started to look at me with a quizzical look – how did I know something like that? I told him that I had inquired about getting tested but that I wanted to make sure that he was ready for the possibility of a transplant in the near future. He assured me that he looked forward to the possibility of a transplant but wanted to know if I really knew what I was getting into. Had I talked with Bill and my children? Did I know I would be out of work if I had the surgery? Did I know they would cut me open in the surgery? Did I know I would have to have the right blood type? Did I know how unlikely it is that we would match?

I told him that my blood type was O allowing me to donate to anyone, and I had learned that his blood type was also O so that was even better, because he would have had a long wait for another match. I understood the unlikelyhood of getting the necessary negative crossmatch, but was assured by the transplant coordinator, and all of my reading, that the genetic markers did not have to match because the immunosuppressant medication would take care of any possibility of rejection. My husband and children were 100% with me on my decision. Once I decided to get tested, my family and I all talked as though it was a done deal – I would match and have the transplant with Will. When I got a new job last year I was already thinking of the transplant so I made sure I purchased short-term disability insurance to help with recovery time. I told Will that Maine Medical Center now has a transplant surgeon who does laparoscopically assisted donor surgery, so my incision would be quite small and recovery a lot easier than it used to be. I understood from the transplant coordinator that all medical costs would be covered by the recipient’s insurance. The stars were in alignment and Will could not argue with me, so he said OK get tested. I’m sure he did not believe that I would match. Will said it meant a lot to him that I would even consider getting tested and even if I did not match, he would always be pleased that I thought enough of him to try.

Will is a 37-year-old champion bodybuilder who, with his wife Pamela, opened a business as a personal trainer after he suffered End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Previous to this, Will was stationed at NATO with the US Navy and competed in international bodybuilding contests. In 1998 he sought help from doctors, first for swelling in his ankles, then for lack of energy and tiredness and extremely high blood pressure. They suggested he might have sodium allergies and his training was tiring him out, but his condition was not improving. One day he lost the vision in his right eye and the doctors gave him some drops, told him to go home and see how it was the next day. The next morning he had blood coming from his left eye and returned to the hospital. The eye hemorrhage and loss of vision was a symptom of extremely high blood pressure and tests showed him to be poisoned with toxins in his blood and urine. Now it was evident that his kidneys had failed. His heart stopped once before they could get him on dialysis and again after. He was revived and began a regimen of dialysis to cleanse his body of the toxins that had been poisoning him for some time. Once he was stabilized, Will was given a medical discharge from his 15-year service for the US Navy.

Will was transferred to hospitals in the United States and Pamela had to pack up their 8 year old daughter and one year old son and move from Italy to the States. They eventually moved back to Pamela’s hometown of Brunswick Maine and enjoy the emotional support of her family. Pamela’s blood type did not match Will’s so she was ruled out as a donor. An O type person can only receive from another O type. Their daughter Kadie was adamant that she should be considered as a donor, but was told that when she became an adult it could be considered. Will was approved for the transplant list and patiently awaited a cadaver kidney. He always said he did not like the idea that another person would have to die for him to be well.

Will had begun working as a personal trainer while in Italy. His first client was Pamela, his wife. With the great success that they had working together, and the enjoyment that he got from helping a person improve her health and lifestyle, he knew this was something he wanted to pursue. Will and Pamela studied and worked to progress in the bodybuilding world. He competed and won many contests while training people and doing his job for the Navy. (Contact Will for a list of his awards, I couldn’t begin to list them all correctly.)

Once Will adjusted to his new lifestyle of dialysis, medications, and restrictions, he wanted to try to get back the healthy, strong body he had once had. He and Pamela opened Will Smith’s Better U Fitness Studio intending to use this space to train himself and perhaps a few clients. He started to regain some of his strength and once he put his sign up on his tiny Maine Street location in June 1999, clients began beating a path to his door. Wanting to help people improve themselves, Will quickly filled his available time with one-on-one training sessions. He found that training other people once again was motivating and inspiring him to keep up his positive attitude and not let his illness get him down or take over his life.

Will and Pamela produce a Body Transformation Show each summer for their clients to show the progress they have made. It is a goal that each of us works toward and it is great fun to learn bodybuilding poses and let our family and friends see how we have changed and the confidence we have gained. Karate and several forms of dance are also showcased to demonstrate all of the ways that a person can pursue health and fitness. After training for 1 1/2 years and preparing for our second show, I was 46 years old, 125lbs., and size 2/4. I was very muscular and feeling beautiful and strong. Will is an excellent trainer, he knows how to make a person’s body respond to food and exercise. He intuitively knows how to shape a person’s body for symmetry and strength.

