Jan 9, 2014

As I sit here reflecting on the last few months of my life, I find myself in awe. Awe of how God leads, awe of how Miracles in fact do happen, and awe as to how I have grown and changed into what I feel is a much deeper, real, genuine person then what I once was not too long ago.

It all began on October 31, 2013. A night that most parent’s found themselves out and about with their young children Trick or Treating. But for me, it was a night that a Miracle began to emerge. Seeing my children decided that they would rather myself and husband buy them large bags of Halloween candy verses venture out and go door to door, I found myself home and scrolling through my Facebook news feed as I usually do throughout the evening. But this particular night, would forever change my life, my families support and dedication, as well as a strangers life and his family. You see, as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, I came across a post, that was posted by a local television station in my general area (Watertown, NY Channel 7 News). I believe the title was “South Hammond Man Seeks Kidney”, but I could be wrong on the exact title. Never the less, normally to see a title as such, I would have continued on scrolling through my news feed, never even giving the post a glance at. But the fact that it stated in the post title “South Hammond Man”, I was instantly interested due to the fact that South Hammond is only ten minutes from our summer camp on Black Lake in Hammond. So with interest, I took a second glance at the post’s picture. The second thing that occurred was, I realized before I even open the post’s story, that the post was by Channel 7 News. Interesting I thought, as those who use Facebook much know that postings within one’s news feed are generally posts from Facebook friends, or sites in which we have liked and are following. Well I knew that I had never liked or followed Channel 7 News on Facebook, so that did not explain why it was in my new feed, so I looked to see if any of my friends has posted this story I was about to read. And what did I find? The answer was no, no friends on my Facebook had posted this story. So why was it available for my viewing. So without further examination on my part, I decided to take a few minutes of my time and open up the post’s story to read this man’s story. It was a story of a South Hammond, NY man seeking a Living Kidney Donor as his kidneys were failing due to a heritary disease. The man (Scott Kron) explained how he was in need of a kidney in order to live a life without dialysis three times a week, a life that allowed him to return to normal activities and to return to a job he had held for years, and his need to find one rather quickly in due to his insurance running out and his job only being held for him til end of summer. Once again, normally I would have just read his story, felt bad for him and the many others who I knew were facing the same battle in life, and continue on to the next news feed post. But that did not happen, instead, as I read this man’s story, my heart deep within became extreamly convicted, and an inner voice (almost so loud, I could not ignore) said to me “You are his match, You are his Donor”. Wow, was I hearing this right? Was I crazy for what I felt so convicted about? Why was this happening. But I found myself unable to leave the story. Instead, I found myself reading it yet two more times back to back. And the voice within repeated itself and my heart still weighed heavy. I began to feel for this man and his children. Here was a man who was only a year older than me, a father of six children, grandfather of five grandchildren and a man who was pleading for a better life. I could not ignore what I was feeling, what by my amazement knew to be the truth, and that was I had to listen and I knew I was in fact his match, meant to be his Donor. It perplexed me that I knew, and that the decision within my heart had already been made to donate. The minute I knew my heart had already decided for me, I experienced a peace that flowed through me like non-other. A peace that has yet to leave me, a peace that has never allowed me to even second guess my decision to donate my kidney to this man. A peace that I truly believe is a peace that only God has given me. In my heart of hearts I knew and still believe, that this story was placed in front of me to see and respond to by God. And I say this for three reasons. The first being that, I should have never seen this story. There is no reasonable reason why this post, this story was on my news feed, and for that I believe it was placed there. Second, as I mentioned above is the peace within. Without this peace, I find it hard to believe that I would not question this decision over and over again. And thirdly, since day one, the process has gone quickly and overly smoothly, even when small blocks were faced along the way, they were quickly and almost immediately removed from the path of progress and eliminated. This was meant to be and planned not only in my life but in his life as well long ago. So what happened next you ask? After reading his story three times, I immediately went and sat next to my wonderful, supportive husband Kevin, and read the story to him. I told him of my deep conviction I was feeling upon my heart, the inner voice that was saying I was his match and meant to do this. And to my great surprise, my amazing husband responded with little hesitation and complete support. His only concern was of course for my well-being. And so the process began for a Miracle to take place.

