It was a Thursday exactly eleven years ago on this date February 24th 2011. It was 3:00 AM. My husband and I were about four hours from home in a hotel room in Downtown Nashville, TN. We had been awake most of the night. Several of our family members were staying in nearby rooms. At 5:00 AM we would all drive the short distance to Vanderbilt Medical Center and check in for surgery. My husband Mark was getting a new kidney and I would be the donor.
My husband discovered he needed a kidney in the summer of 2010. He didn’t even know he was in kidney failure. A routine blood work-up revealed that he had a really high creatinine level. Many many more tests were done that summer into the fall and in October of 2010 he was put on the donor list to receive a new kidney. His doctors told us he could possibly be on the waiting list for several years and that we should look for a living donor.
Fortunately he did not have to wait long. I knew that we were the same blood type and I wanted to be tested to see if I might be a match. The doctors told us not to be too hopeful because the chances would only be about 15% that I would be a match. One test after another was given to me and I kept being compatible. The doctors decided not to test anyone else until I was ruled out as a donor match. We had to go through counseling and lots of the same tests but with different doctors. Each doctor had to make a separate ruling on whether I would be eligible. Then when that decision was made by the individual doctors the results went before an entire panel of doctors at Vanderbilt.
My tests were finished in December of 2010. Mark did not have to spend one minute on dialysis and for this we are so very grateful. But we knew dialysis could happen if he got the flu or pneumonia or anything that could compromise his health and cause his kidney function to decline rapidly.
So we waited and waited for the results. It seemed like forever but it wasn’t only a few weeks. In mid January of 2011 we got the answer we had prayed for, I was a match!!!I would be the donor!!! The surgery was scheduled for February 24th 2011. We had a lot of work to do before that day. We made arrangements to take time off from work. I would need to be out two to four weeks and Mark probably six weeks. We made arrangements to board our baby Patches our basset hound. We had to get a living will and a medical power of attorney. Normally I would have been Mark’s medical power of attorney, to make a medical decision about him if needed, and he would have been mine. But because we would both be having surgery at the same time we had to pick someone else. We chose my sister Sandy who was with us through the entire adventure.
At 7:00 AM on the morning of the surgery date I was taken down first to the operating room and my kidney was prepared for the removal. We could each have one person with us. I chose my sister Sandy and Mark picked his dad. His dad was a Korean War Veteran and one of the strongest men I have ever seen but when he came to wish me good luck, just before the surgery, there were tears in his eyes. At approximately 9:00 AM Mark was brought down to an adjoining room beside me and he was prepped for his surgery. They took the kidney from me, walked through the adjoining room and placed it into Mark’s abdomen. I guess if this had been Grey’s Anatomy this is where they would have dropped it HA!!!! I was really surprised that it was put in the abdomen but that is much simpler than putting it back in the original spot. So technically Mark had three kidneys for a short while. The other two have long quit working.
My surgery was done laparoscopically so my recovery time was very short. Mark’s recovery took a little longer. We spent three days in the hospital and left on Sunday. Since we had doctor visits three times a week to keep a check on the kidney we had to stay at the hotel in Nashville to be close to the hospital. If we had had the transplant closer to home we could have stayed at home and gone to the doctor visits from home. My two sisters, Sandy and Pat stayed there with us at the hospital for almost two weeks. We had adjoining rooms. They took care of us, took us to our appointments, did our laundry and brought us take out. They were and still are angels and we will never ever forget them for the time they took out of their lives and their other family members to be with us.
We don’t have children so we named the kidney Baby Kay. We celebrate every year and this year Baby Kay is eleven years old. Mark takes anti rejection meds every day and will for his entire life. He has done great. He works full time, works out and we travel with no problems. He sees his doctor three times a year. I am on no meds and I sometimes forget I only have one kidney. I can’t tell the difference. Of course Covid scared the crap out of us because it is so much harder for Mark to fight off any disease because of all the immunosuppressants that he takes. So far we have been very fortunate. Mark did have a scary bout with the shingles virus a couple of years ago and had to be out in the hospital for a few days. But other than that it has been uneventful.
There are 93,000 people on the kidney transplant list. Over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month.
13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
Every 14 minutes someone is added to the kidney transplant list.
The average wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant is 3.6 years and can vary depending on health, compatibility and availability of organs.
Mark and I have been truly blessed with the path his transplant took. But there are so many many people needing a kidney to live. If you are ever faced with the decision to donate for someone I would encourage you to really consider it. At the very least I would encourage you to sign your driver’s license and discuss it with your family if you choose to be a donor. I would be happy to share more of our experience with you.
So Happy Birthday to Baby Kay. And many many many more. Giving my kidney to my husband is the best thing I have ever done. I would do it a million times again if I could.
Love your day your way!!!!