Lmstephenson’s Weblog



Posted by lmstephenson on June 8, 2009

Current mood: chipper
Category: Blogging
After 14 years with my first kidney transplant, it began to fail. I became sicker and sicker as the toxins and poisons accumulated in my bloodstream. Nausea, anorexia, and severe fatigue encompassed my world. I was placed on the kidney transplant waiting list and was told there was a five-year waiting time. Life seemed hopeless. Then, three days after being placed on the list, I received a phone call that a cadaver kidney had come in, that was a perfect match for me! I had to travel 150 miles to the University of Michigan to receive the transplant. When I got there, they immediately prepped me for surgery. I was so excited! Just as they were about to take me into surgery, the doctor came in and informed me that it had been decided to give the kidney to some one else who also needed another organ with it. I was devastated. I went back into my sick, depressed hopeless world and tried to hang on for my family’s sake.
My husband wanted to donate his kidney to me, but he was not a match. My son, daughter, and son-in law all wanted to donate, but I could never risk their lives or jeopardize them in any way because I love them so much. Therefore, I refused their help.
Then, my husband learned of a new program at the University of Michigan, called the Kidney Donor Pairing Exchange program.
More than 83,000 people in America are waiting for a kidney transplant; sadly, about 12 of these patients die every day because there aren’t enough donors. Many kidney patients have someone who is willing to donate, but because of immune system or blood type incompatibilities, they are not able to give a kidney to their loved one. Kidney paired donation matches one incompatible donor/recipient pair to another pair in the same situation, so that the donor of the first pair gives to the recipient of the second, and vice versa. In other words, the two pairs swap kidneys.
My husband signed us up, determined that somehow he was going to save my life. After a month in the program, we were matched up with another couple. We underwent months of testing to make sure that everything would go well with the surgeries. A week before the upcoming surgeries I had a final cross match with my anonymous donor. It came back positive, which meant that I would reject the kidney, so the surgery was cancelled. Again, I was devastated, as was my husband and family. I was informed that suddenly my antibody level had gone up, so in all probability, they would never find a kidney that I wouldn’t reject. I had made up my mind that I was going to die, and set about putting my affairs in order.
Then the U of M called with the news that they had a new doctor on the staff that had much experience with high antibody levels. She felt that she could desensitize me enough, so that my body would accept the kidney. They started me on very strong immunosuppressant medications. Then I underwent intravenous treatments with IVIG, a powerful antibody blocker. I was monitored closely for the severe side effects that go along with this treatment. I also underwent plasmophoresis. This is where they remove all the plasma from your blood stream and replace it with albumin. It is done somewhat like dialysis, and is extremely exhausting and weakening. I continued on for my family.
At last, it was deemed that the surgery could take place. Fortunately, for us, the other couple we had matched with were still waiting to participate with us. My husband was a perfect match for his to be recipient.
Once again, we were the recipients of bad news. My husbands left kidney had something on it, that they thought was a cyst, but could be cancer! The plan was to take him into surgery first and biopsy the sight, before the other surgeries went ahead. With much fear and trepidation because of the unknown, we arrived for our surgeries.
My husband went in first at 7:00am. The surgery was only supposed to take 2 hours, but the doctor did not come out till after 3 hours. I knew something was wrong. The doctor explained that they went in laparoscopic ally, and had difficulty removing the right kidney because the liver was in the way. A major artery was nicked in the removal, bleeding ensued, so they opened him up to repair the damage. The good news was that the kidney only had a cyst on it, so the surgeries could go ahead. I went back into recovery to see my husband. They were transfusing him, and he was in a lot of pain. When he saw me he was horrified, thinking that his kidney was cancerous, and that I was not getting my kidney. It took a while to convince him that I was still waiting for my surgery.
Finally, at 5:00pm that day I was take in for my kidney transplant. The surgery took 4 hours. I was in recovery for 5hours. My new kidney started to produce urine immediately. My creatinine, which is a level of the toxins in my blood, came down a little the first day. The second day, a little more, but not enough, so they decided to do a biopsy through my fresh incision. I was told that my new kidney was still asleep but there was no rejection. I had so many people praying for me. Then suddenly, my kidney woke up and my creatinine dropped to almost unheard of levels ! This was undoubtedly a miracle in my book!
Now I am slowly healing from my surgery and dealing with the side effects of all the new medications. My doctor told me to go out and enjoy life now! It was easy to say, but hard to do. Having been sick for so long, it is hard to break out from the psychology of the “sick syndrome”. Nonetheless, I will continue to persevere forward and try to spread my story to let others know the miracle, blessing, and awesomeness that result from organ donation! It truly is the “Gift of Life”!



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