August 10th 2017 Taira donated a kidney
Knowing someone whose son needed a kidney got me thinking about the need for kidney donors. I recognize I've been blessed with excellent health and wanted to help someone who isn't as fortunate as I am.
I contacted the National Kidney Registry and submitted my info to be a good Samaritan donor, but I didn't hear back from them for a while. I was also talking to a nurse coordinator at Shands in Gainesville about possibly being part of a kidney chain. In March, I made a post to Facebook about how March was National Kidney Month and that I was trying to be a kidney donor through the NKR. Someone I attended college with over a decade ago sent me a message saying she had a friend, Katie, who needed a kidney transplant. She sent me Katie's info and put us in touch. Katie and I seemed to have a lot in common and she also happened to be a transplant patient at Tampa General Hospital which was only about an hour from where I lived. Everything seemed to fall into place so I contacted TGH to test to be Katie's donor specifically.
My co-worker, whose son was in need of a kidney transplant, first got me thinking about kidney donation. I asked her lots of questions and she was happy to help. I'm a registered nurse so I did have somewhat of an understanding already of what I was getting myself into. My husband and family were incredibly supportive and the entire donor coordinating team at TGH was very informative and straight forward about what being a kidney donor would and could mean, and what I should expect.
Once I was officially approved to donate to Katie, I gave my work about a month's notice that I would need to take off 6 weeks or so for surgery and my recovery time, and they were happy to let me have that time off. All of my medical expenses have been covered by the recipient's insurance, which also includes any medical expenses that could arise due to complications from kidney donation. My social worker at TGH helped me to apply to organizations that could help cover some of the bills a donor would have while away from work and recovering. One organization was able to take care of my car payment for a month. I also started a GoFundMe campaign to cover the remaining bills I would need covered during my 6 week recovery period.
As far as the donor process. First, I had to submit my information online. The following day I was contacted by a donor coordinator to review the form I submitted and schedule a date to come in and give a blood sample. There was also an option of getting my blood drawn at a Lab Corp closer to me, but it was easier for me and more time efficient to give blood at the hospital itself. Once I gave my blood sample, the lab performed a crossmatch to see if my blood was compatible with Katie's, and about a week later they called with the results that we were in fact a match. I had to wait a few months for Katie to be approved for transplant, but when she was, I was able to start my medical testing. First, I was sent to a local Lab Corp to collect a 24 hour urine sample and give more blood. When those results came in, I was scheduled for the rest of my medical testing about a month later. Because of my work schedule, my tests and visits were spread out over 4 days, but usually they are able to complete everything in just 2 days. Over those 4 days, I met with my nurse coordinator, the social worker, the psychologist, the head surgeon, and the physician, and I had more blood work, an EKG, CT scan, chest and abdominal X-rays, and a split kidney function test performed. All of those results came back by the very next day and everything was looking good. All that was left was to wait for the medical board to review my case in two weeks and approve me for donation. I finally got the call that I was an approved donor, however, just before my case was reviewed, the lab ran my blood work with Katie's again. They found something that looked reactive, but they weren't able to make a determination. So they had both Katie and I come back in the following week to give another blood sample so they could repeat the crossmatch. A few days later we got the call that everything still looked good and we could schedule a date for surgery!
In those 6 weeks leading up to our scheduled date, I prepared for surgery by trying to be more physically active and by staying well hydrated. I contacted the donor coordinators with any questions I had and also turned to Katie for info related to a hospital stay.
Nearly everyone who knew I was donating a kidney was incredibly supportive. I was truly overwhelmed by all the love and kindness I received. However, there were a few people who had varying negative reactions. Some seemed to be worried about whether I planned to have children or not. A couple extended family members said flat out that they didn't believe in what I did. But nearly everyone was so incredibly supportive. My immediate family especially was there for me every step of the way.
My advice to anyone thinking about becoming a living donor is to GO FOR IT! If you have it in your heart to really consider this, then I'm certain if you're approved to be a donor to someone, that it'll be so worth your time, energy, pain, and tears. I'd give my other kidney if I could.
I've acquired a second family. Katie and her family will always be a part of ours and vice versa. I feel so fortunate to have been able to do this for someone with a greater need than my own. It's been a truly humbling experience for me. I've also learned so much about a need I wasn't really aware existed. I want to raise as much awareness as I can to help living donors come forward. This has truly been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I will be forever grateful for Katie and everyone who helped get me here.
I had my kidney donor surgery on August 10th. My husband, Shaun, donated his kidney to my co-worker's son, Jamie, just two weeks later on August 24th. We've been recovering together since then at my parent's house.
Location: Auburndale, FL