My Kidney Donation Journey

OrganDonationLogo      Well, It all started about three years ago, when my sister Angie was diagnosed with renal failure. They said it was some freak auto-immune thing and there was no explanation as to why it would happen to an otherwise, very healthy and strong young woman of 46.

I won’t go into the story or her journey, only to say it was very emotional for all of us. We have a very large family and we are all very close. The hardest part for me was watching her get sicker and sicker. It was so bad at one point, before she started the dialysis, that every time I saw her, I would  get so emotional and cry as soon as I left her. I actually avoided seeing her for a short time, because it was so upsetting and I was not able to control my emotions. Now in hindsight,  I feel terrible for that decision. I realize that she was scared too. She was going through so much and it was hard to see. She went from a strong, vibrant woman, to being very lethargic and very thin and quickly lost a lot of muscle tone.  If you want to read about her journey, she too has a blog. It is very informative and well written.

As soon as I found out her kidney’s were failing,  I knew I was going to be the one who donated my kidney to her. I don’t know why I knew this, or even how or what that entailed. I just knew, deep within me.

When the time came to register her on the donor’s list, I started going through the testing. The feeling I had when I first found out that I was O+ blood type and could donate to her, was such an exciting and emotional thing. I was so relieved! Step 1 down. Now I was able to move forward with the rest of the process. Little did I know what that entailed. ha ha ha.

Going through the testing to donate an organ, is an emotional roller coaster and a long process of blood tests, urine tests, tissue typing tests, EKG, CAT SCAN, blood pressure readings, mammograms, pap smear to name a few. Some of these have to be done several times. Just finding time in my busy life, to schedule all of these in, was a challenge in itself. This process took about  seven months. I was so committed to the process by now, that every time I saw St. Paul’s Hospital come through on my phone, my heart stopped a little and then raced a little.

When the tissue typing test came back and said that Angie’s tissue had developed a very strong antibody to mine I was so devastated. This meant that I could no longer donate directly to her. My sister was not going to have my kidney inside of her. This news shook my foundation a lot. I was so emotional. I wanted so much to donate to her.

Again, as I have learned so much during this process that just because something does not work out as you have originally imagined, things always find a way of working out in the end.  I just need to let go of my ego and my expectations and allow the process to happen the way it is meant to happen. This is a work in progress.

As quickly as I was told we could not do a direct donation, I was told that we would be entered into the Paired Kidney Exchange Program. This is a National program all across Canada, where other people like Angie and myself, who want to donate and need a Kidney but are not a match, can be crossed matched with another “pair” anywhere in Canada.

Well, the first round we didn’t get entered into it in time. Again, I was so disappointed. I just wanted to get this ball rolling. The waiting for everything was the hardest part for me. Waiting for test results, waiting to be entered into the program, then waiting for the call to tell you that they found a match.

After missing the February exchange, we were entered into the one for May. We waited and waited for weeks and didn’t hear a word. So we assumed they did not find a match for us, as they only contact the successful candidates. Then a couple of weeks later, I was at work and got a call from my case worker, who told me that for some reason someone had dropped out of the program after they had been chosen and a re-shuffle for the two new spots was done. WE GOT IN!! Oh my goodness, you don’t even know how freaking excited I was. I couldn’t believe it. I kept saying are you sure, are you sure? Explain this to me again!!  I was crying and shaking. I had no idea that I would react this way. I had tried to not be so emotionally invested in all of this, so that if we didn’t make it again I wouldn’t be so disappointed, clearly I had been delusional. I was an emotional basket case for the rest of the day. I couldn’t focus on anything else. Such a feeling of joy and relief all at the same time. It was amazing! Then when I talked to my sister Angie after she had heard the news, I was in tears. Hearing her voice sound so excited and her husband’s voice in the background, just as excited as hers, was so fulfilling for me.  In that moment, I realized I may not be donating directly to my sister, but I am still donating my kidney for her. It is the same thing at the end of the day.

So as it turned out, our cross match pair was in Ottawa, Ontario. We were on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. So that meant I would be travelling to Ottawa to donate to a stranger, whose loved one was going to fly to Vancouver and donate to my sister. We didn’t know the dates or any details, but it was a move in the right direction.

I will leave it here, until next time and continue on with my story and how everything unfolded.


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