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

bigaskbiggive_logo_v3It 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

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Out with the Old, Transplanting in the New in 2017

christmas_2016Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and a pleasant start to 2017.  My husband and I had a nice, relaxing holiday season with the children and several friends here in the Houston area.

I am excited about 2017 because I want this to be a big year. It is already a big one because I turn 50 this year!

However, there are other big plans for 2017 as well.

I plan to finish my first novel.  I want to get my daughter back into dance classes and to continue to encourage my son to strive for good grades and track excellence. My husband will continue to grow his business, and we are planning to vacation in Hawaii in May.  And the biggest one – I hope to have a kidney transplant this year.

We appreciate everyone’s well-wishes and for those people who are calling in to be tested, we thank you!

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

Dialysis: The Struggle is Real

Brooks Family Sept 2015 - GDialysis.

It sounds simple enough given the importance it has in the lives of patients with kidney failure. But now that I have started dialysis, I see how it becomes an outsized part of your life. I have to connect to it every night and going to the bathroom at night has just become a lot more complicated. Dialysis makes it difficult to sleep because of the noise, and I hope my kids don’t need anything during the night when my husband is out of town.

The struggle is real.

I have Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) which is an inherited disorder. In PKD, clusters of cysts develop primarily within your kidneys. The cysts vary in size and, as they accumulate more fluid, they can grow very large and cause kidney failure.

For people with kidney failure, there are two types of dialysis – peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis.

Peritoneal dialysis  (shown at the right) cleans the blood as well but that’s done inside the body. A surgeon has peritoneal-dialysisto place a catheter into the abdomen for access. During this type of dialysis, a special type of fluid (dialysate) is placed in the abdomen through the catheter. While the fluid is in the abdomen, extra fluid, chemicals, and wastes are drawn out of the blood vessels into the dialysate fluid in the abdomen. The abdominal fluid is then removed and thrown away. This process is done several times a day or night and can be done by the patient at home.

hemodialysisHemodialysis (shown at left) uses an artificial kidney – in the form of a machine – to clean the blood removing wastes, extra chemicals, and fluids. This method requires the placement of an access into the blood vessels – typically on the arm or leg. Hemodialysis typically lasts 4 hours each time and happens 3-4 times a week.

I am currently doing peritoneal dialysis. With my medical background, understanding the process was not difficult. But the actual performance of the procedure every day is harder than I anticipated. There are risks of infections and I am still tired on a daily basis. However, your comments and well-wishes give me strength!

Now that I have started dialysis, we are looking for a living kidney donor harder than ever. 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.

Be Inspired — Give Life!

Dominique (Nikki) Brooks

 

Organ Donation: There’s an App for That!

Keep calm greenThere are over 120,000 people in the United States currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.

Each organ donor can save up to eight lives, plus they can help any number of other people through tissue donation.  Previously, people could register to donate through the DMV on their driver’s license or register through a state registry which could be done online.  While millions of people have already signed up, Apple and Donate Life America have teamed up to make signing up for organ donation even easier.

Now, iPhone users can sign up as organ donors directly from their phones – using the Health app with the release of iOS 10. The sign up process is simple and all sign ups submitted through the iPhone are sent directly to the National Donate Life Registry which is operated by Donate Life America. One benefit of this is that the decision to donate can be carried with the potential donor – on their phone – wherever they go. iOS 10 will be available for all users this fall as a free software update.

As we are currently looking for a living kidney donor, this is welcome news.  We appreciate any efforts to increase the number of donors. For those of you that have an iPhone, check it out!

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

The Big Ask / The Big Give

bigask_logo_whiteMy family has a heredity history of Polycystic Kidney Disease but I thought that taking care of myself might lower my risk. Unfortunately, that did not prevent my kidneys from failing. Thus, I am need of a living kidney donor. I appreciate those of you who read my posts and send me good wishes. They really do help!

Looking for a kidney donor is a challenging task. In general, it’s hard for the person in need of a kidney to discuss their situation. Therefore, to be successful, that person often needs a point person – a champion if you will – to help spread the message. My husband is that person for me. This search is challenging and has required a lot of education on our part.

There are numerous organizations that can provide tools to conduct this vital search. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) calls the search “The Big Ask/The Big Give” and has valuable information for both the champion and the person considering a donation. The NKF also sponsors fundraising events – like kidney walks – to fund the fight against kidney disease.

Another organization, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has taken that education for this champion a bit further. The program has initiated a Live Donor Champion Program which provides the designated champion with resources and education to make him or her more effective during the search for donors. Through meetings and other resources, this program aims to teach the champion how to use personal connections and social networks to increase awareness about the need for kidney donors as well as how to identify potential donors.

While we don’t live near Johns Hopkins, we hope to utilize some of their tools in our search for a donor. Hopefully, our luck will change!

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.

Be Inspired — Give Life!

Dominique (Nikki) Brooks

Kidney Donors Save Lives

Brooks Family Sept 2015 - GDuring this journey, I have come in contact with a number of wonderful people!  Many have contacted me and the hospital to learn more about becoming a kidney donor.  But a lot of folks are really unfamiliar with the logistics of donating a kidney. So while I am looking for a donor, I hope to continue to provide some knowledge and educate everyone on the process.

There are three types of living kidney donations: direct donation, paired exchange, and a Good Samaritan donation.

Direct Donation: The donor knows the recipient and the kidney goes directly to them.

Paired Exchange: The donor gives a kidney to one person in exchange for a kidney for their friend or loved one. Typically, this occurs when the donor does not match (e.g. blood type, etc.) their loved one.

Good Samaritan Donation: Here, the donor gives a kidney to a stranger who has a donor that does not match. This initiates a chain of donations and can allow for better matching by the doctors.

Each of these situations show that living donors save lives. You can help by calling us at 770-310-2426 for info to do a 15-minute phone screening on being a living kidney 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.

Be Inspired — Give Life!

Nikki

From Georgia to Pennsylvania: Another Kidney Donation Story

living  donors rock 1A 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. 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.

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.

Be Inspired — Give Life!

Dominique (Nikki) Brooks