I had never known anyone who had donated an organ and probably had never considered doing this until a friend let it be known that he needed a kidney and was about to start dialysis.
I thought, “I can do that!”. We had moved out of state many years ago but had kept up with all our friends from “home”. I contacted the Medical Center in Mississippi and began to fill out all the forms. I passed all the paperwork even though I was 73 at the time. I knew in my heart that I was going to be a match, but there were still all the blood draws and other tests to pass!
The Medical Center let me do my initial blood draws and matches at the hospital where I live in Texas. Everything was moving smoothly, and I met other donors in my small town and heard their stories. I had a wonderful coordinator who was an advocate for me even though they had never even looked at anyone over 65.
I flew to Mississippi for my final matching, heart and lung tests, and all the scans and passed all of them in time for the transplant team to approve me for donation two days later. I was never anxious or worried even up to the day of the surgery – I had this peace that all was well, and this was a gift for me as well as for my recipient.
I met my surgeon the day before the surgery, and he told me that anything was negotiable. I told him if that were the case, I didn’t want to wake up with the catheter. He was on board with that and removed it before I was aware it was there in the recovery room. They had done a block for the surgery so therefore, I never had the morphine pump or any pain medicine other than Tylenol.
I was up walking the halls that afternoon and evening and going to the bathroom without any difficulty. When my team came by the next morning I was up and dressed (in loose clothing) and was released to go back to the hotel where I was staying with a friend. Yes, it was uncomfortable to get in and out of bed and in and out of chairs, but I knew if I kept doing it, I would soon get stronger.
I walked and walked the halls every day and went back for my one-week checkup and was released to fly home with a friend carrying my luggage. I napped every day for several weeks which is not my norm, but I listened to what my body needed. I was walking 4 miles by two weeks, but I was very careful not to lift anything heavy for another 6 weeks when I went back to the gym to begin lifting weights carefully. My recipient has done very well and sharing a kidney has given us an even closer bond.
I never thought of myself as an athlete since I played no sports in school, but my husband and I joined the Mississippi Track Team when I was 30 and we started running road races every weekend for fun!
I amassed all these trophies since there weren’t many “older” women running races back then! I started doing more and more distance and ran several half and full marathons for the next about 20 years. I was never injured so I decided at 50 to stop most of the running and start walking/hiking with a group when we moved to the Texas Hill Country.
My husband also encouraged me to lift weights with him and his trainer so I started doing that, too. I am a widow now and have a great group of women friends who hike and walk every day, and some of us travel to do fun and interesting hikes! I’ve done two partial Caminos of 100 miles in 8 days – one before donation and one the year after. We are going to Utah this Fall to hike in some of the National Parks there and hopefully, we will do the Del Norte Camino in 2023. Right now I am also doing the 1776 push-up challenge!! Life is good with one kidney at 77!!