Last Friday I was informed that my kidney is being relocated to Nebraska! They found a match! As of right now I know it is a male and he lives in Nebraska. That's all I know about the recipient. I was so incredibly excited when I found out. I am still blown away at the entire process and how they can do some tests on a person in Texas and bleep, blop, bloop, enter some info into a computer and BAM! matching kidney. So, so cool.
I am in a paired kidney donation program which I have put off writing about just because it is kind of hard to explain but I will attempt to do so because it is the best part. If my explanation doesn't make sense you can do your own research on the internet. Again, I recommend the website "Google"
Here we go...
Let's say Bob needs a new kidney and his wife Bobbette wants to donate hers. Well, turns out Bobbette isn't a good match for Bob but she says, "as long as Bob gets a kidney, I will donate MY kidney to someone else."
Now we have Mark. Mark needs a kidney and his sister Martha wants to donate hers but it turns out Martha isn't a good match for Mark but says, "as long as Mark gets a kidney, I will donate MY kidney to someone else."
So, I, Karen could give my kidney to Bob; Bobbette could give her kidney to Mark; Martha could then give her kidney to someone else who needs one and so on and so on. (Assuming all of those pairs are matches for one another) It allows people who have a willing friend or family member that are unable to donate to their own person to be paired with someone else. These paired kidney chains could involve only a couple of links or a whole bunch of links (I read about one chain that was 60 people long! Incredible.)
Being an altruistic donor means I get to be the first link in the chain setting off a literal chain reaction! My kidney will go to Nebraska where they will transplant it into the recipient. Then his friend or family member will have surgery to remove their kidney and send it to the next link in the chain and so on. Yay science! Yay coordination! Yay computers!
This morning I went to the hospital to have my cross matching blood work done. They'll send my blood to Omaha and assuming all of the other links in the chain have favorable cross matching results we'll start planning for surgery.
Friday June 19th was the day of the Transplant Committee meeting. I asked the donor coordinator how many of the cases that made it to the committee meeting were approved for surgery. She said only about 50%. If they didn't approve me it would be because they thought it would be dangerous for me to go through surgery, not because I had said or done something wrong. Still...I was worried. I wanted to give this piece of me to someone in need. I had already been praying for this person somewhere out there that was waiting for a new kidney. I wanted the committee to say yes but was worried they would say no.
I stayed pretty busy that Friday morning. My son and I went to see the movie "Inside Out" with some friends from church. I thought the movie would be a good distraction but I still found myself checking my phone every 10 minutes or so to see if I had missed a call.
After the movie I continued checking my phone. I think I wore myself out with worry and ended up taking a nap. I woke up when my phone buzzed. I jumped out of bed to see if it was a call from the transplant center but it turned out to be a text from a friend seeing if I had heard anything yet. Just out of habit I checked my email and found that I had received an email almost 2 hours earlier from the donor coordinator.
The committee approved me. I am approved for surgery.
Thanks be to God.
After calls to my husband and parents and a few friends, I responded to the email with what has become my standard question: "Great! So what's next?"
The next step was to find a match for my kidney. I continued my prayers for this unknown person and hoped that the match would be found quickly.
I knew going into this process that one big step was a battery of tests to make sure I would be an ideal donor candidate. I remember when my uncle-in-law (is that a thing?) went through this process in 2007 and also remember how worn out he was at the end of the day. My day of testing was scheduled for Monday, June 15. I received a schedule as well as several documents explaining where to go and what to expect. My first appointment at 7:30am and my final appointment was scheduled for 4:00pm with 8 additional appointments in between. It was going to be a long day.
Appointment #1: Nurse Interview - After successfully locating the correct parking garage and building, I was right on time for my first appointment. I met with the intake nurse who basically just wanted another run down of my current medications. This kinda felt like an actual interview and I was worrying way too much about answering correctly. For example, Nurse: "You said you take Tylenol. How much Tylenol do you take?" Me: "Uhhhh, maybe like 4 pills a month if I get a headache? Umm, or sometimes, maybe more like 6 pills a month?" Then I'm questioning myself about whether that's too much Tylenol and wondering if they are just going to tell me to go home because I am a terrible donor because of my 6 pill a month Tylenol habit. Thankfully, they let me continue on to the next appointment.
Appointment #2 and #3: Lab Work and Kidney Donor Coordinator Consult - In the lab I turned in my 24 hour urine collection jar. I was happy to do so since it was pretty awkward carrying around a 2-liter jar of my own pee. Then they took 13, yes, 13 vials of blood and did another urine sample. Fun fact: The phlebotomist (who was amazing by the way) told me she's really not a fan of needles. I thought that was funny.
The Donor Coordinator is about the nicest person I have ever met. She met with me briefly to see if I had any questions yet and to explain a few things about the day and what I could expect.
Appointment #4: Kidney Donor Nephrology Consult - I sat in an exam room and met with the kidney doctor. He explained what a kidney does, why it's important, how it develops, where it's located in the body and all kinds of helpful stuff like that. He also gave me some great statistics about life after kidney donation. I had a couple of questions and then he did a physical exam. He listened to my heart and lungs, looked in my eyes and mouth, asked me to push his hands and then pull his hands and other doctor-y type things. At this point I was again nervous that I would fail his tests and they would ask me to leave. One of the tests was to stand with my feet together and my arms stretched out to either side and close my eyes. I still don't know if I performed well or poorly on that one since I'm not really sure what was supposed to happen.
Appointment #5: Social Worker Consult - They wanted to make sure I wasn't crazy and that I had someone to help me after surgery. Check and check.
Appointment #6: EKG - This took about 2 minutes. They got the results immediately and said they looked great.
Appointment #7 and #8: Kidney Donor Education Class and Kidney Donor Advocate Consult- The students in the class were me and one other dude. I got to the classroom first and when this guy showed up he sat on the complete opposite side of the room. The Donor Coordinator went over tons of great information. At one point she was talking about "pooping and pooting" and she said "pooping and pooting" about 6 times in a row. I thought it was hilarious but my fellow classmate looked quiet uncomfortable. The class also included a 30 minute informational video but it just so happened that I had already found that particular video on the internet and watched it twice so she said I could just go to the next appointment instead. Boom! I met with the donor advocate and asked more questions and got more answers.
Appointment #9: Kidney Donor Transplant Surgeon Consult - This was the actual surgeon. He reminded me of the possible risks associated with surgery and then explained how exactly they would remove my kidney. Then he performed another physical exam and sent me on my way to me final stop for the day.
Appointment #10: CT Angiogram and Chest X-Ray - The CT Angiogram was the only appointment that I was a wee bit apprehensive to do. This is the test where they inject the dye into you so that they can see how your kidneys are "wired" basically. It didn't hurt, but when they injected the dye I immediately feel simultaneously hot and like I had peed in my pants. Glad they warned me that that would happen. Chest X-ray was easy peasy and quick and I was done for the day!
Whew, if that sounds like a lot that's because it was a lot. All of my results would be taken to the transplant committee 5 days later. They would discuss everything and decide if I was a good candidate for donation. I left tired but hopeful that I would be approved.
The weekend before my full day of tests at the hospital, I had to complete a 24-hour urine collection. The hospital sent me a lovely orange 2 liter jar in the mail along with some detailed instructions.
The 24-hour urine collection is exactly what it sounds like. My 5 year old son thought the whole thing was quite funny.