Nicholle’s Paired Exchange Donation

I began researching kidney donation for my husband’s uncle, who was badly in need. Unfortunately, it was too late for him and too many other body parts were involved and he was not cleared to have surgery. He passed away last July.

I continued to do the research because I couldn’t find one thing about the surgery that made me not want to do it. In fact, the more that I read, the more I felt the need to move forward with it and give a kidney to whoever needed it the most. I was, and continue to be blown away by how many people are in need. We could wipe that whole list out fairly easily…..

Anyway, I received the information and continued to move through the process. This would be my 3rd surgery within the year (2nd major surgery in a year)– maybe that is why all the tests seemed easy enough and not an overly big deal, other than I was desperately wanting to donate a kidney and didn’t want to be rejected.

One of the tests came back with some funky info, so I had to come in again for the iohexol test- which was not a big deal either. They inject some iohexol and then take blood every so often to see how fast your kidneys clear it. I had done that already because my sister and I are participating in the long term kidney donation study.

That test came back fine, as the dr said it probably would.

The scan of my kidneys was good and it was determined that they would take lefty, which is the one they prefer to take.

I was also introduced to the idea of paired exchange. This works especially well with an anonymous donor. They would match me with someone in the paired exchange pool, and their willing but incompatiable want to be donor would then be matched with someone else in the pool that they did match with. Then that persons willing but incompatible want to be donor would be matched …and so on and so forth. The chain would stop when there were no other matches within the paired exhange pool, and the match would be made with the most compatible person in the most need on the “normal” transplant waiting list.

I couldn’t see how this wouldn’t be a good thing, so I signed up for it.

And then the waiting began.

Just when I thought it was never going to happen, I received a call that the chain was formed if I was still wanting to donate.

The day before surgery, I went in for my pre op. Nothing at this appt took me by surprise either.

I was pretty emotional at the end of the day, completely wiped out from the anticipation. I’d started the process over a year ago (interrupted by said surgeries). This was also a big deal for my hospital because it was the first paired exchange that they had done. I was so touched by the idea that other donors were going to donate to someone they didn’t know, and so so excited for the recipients, full of hope that the surgeries would go well and they could feel better and be healthier….it’s a wonder that I slept at all.

We were up bright and early, of course.

My pre op nurse “just happened” to also be a kidney donor so I got to grill her for a half hour about what to expect. It was wonderful.

It wasn’t long before I was out like a light, and with some sleepy med magic, awake again and down one kidney in a matter of seconds. : )

Surgery went very well, it was shorter than they expected (under 4 hours), and my kidney was already in the air before I was awake.

I was sore immediately, and I was asked to cough- OUCH. I had a catheter still in, and soon was flooded with meds to help dull the pain. I was snoozy for most of the day. When i woke up later I was hungry- not for water, which was the only thing I was cleared for. A beautiful nurse took mercy on me and let me eat. All in all I felt really good and happy about the fact that I’d finally gotten to donate.

The darling surgeon came in, saw how well I was doing and agreed to let me eat real food the next day. I also got the catheter taken out (day after surgery) and went for my first painful shuffle around the floor. Each time I had to pee, I tried to go for a walk. As much as it hurt, I knew I was just doing myself a favor by getting up and moving a bit. Peeing with only Righty wasn’t a problem at all.

My appetite would come and go but I did try to eat something real, again, just to help my body out.

I received word that my recipient was doing well, which sent me over the moon.

It would be a few days before all the surgeries in the chain were complete. In the end, all of us are doing very well! I’m 3 weeks and 1 day out. I’ve been back to work for a week, my incisions are healed up, and I feel awesome. I get tired by the end of the day, but I get stronger day by day also. If I never meet the recipient or anyone else in the chain, I would be okay- just knowing that there are other donors out there willing to do this makes me happy. I send everyone in the chain love every day. We made a little media splash since it was the hospital’s first, and that was fun. I have a DVD of the surgery (not all of it, and not graphic) which tickles me to no end, as well as the newpaper articles and web clips from the news. Something I did make a little blip on the radar! : ) And a bigger blip on the radar of someone who really needed a …blip!

Love Cures People.

Thanks for reading!


Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
John Wesley