Throughout my adult life I’ve awakened on occasion from dreams – really, nightmares – that I was on dialysis.
Although I don’t remember many of my dreams, I do vividly remember that one. Perhaps that’s why I was driven to volunteer to donate a kidney to my brother-in-law when I learned he was facing dialysis for treatment of kidney failure.
The decision to donate a kidney was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Each step in the evaluation process confirmed to me that I was doing the right thing.
A good match
First, I learned my blood type matched my brother-in-law, and then I discovered we were a very good match genetically. The test, called human leukocyte antigen (HLA), showed we matched as well as a parent to a child.
Each test thereafter showed I would be a good donor. I met with a psychologist to insure that my donation was completely voluntary. It was self-validating to tell the psychologist I was donating my kidney because of my love and concern for the well-being of my brother-in-law.
Preparing for the big day
Over several months, I prepared myself for the donation by exercising for about one hour prior to going to work. That hour was well spent because it prepared me mentally, spiritually and physically for the upcoming donation.
I also gained added insight by speaking with other individuals who had donated a kidney. Those individuals were parents of my own patients. Each one of them gave encouragement and insight to me. Each one of them pointed out that donating a kidney was the gift of life.
In October 2013 I flew to Salt Lake City, Utah to meet my surgeon and to complete my final round of tests. With that completed, I was scheduled for the transplant donation on Friday, Oct. 11.
Kidney donation day
The surgery went very well, taking less than three hours. My brother-in-law did equally well and thankfully the kidney – our kidney – promptly worked and his body began to be cleansed from the toxins that had accumulated from his kidney failure.
Recovery, although painful at first, was rapid. The recommendations from others that had donated were invaluable in that recovery process.
I flew home to Wisconsin five days after the donation and returned to part-time work that same week. I remain surprised by the rapid recovery I enjoyed, realizing others may require a bit longer to recover but also knowing that each donor I have met is grateful to be able to give the gift of life to someone else.
It’s now nearly 18 months since the donation. My brother-in-law and I both enjoy good health. And now, as pediatric nephrologist, I can honestly look my patients and their parents in the eye and tell them that kidney donation is doable, important and it truly is a wonderful gift for both the recipient and the donor.