Two short days.
That’s how shy our son Alexander was from 32 weeks gestation. What’s the significance of two days? If he had survived two more days then he could have donated his organs. And, we would have.
His death could have been someone elses life.
I think about it. A lot. But, it’s not a part of his story. However, it is part of Jen’s story.
A few months ago, when I read her story as a living organ donor, I knew that I wanted you to know about it. So much so that I contacted her and asked if she would let me share it with you. And she agreed.
For two months I have been giddy with excitement. This is what life boils down to. This is life. I never get tired of hearing Jen’s story of hope, life and selflessness.
Note that this was originally written by Jen in August 2013
Three weeks ago, I donated a kidney to a stranger and three weeks ago my little brother received a kidney from a stranger. It was two years of testing and appointments coming to fruition.
Let me back up a little. My younger brother, Michael, was diagnosed in 1992 with kidney failure, at 17 years of age. He received his first kidney transplant from our father in October of 1992. This kidney worked very well for him until March of 2003, when his body began to reject it and the kidney failed.
Michael began hemodialysis in March of 2003; hemodialysis is a three-day/week week, four hours at a time, process. Over the past ten and a half years, Michael has spent nearly a total of 275 days hooked up to a dialysis machine.
Fast forward to 2005; I had spent a bit of time thinking about becoming my brother’s second kidney donor and I went to get tested. Much to my surprise and disappointment I was not a match. At that point there was not much else we could do except try again in a few years. My brother went on the “List” and we all hoped he would get a match.
In 2011 and I felt a strong need to try again to become my brother’s kidney donor. This time we were living in Ottawa (Michael was in Alberta). I got tested and once again was disappointed to hear that I was not a match for Michael. But this time there was another option for me – The Living Donor Paired Exchange Program (LDPE).
The LDPE is a nation wide program that facilitates living kidney donations between patients with a willing but incompatible donor, and other pairs in the same situation. I was a willing donor, but not a match for my brother.
When this program was brought to our attention, my husband and I both signed on to broaden the pool even wider to find a match. Then the testing and appointments began: blood work, urine samples, ECGs, x-rays, CT scans, surgeons, psychiatrists… the works!
The results came back and we were both told we were excellent candidates. Each year the LDPE has about three-or-four Match Cycles, in which everyone’s information is entered into the pool, and matches are found across Canada.
We went through two or three of these Match cycles before we got the call in February 2013 that I was matched! More importantly, it meant that a match had been found for Michael.
July 16, 2013 was my surgery day and it went very well, as it did for my recipient. July 17, 2013 was Michael’s surgery and it went well too. As he texted later on that day, he was “peeing buckets,” which was music to everyone’s ears.
Three weeks later, I am recovering very well. I received an anonymous letter from my recipient telling me that they were recovering very well and were hoping to get a game of golf in before the snow flew. I have a beautiful scar on my left side, just below my ribs and my brother is also recuperating nicely. If I could, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Update: One year later, my brother and I are doing very well! He had his one year post transplantation appointment in July–with top notch results–and I go for my one post donor nephrectomy appointment next week. I feel great, and have found a new passion in life–to increase awareness for organ donation; to educate about the importance of this great gift.
“Don’t take your organs to Heaven. Heaven knows we need them here.”
Are You on the Living Organ Donor List?
Connect with Jen on Twitter
* My family is aware that upon my death, I want to be an organ donor. However, I am not on the “Living Organ Donor” list. This year, I will be contacting the centre nearest me to find out how I can be involved.
** I don’t judge anyone that chooses to not be on the list. It is a very personal decision and every one needs to make the right choice for themselves.
*** If this post saves one life. One life…
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