Well, it took a year, but on July 17th I gave my spare kidney to my friend, Marie. I had hoped and planned on blogging more about the journey to kidney donation, but honestly, there wasn’t much to tell after the initial testing phase was over. When her doctors found out she had a donor, they anticipated a November transplant date. Marie was already on a leave of absence from work, too sick to continue teaching every day, and with her particular disease, kidney function gets progressively worse, so there wasn’t much reason to think otherwise.
In October I went to Emory Hospital for a barrage of tests to make sure I was healthy enough for major surgery. Everything came back clear and the next step was waiting on the transplant to team to tell us the date. In the meantime, my mom made Marie and I quilts to snuggle under during our recovery. She surprised me with mine one day and said, “Here. Now the two of you will have matching quilts AND matching kidneys.”
As November approached I got an interesting phone call one day. Marie called to tell me her numbers had improved. I really didn’t know what her “numbers” meant or what they were supposed to be, but apparently this was a good thing because they were letting her go back to work after Christmas break. She had a port in her arm, ready to administer live saving dialysis should things take a sudden turn for the worst, but they were hopeful that she could finish out the school year and they wanted to put off the actual transplant until it became absolutely necessary.
So we went through all the major holidays, including Easter, without hearing anything. It was the end of May and school had just ended for us. We were on vacation in Orlando when Marie called me: “My numbers are dropping quickly. If you are still willing to do this, an Emory nurse will call you to schedule our surgery in a couple weeks.”
Of course I was still willing! After speaking to the nurse, who had to schedule a few pre-op appointments for both of us before the actual surgery date, it was set for July 17th.
I think it’s pretty cool that for the next 6 weeks I felt complete peace about giving away my kidney. We had tons of people praying for us, so I knew God was in control, but for someone who hadn’t had surgery since I was 4, I expected to get nervous. I expected to have second thoughts. I expected to question everything I was doing. But those thoughts never came.
God is good and He is faithful when we are obedient. I woke up the morning of surgery completely certain that everything would be fine. I had a great support group at the hospital with me: Jeremy, my parents, his parents, and my best friend, Amy. Marie was there with her friends and family and we all hugged and supported one another.
It wasn’t long before I was headed back to the operating room. I remember asking “is this where the surgery takes place?”, and then I was out. Next thing I knew they were waking me up, which wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. The worst part was them moving me from the operating room table to my hospital bed. OH MY GOSH!!!! That HURT!!! WHOA!!!!
The next 2 days were full of drugs and nurses. They kept me very comfortable. Jeremy encouraged me often to get up and walk. This was not an easy task and the first time I tried, it took a good 30 minutes for me to prop myself up and hang my feet over the bed! Most of the surgery was done laparoscopically, but to get the kidney out, the surgeon made an incision in my abdomen large enough for his fist to reach in and pull it out. Luckily, he was a small Asian man, but still, cutting through all that muscle made it nearly impossible for me to sit up by myself.
On my first walk I found Marie’s room. She was still hooked up to a lot of machines, but the kidney was producing regular output and they said she was doing wonderfully. Savannah had given my mom an idea about making me a super hero cape and the next day, when the kids got to visit, they brought it to me and put it around my shoulders. I didn’t feel like a hero, but everyone kept insisting that I was.
The healing process has taken a good bit of time. Today I am 9 weeks post op and am finally able to wear shorts that I haven’t had on since before the surgery. The swelling also made it impossible to bend over and tie my shoes! It’s funny, because those were things I never even considered! LOL… But those things were minor and nothing compared to the initial healing. I won’t lie. It was a hard week with some intense moments. But even in the most pain, I never wished I hadn’t done it. I’ve never had any regrets. I’m proud of my scars and would encourage others to consider giving the gift of life to someone else.