My Path as a Living Donor

Donating a Kidney – The Beginning
I am a living donor. On October 5, 2011, I gave my brother my left kidney. This is the beginning of the story of the process I went through. My hope is to give some semblance of support to others going through, or considering going through, living donation or a similar scenario. I want to share my story and share the knowledge and resources that I gathered along the way. Every experience is different, and this is mine.

Before my brother went into kidney failure and needed a kidney transplant I was not consciously aware of the option of live donation. If I had thought about it, it would have made sense. However, without a reason to think about it, I just didn’t. Living donation of a kidney (or any other bits and pieces) is not something to be entered into lightly. Nevertheless, the risks to the donor are, in my opinion, vastly outweighed by the potential ability to save the life of another human being. Had I not been a match for my brother, I intended to continue the process anyway and pursue a paired or non-directed donation. Once I was aware I could do this for someone, I was going to, if the doctors gave me the OK.

Journey to Living Donation
The path was not easy. Much was more difficult than I ever imagined. There were tests upon tests and emotions upon emotions. Yet every single moment was worthwhile. I would do it again, with just as little hesitation as the first time. Anything that I as a living donor went through or experienced was nothing compared to what the recipient, my brother, has gone through. And while my journey tapers off as I heal, his journey continues.

With few exceptions, once the healing from the surgery is complete, a living kidney donor has no major alterations to his or her lifestyle. There are some potential lingering effects and some medicines that probably should not be taken. Some caution also should be taken to avoid damage to the donor’s remaining kidney. In comparison, the recipient of a kidney (or other organ) will have to be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives and are always in danger of losing the new organ.

My story, thus far, has had an incredibly happy ending. As named by my sister-in-law, Little Girly Kidney is making herself at home in my brother and the Evil Twins have been removed. Three and a half months after the transplant and 6 weeks after removal of the diseased kidneys, he is healing well and improving daily. My recovery has been somewhat arduous, but not unduly so. I would go through this tenfold to save my brother’s life. There were a few complications with the removal of the diseased kidneys, but he is making it through everything thrown at him.

After the Transplant
As my life returns to whatever passes for normal these days, I feel that I should pass on my experiences with the transplant process. The medical work up, the emotional roller coaster, the little tips I picked up here and there – and so much more. Every issue I touch on reminds me of another one to talk about. Maybe trying to write about all of this is for my benefit, but I truly hope it can somehow benefit others. Goodness knows there are many physical and emotional issues that a living donor has to deal with. Knowing you are not alone through it all is a huge help.

The way I look at it, the more information that can be disseminated about living donation, the better. I hope to become a living donor advocate in some way, shape, or form. This series of articles is perhaps a first step in the right direction. Too many people do not get the preparation they need and deserve before going forward with donation. Even worse, too many people just do not understand the ins and outs of giving up an organ or the like. I would like anyone considering living donation to make as informed a decision as possible.

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