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Saturday, December 24, 2011

What a Year

What a difference a year makes.

This time last year, I had recently completed the first series of tests to see about becoming a kidney donor. In fact, just a week before Christmas I had had my four hour renal scan process, the first "big" test to see how good my kidneys were.

I also still didn't really understand what I was doing. I know that might sound a bit odd but in hindsight, I really can see that I had no idea of the enormity of what I was trying to do. I also had no idea what impact it would have on my donor. On Christmas Eve last year, I wrote this post "Christmas and Family". I talked about my Dad when he was sick and my hopes that I could maybe give someone out there more time with their families. In response to the post I received a wonderful comment from Nancy Smith,-three of her six children have struggled with kidney disease and received transplants:



Hi Lauren! I just came across your blog and wanted to write to encourage you in your desire to donate a kidney. Three of my 6 children have a rare pediatric kidney disease. We have been on what we call our kidney adventure for about 4 years now.

All three of my children have had transplants because other people like you decided to share a kidney. I cannot write this without crying. We are soooo grateful for those precious gifts. These donors have truly given the gift of life to my children.

My 17-year old son, Samuel, who is incompatible with 99.9% of the population, just had a miraculous 2nd transplant on November 12th. It was made possible by an altruistic non-directed donor (like you!) who started a chain of 32 surgeries - 16 donors and 16 recipients. A match for Samuel was found among this group and we traveled from Vermont to Texas to participate in the historic event. Samuel was so sick before the transplant and now, exactly 6 weeks later, is doing fantastic!

This Christmas we will all be together. No hospital, no dialysis! It is wonderful!

So if you ever doubt that what you are hoping to do will actually make a difference in someone's life, think about my children. You may be that kidney miracle for someone else!

God bless you, Lauren!

Nancy Smith


Her comment was a real turning point for me for several reasons.

Firstly, she was my first "stranger" to comment on my blog, all the way from Maine. Not only did she find my blog and read it, she took the time to share her story. It really made me understand the reach I could have in terms of educating people about living donation if I just kept talking about what I wanted to do. Secondly, by sharing her story and sharing her own family's blog, I began to have a hint of understanding of what impact I might have on my recipient, should I be allowed to donate. Her story was also something I could share with my friends and family so that they in turn could understand how kidney disease affects not just the patients but their families. In a way for many of my friends and family, Nancy and her children were the first "real people" we could put a face/name to that had kidney disease. Many more people like Nancy and her family would enter my life over the next year but she was the first and I'm really grateful for the impact she had on me-it certainly kept me going as I stumbled through the donation process.

Here we are a year later. I'm hopeful my recipient is doing well and that he or she is enjoying a different, much healthier Christmas with their family then perhaps last year's. So much of this past year is now a blur for me. While I'm healthy and physically feel the same with just the one kidney, there are so many things that have changed for me emotionally and intellectually. I'm a different person. I think I'm a better person. I am certainly more balanced and my priorities have really changed. I feel very lucky that I was healthy enough to be a donor and have this opportunity. I am glad I've been able to share it with others. I've met (virtually and in real life) some pretty inspiring people along the way from doctors to donors to recipients and their families. I've met people who are STILL waiting for a kidney who are the strongest, most resilient people you could ever imagine.

To all of these people, and to my wonderful friends and family-Merry Christmas-and thank you for everything.

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