#55. Funny looks - July 2012

One thing that is uncomfortable about donating a kidney is that when people find out that you are doing this, and when they find out that you are doing this for a stranger, you sometimes get funny looks. There are some people who are just roundly enthusiastic and affirming, but some people aren't.

I have gotten questions that don’t always seem kind.  Questions that either blatantly, or in a veiled way,  question my motives.  People peering at me, it seems, to see whether I am doing this for attention, or to try to be morally superior, or something.  I get extremely uncomfortable with these questions.  I know in my heart why I am doing this, and whatever else people may think about me, they can think.  I just have to do what I think is right for me to do. 

It’s because of these funny looks that it is very tempting to just do this donation privately, and not tell anyone except the very few people who need to know. 

But part of this journey for me has been and still is the desire to let people know that there are people dying in our country because they need a kidney.  I didn’t know I could donate until I chanced upon some article in a book.  Even though at times it’s uncomfortable sharing my story, I feel it’s important to share it, in the hopes that it will cause something to click in someone else’s mind.  Somewhere out there in Canada, someone will be listening to my story and the little tumblers will fall, and they’ll say, “Hey, I could do that too.”  And then some other family will be embracing their loved one rather than attending their funeral.

And so my small little act, can be a tiny snowball of hope for one or two or three other people.

#54. It's a match! - July 2012

Well our blood was compatible!  I got the news yesterday!  When I told my husband he smiled and said, “Just think, someone out there has just gotten the best news they’ve been longing to hear.” 

I had hoped that I might hear when the surgery will be scheduled, but apparently they are working on the rest of the matches now.  Maybe they don’t schedule the blood tests for everyone at once; what a let down it would be if the first person in the chain of donations doesn’t match, and all those people went to the hospital for blood tests, all hoping to get the best news, only to receive bad news.

The transplant co-ordinator also mentioned that the doctor in Toronto who will be transplanting my kidney into someone else wants to meet me to do some tests.  She says I will only have to go to Toronto once.  We are all in the same health system, but I guess the doctor wants first-hand knowledge, not something passed on from someone else. 

I don’t mind.  I actually like the idea that the person who is going to be handling my kidney wants to meet me.  It makes it more personal.  Attaching a face to a kidney!  And vice versa, I can attach a face to the hands that will be handling my kidney, when it is so far away from home!

#53. Digesting the news - June 2012

Tracey, the transplant co-ordinator, also told me I might be part of a chain of transplants involving eight people…I’m at the beginning of the chain. 

Several months ago I agreed that I would put my name in a Canadian kidney registry. It’s set up to help people who need a kidney who are hard to match, broadening their pool of possible donors. This group meets four times a year to try to find matches. 

The advantage of this type of donation is that I would be more likely to be part of a chain of donations.  Because I am an anonymous donor and don’t need to receive a kidney for a family member, the chain does not need to close, and so they are able to create the chain more easily. My donation can help to trigger a number of other transplants. 

I really debated whether I would go to Toronto to donate. If you’ve read my blog, you know that some of the reasons why I was willing to donate was because that I knew the surgeon and the hospital in Hamilton from my husband’s time of illness. 

I decided that personally I could face going to Toronto and donating there. But my decision is also about how this will affect my family. It’s a lot less stressful for my husband to have me being operated on by a surgeon he has trusted with his life. The hospital and the routine in Hamilton are familiar to him and to us there. And it’s closer, just 45 km instead of 100 km away from our home.

So I decided that I want to donate in Hamilton. It just means that they will transport my kidney to the recipient. I wondered whether that meant there was a higher risk of rejection, or whether the kidney would not last as long.  But the research that I did showed that transporting kidneys doesn’t reduce the positive outcomes in kidney surgeries.

What happens next is that I have to go in for a blood test next week, where they will do a physical match-up with my blood and the person who needs my kidney. We match on paper, but will we match in reality?   They put our blood together and analyze what happens. This is an essential part of testing our compatability.

It feels sort of like eharmony or Lavalife, or one of those big on-line dating services, but with a more scientific approach, and a lot more at stake. 

This news has got me wondering all over again who this person is. Right now they are on dialysis, and they are hoping for a new lease on life with this transplant. They are going to get a blood test the same day as me, and we will meet in a test tube somewhere! And if that works out, we will meet in a much more intimate way.  Intimate and yet surprisingly distant! 

#52. Stress! - June 2012

It's been a bit complicated around home lately because my husband found out he is losing his job.  He's been working for the same company for twenty years, and they are closing down this branch of the business.  He will likely be out of work within the next six to eight months.  It’s very upsetting news for us, both because he has given so much to the company and he loves his job, and because suddenly he will be out on the job market in the middle of a recession here in Ontario.  We talk and talk every night, there are so many unknown factors, so many different directions to go.

Yesterday my husband’s boss came out from Manitoba to talk to us in person about different severance options.  It was a very stressful meeting with him all morning.  That very afternoon the phone rang.  I don’t know why I knew, but I knew it was the transplant clinic.  I just knew in my heart it was them calling.  And it was!  Of all days!  Tracey the transplant co-ordinator told me that they had found a potential match for my kidney!

Tracey asked me whether I would consider doing my donation in Toronto, because that is where the transplant is going to happen.  She said I should think about it for a few days.  I had so much in my head that day, I couldn’t really even absorb the news, let alone make a decision.