It was just after the 2nd Annual Body Transformation Show that I found the time to talk with Will about getting a blood test. Will agreed to my blood test on Friday evening, June 8, 2001, I called the Kidney Transplant Coordinator on Monday the 11th to get a test kit sent to me, and received it on Friday the 15th. Monday I had the 10 vials of blood drawn at the hospital where I work, Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick Maine. Will had been asked to speak and pose at the National Kidney Foundation of Maine’s Annual Meeting on June 27th and I was hoping to be able to tell him before he went there that night. One and one half weeks after my blood draw, on Wednesday June 27th, I called the transplant coordinator hoping she would have the results, even though she had told me to wait two weeks. She told me that the preliminary crossmatch was negative, but the final and official results were not yet available and I should wait to tell Will. By noon, she called to tell me that the official test was a negative crossmatch and the test for genetic markers would take another week, but I did not need to wait because that would not really be a factor. Now I could tell Will. I left work immediately to go to Will’s studio. He and Pamela were at lunch so I waited. Pamela, who I barely knew, came back but Will did not. Not knowing, for sure, if Will had even told Pamela that I was being tested, I did not want to be the one to tell her. He had previously told me he didn’t want his family to get their hopes up unnecessarily. I went back to work without letting on to Pamela why I had stopped by; I made up a story about an article in an exercise magazine that I had brought with me. I called later and asked to talk with Will. I said, “I heard from the transplant coordinator and I’m good to go!” He hesitated, and I explained I was a match. He remained calm and reserved and wanted the facts. I told him they talked about a possible date for surgery. They said they were scheduling in late August right now but it is pretty full so maybe September or even early in October. Will said, “Even October would be OK, that would give me time to get in shape for the surgery.” That was pretty funny coming from a champion bodybuilder. He said, “OK let me go so I can tell Pamela.”

I had an appointment the next day to have Pamela give me a new hairstyle in her beauty salon that is adjacent to the fitness studio. This was the first time I had ever asked Pamela to do my hair. I brought her flowers from my rose garden. She started making the usual salon small talk, clearly not intending to discuss the news of my being a match. I finally said, “Well Pamela, aren’t we even going to talk about it?” She said she just didn’t know what to say. We hugged and talked a little, and then she gave me a great new hairstyle. Expensive, but the best is worth it. I had never had so many different treatments on my hair. It was fun.

I now was put in touch with Carla Cutting, the Donor Transplant Coordinator. Gail Clark is the Recipient Transplant Coordinator. For the purpose of patient confidentiality and to be sure that people working with the waiting recipient do not inadvertently put pressure on the donor, each person is assigned their own advocate or coordinator. I received a letter congratulating me on passing this first hurdle and outlining the next steps in the donor screening process.

Carla asked if we would like to be the backup team in case a scheduled surgery had to be cancelled. We both agreed we could be ready at any time. This was all very exciting. Happy surgery – what a treat! Our transplant team has a surgical block for a live kidney transplant every Tuesday morning. Cadaver transplants are done on an as available timeframe. Carla explained that sometimes a planned Tuesday morning surgery had to be postponed while a donor or recipient waited for further testing. Since we seemed very healthy Carla thought we would be a natural for the fill in surgery.

Unfortunately my screening didn’t go that smoothly and it became apparent that we would be lucky to be ready for the October 2, 2001, date that had been reserved for Will’s transplant. My first test was two twenty-four-hour urine tests. My husband got a big kick out of the two big jugs in the refrigerator and the small jug that I carried with me in a cooler when we went out. Carla told me the doctors would review my results a week later at their Friday morning meeting. I called and got their approval and an appointment for more tests and a meeting with the head of the Transplant team. When this day came, my medical records had not yet arrived, so the doctor was relying only on his interview of me. He asked if I had ever had a urinary tract infection before. I told him about a possible infection a year earlier. The local emergency room had done chemistry, urinalysis, and kidney x-rays looking for the cause of my abdominal pain. The ER doctor thought I might have had a urinary tract infection, but later it was determined that it was a stomach bacteria. When the transplant doctor heard that I had year old kidney films, he just had to put everything on hold until he could review the films himself for kidney stones. He is a very cautious man. They cancelled the rest of my tests and said we would have to wait for films and records to be sent to them. Another couple of weeks to wait.

