Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Kidney Donation Journey Part I

I am in the process of donating one of my kidneys.  There are several questions that I get asked often about the process and what lead to this point.

A year ago, donating a kidney had never entered my mind. I have never even donated blood, although I have intended to since I turned 30 four years ago, and will be certain to once the donor process is over. (Meaning once I am healed from surgery)

A couple of months ago, back in December 2014, a wonderful friend of mine, Neely, reposted onto Facebook a post from someone's PKD Awareness page. The page belongs to a wonderful woman named Laure who has PKD- Polycystic Kidney Disease. There is no cure or treatment for PKD, the options are Dialysis, or the best option, if one is lucky enough to find a matching donor is to undergo a kidney transplant. If you would like to learn more about PKD, I encourage you to do your own research on PKD, as one should do with anything.  Laure was in need of a match to donate a kidney and this has to be someone who has Type O blood.  I read her post just clicked. I am Type O positive. I am young(ish) I am healthy, I am  happy. This felt right, instantly. It was as though everything aligned, her Guardian Angel was watching out for her, and mine tapped me on the shoulder. There was no hesitation for me, and I understand and accept with love that this is not the case for everyone. I get a little bit misty eyed as I type this. 

I immedietly went and wrote a message to Laure introducing myself, saying that I lived in Naperville, Illinois, and where did she live, and that I am Type O and would love to get tested to see if I am a match. Turns out Laure lives in New York! Well how about that. :) This led to us talking on the phone(the first of many, many times) and exchanging several beautiful emails. 

Okay. So if you decide that you want to be tested to be a match, and become a living donor, things are not just that easy, but I promise, it's not a difficult journey at all! ;) You have to speak with the Transplant Coordinator at whichever hospital your potential future recipient is going through, and then you have to fill out some paperwork. For me, since I am not on the East Coast, I had to have my paperwork faxed in. It's a very basic medical questionnaire, nothing complex. Once my paperwork was sent in, I had to be approved to be tested. First stage of pins and needles as I waited a couple of days for an answer!

And, I got approved! That was great news for us. Next step, a beautiful kit of labels and vials was sent to me via Federal Express, and I went to my local lab to have blood drawn. The draw is for blood typing, and the cross match. Both determine whether or not one can proceed. 

This is where things get serious. It takes about 10 business days to get results. That is going to be hard for anyone, and on either end. To give someone hope that you are going to get tested and may possibly be a match, and then to have to wait hour by hour, day by day is not fun.

Mind you, this is December. The way it was timed, there was a possibility that I could get results on Christmas Eve. Laure's Birthday is the day after Christmas. I really, really wanted those results. I wanted to give her the best Birthday ever, the best year ever. Not that wishes and dreams can guarantee a match, but boy did I pray.

A few days after Christmas, I had the pleasure of hearing on the phone that YES! I AM A MATCH WITH LAURE! That feeling. The tears of joy. And the best part....getting to call Laure and tell her.

I have to take a few steps back here and explain that during this process, I had the support of my amazing family and friends, and most especially my fiance Kevin, and my sister Andrea. I really can not imagine what it is like to live with someone like me, and I have to give Kevin a lot of credit. He never really knows what he is going to get with me(in a good way, I promise!) and it takes a good, strong man to be 100% okay with a fiancee who just wakes up one day, looks on facebook and then says "I am going to be tested to donate one of my kidneys. I need to do this." I am sure that being my sister(any one of my sisters!) is just as um....interesting.

From that point, I got assigned my Nurse Coordinator over at New York Presbyterian, and she has been completely wonderful. (As is the Transplant Coordinator). Your Nurse will go over a detailed list of questions with you, some of them are very personal, but it is necessary. It is basically another step along the way where you can be approved, or denied to go any further. I got approval.

Which led to.....another scheduled lab test! Yay! ;) It was fasting blood work this time for a health screening, to see if anything comes up that would prevent me from being an ideal donor/surgical candidate. So, yes. More hand wringing, more pacing, more waiting because the hope that comes could be taken away. I write this to reflect on not just the trivial things the donor goes through, but pause for a moment and think about what it is like to be the person waiting on a transplant. How hard it is to even get someone to be willing to be tested for you, if heaven forbid the wonderful family members that you have are not a match. (and some people truly have no family members to do that for them) That once you have someone willing to be tested, there are several steps along the way that can make it not come to fruition. 

My labs came back with beautiful, healthy results. Once that part was over, we now got to schedule my first trip to New York, to take place in February, where I would not only meet my Nurse, Nephrologist, go through lots more testing, but I would finally get to meet and give a big hug to Laure! I think that both of us were just even so happy and excited about that part.

Details aside, the process to this point has been very easy and very rewarding. I get a lot of "Oh, I could never do that..." but here is the thing, I think a lot of you could! It's the not understanding the process of the before, during, and afterwards, the mystery, that seems daunting.