- 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.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
As an altruistic living kidney donor, there is one thing other than my donation that brings me incredible joy...that is to mentor other individuals who are thinking about
becoming a living donor. I feel blessed to have met so many incredible people while mentoring. It's as if I have a "kidney community" of wonderful friends. I hope all of you will take the time to read Brenda's journey...as she too would like to become a mentor and advocate to others who would like the benefit of communicating with others who have been through the process.
I read the newspaper every day...my journey began this past Summer when I came across an article about a man who lost his 16 year old daughter in a tragic car accident. His daughter was an organ donor and he was very inspired when he learned that her heart valves saved another person's life. In her memory, he became an advocate to encourage people to become organ donors. Early on he learned of the need and the opportunity to be a living kidney donor...and he did just this...which is what the article was about.
I too had made the decision to donate my organs upon my death. But before reading the article this past Summer, I had no idea that it was possible to be a living kidney donor. I had no idea how many people were on the waiting list for a kidney, 87,000 and continues to rise. Over 5,000 people a year die while waiting for a kidney. I did not realize that an individual can lead a normal life with one kidney. In fact 1 in 700 are born with one kidney and lead a perfectly normal life. Furthermore, I was encouraged to hear that the donor's surgery is laparoscopic which is far less invasive then traditional surgery...so this means a much shorter recovery time. Although there is a risk in any surgery, being a living kidney donor overall is very safe.
I am a Christian and therefore I seek out God's wisdom through prayer before making any major decisions. Before I even finished reading the newspaper article, I felt God prompting me to consider being a living kidney donor. I imagined what it would be like for one of my family members whose kidneys were failing and in need of a kidney transplant...knowing that his/her life would be greatly compromised and significantly shortened. Undoubtedly, a few of my family members would step up to donate...but...what if we learned that none of us were a match? This happens approximately 30% of the time. Being a family member doesn't automatically mean you are a match to another family member. We would be disheartened and feel that hope was lost. The average waiting list for a deceased donor kidney is approximately five years. But then imagine being told that there is an option called a kidney pairing! A kidney pairing can be done if you are not a match for a specific recipient and the same situation exists for another donor and recipient but you match the others recipient. Hope is given back!
My decision to be an altruistic donor came after praying to God for guidance, talking with my husband Mike and my sister Stacey. Putting myself in "someone elses shoes", and reflecting on the forty-three years of good health that God has blessed me with...for me it was a fairly easy decision.
In the subsequent weeks I did further research on the internet on the topic of being a living kidney donor. This research included reading about the experiences of two recent altruistic donors, Cara Yesawich and Angela Stimpson (oksolo.blogspot.com). I found their blog sites to be very informative and inspiring. Another valuable site with a wealth of information is The Living Kidney Donors Network (lkdn.org). Harvey Mysel started the Living Kidney Donors Network and is a recipient from a living donor as well. His site is dedicated to those who need a kidney as well as those who are interested in being a living kidney donor. I printed several articles from this site for my family members to read so they could fully understand the process and minimal risks.
A very valuable resource of information and support to me during my journey of becoming an altruistic donor, was the mentoring I received from Cara Yesawich. Cara is the altruistic donor domino that allowed 8 people to receive a kidney in Northwestern Hospital's largest kidney pairing in April of 2010. She is passionate about being a mentor for others who are on this journey and came to the hospital to offer her support immediately following my surgery..what a blessing she was to me! For anyone considering becoming a living donor, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the "gift" of having a mentor. I welcome the opportunity to share my experience with anyone. My email contact is firstname.lastname@example.org
My surgery was on December 30th and because I am an altruistic donor, 3 people were able to receive a kidney in a pairing at Northwestern Hospital. I experienced moderate pain the first several days and slept a lot. After a week I turned the corner and was able to return to work half days (my energy was still not at 100%)I was back to work full time by the third week and am now about four weeks out from surgery and back to normal.
I plan on starting to run again in a week or two and am registered to run another marathon in September.
I received a beautiful card from the family of the gentleman who received my kidney in the kidney pairing..part of it reads:
It is impossible to thank someone for a gift such as you have given to us.
