About Me

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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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The healing process after donating a kidney

It has been six weeks since I donated a kidney. So many people have asked me to give my view of the healing process. I made sure before going into the hospital to do any errands since I knew I would not be driving when released from the hospital. And of course me being OCD I had to be sure I had exactly what I wanted. God forbid I ask someone to do a me a favor! I stocked up on any foods that I wanted for when I came home as well as magazines, books, anything I might enjoy while recuperating.

The first week was without a doubt the most difficult. For me, when I am not feeling that great, I prefer to just hang out in sweats and not have too many people hovering over me. It is also important to avoid people who may have colds or flu. Coughing or sneezing is not fun right after surgery. If you do need to cough or sneeze, holding a pillow over your tummy will help a great deal. I was instructed to not lift anything more than 10 pounds for the first couple of weeks which believe me...I had no desire to. Although I was hungry I found that I couldn't eat the usual portions I did prior to the surgery. I am sure part of this was from not eating that much in the hospital but I also believe that because there is so much CO2 pumped into you when you have the surgery, there is a bloating feeling and adding too much food at one time makes it more uncomfortable. A friend of mine who is in an incredible cook brought me my favorite...fresh home made soups. I did make sure to eat something every three to four hours.

Sleeping the first week was a bit of a challenge because I am a "tummy sleeper". There was NO way that I was going to lay on my stomach to sleep. I tried a bazillion different positions but I found that putting a pillow between my legs while lying on my side took pressure off of the incision. I more or less gently rolled out of bed as opposed to popping up like I normally would. You will of course receive pain medications when you leave the hospital and most likely a stool softener, as pain medication has a tendency to cause constipation. Honestly, having a bag of good old fashioned prunes is a major help in this area.

The second week was definitely much better. I had stopped using the pain medication which meant it was ok for me to drive. I have to tell you that driving is THE one thing that gave me the most discomfort. I did fine on short runs to the market, etc., but I made the mistake of thinking I could visit friends in the burbs that next week. NOT a good choice! I was literally stuck in the usual Chicago traffic on I88. Forty-five minutes passed and I think I managed to move about 8 miles. I felt incredibly nauseated and I was so uncomfortable around the lower incision, that I pulled off the interstate and went back home.

I think everyone has a good idea of what their own pain tolerance is. I have a fairly high tolerance and I am not one to use pain medications unless I'm really in agony. I'd rather know what's going on with my body in the healing process. By the time I got home I could not WAIT to take a half a pain pill. People who know me will tell you I avoid taking anything but this was misery. Now I do have a car that is sporty and low to the ground. I tried every possible seat adjustment button I could for the seat to no avail in being more comfortable.

I made sure to contact my transplant coordinator to make sure that this was normal and not an issue. One thing I can not stress enough is DO NOT hesitate to call the Transplant Unit, they are available 24 hours a day if you are having difficulty of any kind or have questions. As far as I am concerned, there are no stupid questions.

Now I know that the hospital says that most people can return to work after the first week. Obviously that doesn't hold true for someone who has a position that requires hard labor or lifting anything. But even if I had a desk job, I doubt seriously that I could have gone back after one week and have resumed a full time schedule. Again, everyone is different. I found that if I was confined for any length of time, sitting, driving, attending services that I simply could not do it without getting up and moving around.

I love to walk. So after the first week I started my daily walking routine. I generally walk three miles a day but I took it slow the first week and did one mile and gradually worked up to my usual three miles. I found that walking really helped me work out the "kinks" as well as help boost my energy level.

Remember...you just gave the most wonderful gift you could give...and you owe it to yourself to take care of you!

Link for the WTTW Channel 11 Interview:


Robyn Wheatley said...

Similar to Cara, I will be donating my kidney as part of a kidney chain swap on July 15 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I had the pleasure of meeting Cara earlier this week. We had a lovely conversation; it is clear she is passionate about live kidney donation all the while wanting to stress that her experience and thoughts are hers.

I will continue to turn to her for guidance and mentoring, and sharing in the excitement as I move toward my surgery date. She shared with me her donation process, including surgery and recovery. I am excited to be able to provide the gift of health and life to someone directly, and more than 1 indirectly as part of the entire chain!

Cara has made me realize how important it is to continue the advocacy long after the surgery is complete. I am so glad to have located Cara and gotten her perspective on her experience.

Anonymous said...

Hello Cara and All Living Kidney donors as well as others thinking about donating,

My name is Lea Hanan. It has been almost three weeks since I donated my kidney to my precious father We are both healing beautifully although our healing process is different from one another. So far we are thrilled at how his body accepted my kidney immediately.

I love reading about other's experiences and in fact i feel a magnetic force pulling me close to people like you. Now that the surgery is complete I still feel like I want to share my experiences and be a source of support for anyone that might like to learn about my experience of giving my father a kidney.

