Some things in life seem to pop up out of nowhere but just feel right, so you take action. That’s what happened to Bob (my husband) and I six months ago. I was presented with an opportunity to possibly donate one of my kidneys to a friend who is on dialysis.
I am currently being evaluated at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida to see if I am a living donor candidate. I am sharing my story and what I have learned in order to educate those who may be motivated to help those in desperate need of a kidney but don’t act out of fear or ignorance.
It has been quite an adventure so let’s start at the beginning. When Bob and I first learned that our friend Liz needed a kidney, we both immediately wanted to help. It just seemed the right thing to do, and frankly, that’s often the motivation for our actions. We have always been in businesses involved in helping people, and we try to live our lives according to that philosophy.
Anyway, when I had a lull in my business I went online to learn the basics of Living Kidney Donation at the Mayo Clinic. I learned it is a laparoscopic surgery (less invasive than traditional surgery) and people are often back to work after two weeks. Many were fully recovered within six to eight weeks.
That sounded reasonable. We decided together that I would be more likely to be chosen as a donor because of my age and Bob’s other health problems. In addition, I have a much more flexible work schedule.
I set about completing the online application. It took about 15 minutes.
The next day the Living Donor Coordinator called to answer any questions and tell me more about the process.
Our burning question was, “Will my life be cut short in any way by donating a kidney?” If so, the process for me would be over.
I love my life and want to be here for my family. She told me that although it is major surgery, which always involves risk, there is very little chance of my life being cut short. She assured me that the Mayo Clinic’s very extensive screening process would reveal if I had any significant health issues.
If any were discovered they would simply refuse to do the surgery.
She also pointed out that kidney donation is not a new or novel operation so she could confidently say that statistically, donors with one kidney live just as long as people with two.
I thought, “I can trade two months of my life so that someone can have the opportunity to get off of dialysis and hugely improve the quality of their life? It’s worth it! Sign me up!”
You may not believe this, but I am not someone who likes attention. You’ll never see me in a play or singing karaoke. I am, however, someone who likes to educate and advocate. That is why I am sharing my personal story. I’ve learned a lot of interesting and positive facts about kidney donation in the last six months and I want others to know about it too.
Kidneys are powerhouses that:
- Remove waste products and excess fluid from the body through the urine.
- Help maintain a stable balance of the body’s chemicals.
- Release hormones that control blood pressure.
- Produce an active form of vitamin D for strong bones.
- Control the production of red blood cells.
Unfortunately, I learned first-hand what happens when these miraculous organs stop functioning.
My first husband, James, had kidney failure. His subsequent symptoms were shocking and upsetting. He was anemic and had high blood pressure. Once he had to go to the hospital to have 30 pounds of excess fluid removed from his body. Ultimately, these problems significantly contributed to his premature death. James’ kidney failure was caused by uncontrolled diabetes. When kidneys fail, you have three choices: (1) dialysis; (2) transplant; or (3) death. James’ health problems helped inspire me to become a Certified Diabetes Educator and (perhaps) a kidney donor.
Kidney Donation Facts:
- Most people are born with 2 kidneys but only need 1 to live.
- Over 100,000 people are currently waiting for a kidney to be donated to them.
- Kidneys can be donated from deceased or living persons.
- The national average wait time for deceased donor kidney is 3-5 years.
- Living kidney donations are on the rise and have benefits to the recipient.
- Shorter wait time-once a donor is found, surgery can be scheduled within months
- Better kidney quality – the surgeries are done simultaneously with the new kidney going directly into the recipient limiting loss of blood to the organ.
In Part Two, I’ll share my experience while at Mayo Clinic for 4 days being evaluated.
In the meantime, prevent kidney disease by getting 2 simple tests done if you haven’t already done so. The tests indicate how well your kidneys are working.
Urine test—–UAC-Albumin Creatinine Ratio indicates the amount of protein, albumin, in your urine
Blood Test——GFR–Glomerular Filtration Rate indicates how well your kidneys are filtering
There are no signs or symptoms of kidney disease until it is in advanced stages.