Becoming a Kidney Donor

Caring people continue to amaze me – either by telling their stories or by offering their support. But a common question that I have been asked has been “Can I donate my kidney and how does that work?” I thought it would be helpful to give a general view of what a living donor evaluation looks like.

  • The recipient’s health care plan covers all of the donor’s costs.
  • Initially, there typically is a simple screening process to ask questions about your health. Issues that can eliminate you at this stage are some health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity. However, this can be assessed on an individual basis.
  • Next, you would need a blood test to check blood types. If you don’t match your intended recipient, you can still help with a paired exchange (donate and swap) donation.
  • If you do match, then additional blood tests (called tissue typing and cross matching) are completed to see how well you match the recipient.
  • The potential donor may also undergo a physical examination and sometimes a psychological examination as well as urine and radiology tests.
  • The amount of time needed for these tests vary depending on the transplant center.

Potential donors do have a team of professionals working with them. The goal is to take care of the potential donor, to complete the physical and laboratory evaluations, and to ensure that you are a good candidate. There are also people on this team that you can talk to if you have any questions or concerns about the process. This team also keeps all test results confidential.

While it is a big decision to donate a kidney, living donors can save lives. If you think it might be something that you are interested in, you can help by calling us at 770-310-2426 for info to do a 15-minute phone screening on being a living donor.

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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Testing, Testing… Houston, We Have a Problem…

Since I am on the kidney transplant list, I have to get checked out every year to make sure I am in good enough health to undergo transplantation if a kidney becomes available. Physician and social work visits and a slew of blood work were completed.

On top of that, since I am getting older, I had to have tests to check my heart – an echocardiogram and a stress test – and a colonoscopy. I got all of this testing done within the last 10 days!

Whew!

Fortunately, everything checked out OK.

So I remain on the list. But we are still looking for a living donor. I am so grateful that people are still calling to do the 15-minute phone screening. Many people have also reached out to me with words of support and encouragement. I also deeply appreciate the people that are spreading the word on social media and in other ways.

However, the transplant waiting list is quite long. 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

 

True Confessions of a Kidney Donor

As 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

Hemodialysis is No Joke

I have posted before about dialysis and the challenges associated with it. I typically use peritoneal dialysis which, while time-consuming, can allow you to have something close to normalcy during the day.

But I had to temporarily start hemodialysis. This requires 3 daytime sessions a week of 4 hours at a time hooked up to a blood-cleaning machine. It doesn’t hurt but it is hard to describe what it feels like to be hooked to the machine. While you recognize that it is saving your life, your brain pretty much shuts off for the 4 hours. I thought I was going to work on my novel during that time – but – I haven’t been able to make that happen. You can tell when you look around the dialysis center – most patients are either sleeping or watching TV.  And, when I leave the dialysis center, I am exhausted.

It’s very tough.

But unlike many of the patients on dialysis, my time on hemodialysis is temporary. After a couple of weeks, I hope to be back on peritoneal dialysis. I appreciate the kind words and help from my readers. I hope the peritoneal dialysis is temporary too – a kidney donor could make that happen (hint, hint – part of my 2017 plan!)

While it is a big decision to donate a kidney, living donors can save lives. If you think it might be something that you are interested in, you can best help us by calling us at 770-310-2426 for info to do a 15-minute phone screening on being a living donor. 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

 

 

A Conversation Can Save a Life: The Big Ask/The Big Give

It is an important gift to sign up as an organ donor – many lives will be impacted by that choice. But, as the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) notes, why wait?  You can become a living kidney donor right now.

100,000 Americans are waiting for a kidney transplant but only 18,000 will get a one this year.  The NKF hopes to improve these numbers through The Big Ask: The Big Give Campaign (https://www.kidney.org/transplantation/livingdonors). This campaign provides resources for kidney patients to have the conversation about living donation with friends and loved ones.

In addition, the campaign provides information for potential donors as well as video testimonials from people who have donated–family members, friends, acquaintances and altruistic donors–and transplant recipients. These testimonials are candid and cover all aspects of the process from the emotions from dealing with kidney disease and dialysis to the transplant procedure, the work up and approval process, and recovery for the donor and recipient.

It is a Big Ask – but hopefully this information will spur someone to make The Big Give.

While it is a big decision to donate a kidney, living donors can save lives. If you think it might be something that you are interested in, you can best help us by calling us at 770-310-2426 for info to do a 15-minute phone screening on being a living donor. 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