Once I received final approval from Baylor to begin the testing phase of the process, the next step was to go in for some lab work. Luckily, this was done at a local LabCorp facility instead of at the hospital. I think my appointment broke the Guinness World Record for fastest lab appointment in the history of the universe.
The total time it took for me to park, sign in, have blood and urine tests completed and get back in my car was less than 7 minutes. I couldn't believe it.
There are 3 steps for being a compatible match for kidney donation. First one kidney texts the other kidney, "sup?" Then the two kidneys go on a group date at a noisy restaurant to see how they get along. Then one of the kidneys waits three days to contact the other kidney to set up another date. No wait, I don't think that's right....
I will attempt to summarize the actual steps of compatibility in my own language (technically still the English language) but if you are interested in learning more, there are tons and tons of articles about this on the world wide web. Try the website "Google" for further explanation.
The first hurdle of compatibility is blood type. Different blood types are (or are not) compatible with one another but since I have type O blood, I am a universal donor; score! Go team O! The next step in the matching process is tissue typing. This is the most confusing and complex part of compatibility. Basically they are looking at 6 antigens; a 6 out of 6 match is the best, then 5 out of 5 and so on. I definitely recommend reading a professional explanation of tissue typing (again, see "Google").
Once you have passed through these first two steps in compatibility, the last test is cross matching. This test is performed to identify the presence of antibodies that would cause damage to the kidney from the specific donor. They basically put the donor and the recipient's blood in the Hunger Games arena to see if they kill each other or get along like Katniss and Peeta.
The whole thing is very cool and very complex and I am really enjoying learning more and more as I go.
I decided almost immediately that I wanted to work with Baylor University Medical Center of Dallas for this process. Baylor is a great hospital and has performed over 3000 kidney transplants since 1985. I searched and searched and found an initial questionnaire that must be filled out to start the donation process. The questionnaire was fairly comprehensive and included subjects such as blood type, family medical history, surgical history, current medications and overall questions about your current health and lifestyle. Near the end there was an optional question asking, "what makes you want to donate your kidney?" I had to think about how best to respond to this as there are several reasons that I want to donate my kidney. Since there was a limit to the amount of characters you could type I decided to keep it short and sweet: I have two healthy kidneys and there are plenty of people with zero healthy kidneys and I'm happy to share.
I submitted my questionnaire and waited. After waiting a couple of days, and being the "go getter" that I am (aka impatient), I decided to call the transplant center to ask what I needed to do next. The delightful transplant coordinator informed me that she did in fact receive my questionnaire and that she would be sending me a document with instructions for me to read and sign.
An hour or so later I received a 28 page document. This document laid out in great detail the process for kidney donation. As an donor you are not allowed to receive any money or financial gain for your donation. As a donor you have your own social worker and other personnel dedicated specifically to you that have no interaction with the recipient. They are there to inform you of risks and other concerns. As a donor you have the option to back out at any time for any reason. As a donor you will be evaluated both physically and mentally to make 100% certain that you are a good candidate for donation and that your body can handle the surgery and recovery.
I signed and returned the document and waited for the next steps.
On April 29, 2015 I officially began the process of donating my kidney to a stranger. Ive been considering living organ donation for the past 7 years. In 2008 my father-in-law, David Lever, was in need of a kidney transplant. His siblings and children were the first to be tested as they were the most likely to be a match. I knew immediately that if no biological family members were a good match for David I would happily give my own kidney if given the opportunity. Turns out, David's brother was an ideal match and the two of them began the process of preparing for a kidney transplant.
Throughout the last 7 years, I have considered kidney donation off and on. During that time I gave birth to a little boy (now 5 and a half), changed careers and along with my husband moved from one house to another. Back in 2008, I did sign up to be a bone marrow donor in honor of David. I was happy to do it and whenever I switched addresses or jobs I was sure to update my information with Be The Match so that they would be able to find me if they needed me.
Fast forward to April of 2015. I received an envelope in the mail from Be The Match. I was secretly hoping this was correspondence informing me that my bone marrow would finally be needed. Then I realized that they would probably call or email me rather than sending me something in the mail. Turns out it was time to renew my commitment. On the same day, I saw a picture online of a truck. This particular truck, had a plea in big bold letters asking for a kidney donor for a child. It had information about blood type and a phone number for anyone interested in helping. This reignited my interest in living donation. After hours and hours and days and days of research I contacted a local hospital and began the process of moving forward as an altruistic kidney donor.
I hope to share my story here to inform others of the process. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.