Getting Up to Speed

October 22, 2019

Hello again! In my previous post, I mentioned it had been a few months since I initially applied to donate my kidney. Now let's get you up to speed with what's happened since then.

When I first called the hospital and told them I wanted to donate a kidney to this girl, the first thing they did was a quick pre-screen, making sure my blood type was a match, that I wasn't taking certain medications that disqualified me from donating, stuff like that. They then talked to me about the process of being a living organ donor. They did a high-level overview of the process both before and after surgery, as well as answering any questions I had. Here's a quick overview: The process can take several months from initial application to surgery. There aren't any big lifestyle changes after surgery. The biggest thing is that you can't really take ibuprofen as a painkiller, as it's processed by the kidneys, so with higher doses it might be too much for one kidney to handle. Acetaminophen, however, is OK because that's processed by the liver. There is inherent risk in any surgery. However, death from kidney donation is extremely rare, only about 3 in every 10,000. There aren't really any long-term health effects from donating a kidney, as it doesn't increase the donor's risk for kidney failure. If your remaining kidney fails, previous kidney donors are moved to the top of the recipient list. Both the donor's and the recipient's health insurance would cover the vast majority of all costs. Knowing all that, I felt more confident in my decision, so I decided to move on to the next step.

That next step was a series of blood tests. I went to the hospital and had a few vials of blood drawn. This test was for a simple blood type compatibility check. They then told me they'd get back to me soon about the results.

A few weeks later, I get a call from the hospital and they told me the first round of tests looked good and they wanted me to come in for another round of tests. I went in and they took 9 small vials of blood, significantly more than last time. This test was for more in-depth tissue compatibility tests. I was that told there were a few other potential donors still waiting to complete this test, and that once all the results were in, the hospital would be in touch.

It took a few months for them to get back to me. When they did, they said I was the only one of the pool of potential donors they wanted to move forward with, and wanted to confirm that I was still interested in donating. That was big news; out of maybe 10 potential donors that all applied to donate their kidneys to this girl, the blood tests showed that I was the best match. I felt excited, but also nervous. It was a lot of pressure; I was essentially this girl's biggest hope of a normal life. But I felt determined to continue through the process.

Since those last blood tests and getting this call, my wife and I moved out of state, about a 3-4 hour drive from the hospital. I told them this, and they said it was no big deal, most of the following tests I could do remotely.

I was told the next step was attending a more in-depth information session about being a living organ donor, but since I was out-of-state I could read through the presentation on my own. Then, the next step was talking to a social worker, who would to a psychological evaluation. If the social worker deemed me to be in good shape mentally, I could move on to more tests.

My conversation with the social worker was interesting. I didn't really know what to expect. But she was very thorough. She started asking me about why I was donating my kidney, how I knew the recipient, etc. She then started asking me more personal questions: do I see a therapist? Why do I see a therapist? How do I deal with stress? Have I ever contemplated suicide? Have I ever taken drugs, even if just once? I tried to be as honest as possible, as even if some of my answers disqualified me, I wanted to make sure I was the best possible fit to donate my kidney. After we had finished, the social worker said she would submit her report and the hospital would be in touch.

A week later the hospital called and said the social worker approved me, so I was moving on to the next step; 2 tests to see how my kidneys function. Those are a 24 hour urine collection and a blood-glucose test. Basically, I had to collect all of my urine for an entire day. I did that yesterday, and now I have 2 milk jugs, one full and one half-full, of pee in my fridge. It's pretty gross. I collected that yesterday so tomorrow I could bring it in for testing while I had my blood-glucose test done. Basically, that test evaluates how my kidneys process glucose. I fast from midnight the night before, and when I get in, they draw blood. Then, they give me a sugary drink and test my blood again after an hour. After another hour they draw my blood again.

So, now you're completely up to speed on where I am in the kidney donation process. If all goes well with my tests tomorrow, the hospital will contact me again about next steps. When that happens, I will you all on what my next step is.

Thanks again for joining me on this journey. If for any reason you feel like reaching out, feel free to email me at ryan@kidneydonationdiary.com. Have a great day!

 

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