I went directly to my doctor’s office and waited for them to provide me with copies of my medical history. Then I went to the hospital and got the year old films of my abdomen and kidneys and returned within two hours to the nephrology office. I gave the materials to the receptionist and told her that the doctor was waiting for them.

The next day I called and was told that he was satisfied with the films, but wanted me to have another blood test for liver function. I went directly to the lab. I was told that the doctors would review everything again at their Friday meeting a week away. I called that day, August 10, 2001, and was told my liver function was still very slightly elevated. Believe it or not they want 31 and mine was 32, very slight. They assured me that this did not mean I was sick, the difference could be from something I eat. They asked if I would go 30 days without medications, other than my thyroid pill that I have to take; no vitamins, no protein shakes or bars, no alcohol and get another blood test on September 10. I was very pleased that they were working with me to make sure I was healthy enough to donate. They could have just rejected me. I don’t drink but I do take a pill to make a migraine headache go away occasionally. I had several migraine headaches during those thirty days. But it was nothing compared with what Will lives with every day with ESRD. I chose to keep the restricted diet until the transplant was over, just in case.

On September 10, I had the blood test and the lab gave me the results right away. My numbers were very low this time. I called Carla to tell her the good news and she scheduled my chest x-ray, kidney CT Scan and x-ray, blood cross-match, and meeting with the transplant surgeon. This day of tests went well. My husband met with the surgeon with me. We both liked him very much. Carla called me at 9:00 pm on the 19th to tell me that the x-rays looked good and to let me know there was yet another Friday doctors’ meeting to review our case on September 21 (my birthday). On Monday, September 24, the larger transplant team would do a final review of the case and approve us for the October 2, 2001 surgery. I called that day to find out that they had approved our case.

It was amazing how many opportunities they gave themselves to review the case and possibly reject my offer to donate. Will says he never doubted that everything would work. I believed too, but, I still sweated most of the decisions, since my transplant coordinator was constantly reminding me of every opportunity for rejection. I was very concerned about the promise I had made. Once our crossmatch was approved, everyone in Will’s life was counting on the transplant. I would have been devastated if I had been unable to donate. I did decide, though, that if that happened, I would make it my mission to find him a donor.

It seemed that getting people to be tested would be easier now than it was the previous three years. NBC, ABC, Fox, our local newspaper, the FoxSports Radio Kiley & Booms show, and the Associated Press had done stories about our plans for Will’s transplant. This exposure had brought awareness to many people in our town. Many people said, “What made you think you could match, it never occurred to me to get tested.” Most people were upset with themselves for not getting tested, and decided they would do it, if ever presented with the need again. My son and my brother-in-law both committed to me, that if I were rejected along the way, each of them would be tested and was willing to donate.

My co-worker, Carol Cossar went through every step of this process with me, from the agonizing months of trying to find a time to talk with Will about donating; to every test and every decision from the doctors. She gave me encouragement, empathy, and support throughout it all. Then, while I was out of work for 3 weeks for the surgery and recuperation, Carol willingly took on all of the responsibility for our office alone. She is my hero!

Will’s students had a party for him on Saturday before his Tuesday surgery. It was fun to see them all and receive all their good wishes before surgery. It was interesting to watch his students, grown men and women all idolizing him for his expertise, guidance, and what he has done for each of us.

I was instructed to arrive for surgery at 6:00 AM and Will at 7:00 AM. I was afraid I would not see Will before surgery, but I did not get called in until just after he arrived. We got to wish each other good luck. The ABC news crew interviewed Will and Pamela in the pre-op area after I had gone to surgery and then they filmed the surgery for the evening news. It was a fat looking kidney!

I had prepared for surgery by reading a book by Peggy Huddleston, called “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster.” The book prepared me for using her 20-minute relaxation/healing audiotape, as well as gave instructions on five specific steps to take to prepare for surgery. I listened to the tape twice each day for about a month. As instructed, I gave the anesthesiologist an index card with 5 Statements of Affirmation for him to read to me. He was pleased that I was prepared and happy to help me by reading these healing statements and assisting me with keeping the healing tape going throughout surgery. They offered me medication for relaxation before surgery but I did not need it, I was quite comfortable and relaxed. An observer said that after surgery I left the operating room with a smile on my face. I am certain that this program of preparation was the reason for my easy recovery.

I remember seeing the clock in the recovery room at 1:00 PM. Every time they approached me I asked how Will was doing and they assured me his surgery was going well and then they said he was in recovery. They kept telling me that I would be going to a room as soon as a bed was available. Then a nurse said, “Will has gone back into surgery, Oh your room is ready, let’s go.” I covered my face and cried as they immediately wheeled my bed out into the hall past people at every turn. A nurse asked why I was crying but I was so upset that I could not stop crying or express myself.

