- Kidney Donation Story
It was in 1987 when my parents returned from the doctors with my brother Jim who was having problems with his legs swelling up. My two sisters and I were sitting at the kitchen table with my brother as my parents explained Jim’s diagnosis. He had Focal Segmental Glomerular Sclerosis and could take medication for his condition though eventually his kidneys would fail and he would [End Page 11] need a kidney transplant. It was summer and I remember the sun coming in through the kitchen window and the thought came into my head that I would give Jim one of my kidneys and told him he could have one of mine. At the time I was only 16 and he was 12 but it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do.
Years went by and my brother was fine but in late 2009 his kidneys failed. I was the only family member who was healthy enough to donate at the time. I never felt any pressure from my brother to donate. In fact I was the one who pushed my brother for information on what I had to do to donate. I live in London, UK so I flew back to Chicago for a few days where my family lives to have the tests to see if I was a match. Luckily I was a match and returned to Chicago with the intention of having the surgery before I returned to London.
Donating a kidney to someone is a life changing process and looking back I feel I was as prepared for the surgery as much as I could have been. Fortunately, I have never been really ill besides colds or flu and some back trouble. Initially, the hospital gave me a booklet with information to explain the process and once I was found to be a match the process and risks were explained in more detail in meetings I had with the social worker and the hospital before the surgery. Even though I offered my kidney to my brother when I was a teenager, I also wanted to make an informed decision to donate to determine if this was something I should do.
To prepare for the surgery I realized that my biggest fear was being put under anesthesia. I practice meditation which kept me calm and before the surgery I listened to a hypnotherapy recording to visualize what would happen on the day of the surgery. A week before the surgery, my brother and I met with a nurse at the hospital who explained in more detail what would happen and how to prepare before the surgery. After the meeting at the hospital we went for lunch where we talked about what it would be like once he had a new kidney. I have to admit I felt good that I had this opportunity to make brother healthier. In some way also I thought that even though I left my hometown of Chicago I could literally leave a part of me there to give new life to my brother.
On the day of the surgery my brother and I were sent to separate floors in case I changed my mind. I would have preferred to have been told that on the day of the surgery I was going to have to provide one last urine sample before the surgery. It can be difficult for me to give a sample when I am nervous so I checked with the nurse before I used the toilet. After I returned from the toilet the same nurse handed me a cup and asked me to provide a urine sample. I panicked and after drinking several glasses of water I still was not able to give a sample. I did not want to delay the surgery so in the end the hospital had to insert the catheter while I was still awake to collect some urine. It was embarrassing but I did not want the surgery to be delayed.
The last thing I remember before the surgery was talking to the anesthesiologist before being wheeled through some doors. Then I woke up...