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 and I figured since I wasn't working, I should make the most out of my time while searching and do things I never have time to accomplish while working. I immediately contacted Diane at The John Brockington Foundation to find out how and where do I begin? She 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!
For more information on these two organizations follow the links 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 those numbers are.
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 it turned out that 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. The following will take you to the Press Conference of the kidney pairing exchange.
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 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. It would be a lie to say that it wasn't uncomfortable but it was tolerable. I remember being very groggy and I looked a good friend of mine, Maria, and asked "did it work"? She laughed and said yes..you did it! 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. Hey this isn't so bad.
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. My eyes filled with tears and I am thankful to God to have this opportunity. Dr. Leventhal had introduced me as the altruistic domino that started it all. I had so many medical team members, family, donors, recipients come up to me afterwards. 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 kidney transplant 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. I just completed my one week check at Northwestern on May 3rd. When I walked into 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. I don't believe there is anything better that you can give..then life.
Posted by Cara at 3:47 AM 0 comments
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