No one seemed to know why I was crying, not knowing that a nurse hit me with the bad news about Will’s 2nd surgery as we left recovery. Had I not been crying so hard when I saw my mother and sister, as my bed approached my room, I would have had to laugh. As the staff was turning me toward the doorway to my room, my mother and sister appeared. My mother grabbed my arm and shook it, shouting, “Ellen, its your mother. Ellen, your mother is here.” Like I was struggling to come out of the anesthesia and she was determined to wake me from this stupor. I was crying hard, but actually thought at the time, I would laugh if I were not busy crying. My mother was concerned for me, but it seemed very funny to me.

Finally, I stopped crying and let them know why I was upset. The nurse said, “Oh don’t be upset until they tell you the kidney has failed.” That was not a helpful statement! Bill, my mother and sister went back to the surgical waiting room to wait with Pamela and her family until Will got out of surgery. I slept off and on in my room; my roommates were at dialysis a lot of the time.

I awoke every hour to look at the clock and ask a nurse if Will was out of surgery yet. They kept saying, “No word yet.” Finally just after 7:00 PM they told me he was doing well in recovery. He stayed there all night and poor Pamela slept in a chair next to him. I was very relieved in the morning when they moved him to his private room. His kidney functioned right away but after closing his incision, while still in recovery, they noticed decreased blood flow in the artery to the kidney. They did several sonograms and decided that they wanted to go back in to relieve pressure from his abdominal muscles on his artery. I had two arteries to both kidneys so they had grafted the two together before connecting to his. This was where they felt the pressure was.

Once they opened him back up, they determined that there really wasn’t enough room in the usual spot in the right side of his lower abdomen. They spent four hours finding and making room deeper in the center of his abdomen for his new kidney. They worked until they felt everything was perfect. His kidney was once again functioning. The surgeon told me the next day that during the second surgery they had 10 minutes of “warm time” for the kidney, which they try hard to avoid. When they take the kidney out of the donor they keep it on ice until they are ready to connect it and begin the blood flow. During the second surgery they just clamped it off inside of Will leaving it warm and without blood flow for 10 minutes. This second surgery and the “warm time” caused the kidney to be a little slow to do its job completely. They say it was sleepy but it was functioning.

On Tuesday, surgery day, my dinner tray had the orange sherbet on it that was recommended in my healing statement. I ate it. I had some nausea the day after surgery. I was mostly just laying on my back, hitting the morphine pump whenever I felt discomfort. Whenever I tried to lift myself up, turning to one side or the other, I felt nauseous but burped and felt better. After lunchtime, they removed my Foley catheter and I got out of bed, sat in the chair, and walked alone to the bathroom to urinate. Soon after that, I was in my pajamas and I walked down the hall to visit Will and Pamela. I ate a little supper Wednesday; I did not have an appetite until Thursday morning. At supper -time on Wednesday, the nurse suggested that I stop using the morphine pump and just ask for a pill when I had pain. I requested a pill at 6:00 pm. It kicked in by 6:30 but then the pain was back at 7:00. They asked me to wait until 8:00 for another pain pill. That 8:00 pill was the last one I needed. Thursday morning they took away my IV, I ate a little breakfast and then my meals were normal after that. I was walking around and feeling fine all day Thursday.

Will was a little jealous that he was not bouncing back as quickly as I did. He did understand that he had two lengthy surgeries to recover from in addition to all the new meds he had to adjust to. We all joked about how his hips are smaller than mine are and my fat kidney would not fit in him, especially with his super tight bodybuilder abdominal muscles.

Thursday noon the surgeon said he would come back later in the day to look at my incision and maybe I could go home. No one had looked at my incisions before this, I guess because the bandages were all clean, they looked all right. By 3:00, when he returned, I had decided that my mind really wasn’t ready to gear up to go home and take over household chores for myself. I was really in slow motion the whole time I was in the hospital. Some of Will’s visitors were a little too high energy for me. The surgeon removed my bandages and said the incision looked good and didn’t need to be bandaged. He asked me if I would like to go home Friday. I agreed.

Thursday was not a good day for Will. He was having tremendous gas pains and nausea from his medications. Something they gave him to counteract the nausea this kept knocking him out. He felt lousy being drugged like that. While I was in his room with Pamela and Paula, her mother, and Will who had fallen into a drugged sleep, a costumed, singing balloon delivery old lady arrived. She insisted on singing her message to Will even though he was asleep. She even tried to get him to take the bunch of balloons from her. Pamela rescued him. We all tried not to laugh at her; but nearly busted a gut once she had done her tap dance finale and left the room.

