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Chicago, Illinois, United States
Make Life Happen! Welcome to all of you who visit. If you are looking into becoming a Living Donor and would like a detailed idea of my journey..scroll down and begin with the older posts first. I welcome any questions or topics that you would like to know more about.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Living Kidney Donor

On April 26, 2010 I gained the title of Living Kidney Donor, without a doubt one of the most joyous titles I could have. I had wanted to donate a kidney since 2006 when I attended a Fund Raiser Dinner for the John Brockington Foundation in San Diego, California. I will never forgot that evening. During the fund raiser, a couple sitting just a few tables from us received a page...a donor had been found for their child. It sent chills up my spine. From that point on I made it my mission to donate a kidney.

I was laid off from my Director of Marketing position here in Chicago in 2009. I figured since I wasn't working, I should make the most of my time while searching and to do things I never have time to accomplish. I started by contacting The John Brockington Foundation to find out how and where do I begin? Diane Brockington was excited to hear about my mission and put me in contact with Harvey Mysel, founder of the Living Kidney Donor Network, located here in Chicago. That was the beginning!
If you would like to learn more about these two great organizations, please follow thelinks below:

On January 13, 2010 I had the pleasure of meeting Harvey face to face to discuss my desires of being an altruistic donor. After discussing the numerous ways to approach this, I decided I wanted to apply for donorship at Northwestern Hospital, where Harvey himself had a kidney transplant. I had already contacted Northwestern and had my paperwork completed for the application. I mailed it that very day. Four weeks later I got a phone call from the hospital to come in and start testing to see if I qualified health wise and emotionally to become a donor.
My initial tests were all fine and by mid February I was approved to move to the next phase which is an EKG and a CAT Scan of my kidneys, as well as interviews with their Social worker and members of the transplant team.

As an altruistic donor, it is imortant for any medical facility to feel confident that you want to become a donor for all the right reasons as well to have an understanding of what would motivate you to do so. They are concerned for your future well being and want to be sure that you have a clear understanding of any negatives as well as the positives. Although there are thousands of kidney donations a year, these donors are usually friends, family or have a connection with someone who is in need of a kidney. There are NOT that many altruistic donors. I have no accurate stats but I believe they are only in the low hundreds each year and my mind just couldn't accept just how low it was.

We can live a normal healthy life with one kidney, so why are more people not stepping forward to donate? It is clear that my mission is to do whatever I can to raise the awareness of of not only being a living kidney donor, but also an organ donor.

March 15, 2010 I received the official call from Northwestern that I had been approved to be a Kidney Donor. Wow...that was fast and it hit me that this would become real. I was incredibly excited. I asked when this would all happen and because I am O positive blood type and an altruistic donor, it would be the perfect opportunity for Northwestern to do a kideny pairing where more then one person would receive a kidney. Since O positive is a Universal Blood type we are able to donate to either O positive, A or B, where A can't give to B or B can't give to A. Little did I know that this would set off the largest kidney pairing in Northwestern Hospital's History. April 28, 2010

The first of April, 2010 I was asked to come in and do another blood draw to make sure that it matched my hopeful recipient. Good news, it did!

April 8, 2010 The surgery date had been set and not only set...but 8 people would receive a kidney from the exchange. This just totally blew me away. Little did I know, one person, just me, no one special, could change and make such an impact. Surgery was scheduled for April 26, 2010. I was nervous, excited, nervous, excited but definitely more excited.

I went in that morning around 5:30am, surgery at 7:30am and out of recovery at 2:00pm. My mind was racing with thoughts of I hope this all works, I hope the recipients do well and that the kidney is not rejected. I wanted a Starbucks coffee, but no can do...no food after 6pm the night before. You know how that works...when you CAN not eat..you want to and vice versa. Of course there was the typical one, please God, let me come out of this alive.

There are no words that can adequately describe this moment for me. With the exception of giving birth to my two Sons, this was definitely the 3rd best moment of my life. I wake up in my room, friends waiting and of course I am definitely sore. But not the kind of sore that is so bad that you can't function. I am advised by my nurse the sooner I get up and walk the quicker for the healing process to begin. With encouragement and watchful eyes as well as brutal teasing, my friends assist me in my first walk around the hospital floor. Ok..Im up....that was the hardest part....I start my shuffle down the hallway.

