In the summer of 2012, my cousin Kim posted on Facebook that a friend of hers, Ace, needed a kidney transplant from someone with type O blood and she wasn’t eligible. I knew a little about kidney disease. My Grandpa Bud was on dialysis for the last couple of years of his life, so I’ve seen how dangerous it is and what a pain it is (literally and figuratively). I think because of my grandpa’s age and other medical conditions, donating to him wasn’t an option. I knew living kidney donation existed, but I guess I didn’t seriously consider it until someone asked me to. I felt like I was a good candidate for it because I was healthy, had insurance, and would be able to take short-term disability and use the Family and Medical Leave Act to take off work.
Ace wanted to receive his transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota because of his previous positive experience there, so I worked with the Mayo Clinic to try to get approved. It took a while because I lived in Texas at the time and had to fly to Minnesota for testing and then do more testing at home, and Ace kept having health setbacks, but I was eventually approved to donate, and he was approved to receive a transplant. However, a “cross-match” test on our blood did not go well, so I couldn’t donate to him. He, fortunately, ended up receiving a kidney from a deceased donor.
I decided that starting over at a local hospital would be easier for me than continuing to work with the Mayo Clinic, so I contacted Baylor University in Dallas to start a kidney donation chain and things went fairly smoothly. I was approved about two months after first contacting them, and they identified a donation chain for me within two weeks after that. There was a delay when one of the recipients in the chain encountered health problems, but the four transplants finally happened in April of 2015, when I was 32 years old.
A couple of days after the surgeries, I was able to meet my recipient and his family, which was one of the coolest moments of my life. They were all so sweet and said such nice things. I learned that Timothy had been on dialysis for 5 years. He lost his job and hasn’t been able to take his daughter on vacation. He almost died once when his blood pressure got too low. His family said he had received many calls about possible donors who ended up not being matches. They weren’t sure they would ever find a donor. Timothy said his leg and foot pain went away the day of the surgery, and my donation coordinator said the color was back in his skin almost immediately.
I was fairly active before the surgery and I think even more active since the surgery. I completed three half marathons before and have completed two since along with several 5Ks and a couple of 10Ks. My recovery was fairly quick. I was back at my desk job after two weeks. The next month, I was able to do some easy hiking at Big Bend National Park. Since then, I have done a lot of jogging, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, weightlifting, yoga, and Pilates. I even joined a rowing club and competed in my first regatta.
The only thing that has changed since my donation is that I make sure to stay hydrated, which I should have been doing anyway, and my doctors said I shouldn’t take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for any sore muscles after exercise, but I’ve been doing fine with acetaminophen, a heating pad, and menthol patches. They also told me to avoid contact sports, which I had no desire to play in the first place. I think being active helps prevent me from getting high blood pressure or diabetes, either of which could put stress on my remaining kidney.
Overall, I’m glad I donated, and it hasn’t slowed me down at all.