I donated as part of a paired exchange - so I donated on behalf of my friend Ashley Somics, so that Ashley got a kidney from a lovely woman in Colorado, and my kidney went to a man in Georgia. We were a part of a chain at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center. The chain was started by an altruistic donor and in the end 11 people were able to get life saving kidney transplants.
I originally heard about Ashley's need for a kidney donor through her Go Fund Me page in, I think, March of 2015. As far as me deciding to donate, it was not a long drawn out process to decide. I saw Ashley's page about needing a transplant and finding a donor, and it was just a YES. It was an immediate response --
"I could do that!" And I went with it!
The process of seeing if I was eligible to donate was fascinating. I loved learning about how transplants work, and how the paired exchange donation program came to be. The UCLA people were fantastic - I cannot say enough nice things about them, especially Suzanne McGuire, my donor coordinator. That being said, it was also a roller coaster, as they had told me it would be. We were in and out of a few chains, and Ashley had health challenges, so we were postponed a few times....
The preparation for the transplant included medical workups with UCLA, and following up with tests and many, many blood draws (hah!), I have a healthy lifestyle, and I didn't change anything about my normal routine.
I did do a lot of reading online about donors and transplants, which helped to support my decision. UCLA has a wonderful website, with great videos and easy to understand information.
The majority of the people in my life were very supportive throughout this process, and were with me every step of the way. My best friend, Nora, who also knows Ashley, was my best and most dedicated support team member, and was with me every step of the way.
I am six months out from donating, and I don't feel any different with one kidney than I did with two! Seriously, if the thought of donating resonates with you, if the little voice inside of you says "yes" -- listen to that. Read, ask questions, learn all you need to, to feel comfortable with your choice to donate.
I found this experience to be a profoundly joyous experience. There were frustrations along the way, with details and delays, but I think if you put yourself in the path of giving to someone on this level, the love that comes back to you is astonishing. The first 48 hours after surgery were rough for me, but that was the only downside to this entire process.
And, you get to be part of a miracle.
Location: Santa Barbara, CA