That very night I contacted Scott via Facebook messaging. I told him how I read his story and wanted to be tested. He of course gave me all the information I would need and the contact numbers to begin the process. The following day I contacted Erie County Medical Center’s Transplant floor. Within five day’s, I received a package in the mail full of information, statistics, and three consent forms to be signed letting them know my desire to be tested as a Living Kidney Donor. I have to say, I remember being so excited to receive this package in the mail. I immediatley began to read through everything and signed all the the consent forms to begin the next phase. Wasting no time, I even drove to the Post Office downtown and mailed all the paperwork right out that very same day. A week went by, and I phoned the transplant floor in Buffalo. I asked if they had received my paperwork yet, and was told that actually that very morning it had arrived on their desk, and so the next stage of the process began. All my health history was faxed to the transplant center and three days of monitoring my blood pressure began. Then came several weeks of extensive testing. Many different weeks of blood work, urinalysis, Tissue matching and cross-matching through DNA, CT Scan, Ultrasound, complete physical, Chest X-rays, and even EKG’s followed. About a month into the testing process, we were both informed that we were nearly a match (98.8% DNA- TISSUE MATCH), which meant that at that percentage, Scott would face less chance of rejection of my kidney and would have a better chance of success with it. Wow… what AMAZING news that was to hear and what a match. It was then, that I knew without a doubt that I was meant to do this and this was God given, and a MIRACLE was about to take place in the near future. But it did not end there, what happened next was that TWO MIRACLES happened. and I will explain.

I was told in the beginning that the testing I would be put through would become the most extensive, complete physical I will probably ever receive in my life, that my health came first and that they would not take from a potential donor who’s test indicate that in time they may need their second kidney, and they were never more correct. As each test was performed, I learned over and over how healthy I actually was, until the middle of December when I received a call that one test was not looking so good and needed to come in for a procedure that frankly scared me. At the end of December, I went and had the uncomfortable procedure completed. Within a few days the results were received. Bad news but curable with treatment. This is the second Miracle in deed. Seeing I am one who seldom goes to a Doctor for anything, even when ill, had it not been for these needed tests to be a donor, I would have never known a potential life threatening condition I have, as the results pointed to potential causing cancer cells. Through extensive questioning on my part, and several specialist coming together, talking over my condition and the stage it’s at now, and it’s potential threats to my health, it has been determined that to continue on with the transplant will be completely fine if I am comfortable with that. That it will not affect my health (current or future) in ANY WAY that is foreseen with any high risk, and that my treatment can begin following my surgery and healing with no issues. Once again, I know God is in control here and my condition is treatable 100% and I will be completely fine. So God not only brought me into Scott’s life to save him through transplant, but he brought Scott into my life, to save me as well. And I continue to stand here in complete awe.

Well come Monday morning (the 13th of January), I will be at the transplant hospital at 5am to begin the final process of donation. I would be lying to say that I am not scared to go under the knife, or the pain I am sure to face upon awakening. But I know I am not alone, and that God has already gone ahead of me and will be there with me. I know the small sacrifice I am doing will forever change one man, and the many who he will continue to touch with his life. This experience already has taught me so much about compassion and genuine care for others. I am a better person for this journey and know I am forever myself changed. I for the first time feel like a flower that is blossoming and opening into a whole new realm of life. I now truly believe in Miracles, and am seeing first hand how when we are willing and open to hear and allow ourselves to be used for a greater purpose then ourselves, how God can and will create and master a beautiful portrait with our lives and the lives we touch. We just have to be willing to hear and go forward in action, believing that all will work out for the best.

I will post my next blog following surgery, and share the continued experience at that point.

In conclusion, we all are here for a greater purpose then just being us or living for us. Rather small or large, what we do for others matters and makes a difference in their life. I realize becoming a living donor is not for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine, but we all can make a difference to another in some way… I challenge all my family and friends to look for the little moments in time where one small act of compassion and kindness that you can do, can forever change another’s life.
Following the Gift Given
So here I am, two weeks following post-surgery of becoming a living kidney donor, and it amazes me how much my life has changed in just a few short weeks. All I have learned, all I have felt and all I am still going through on this journey of a Miracle.

