Did you know there are close to 100,000 people in the United States currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant? Or, that another name is added to the national transplant list every 10 minutes?
On average, 20 people die every day from the lack of available organs for a transplant and the wait for a deceased donor could be five years and in some states, it is closer to 10 years.
Did you know on average a person’s life expectancy that is currently obtaining treatment for kidney failure on dialysis is only around five-10 years? Did you know that as a living donor you can continue to live a normal life with only one kidney and it does not increase the risk of kidney failure for yourself? Or, that there is only a .02% chance of something going wrong during the procedure?
Did you know as a living donor you increase a recipient’s life expectancy by years versus a deceased donor transplant?
If you didn’t know any of this, don’t feel bad, because neither did I and that is why I decided to share my story on this life changing topic for my family and I.
My sister, Katie, who is now 28, a year younger than me, became infected with a bacteria known as Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) before the age of two from a fast food hamburger. She became very sick, lethargic, not eating, weak at home and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. During the ride to the hospital, her body actually shut down completely, crashing and being revived twice. She was in critical condition and in a coma where she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and stayed three weeks.
She was soon later diagnosed with Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome and receiving kidney dialysis. Once she was stabilized and strong enough she was then admitted to the Children’s Unit and stayed about two weeks before she was released to go home; where she would be closely monitored. After being monitored for a while, it became clear that Katie had approximately 30% function between both kidneys.
Through her years of growing up she continued to see doctors regularly, taking medications and being monitored. Her kidney function eventually became stabilized until last year when she became pregnant and her function completely failed, requiring her to be placed on dialysis five days a week. Her life from that point on relied on the use of machines and an extremely long waiting list with thousands of other individuals. With the uncertainty of how long it would actually be to receive a transplant from a deceased donor, who is match, was overwhelmingly fearful for our family.
Without thinking twice, I made an appointment to determine my blood type. My sister is an O, meaning she is a universal type that can donate to all other blood types, but can only ever receive from an O. My parents extended the concern to other members of the family and even close friends.
Understandably, it’s a very scary decision to become a living donor, but what was even scarier for me was not having her here. The uncertainty of her ability to live a normal life or what her future held was enough for me to take that next step without any hesitation.
On June 19, 2017, I received a phone call from the Transplant Center that I, too, was an O blood type. After three months of orientations, exams, blood work, urine samples, scans, cross match testing and more, I then met with a board of doctors and psychologists who further evaluated me as a potential donor for my sister.
The meeting ended with them handing me a booklet that contained the potential risks of being a living donor (which is minimal) that I never needed to even open, because regardless, I was going to do this. She deserves to live healthy, she deserves to be there functioning for her children, she deserves to live like you and I, that sometimes we too often take for granted.
Then, on September 25, 2017, I received the phone call that would forever change more than just one life.
I was not only approved to be my sister’s living donor, I was a perfect match!
In all honesty, I never prepared myself for more than the day that I decided to get my blood tested. I was told from the start that siblings only have about a 20-25 % chance of being a perfect match. And, because of that I know God in every way intended me to take this next step. He knew my sister and I were strong enough together to weather this type of experience.
On December 6, 2017, my sister and I were admitted to St. John Moross at 5:00 a.m. to proceed with the surgery. We all gathered to pray and then I was taken back first where the surgeons required about two hours to remove one of my kidneys (laparoscopically) and then give it to my sister.
I can’t even begin to describe the emotion I felt when I awoke and how forever grateful I am for the people that never left our sides during this experience. Not only did we have a great team of surgeons, we had a great amount of love and prayer that helped make this something I will never forget.
This experience has brought my sister and I even closer to create a bond that will never be broken, but it has also been an eye-opening experience on who is willing to make sacrifices for someone they love during a hard time. Not everyone who says they are there for you end up being the first ones in line when others are in need and that is one of life’s biggest lessons.
Even if it isn’t becoming a living donor, there is always donating your organs when you pass on. We as human beings are born with the ability to change people’s lives and I can ensure you that you don’t just save one person.
I saved my sister, who is a mother, a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a wife, a cousin and friend, all while she saved me. I didn’t give her the gift of life, life gave me the gift of her and her story isn’t over yet.
Image courtesy of Felipe Luiz.