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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Surprise Visitor

Towards the end of my hospital stay I was lucky to have a surprise visitor, despite the fact that she "wasn't on the list" and actually had no idea where in the hospital I was located. I was relaxing in my room and the curtain did its usual flutter that indicated someone was about to enter. It was the nurse who days before had been so irritated at the flowers my brother sent.

"Do you know a  Betty?" she demanded. No hello, just the question. I had to quickly think...the first person that came to mind with that name was our HR manager at work and I knew it wouldn't be her. Then it clicked in my head. "Yes, I know a Betty".  "well she is here to see you. I'll go get her." With a scowl for emphasis she left the room.

Now here is the cool thing about Betty. I don't really know her. We've met, had a great 2 hour conversation but that's it. But we have something in common that I don't with most other people. She is also a non-directed living donor.

Right after I had learned my surgery date I had gone poking around the web looking for more donor stories to bolster my confidence a little as it had suddenly become so much more real with the phone call from the program. I stumbled across a blog (funny...there are other blogs out there...) I hadn't seen before-it was a story from a Canadian living donor who had donated her kidney to a stranger. Her blog was far less identifying than mine but in reading one entry about her meeting with a nephrologist during the test phase, I was shocked at the similarities between her experience and mine. I was sure she must have been involved with some of the same people in the Foothills hospital program at some point. Even if I was wrong, she still had Canadian experience with this which was hard to find and I thought she might be able to answer some of my questions.

I left a comment on her blog asking her to contact me. Within about 12 hours I had an email from her. We quickly determined we were indeed in the same city and she suggested it would be easier if we met for coffee. About a week later we did and like I said, we had a great conversation about her experience and the road I had traveled thus far. She was able to give me insight into some things I had wondered about (like diet immediately after how out of it I'd be the first day etc). It really helped me think of somethings I hadn't considered yet (more housekeeping kind of things) and overall was just reassuring. We had some different views on parts of the process (whether or not we were open to meeting the recipients, how long to take off of work etc) so it was really interesting to hear another opinion to get some perspective. I would highly recommend anyone considering this to find another donor with similar circumstances to talk to. The Kidney Foundation does have a program, although there aren't many people like Betty and I in it yet however I've heard there are a lot of donors who have given to family members. I didn't realize how helpful it would be till after we met-it really was great.

I had told her my surgery date at our meeting and low and behold, she showed up a few days later to see how I was doing. It was very sweet of her and of course unexpected. Of course when she arrived a Foothills, she was pretty surprised to learn I did not exist. What is amazing to me is that she pushed on instead of just giving up and going home. She called the Living Donor program and spoke to the coordinator who she had also dealt with in her donation. She asked her if she knew where I was as she wanted to visit me. After brief explanation, she was given my location. I'm sure she had to do a little arm wrestling with that charge nurse as well. But she made it through (stuffed flower and all).

At first I felt a little awkward but I was really touched by her efforts. I kind of wonder how much better I would have felt having more visitors along the way as a distraction. A few friends had asked to visit but because I wasn't feeling 100% and thought it would also stress the nurses out because of the whole confidentiality ruckus I declined. I realized after this visit I should have encouraged those other friends to come because it really did buoy my spirits. She offered to visit me later in the week if I was still in the hospital which was also wonderful-but we both hoped I'd be out of there before then.




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