Changing Lives via Facebook

Facebook – you either love it or you hate it.  For me personally, I like it most of the time, as it enables me to keep in touch with friends and family that I don’t get to see nearly as often as I would like.

In February 2011, I saw a post from a cousin of mine back in Minnesota that would provide me the opportunity to start an amazing journey, though I didn’t know at the time just how truly an amazing journey it would be… a simple post… that’s all it took to change lives, mine included.

My cousin put a post up that said her mom and brother weren’t a match for her dad who was in need for a kidney and provided the phone number to the University of Minnesota Transplant Center if anybody was interested in being tested.  After thinking about it for a week or so (and putting Google to some serious use) I decided to give the number a call; and with that one simple phone call, the journey began…

After giving some basic medical history over the phone, the first test was a simple blood typing test – I was O+, making me a universal donor; and my cousin is AB, making him a universal recipient – so far, so good.  After that, more blood tests were performed including an antigen match and a crossmatch test (tests whether the recipient cells react will with the donor cells).  At each step in the testing process, I was asked repeatedly whether or not I wanted to continue testing and to make sure that nobody was pressuring me to be tested.

A minor set back occurred in June, when I was told I wouldn’t be a match but that I could sign up to be a paired donor if I desired.  I was definitely disappointed but figured, if I was a match for someone else and their perspective donor was a match for my cousin, then so be it, both would benefit.

Fast forward to November and a phone call out of the blue from the University of Minnesota Transplant Center.  New research has come up where the specific antibody I had doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue as it was once thought to be and more testing resumed.  After a few more blood tests in Washington, I was determined to be a match and was asked to come to Minnesota for further testing.

So in January, I made the trip to Minnesota….my original plan was to spend the week in Phoenix, and run the Rock and Roll Phoenix Half Marathon as a birthday present to myself.  Instead, I spent the majority of the week in Minnesota with family and went to Phoenix for the weekend.

The testing in January was a whirlwind, taking the whole day.  It included an EKG, chest x-ray, more blood tests (HIV, Hepatitis B & C, kidney function, liver function, possible virus exposures, and tests for anemia)and urine tests, blood pressure, medical history, and a CT scan.  I also had to meet with a nephrologist, a transplant surgeon, my transplant coordinator, and a social worker.  Then I was sent home to wait – and let me tell you, waiting for that phone call was excruciating.

Fast forward to the end of February.  The surgery date was scheduled for March 29th.  I kept pretty quiet about the whole process prior to it actually happening as I was afraid I would it would jinx it the more people that knew (silly, I know, but it’s the way it is).

March 29th got here really, really quick after that.  Doug and I (and the rest of our entourage) had to be at the University of Minnesota at 5:30 am.  Our family members had the hard job of waiting.  Like I told Doug, we had it easy, all we had to do was go to sleep and wake up when it was over.

As you can see, the surgery went really well for both of us, and after a couple of days in the hospital I was discharged to recover.  Doug spent a few more days in the hospital and then had to make multiple trips back before getting meds sorted out so that he was no longer nauseous.  I returned home the first part of May, just in time to walk the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon in Portland (with my surgeon’s approval, of course).

People have asked me why I chose to donate a kidney to my cousin.  The answer is simple, Doug has three grandchildren*, one of whom is two years old.  I want them to have as great of memories with their grandfather as I had with mine.

*Doug is still doing well and is now the proud grandpa of a new set of twins!

If you are interested in becoming a living organ donor, the American Transplant Foundation has great information.  You can visit their site at www.americantransplantfoundation.org

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