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Beyond the Driver's License: My Journey as a Kidney Donor

Organ donation of any type seems daunting, yet most of us would like to think that we would have the courage to save our loved ones if necessary. 


Today, our colleague and guest writer, Joy Draper, shares her journey of organ donation. Her experience makes you want to laugh and cry, but most of all, stand and applaud her perseverance and her heroism. 


Enjoy!

 

Let's be honest: for most of us, ticking the "organ donor" box on our driver's license application is a fleeting thought. Sure, it's a noble act, but we rarely consider it in the daily hustle. That was definitely the case for me – until it wasn't.


Then came the news about my husband, Cameron. His kidney failure was discovered through the blessing of a fluke during a routine annual physical exam for work.  The overseeing doctor saw what he thought was protein spillage in his urine and asked him to follow up with his primary care physician.  This led to doctor’s appointments, blood work, and kidney biopsies. When the final results came in, he was not quite to the point of dialysis but past the point of no return and would be facing a lengthy wait on the deceased donor list.  Of course, this was only after qualifying and being accepted on the Transplant list, which could take another extended amount of time. Organ donation wasn't some abstract concept anymore; it was a lifeline for someone I loved. 


Instantly, I was going to do whatever it took to help. Even before leaving the Doctor's office, telling my husband, “Don’t worry, I have two kidneys; no worries, you can have one.”


But becoming a donor isn't a casual decision. Stepping forward meant a thorough evaluation process. Blood tests, physical exams, and even mental health assessments – the medical team leaves no stone unturned to ensure both the donor's and recipient's well-being. It's a testament to the delicate balance they strive for.  


At the time, I was frustrated and impatient. Why can’t we just get this over with? Okay, I get it. You have to make sure they match, antigens, blood typing; I was healthy enough to donate, etc. But a visit with a psychiatrist? Having to take a class about Donation? How annoying, right?  


Oh, and guess what? Just because I wanted to donate and help him doesn’t mean I could.  Do we have the same blood types? Am I healthy enough? Is my body fat low enough to be safe? Can I mentally deal with it? Can I take time off to have surgery? Heal? If I wasn’t a match, then is that just the end -  we wait for a deceased donor?  


Ok, maybe the class was important.  


Did you know that when you donate a kidney, the remaining kidney doubles in size, now acting for two, and that there is less than a 1% chance of future kidney failure after kidney donation?  


You can be qualified in a cross-match program if you don’t match with the person you’re trying to donate to. This would allow you to donate to a stranger, and another available donor would donate to your loved one.  


Your life expectancy is not likely to change after kidney donation, and your daily activities will not significantly change post-recovery.  


What about the fact that a kidney recipient who receives from a living donor rather than a deceased donor gets, on average, 8-10 years of life expectancy? 


Ok, maybe the Counseling and Psychiatry Assessment makes sense now.


Thankfully, throughout the process, I had my own dedicated medical team who asked the hard questions. For example, what happens if you don’t work out in a few years? Are you okay with that? Let’s look at the long term and ensure you are okay with all the options and possibilities. 


My medical team was completely separate from my husband's team, ensuring my health was the top priority. This two-pronged approach, with separate teams for donor and recipient, ensured we were looked out for and looked at as individuals.


The entire experience, from the initial evaluation to seeing Cameron post-transplant, was truly incredible. Witnessing life bloom back into his face, his energy returning, he began to once again participate in activities, and he started to enjoy life again—it was a gift beyond measure. 


Being a kidney donor wasn't just about giving an organ; it was about giving someone their life back. In case you are wondering about the earlier question, if our relationship did not work out, how would I feel? The answer is thankful—thankful that I was a kidney match and able to donate.    


Donating my kidney was a chance to make a tangible difference, and the reward was immeasurable. So, if you have ever considered organ donation, look beyond the driver's license box. Explore the possibilities, learn about the process, and see if you could be the hero someone desperately needs. You might be surprised by the profound impact you can have for them and for yourself.


Joy Draper


 


If we can assist you further, contact Renee & Company at 844-661-2369 or renee@reneecompany.com




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