I first learned of my father’s kidney disease back in 2012. He was pretty casual about it and just said they would monitor his kidneys. As the years progressed his kidney maintained the same until around 2018 when he started noticing more of a decline and the conversations began about the possibility that he would need a transplant. I am no stranger to kidney transplants – two of my friends have been recipients of kidneys, so I knew firsthand the impact this is on someone’s life.
By 2019 my father had been officially added to the transplant list and everything became real. I immediately felt led to donate and reached out to a friend who donated to a stranger a few years before. After speaking with them I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted to donate my kidney. The tough part would be convincing my father to let me be the donor.
I have always had a love-hate relationship with working out. I would start working out and either get bored or become unmotivated and quit. But going through a period of self-reflection I committed myself to become the healthiest version of myself physically mentally and spiritually. I began working out 5 times a week; 3 days of extreme cardio and 2 days of strength training. Just when I started enjoying working out the world shutdown in 2020 and the gyms closed. I then began working out at home with Beachbody 6 days a week and walking about 3.5 miles 5 days a week. I continued this routine until I left for the surgery in Feb 2021.
I am the youngest of 3 and the only girl. I am a daddy’s girl to the core! My father and I had a very special bond and would talk daily be it 5 minutes or 3 hours. So, the idea of his baby girl having surgery on his behalf wasn’t something we were willing to sign up for. Outside of me being his baby girl, I hadn’t had any children of my own and he wouldn’t do anything that would prevent his daughter from becoming a mother even if that meant him not being here. After speaking with the doctors about the risks and lots of prayer he decided to allow me to be his donor. After doing the extensive round of tests I learned just how healthy I was and how close of a match we were despite not having the same blood type (I am B+ and my father was O, a rare O). This helped comfort my father and put him more at ease.
Leading up to the surgery I was at peace I knew that this was something I was called to do and trusted the doctors would take good care of us both. On February 18th, 2021 I successfully donated my left kidney to my father which I named Red Bean Ann Rice. In the days following the transplant, everything was going well. My kidney was doing great. My father’s white cell blood count was low which caused them to keep him in the hospital longer than expected. They did several tests, but everything came back clean.
As the family began to prepare for my father’s release, we received a call no one ever wants to get. My father was found unresponsive in his room and they were preparing him for surgery because there was some swelling in his lower abdomen. At the time they thought it was internal bleeding so they would open him up to stop the bleeding and everything would be fine. But when they opened him up they realized it was gas and not blood and gas is a sign of an infection. After further evaluation, they realized it was a septic infection which is the worse infection to have especially for someone who has a low immune system. The infection was too strong and unfortunately, my hero passed the next day.
To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I am very analytical and a planner by nature. So, when walking through the worst-case scenario my father not making it didn’t even cross my mind. Grief consumed me in a way I could have never imagined. I returned to Atlanta and never went back to work. I would just lay in my bed all day crying and trying to process what happened. My amazing support system constantly checked on me and made sure I was eating and doing at least the bare minimum. Even amid my grief, I would think to myself that it cannot be like this forever.
When I was finally cleared to exercise, I began walking again. Initially, it would only be a half of a mile and slowly but surely the distance would increase. Now that gyms were back open, I decided to get a trainer because I was afraid that I would injure myself. I found one that had donated his kidney to his mom so he would know how I felt. In the beginning, it felt like I had never worked out before which made it even more difficult, but I pressed through. With each week I became stronger and stronger, then my trainer presented me with the idea to train for a bikini competition. I had thought about doing one in the past, so I agreed. At the time I did not realize it would be one of the toughest things I’ve ever done during one of the lowest points in my life. On December 10, 2021, I competed in my first bikini contest and placed 4th! I now credit my faith and working out with saving me from losing my mind or even something worse.
At this time I still have some slight swelling but the scar has healed amazingly well. My endurance still isn’t where it used to be, and I still get tired a lot faster than before but I am stronger than I have ever been, which shows just how strong the body is. At this point in my journey donating is a non-factor in my day-to-day life. It doesn’t prevent me from doing anything. Through everything I have been through in the last year, I am still an advocate for donating. Like I always say, God gave me two so why wouldn’t I share?