It’s already after Thanksgiving; it has turned cold and we have seen our first snow in Chicagoland. Gift-wrapping is open at First Trust. The company Holiday Party was another great event!! It’s beginning to feel a lot like the holidays. This holiday is extra special for my family as I am about to receive a very precious gift from my brother - a gift which will change my life. My brother has been approved to be a kidney donor to me.
What do kidneys do? Everybody is born with two kidneys. Simply put, kidneys are the body’s pump. They extract the unwanted waste or toxic material in the blood which is then excreted. They are also the source of some hormones that stimulate hemoglobin production in the bone marrow. And they maintain the ionic balances in your body. As the kidneys start to fail, these balances get thrown off, anemia sets in and toxicity builds up (which can be removed only with dialysis or by a new kidney). Diabetes and hypertension are two major causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
I have had early-stage kidney disease for a long time, but it was stable and did not bother me in any way. I do not have diabetes and my blood pressure was under control with meds. However, the disease continued to progress. I got evaluated and waitlisted at a kidney transplant center in Chicago in 2013. This waitlist is for a cadaver kidney. The average wait, I was told, is 5 years. In more recent years, the decline in my CKD was rapid to the point that for the past 6 months, upon reaching end-stage, the doctors had advised me to start dialysis. With no explicit and unmanageable symptoms I was able to avoid it. Instead, I got additionally listed at the UW Hospitals in Madison, WI. The average waitlist in Madison was shorter - 2 years for my blood group (B+, the second rarest).
This summer, with my CKD worsening, my brother started his evaluation as a potential kidney donor in Chicago. They gave him a thorough physical exam. First and foremost, the donor has to be in good to excellent health. My brother has been a marathoner for 20+ years and is physically fit. There are several levels of testing - first the blood group match, then the HLA match and then the cross-reactivity when they mixed our blood. He was approved to be my donor and it was time to schedule the surgery. My kidney transplant surgery is on Dec 10th in Madison, WI.
The need for a kidney is high and the statistics are staggering. One in 10 American adults has some level of CKD (National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse). There are 101,600+ Americans on the kidney transplant wait list; almost 4,300 patients died while waiting for a kidney and 3,000 are added to the kidney wait list each month (http://waitlistzero.org/). One cannot but be moved by these numbers. Studies have shown that a lesser matched living donor organ is far better that a well matched deceased donor. This holiday I feel very blessed to have a brother who has been so generous with this donation. I’m sure this will be a very special holiday for our families.
I appeal to you to consider organ donations in your future - be it blood, bone marrow or even a kidney. This is an act that provides no physical benefits to you, per se, but just imagine the gratitude of the recipient whose life you have saved! Talk about the ultimate holiday gift! Meanwhile, enjoy this Hollywood humor on kidney donation from Dumb and Dumber 2. Happy Holidays and a wonderful year ahead to you!!
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