I donated a kidney to a long time family friend on March 9th, 2017. I felt honored to be a match and in a position to help my friend.
It was the best thing I ever did. It's a humbling and miraculous experience. I'm in law enforcement and you enter that profession with the hope you can make a difference in the world. What better way then being given the opportunity to save a life by giving the gift of life?
I believe the whole process has made me a better person. It's hard to describe but the opportunity to change someone's life for the better, to give them a chance at a future, it's unbelievably moving. My recipient and I have always been good friends, more like family, but now we have a bond that can't be broken.
We have a good friend from Texas who travels to Pennsylvania yearly in the Spring. His trip in 2017 was right after our donation surgery. He told me his brother-in-law was on a list waiting for a kidney but he had never considered donation. He ended up getting tested, was a match and donated a kidney to his brother-in-law in February 2018. The ripple effect is amazing!
As far as preparing for making the decision to be a living donor, I found a lot of information online through the Living Kidney Donation Network; the National Kidney Foundation; Give a Kidney, a UK based organization; and UNOS.
My husband was a little hesitant but his sister is a Physician Assistant and was able to relieve his concerns. Most people thought I was crazy to voluntarily give up an organ and others thought it was a great gift. My brother and two sisters all tried to get tested but I beat them to it! So, they were very understanding and supportive.
In the November 2016, I completed a blood draw of a few vials which was sent to the Cleveland Clinic. I received the results in December 2016, and they confirmed I was a match for my friend. I placed a tearful call to my friend, who was scheduled to begin dialysis in January 2017. My friend put off dialysis and I traveled to Cleveland Clinic in mid-January and underwent two days of appointments, which was the most thorough examination/physical I've ever undergone. I found out my kidneys are on the smaller side and, as my recipient is male, there was some stressful days while we waited to see if the doctors would let the donation go through. Luckily, my kidney function was so high the board of reviewers okayed the donation. My recipient and I traveled together to Cleveland on March 6 and we underwent the surgery on March 9, 2017. I prepared for the surgery by reading everything I could get my hands on about living donation and running/working out so I could speed up the recovery process!
I was very fortunate because, as an employee of the Federal Government, there is a federal law that grants all federal employees up to five weeks of paid leave for organ donation and related appointments. Also, because the donation took place at the Cleveland Clinic, about six hours from my residence, my church provided me with $1000 to cover travel expenses.
Location: Pottstown, PA