Sept. 22, 2013. A day I will never forget. The day the kidney adventure began.
After losing 40 pounds unintentionally and having extreme fatigue, I completed a physical exam and lab work. Three days later, I was relieved to be feeling better. Then, the phone rang.
My husband, Tom, handed me the phone, saying, “It’s Dr. Harrington.” I responded, “Oh, this is not good!” Indeed it was not! Dr. Harrington informed me that my blood work was extremely abnormal and I should proceed immediately to the emergency room. We completed more bloodwork and I will never forget the ER doctor waltzing in proclaiming, “So, I see we have acute renal failure!”
What a shock! Over and over, Tom and I said to each other, “This is so ridiculous! What in the world?!” In a moment, I went from being a lifelong healthy person to having a kidney biopsy, blood transfusion, placement of chest and stomach ports, initial dialysis treatments and regular blood draws. Thus began what I dubbed “the kidney adventure.”
On July 28, 2014, after approval as a transplant candidate, I posted this poem on my church Facebook page. (If you read it out loud, it’s more fun). 🙂
Are You the One?
In September of 2013, I began an adventure anew,
I found out some startling news that really made me feel blue.
My kidneys decided to totally flunk,
They’re pretty much now just useless junk,
Daily dialysis helps me survive,
But I really need a kidney transplant to thrive.
So, if you would like to slightly risk your life,
To give me a kidney, go under the knife.
And if you’ve been thinking you’re needing some pain,
And a few weeks of misery that is quite insane.
Then, you’re the one. Yes, this is the clincher…
You’re invited to join my kidney adventure!
As an intensive care trauma nurse, the subject of organ donation was a familiar one, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that it became real to me. Tori and I had just met at Vacation Bible School mid-July. A week later, Tori’s poem caught my attention because it was smart and witty and when it ended with a request for a kidney, I was shocked. Renal failure, dialysis, blood transfusions and multiple lab sticks—I was familiar with those nursing terms, but her having such a debilitating diagnosis as a mom of three young children humbled me. I messaged her and quickly contacted the Transplant Institute at Research Medical Center. I was told there were multiple people in the process, but I scheduled a lab draw anyway.
I always believed 100 percent that I would have a living donor. (Living donation kidneys usually work immediately and last longer than a deceased donor’s kidney). Lots of people love me, and I figured someone would step up. I didn’t expect it to be a brand new friend! I was so grateful for Sarah’s willingness to engage in this adventure with me. We anxiously awaited results of her lab draw.
Several weeks later, I got the call. I was a match! After a conversation with my amazing husband, Michael, we continued testing.
Some wondered, “Why in the world would you do something like this for someone you barely know?” I wanted to do something BIG for God, something that would be a testimony and witness of my faith. I feel like most people have a deep desire to know their life matters. People want to know that the accumulation of works and accomplishments in their lifetime will last and have an impact on the future. Donating a kidney was an amazing experience for me that was an extension of my life that I hope will have a lasting impact for years to come.
I was humbled, astounded and immensely thankful that Sarah was willing to endure poking, prodding and pain on my behalf. Not only that, but she did it happily and willingly. I posted a follow-up poem—“She’s the One!”—to inform people of the exciting news!
SHE’S THE ONE!
Time for an update to my previous rhyme,
Lots of things have happened over time.
Awesome people have been tested to see if they’re a match,
And one has been found that is quite a catch.
It’s a new friend I met at summer VBS,
When she heard about the need, she decided to say, “YES!”
And now she has passed every necessary test,
This lovely gal is truly one of God’s very best!
A person who’s caring, unselfish and kind,
Her obedience to God has brought us peace of mind.
Her sacrifice is certainly an answer to prayer,
And we are so thankful she has a kidney to spare!
On February 11, I will get this new body part,
And a new phase of my kidney adventure will start!
Your prayers, love and support continue to help us through,
And our theme song remains, “Lord, I believe in you!”
It was a process of several months before we finally had a transplant date on the calendar and began counting down the days.
Feb. 11, 2015, the big day arrived. We had completed the final cross-match at Midwest Transplant Network and pre-op testing at Research Medical Center and were ready to go. I was nervous, but my faith in Christ, the support of my incredible husband and three daughters and the prayers of so many helped me to have a sense of peace.
The transplant went off without a hitch. My new kidney was pretty and pink, according to transplant surgeon, Dr. Murrillo, and began working immediately. It was truly a miracle.
After four days of post-transplant pain and recovery, Sarah was discharged on Valentine’s Day, which also happened to be National Donor Day. I went home the following day.
Throughout the process, I had people ask me, “Do you ever wish you had never started this?!” I could honestly tell them, “No.” As a mother who spends the week at home with young children, I struggle with moments of doubt as I occasionally wonder how my plans of travel nursing and an advanced degree turned into diaper duty and full-time pacifier wrangling. Donating my kidney to Tori gave me a passion and renewed purpose. It was an incredible opportunity to become a part of something bigger than myself. This has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and it reminds me that there are numerous opportunities that have the power to change the course of life or perhaps the life of another.
What a life-changing experience! God was so close to us throughout this journey. We are so appreciative of the donations, prayers, meals, gifts, cards and wonderful care at Lenexa DaVita Dialysis Center and Research Medical Center. Since the transplant, I have had the privilege of speaking several times to share my story, expressing appreciation to donors and encouraging organ donation. (Sometimes Sarah and I present our story together and it is so special!). My family and I are forever grateful for Sarah’s sacrificial gift, which inspires me to make the most of each day and to constantly look for opportunities to be a blessing to others. Every day, I want to choose well.
Feb. 11, 2015: Another day I will never forget. The day a new friend gave me new life.
YOU, TOO, CAN BE AN ORGAN DONOR! YOU CAN SAVE A LIFE! So many people are waiting; many are dying before they are able to receive a transplant. The most common donations are a kidney or part of a liver, but you also can give a lung or part of a lung and/or part of the pancreas or intestines. To be a living donor for a relative, friend or even a stranger, if you are in the KC/MO area, contact Midwest Transplant Network. http://www.mwtn.org. For information about other states, contact http://www.organdonor.org.
You also can bless others with your organs when you no longer need them. Visit OrganDonor.gov to sign up! Also, let your family know your intentions. Your organ donation can help save the lives of up to eight people. One tissue donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people. One cornea donor will give people the gift of sight. In theory, if you are an organ, eye and tissue donor, you can help save and heal the lives of more than 60 people!!