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The Greatest Gift – Becoming a Living Donor
I have been a dialysis nurse with DaVita for the past 21 years, and the experience of becoming a living donor for my husband has given me a different perspective than most providers are able to have. It has made me not only a better person, but also a better nurse and provider because of it.
I met my husband in August of 1979, during our sophomore year in high school biology class. Little did I know I would be starting a family and spending the rest of my life with him. We married in July 1984, and I have spent more of my life with him than I have without him. When he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease about 14 years ago, I knew in my heart that if he ever needed a kidney, I would be honored to give him one of mine.
In 2014, he started dialysis and was referred for a transplant. I knew if I we matched, I would give him one of my kidneys. He wasn’t sure he wanted that, but he humored me and let me get tested. After I was tested, we found out that I was not only a match, but a good match. The probability that we would be a good match was so small, because there is a lot of criteria that goes into being a donation match. To qualify as a donor, I had to lose 20lbs, and it was the best decision I have ever made for both of us.
On August 17, 2016, my husband was given my right kidney – one week before I started my last semester of graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. In the beginning, the road was rocky, as he went from ESRD, to a successful transplant, to acute kidney injury because of a complication soon after the transplant.
After two weeks in the hospital, he was sent back home on dialysis, but we hadn’t given up yet. Things became like a roller coaster. At one point, the doctors considered removing the kidney and re-listing him on the transplant list, but we didn’t give up. His surgeon was taking his case to heart and wanted to try a couple more ideas. We agreed to give him a chance and by mid-October, my husband was taken off dialysis.
We were told that he would be lucky if the kidney would last a year. We not only reached their expectations, but exceeded them. We now are able to travel to places such as Hawaii and do the things we missed previously. We never take any day for granted.
I look at it like this: I was given a gift the day I was given the opportunity to become a living donor. Nothing else could even compare to the gift he gave me when he agreed to accept my kidney. I never think of myself as having only one kidney – my life is as normal as ever. If anything, I am more conscience of my health and realize just how important quality, not quantity, of life is.
I think the biggest hang-up for people who would be a living donor but choose not to is the possibility that a family member may need a transplant. What I have to say to them is this: if everybody would get out of that mindset and be a donor while YOU are still healthy, there would be enough kidneys to go around for everybody.
Also, in addition to it all, I never gave up on my degree and completed it in December 2016 – the same year my husband received his transplant.
“When you become a living donor you don’t just give an organ, you give part of yourself. It is a selfless act that gives the gift of freedom, fun times with family and friends, the ability to travel without constraints of life support, and an overall better quality of life. On behalf of all transplants recipients I want to give a big thanks to all those who thought of someone else before themselves and became a living donor to someone in need, whether that be a loved one or stranger, you are a true LIFE SAVER” – Dale Bates, Pamela’s husband and transplant recipient