Dialysis allowed my Dad to live, but your gift of a kidney has given him a
renewed quality of life worth living, and for that, we are eternally grateful.
The sacrifice that I made in donating one of my kidneys was minimal compared to the gift of giving an improved quality of life, which I was able to give someone else.
The Living Kidney Donors Network - lkdn.org
Angela Stimpson, Altruistic Donor - oksolo.blogspot.com
Kidney Mama, Nancy Murrell - kidneymama.com
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I wish all of you a joyous New Year filled with hope and love. On December 30, 2010 I had the pleasure of visiting "Brenda" at Northwestern Hospital who is an altruisitc donor like myself. Brenda is my eleventh "kidney sister/brother" I have had the pleasure getting to know. Brenda had contacted me to gain insight directly from someone who had been through the process and we spoke for almost two hours during one of her visits for testing at Northwestern Hospital before her procedure.
Because of Brenda's altruistic donation, three people received a kidney! I am convinced that there are many out there that would like the opportunity to contact others who have been through the surgery to ease their minds and answer the questions we always seem to forget to ask. For those of you new to my blog and would like the history of my journey donating a kidney, please be sure to go back to the older posts to read the experience from the beginning. It will help answer questions you may have.
That is one of the reasons I like to not only speak with people myself, but refer them to others that I know who have been through the process as well such as Angela Stimpson who has a blog called oksolo.blogspot.com as well as Harvey Mysel, founder of The Living Kidney Donors Network, lkdn.org Brenda will be putting together her story for me and I will share that with you all on the next posting.
My surgery was on April 26, 2010 at Northwestern. I was the altruistic donor/domino that allowed eight people to recieve a kidney. Since then it has been my mission to serve as an advocate to other donors as well as to The Living Kidney Donors Network.
I received the Circle of Honor Award at the John Brockington 9th Annual Pro Athletes for Life Gala in October 2010, appeared with Harvey Mysel of the Living Kidney Donors Network on WTTW Channel 11 here in Chicago, have attended several fundraisers for kidney donor awareness and I am sitll amazed at how many people are totally confused about the Living Donor process and how it works.
Just to add a little humor here, I literally had a woman who heard that I was the domino for eight people to get a kidney and she came up to me to congratulate me and dead seriously asked, did they cut your kidney up into eight pieces? I had that deer looking into headlights look and certainly didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable. So I explained how the kidney pairing works. This posting I want to clarify what the difference is between a designated donor and an altruistic donor.
A designated donor is someone who has a loved one, friend, or someone that they know, who needs a kidney and are willing to donate one of their kidneys on their behalf. Now, understand just because you are a family member or friend, you are not always a perfect match for the person needing a kidney. BUT, the good news is, that doesn't stop them from getting a kidney. You will go through testing to determine if you are an appropriate match for your recipient. If you are not, then you should discuss being part of a kidney pairing, where your kidney would go to someone else who is a match and that persons designated donors kidney would go to the recipient that you know.
An altruistic donor, is someone like myself and many others, who would like to donate a kideny but does not have someone to donate to. It is something I wanted to do to give someone else an opportunity for a better life and avoid diaylsis.
With an altrusitc donor, sometimes hospitals can use the altrustic donor as the "domino" for a kidney pairing. Sometimes its two people sometimes its six and in my case, eight people (16 people total involved in the pairing) received a kidney.
The fact the someone donates a kidney, a gift of life, is a blessing beyond words for the recipient.
There are no stupid questions. When you or someone you love is suffering from kidney failure, don't hesitate to research and contact as many people as you can. The Living Kidney Donors Network, lkdn.org is dedicated in explaining all options for the recipient as well as the donor. One of the new programs that The Living Kidney Donors Network is offering is a beautiful starfish to thank those of you who have received a kidney and would like a special way to thank your donor.
One of the most common things I hear from people who I have mentored is "I can't believe more people aren't doing this". Well as with anything, not everyone is alike but for those of you who have, or are going to donate I can assure you that it is a decision you will not only never forget...but never regret.
It's one thing to drive a new mercedes up to someones door and say surprise!!! But when you give someone the gift of life...how do you possibly top that? I consider it a true honor to be a living kidney donor.