Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hello My Name is Lauren and I Have One Kidney

When you donate a kidney, the medical folks tell you that going forward, you'll need to tell and remind ALL health care professionals (sometimes repeatedly) that you only have one kidney. This also applies to lab techs, massage therapists, dentists etc. This is so they avoid giving you drugs or treatments that can harm the remaining one. Also, in the event of an abdominal trauma, they will know upfront that there isn't a back up kidney in there.

In the beginning (post-donation) I was pretty good at communicating this. But I was met with one of two reactions...either "Who cares -  that shouldn't impact this medical treatment/issue" as though I shouldn't have brought it up or the onslaught of a thousand questions like "Who got it?", " When did you do it?" ,"You gave it to a stranger?". That kind of thing. On one occasion, when I brought it up halfway through an ER visit because I knew they wanted to do a CT Scan which uses a contrast dye that can impact the kidneys, the resident seemed really put out by the news. "Well where did it go?" she had asked in exasperation. "Now I have to check with my attending!".

Overtime I have become more reluctant to bring it up unless I'm sure it has relevance to the task at hand. I recently had a conversation with some of my fellow boot camp exercise participants about how long we had been attending the program. I had started right before the surgery, about two months and had returned about five weeks after surgery. One of the bootcampers remarked that she remembered how I hadn't told any of the trainers I donated a kidney. She wondered why. I had mentioned that I had had surgery (I think I had mentioned abdominal to at least one of them) but she was right - I hadn't really wanted to mention it.

I think quiet frankly I was, and still am, hesitant to mention it sometimes because I don't feel like talking about it or answering the questions I inevitably get. Don't get me wrong, in the right venue I welcome the opportunity to talk about it and to raise awareness about living donation.  But other times I flat out don't want to bring it up.

Today I had an ultrasound of the lower abdomen scheduled to check out my girly regions (I have bad time of the months - too much information?). I didn't think I needed to mention the kidney as they are a fair distance away from what is being looked at in the body  I was certain if I mentioned it I'd be told they don't need to know that, and they don't care. So I didn't say anything.

The exam started and she examined the lower abdomen as expected...the she went higher up on the right side, but not quite kidney height. Then she went to the left side. Examined for a bit and made me roll over. She hadn't done that on the other side. After several minutes, she asked, in a rather panicked tone, if I had ever had surgery. I told her about the kidney. She let out the biggest sigh I have ever heard. She had been looking for it and couldn't find it. Oooops. She seemed so... overwhelmed, I felt bad. She told me she had asked me to roll over because sometimes kidneys migrate up and down the abdominal cavity. I told her no, it migrated right out of the body.

She didn't really appreciate my joke. I guess I need to rethink my kidney disclosure policy.