I am in complete awe of people who are choosing to donate to strangers. You will be blessed by the experience. I knew my father would die without a kidney and thankfully I passed all of the exams and moved forward with the donation with much excitement.

One of the hardest parts for me as a donor to someone that means the world to me, was hearing my father suffer at times in the adjacent hospital room. One of the biggest joys though of my life was this experience on so many levels.

If anyone wants support through their experience or if anyone simply wants to share and compare their story with mine, I welcome all emails.

God bless you all!!

Lea Hanan


Cara said...

Dear Lea,

You are one incredible woman. Thank you so much for your note and let me just say, your deep love and devotion to your Father says it all about your character and love for him.

Thank you also for leaving your contact information. I am sure that others who read this blog will love having the opportunity to communicate with you as well

I am a firm believer that those of us who are living kidney donors have a responsibility to mentor others through the process. We all see things in a different perspective and I encourage everyone considering being a living donor, to explore and have access to as many as possible who have been through this incredible journey.

Sending loving thoughts to you and your Father. I hope you will keep me posted with your progress!!!

Make Life Happen!


~DF~ said...

I donated a while back and have a blog here http://LivingKidneyDonation.co.uk which gives an in depth report of my recovery in the hospital as well as at home. As far as driving I was told that as long as I could do an emergency stop, turn round to aid reversing without undue pain then I could drive even if still on pain meds. Most of my pain was due to being overweight as the main incision was in the "tummy overhang" lol .. so when I walked gravity took over and pulled on the incision. I later would support myself and then had no pain. But to sum it all up, if I had another spare kidney to give away, I would do it without any hesitation at all.

God Bless

Bob said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Cara. I donated my kidney one week ago today and have been starting to get frustrated that I'm not yet able to get by without pain meds. Reading about your experience, I am hopeful that I am only a few days away from feeling better.

Cheryl said...

I have just found out lst nigh that my mother needs a kidney transplant and "have one of mine" just came out. I am hoping that the tests come out well so that I can be the donor. Thanks for all of your comments, the official sites tend to focus on the procedure and not how it all goes afterwards.

Cara said...


Thanks so much for your note. Even if you are not a direct match for your Mother, you can still donate in a pairing where someone else matches you and their donor matches your Mother. There are so many positive ways so don't give up hope and keep me posted on how things progress or if you have any questions!

R said...

Thank you for your article and all the comments that followed. I will be giving a kidney to my adopted father on December 21st. I am excited (I know nervousness will come on pre-op and surgery days). I have done my fair share of research on kidney transplants and have now turned my research to testimony's of the living donors. I can't wait to help my father and pray that his body will accept my kidney.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing ... I am donating a kidney soon (surgery is set for April 22) and I've been looking through the internet to find experience of "those who have gone before me" to give an idea of what to expect etc ... I appreciate this.

Anonymous said...

Hello all! I am also going through the process of possibly donating. As I am reading a lot I think the surgery could be comparable to a cesarean delivery. Have any of you done both and could compare the two? I am just curious.
Thank you very much!

Cara said...

Congratulations on your decision to donate! I had both of my Sons by cesarean section. Honestly I feel that the kidney donation was much easier than the C section was. Obviously there is pain, but if you can handle a cesarean you will do well thorugh the kidney donation.

Patricia Vela said...

Hi Cara I'm a living donor that will be donating a kidney to a dear friend I'm nervous and scared however I've been cleared for transplant I've been hearing alot of positive feedback one thing does your body go thru shock or have feelings like your kidney is gone

Cara said...


I honestly did not personally experience this at all. But every ones body is different. I did not feel any differently than I did prior to donating. I did experience some "phantom pains" where I kidney was but that ebbed in time and I haven't had them in years.

The most important thing is to be pro active for your own care. If something doesn't seem right, CALL your transplant coordinator or the transplant center until you have an answer/exam that puts your mind at rest. Congratulations on your incredible sefless act of donating. NOW it's time to take care of yourself. Don't hesitate to contact me via email :simmplycara@aol.com should you have any questions!!!
Kidney hugs,


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Cara and all others who have previously posted. Merry Christmas!!
I donated a kidney to my husband one week ago. We're both in healing mode but it has been the best Christmas ever just knowing that he'll be around for years to come and will be spared the dialysis process.
As far as my healing, I was surprised at the level of fatigue I initially experienced but find that my energy level is improving everyday. I compare it to having a baby, it takes alot out of you but with time you re-energize. I just do activities when I feel up to it and that seems to be working well.
My appetite is starting to return as well. I'm starting to crave my favorite foods though portions remain limited.
Pain was an issue the first few days but was well controlled with pain medications. I'm off the narcotics and being well maintained with tylenol. So far so good and I would do it again in a heart beat.