A year ago I had the opportunity to give my dad one of my kidneys. This is part one of our story...
Have you ever had a situation occur where you knew something that was going to happen? You don't exactly know how you knew what was going to happen, but you did. It's not the same as knowing the answer to a question on a test. It’s a deep inner knowing of the path or direction to take to achieve an outcome that you understand is supposed to happen. I had this sense of knowing when it came to my dad and his need for a kidney. I didn't really even think anyone else needed to be tested. I KNEW the surgery was going to happen and I was the donor. Well, on April 6, 2017, all that knowing became a reality, and my dad got one of my kidneys. Here's how our transplant journey began...
I describe the entire transplant evaluation process as "hurry up and wait". Everything seems to take an excruciating amount of time. When someone is sick, and all you want is answers, why does everything have to take weeks or months? You make a phone call or email, it is days before a response. He could have had a stroke or heart attack at any time. We felt like we were trying to beat a ticking time-bomb. And yet, the medical community we were working with seemed to feel no urgency. We would almost cry if we missed a phone call, because we knew we'd never get that person back on the phone again.
The donor testing process began in October of 2016 - a full year after his kidneys were damaged. You begin with an online questionnaire. Then if you pass, you go through a phone screening process. Pass that, and they send you a test kit to do a 24-hour urine sample and get your blood work drawn in a lab. Then they determine if you are a match. I got the call in late January of 2017 that I was the match. We were working with Emory Transplant Center in Atlanta, GA. Emory only takes one donor for the evaluation day. If a family has multiple donors that are a match, it's up to the family to decide which person goes into evaluation day. In our case, I was the only hope. I was told not only was I a match, but I was a 100% match. My kidney would go into my dad's body with zero chance of rejection. Pretty good odds, I'd say.
I remember calling my parents in tears. I said, "I just got off the phone with Emory. (I was crying so they thought I had bad news to deliver). It's me. I'm your match. You’re going to get my kidney." My dad was speechless. In the beginning of this process, he didn't want my sister or I to be donors. It's a big sacrifice and we both have little kids to think of. Once he realized, because of his age, his only hope was a living donor, he was extraordinarily grateful.
It was 2 weeks before my coordinator called to schedule the surgery. We were given a range of dates, and based on my kids’ schedule, I picked April 6, 2017. We were officially a GO!
Stay tuned for the second and third chapters in our journey - the transplant and the recovery. Our story has lots more to share.
By Julie Rankin
September 28, 2018