Photo Slideshow: A few photos related to the topic of kideny donation
My Kidney Donation Experience
My Grandmother was a regular dialysis patient for at least a decade. It usually took several hours for each appointment, three times a week. She always enjoyed it when I would drive her to the dialysis center and accompany her through the process. She was a so loving and kind. I never heard her say anything bad about anyone. Grandma passed away on April 20th, 2003. Several years later, when Emily (my wife) was pregnant with our second son, Makai, the doctor diagnosed him with hydronephrosis, a condition where his kidney's were not draining properly. Sometimes these things fix themselves by birth or shortly thereafter, but not with our sweet Makai. Before the age of 1, we took Makai to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City for a scheduled surgery on one of his kidneys. Since his January 2007 surgery he was been perfectly normal.
Let the Research Begin
In the early part of 2007 these experiences caused me to look into kidney donation. I wondered if my Grandma could have lived longer if she had a kidney donor, something I had never before contemplated. As I began to search on the internet, I wondered if hospitals allow people to donate a kidney to someone they do not know (I didn't know anyone that needed a kidney at the time). I soon discovered that you could indeed donate as a good Samaritan donor (or "altruistic" donor). I also found that the mortality rate of donors was very low, and the state of Utah was one of only a handful of states that did this type of donation. As I continued my research I found that there was a huge need, but very little supply. Only an average of about eight people per year over the previous five in Utah had donated a kidney as a live good Samaritan donation. I knew I had to do it, especially with hundreds on the waiting list in Utah alone. The next step was convincing my wife to let me go through with the surgery and donation.
What if at some point down the road my wife, kids, or some other family member needed my kidney? Turns out I wouldn't be a match anyway. Also, I figured that since I was a donating my kidney that another family member, friend, or even an altruistic donor would step up and be tested. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that as a donor, I would be moved to the top of the national kidney donor registry if I ended up needing a transplant.
One of the things that scared me in this process was the possibility that in the process of testing I might find I had some sort of illness or disease not previously detected.
Testing, Testing, and Some More Testing
After countless blood and urine tests, chest x-ray, ekg, CT scan, nephrologist visit, surgeon visit, etc. I made the decision to proceed with the donation. I made a conscious decision to only tell my wife, mother & mother-in-law about my surgery, however.
Goldfish! The Match...The testing and matching was drawn out over about two months until the transplant team finally found the recipient. April Woolsey of Clearfield, UT. 32 year old April had lupus which affected her kidneys. After meeting with the Dr. Belnap (April's surgeon), the surgery was scheduled for December 18th, 2007. At the meeting with Dr. Belnap said "if I had a hat, I would take it off and give it to you. What you are doing will literally save a life".
Two days before surgery I went in for one final blood draw to make sure the match was still good. The next day Emily, Jonas, Makai & I got to meet April and her family at the hospital. Her mother was especially appreciative. April handed me a card that expressed her feelings about my life-saving donation. I should note here that when I first met with the transplant coordinator I was unsure if I would want to meet the person I was donating to. I finally decided it would be a good idea to meet with the recipient. Having made that decision and subsequently meeting with the recipient, April, the day before the surgery, I can honestly say I made the right decision in choosing to meet April and her family.
Family Email Announcement
The morning of the surgery, while I was in the operating room, Emily sent an email to my family telling them about the surgery, why I was doing it, who the recipient was and how I was not a match for my wife or kids so they shouldn't worry. An outpouring of love and support for me and April came back in replies.
As the nurses were wheeling my bed up to my room following surgery, the first thing I said when I saw Emily was "that's a hot nurse!" Because I could not sleep (never had surgery before and did not realize the extent of the pain), I would walk laps around the 10th floor of the Patient Tower of the Intermountain Medical Center at 3 in the morning as a way to forget about the pain and lack of sleep. I sure got some good exercise. I was able to determine that 10 laps around that floor equaled one mile.
Did I Regret My Decision?
Well...there is another story about my bowels being asleep for a few days and a little prayer of hope in desperation, but we'll keep that private for now. If you were to ask me if I have ever regretted doing this, I would give a resounding no! I am happy I donated my kidney and hope that others will follow suit. Did you know that in 2008 over 4,000 people died while waiting for a live-saving kidney transplant? Check www.unos.org to see how many people are waiting for organ transplants. If it wasn't for the example of a wonderful mother who would always go out of her way to help others, I am not sure if this would have happened. I hope that everyone who reads this story will go out of their way to do something for someone else, no matter how minor it may seem.
After the surgery, I made myself available to talk with potential donors about the risks, pain, joy, and the process as a whole in donating a kidney. I enjoy sharing my experience and helping others in their decision to donate a life-saving organ. Kidney donation surgery changed my life forever and I hope to spread the word to anyone willing to listen.
Video From the News
My mother sent the local news station to interview me at the hospital. I was in much pain and really didn't want to do the interview, but she insisted and I agreed. Make sure you "pay it forward". What a great experience this turned out to be... even though it hurt more than I could have imagined.
Jennifer Stagg of KUTV channel 2 (Salt Lake City CBS affiliate) interviewed April (the recipient) and me regarding the kidney transplant which took place on December 18th, 2007; The interview was two days later.
A Peace of My Mind: Interview by John Noltner for a book exploring what peace means to a variety of people
KUTV News: Video interview from December 2007