True Confessions of a Kidney Donor

living_kidney_donorAs the donor search continues, I decided to re-run this first-hand account of kidney donation. Hopefully, it will provide an additional viewpoint from someone who has gone through the experience.

A reader of my blog contacted me through Facebook to tell me her story of kidney donation. I am very proud to share her experience here.

I was about to turn 40 and was planning to run a marathon for the Diabetes Association in honor of my uncle when I found out that he needed a kidney. Figured it was easier to donate a kidney than to run 26.2 miles!

My uncle, who had diabetes that was causing kidney failure, made the transplant list in 2007. I live in Georgia and he lived in Pennsylvania. The process started in Georgia, and the kidney transplant department sent me a kit.  I had to have 7 vials of blood drawn and shipped overnight to Pennsylvania to see if I was a match. I don’t remember the magic number of matches to proceed, but my number was higher than the lowest that they allow. Then Piedmont hospital performed my health exam; they screened me inside and out.

I had to collect and measure my urine for 24 hours. So I rolled a cooler to my son’s soccer game, including the container in case I had to go! Once it was definite that I was healthy, we scheduled the surgery around his son’s wedding. Two weeks before surgery, I broke my wrist playing soccer. The cast didn’t stop anything.

I think the meanest thing was that the hospital kidney department gave me a $25 food voucher for the day before the procedure but I was on a liquid diet! The surgery started around 7 am. I was out of surgery by noon. They placed my donated kidney low in his pelvis – almost in front of his leg; he then had 3 kidneys. Fortunately, it worked right away.

Before the surgery, my uncle and I said we would race to see who would visit who first. The day after surgery, I made it to his room just as he was about to get up. I left hospital on the third day (2 nights). The hardest part after the surgery was dealing with air in my abdomen. During the surgery, the surgeon pumps your belly full of air; they use the laparoscopic opening through the stomach to get to the kidney. After surgery, the air is still there and has to slowly go away. I won’t lie – it felt bad—like bad “gas”. However, the walking helped it to dissipate — it only lasted a day or two. I went home on a plane 5 days after surgery.

I did my follow-up appointments in Georgia. I went back to work in 2 weeks and was playing soccer, running, and lifting weights again in 12 weeks. Back to normal.  Now, I do drink alcohol, and I can eat what I want. However, I try to keep it healthy and limit my cokes/sodas to once a week. The biggest adjustment I have had to make is that as a donor, I cannot take any anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen. When I get sick, I make sure the doctor or pharmacist knows that I’m a kidney donor so I can take medicine that won’t affect my kidney. My creatinine is at the level that it would be if I had two kidneys – which is a good thing. And life is great. My uncle didn’t need dialysis and went from being tired and confined to doctors’ offices to living life to the fullest.  I am so glad and proud to be a kidney donor.

If anyone wants to share their story as a living kidney donor, please send me a message through my Facebook page.

While it is a big decision to donate a kidney, living donors can save lives. A living donor candidate is a person who is healthy, well-informed and makes a voluntary decision to donate one of their kidneys. Living donors must be over 18 and in good general health, have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 30, a non-smoker, with no evidence of significant high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease or hepatitis.

Thanks for helping us find a living kidney donor.  Please spread the word and/or call us at 770-310-2426 for info to do a 15-minute phone screening. You can also call the St. Luke’s Transplant Department directly to do the screening at 832-355-4100.  Just tell them your planned recipient is Dominique (Nikki) Brooks.  They will ask for my birth year, which is 1967.

Be Inspired — Give Life!

Dominique (Nikki) Brooks

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