Heather’s Story

My name is Heather.  I donated my right kidney to my mother on November 2, 1999.  My mother is a diabetic and had kidney failure.   Our surgery was preformed at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This was a no-brainer for me. As soon as we knew my mom was sick and she needed a Kidney to live, I immediately stepped up to the plate because my mother refused to be on dialysis. My father was a match as well.  The funny part is that we live in Kentucky.  My mother’s kidney/hypertension doctor even joked with my parents when they found out my dad could donate. He said “I know you two are from Kentucky, but this is ridiculous”.  They matched so well.  But, I told my dad I wanted to do it.  He had smoked for 25+ years and of course I was younger and felt that I would take to the surgery a lot easier.

So the testing began….Of course, I was stuck with lots of needles and tested for all disease.  I had a chest x-ray……then I had to do the 48 urine test.  I had to urinate in a jug for 2 days.  I carried a bag with all the equipment in it.  I hated that part, but I got through it.  Then I had my angiogram.  It hurt a little, but was very cool.  They had monitors set up and I could actually see the dye in my kidneys.   The last test I did was the glucose test.  I had to drink an orange drink and was unable to eat most of the day. I had to go back 3 times that day and get blood drawn.  Didn’t like that too much either…and it didn’t help that I went to the tanning bed in between blood draws without anything to eat….lets just say I would not suggest that to anyone.  YOU WILL PASS OUT!!

Okay, back to being serious.  All my testing was done…it was time to wait to have the surgery.  We only had to wait a couple of weeks.  The day before, we went in for a meeting with the surgeons.  They explained everything to us and made sure that we were ready for what we were about to do.  They did do some more pre-op testing which involved some more blood draws.  At that point, my veins were like wet noodles and I looked like a heroin addict.  But, it was for my mom and I didn’t care.

We had to be at the hospital at 4:30 am on November 2, 1999.  NO make-up and nothing to eat.   When we got there, I still wasn’t nervous.  It was really weird.  Anyone else about to have surgery would be a wreck.  I changed into my hospital gown and they started my IV.  The anesthesiologist came in to talk and a couple of nurses.  After about an hour of that, I was wheeled off to the OR.  My mom would be coming about half an hour later.  I remember looking at my family waving and crying.  That’s when the nervousness set in.  I got into the OR and the surgeon was ready to go – the anesthesiologist put the “gas mask” on my and told me to count from 100 down.  I got to 99 and I was out.

When I woke up in the recovery room…I had a glaze over my eyes and could barely make out what or who was around me.  Then….I felt the pain on my right side.  I could not cry or scream….nothing was coming out of my mouth.  It was very painful.  I tried to get up and nurses came over and were scrambling to get me calmed down.  I had woken up too early and had no pain medication yet.   I passed out from the pain and woke up in my room with my morphine drip…..the pain was still there….but it took the edge off.    I also had a drain in my incision.  The removed that the 2nd day I was there.  That was a little painful as well.  I remember going to the bathroom and seeing what my incision looked like.  The only thing I can compare it to is a shark bite.  I seriously looked like a shark and bitten me.  And I was swollen on top of that.  The nurses encouraged me to get out of bed and sit in a chair.  It just took awhile for me to get up.  I tried to walk to my mom’s room, but had to get some help half way there.  The pain feels like a really bad pulled muscle.   I guess it’s because they have to cut through 3 layers of muscle to get to the Kidney.  I wasn’t a happy camper.  My dad was so upset and just kept apologizing that I had to go through all this pain.  He was yelling at nurses, telling them to give me more pain meds.   I just wanted to get out of there.  After 3 days, I was able urinate on my own, so they discharged me.   I went home to my parent’s house.  The doctor’s gave me Percocet for the pain, but they made my vomit so I was switched to Vicodin.  Thank goodness for that because vomiting 3 days after donating a kidney doesn’t feel too good.  I stayed my parent’s house for a week and went back to my own home. I was feeling pretty good by then. It was almost Christmas and I even went Christmas shopping.  I had to take a rest every once in a while…but I managed.  I kind-of walked leaned over to my left side.  I wanted to baby the right side where the kidney was removed.  That just made both sides sore….so try not to do that if you donate.

I went back to work 3 weeks after surgery and was doing Taebo again after 4.  I had a fast recovery because I was active before the surgery and slowly started working out after.

Only 4 months after surgery, I found out that I was pregnant.  On December 28, 2000 I had a baby boy.  He did have some vitamin deficiencies and liver problems.  He had a liver biopsy and was okay. He just needed to take some meds for the first year and then was released as being completely healthy. Doctors do not believe that my kidney donation had anything to do with his liver functions.  The only problem I had was the scar tissue was pretty fresh and I had some discomfort when i sneezed or coughed in my last trimester.

My mother did very well with the surgery and my kidney is going strong.  She was just recently diagnosed with Breast cancer and is now undergoing chemo and will start radiation in a couple weeks.   We all think she will be okay.  She has been through so much and is a very strong person.  I’d admire her and she is my best friend.  Even though I went through a lot of pain after the surgery…It was totally worth it.  She gave me life and now I have returned the favor to her.  There are not enough words to describe how I feel about my mother.

If you are considering donating, make sure you get all the information and think about what you are doing.  The feeling of giving life surpasses the pain.

Thank you for reading my story,