As I approach my second anniversary of a kidney transplant, I continue to be in awe of the entire process and the caring individuals who made my transplant a very successful one.
Thinking back, the wait time for an organ can seem like an agonizing eternity. In my case just the thoughts of an emergency entrance into the world of dialysis still sends chills up my spine. Arguably, the time in dialysis can be characterized by being in a very grim environment in which many have no hope of survival. For those who do have hope, it is an opportunity to take charge and manage a very difficult situation requiring attention to diet, medications, exercise, compliance and a gigantic change in attitude while simultaneously trying to maintain a “normal” lifestyle.
Getting registered and encouraging others to register as organ donors became a top priority of mine. Without the possibility of a known living donor, I settled into a routine in which my new best friends were the dialysis staff members (especially the Patient Care Technicians), medical professionals and other patients. As the months and years passed, I attended many funerals and delivered eulogies for dialysis friends and wrote several letters to our local editor urging people to register as organ donors in hopes to help bring awareness to the need. Fortunately, periodic transplants were occurring in our local area giving brief rays of hope for those of us who were waiting -- sometimes not so patiently. Unfortunately there are still not enough donors.
Admittedly, I became restless at times waiting. The wait time had been explained to me so I tried to keep life as normal as I could. I was fortunate enough to continue working with enormous thanks to a great boss, terrific co-workers, my wife and family, and friends. I worked as long as I could by using numerous workplace flexibilities, exercised as much as I could at our local Twin Rivers YMCA, followed doctor’s orders and tried to manage dialysis instead of allowing it to managing me. It all seemed to be working even under the most challenging situations.
Even though I had to decline my first opportunity to be considered as a match, THE call came a few months later on a Sunday morning, April 22, 2012. All of a sudden, it was overwhelming, exciting and scary all at the same time. But more than that, it was really happening: I had a chance!
My wife and I had our bags packed and we were ready to go. After processing into the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville NC, we met with Dr. Robert Harland, the Transplant Surgeon. As soon as we talked with him, I was definitely ready to go ahead with the surgery. Surprisingly, it was fairly relaxed for the most part, but I could tell a lot was going on around me and behind the scenes to get everything coordinated. By midnight, I was ready for the operating room. When I awoke the next morning, I had a new kidney! I do not believe that I could have gotten any better care anywhere than I did at Vidant. The entire transplant and associated team members exceeded all my expectations.
After several days in the hospital, I continued recuperating at home with periodic visits to the doctors while they monitored my progress. Sometimes, it is difficult to comprehend the miraculous results of this extraordinary and successful transplant. Regaining freedom has provided me many experiences that otherwise might not have been possible. Now I accept every lunch invitation I can, have coffee with friends, travel when we can, exercise, volunteer in various activities, working in the yard, take trips to the beach and enjoy retirement. Of course, my grandson’s activities take a priority in my week’s activities. I am also considering attending the Transplant Olympics in Houston, Texas, this July as a member of Team North Carolina.
I truly appreciate all the fine work by Donate Life NC, Carolina Donor Services, Dr. Harland and his staff, Eastern Nephrology Doctors, Vidant Medical Center staff, Fresenius Medical Care, the Division of Motor Vehicles (who help register organ donors) and my family who provided so much support and encouragement. Most of all, I appreciate the donor for making the decision to be an organ donor and the donor family who honored that decision which impacted not only my life but that of several others. It would certainly be an honor to meet that family one day to let them see what an impact a very special organ donation has made to make my life even more special!