After two days, when most of us were going to be discharged, there is a Press Conference, including all of the donors and recipients. Wow this will be fun looking like I haven't showered in days (because I hadn't) and my hair looks like it's on a mission of it's own. I called Harvey Mysel to let him know about the Press Conference in hopes he can be there. I didn't know what to expect and having his support meant a great deal to me.
It was like a class reunion of the Kidney Squad. Just incredible. All 8 donors were doing great and all 8 recipients were doing great. Here I stand face to face with the man who received my kidney. His parents had flown in from Florida to be with him. Everyones eyes filled with tears and I am so thankful to God to have this opportunity. I had so many medical teams, family members, donors and recipients come up and hug me as Dr. Leventhal introduced me as the altruistic domino that started it all. I felt complete, utter calmness and joy that I could be part of such a wonderful moment and to give someone else the opportunity to have a life.

The waiting list for a new kidney on the average is 5 to 8 years. Being on dialysis more than 5 years is extremely difficult on the body and it's ability to function.
There are over 80,000 people on the waiting list for a kideny transplant.

I just completed my one week check at Northwestern on May 3rd. When I walked in to the Transplant unit, it was like old home week. All of us involved in the pairing were there and it was so great to see everyone looking good, feeling good and most importantly all healthy. All of the recipients numbers were excellent and when I asked my recipient about his progress, he said "Cara, no dialysis it's heaven and Dr. Baker said I had a beautiful kidney" I laughed and said yeah yeah I hear that all the time.

I will never have the financial means to help any organization where it would really make an impact. This was my way of giving and I know in my heart for me not only was it the best decision but a true blessing for me.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have about becoming a kideny donor. I promise you won't regret the decision. But it must be YOUR decision. Although I originally wanted to be anonymous after the press conference at Northwestern, I knew that in order for me to be an advocate of Living Kidney Donor ship, that would not be possible. I don't believe there is anything better that you can give..Make Life Happen!

WTTW Channel 11 Interview Link:

Eight receive kidney transplants in largest swap at Northwestern
April 28, 2010
BY MONIFA THOMAS Staff Reporter/mjthomas@suntimes.com
Eight people received kidney transplants from eight unrelated donors in the largest-ever kidney swap at
Northwestern Memorial Hospital, hospital officials said today.
The eight-way "domino paired kidney exchange," involving 16 patients from four states, is also believed to be
one of the largest of its kind in the country.
The surgeries took place over a three-day period last week and Monday.
All 16 patients, ranging in age from 26 to 67, are doing well, said Dr. Joseph Leventhal, one of six transplant
surgeons involved in the surgeries.
Eight living donors each gave up a kidney and eight people whose kidneys were failing got one. Northwestern's
transplant team looked for pairs where a kidney donor and their intended recipient were incompatible with each
other but matched another donor and recipient in the same situation.
The first "domino" was an altruistic donor who was willing to give blindly to a stranger. The woman did not want
to be named.
Northwestern wanted to make the most of her "remarkable" generosity by setting up a paired exchange,
Leventhal said.
Two Roman Catholic nuns who were a compatible donor-recipient match were also responsible for making such
a large exchange possible, because the nun who intended to donate was a universal blood donor, making her a
match for another person in the exchange.
Had these pieces not fallen into place, Maria Isho, of Chicago, might never have gotten a kidney after waiting
nine years. Isho had antibodies in her blood that made it especially difficult to find a compatible donor.
Isho received a kidney from Nicole Smith, of Yorkville, whose stepfather Walter Perez got a kidney from a
Georgia woman.
Also part of the exchange were a husband and wife from Champaign, a sister and brother from Chicago and
patients from Missouri and Texas.
"To think that a complete stranger stepped forward to initiate this chain is just remarkable," Isho said. "I never
lost faith, and I'm so grateful to have a second chance."
Smith said she "couldn't be happier" with the outcome, because she was able to help someone at the same time
her stepfather was helped.
Praising the Good Samaritan, Smith said, "I hope she's blessed for the rest of her life."
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WTTW Channel 11 Interview link:

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