Well on January 13, 2014, I entered Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, NY at 5am. My self, husband and mother, along with my recipient Scott and his wife Darlene, were met by a staff member of the transplant center on the first floor, and immediately taken to the tenth floor on the transplant floor. Things went rather quickly, almost so quickly, one did not have the time to think and fear or question. We were met by Channel 7 news and almost immediately, an interview began. I then was swept away to receive an IV and blood work, vitals checked and changed. My recipient Scott too was receiving the same following the interview. Before I knew it, I was in my bed being strolled down the hall to the pre-op room on first floor. As I was being pushed down the hall, I recall fear setting in and the tears flowing down my face. Not fear from regretting what I was about to do, but fear of being put under and wondering and praying that all would go well and I would make it through this major surgery alright and alive. Oh course my tears and seen fear did not help ease my husbands own personal fears of the same, but then my mother whispered in my ear and reminded me that God was with me, and had this in his hands and control. With a quick prayer from my heart and a deep breath, peace once again was felt and I knew I was doing what I needed to do to help another.

Within a half hour, both my husband and mother were by my side saying good-bye and giving me their unconditional love and support, and then lights out. I have been told that I was taken into the operating room around seven-thirty. Although I was sound to sleep before being taken in. The next thing I recall is feeling a gentle touch to my hand and being smothered with kisses on my forehead by my faithful, loving husband. The touch and reassurance that let me know I was alright, and made it through the surgery. I am told that I was out of surgery around two o’clock, but all I remember is opening my eyes in my private room and looking at the clock to see that it was seven-twenty in the evening. I remember thinking, “Wow, what a wasted day, the day is over”. Of course my first question from my mouth was not how I was or anything regarding the surgery, but was to ask how Scott was. He after all, was the reason I was there. And what news it was to my heart and ears to hear he was doing great, the kidney was phenomenal and all was working great. Yes, a Miracle had just taken place and a life was saved.

The next 48 hours were rough for me physically. Once the numbing and anesthesia began to wear off, the spasms began (Thank goodness for hot packs to the back region). I remember wanting to get out of bed and move the very first night of surgery, just in an attempt to end the spasms, but I was too weak to attempt that at that point. I must say, looking back, although a major surgery, my gallbladder being removed was far more worse then having the kidney out. I removed myself from taking anymore pain medication by Wend. and forced myself to walk and move around as much as possible to promote healing. I used this time to visit with my new big brother Scott next door to my room, and each time I saw him, knew I did the right thing. I witnessed his color become better, his eyes become more alive, and his health improve. It was the most amazing thing to witness how life was coming back into his being and knowing that my small sacrifice made such a difference for him. I spent four days in the hospital and left the hospital on Thursday the 16th to return to the hotel for a night before heading home four hours away.

Since my arrival home, I have had my good moments and my bad. As with any surgery, healing must take place, and although we all wish it would only take a few days, reality is it can take months to fully return to one’s self. So physically today, I still struggle with tolerable pain, spasms and discomfort, and learning my boundaries of what I can and can not yet do. But I would never do anything differently. Knowing what I know now, and all I would have to go through, I still would give again to another if I had extra kidney’s to spare.

There is no greater journey I have been on (other than becoming and being a mother) that has any greater rewards of joy, fulfillment and purpose then being a living donor who can make and does make a difference to another human being. The sacrifice I have gone through and continue to go through are so worth knowing that Scott now has a new beginning, a new hope, and a new start. I have no regrets, and am so blessed to have experienced such a journey of compassion and love for another. I am changed forever. I am a new person within. The old me is no more. The lessons through all this is life changing and uplifting, and I am blessed.

So where do I go from here? I am on a personal mission to be an advocate for living donors. I am proof that it makes a difference, that it forever changes not just the life who receives, but all the lives within that life. Myself and my recipient are now dedicated to bringing about awareness to the need, and showing others that we can make a difference one way or another. Within a few months, we will begin action spreading the word and awareness. We will be working side by side with the Kidney Connection and will be leading three counties in the awareness. This summer we hope to begin with participating in parades, fair booths and I am looking into a Kidney awareness walk as well. We will be needing many volunteers within our area’s to assist us with promoting. I look forward to all that is in store for us, and seeing how many more miracles take place in the near future. This journey I have been on did not end the day of surgery, but will be a journey I see myself on for a lifetime.