I was glad I waited until Friday to go home because Will was doing much better by Friday morning and this made it easier for me to leave. They had removed his Foley catheter and he was running to the bathroom every 10 – 20 minutes. This was a pleasure for him for a while, not having had this function for quite some time. He was starting to pick at food and drinking plenty. I said goodbye to his father, who had come to Maine from his home in Alabama, and to Will and Pamela and I carried my overnight bag out to the parking lot to my ride home. I felt great, no pain, just some gas pains right after eating, since I had not yet had a bowel movement. I walked right after each meal and that helped. We had excellent care at Maine Medical Center. The nurses and doctors were very attentive and extremely knowledgeable. Will and Pamela became quite enamored with one particular nurse named Holly Wood. She was very knowledgeable and helped them a great deal during his 11 days in the hospital.

Once at home Friday afternoon, I had a bowel movement (a big accomplishment for a post-abdominal surgery patient). After that, all of my functions were normal. My husband and I got our weekly groceries on Saturday and then went to the video store. I noticed a little pulling discomfort at my incision after this activity. Sunday we hung around the house, except for a walk around the block. Pamela brought Mitchell, their 4-year-old son to our house. He had colored a picture and wanted to give it to me to thank me for helping his dad. That was special.

My husband had a very difficult week with the long day in the surgical waiting area and layoffs and bankruptcy dilemmas all week at his office. By Sunday night he was quite upset and feeling left out of the whole transplant thing. We talked about our feelings and both felt better. I know that this has been a difficult and emotional thing for him to go through. He experienced everything that I did, but from the outside. He really had no direct input or control over any of what was going on for months.

Will remained in the hospital until the second Friday. He is all muscle and adjusting his medicines is a little different for him than the more typical post dialysis transplant patient. His kidney was working but it took some time for his numbers to get to where they wanted them before letting him go home.

I returned to work 20 days after surgery. All of my co-workers were extremely supportive of me throughout this entire journey. I received dozens of thank you cards, letters from strangers who were touched by our transplant story, and flowers and plants lasting a couple of weeks. While still recuperating at home I was very active, running errands, visiting Will in the hospital, and walking a lot. During my first week back at work, I was pretty tired after my first day, then I decided to take a nap or listen to my healing tape at home during my lunch break and that helped. I did have a day of extreme gas pain that was putting a lot of pressure on my surgical area. I went home early on that day. Long days or extra exertion cause some discomfort at my incision.

Now that it is over for me, I am struggling a little with my emotions too. This was a huge, happy project that I worked hard on from June to October and now it is just suddenly over and I really have no more reason to be in touch with any of the people I worked with on this. I felt that I was the driving force in getting this whole process to its conclusion, I guess since I was the one getting to and passing all the tests, and now it is just done. I still feel very excited about Will’s improving health and lifestyle but there is no more discussion to be had.

I feel very connected and somehow responsible for Will and I worry about losing touch with Pamela and him. I’m sure he will take care of his health and probably live forever. Right now, just weeks after the surgery, people around me expect me to know about Will’s recovery. They don’t understand that we are just trainer/trainee and I do not have much contact with him. We do not know when he will feel like getting back to work and training us again, I guess it could be some time in December. I hate to think about the day in the future when I can no longer answer when, people ask me how my recipient is doing.

It has been a great honor to be able to do something this profound to help a person’s health and lifestyle. The testing and approval process was the hardest part for me. While I love my donor coordinator, she is a delightful person, her constant focus on the possibility of rejection as a donor was nerve-wracking. The surgery seemed to be very easy for me, painless 36 hours after it was over. I believe this was due to my educating myself, preparing my body and mind to work together, and having a great laparoscopic surgeon. Peggy Huddleston’s “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” made it possible for me to end this exciting journey with a good surgical experience.

I would have lost part of a week of pay during my 3 weeks off if it were not for a kind boss who made sure I could get paid in full. We live 30 minutes from the transplant center, so there were no travel-related expenses. There were no other costs, other than new pajamas for the hospital and about 100 thank you cards that I sent to all of the old friends and new friends who did special things for me, the transplant people, and the people in the media who treated us so well.

I still connect with other organ donors on the kidney donor message board. It is great to share experiences.

I guess that is the end of the story from my perspective. Will is going to be dealing with the changes in his life for months if not years to come. I wish him all the success in the world.