Two years ago today, I want out on a limb.
I took a leap of faith and allowed a surgeon to cut three holes into my abdomen, insert surgical tools, and remove my left kidney. My kidney was placed into a bowl and rushed to the bedside of my stepfather, Gary, where it was inserted and reconnected and made to work in his body instead of mine.
Who knows what my body was thinking at that point. All I know is that my trusty right kidney plugged along to fill the void and continues to support all my renal needs to this day. Yay, right kidney! And I’m happy to say that my stepfather continues to do well also. It is quite a miracle. And we are extremely grateful. Because you just never know.
You take your chances. And pray.
On that day, when I donated my kidney, I crossed over into a select club. I was no longer someone who was just thinking about donating a kidney, or merely getting tested to see if I could donate. I was no longer in a place where I could change my mind or freak out about the what-if’s. No. I was now in a different place, forever changed.
I remember sitting in my hospital bed the next day, dazed from the pain killers and drifting in and out of sleep while, ironically, a replay of the Hawaii Ironman was on. Craig and other family members were there, making it more fun to watch, even though I was only catching pieces of it through the haze. We all marveled at the age groupers and their determination, especially those who’d been to hell and back before trying to do this, their special interest stories dominating the broadcast. It definitely felt like the furthest thing from the realm of possibility for me at that point — even though I hadn’t been to hell and back. In a way, I’d been to heaven.
Now, two years later, I can truly compare that experience with becoming an Ironman. In the days leading up to both milestones, people would tell me encouragingly how wonderful it was – what I was about to do. Perhaps they didn’t use the same words in both cases, but the gist was the same. And in both cases, my mind would scream out in deafening silence that I hadn’t done it yet! Don’t go lavishing any praise on me; I haven’t done anything yet. With the kidney donation, I didn’t feel like I deserved any praise anyway. I was just being human. But with the Ironman, I would secretly cringe whenever someone called me an Ironman (or Ironwoman) before I’d actually done the race. I knew they just wanted to show me their support, and my heart genuinely appreciated the encouragement even if my superstitious mind did not.
In both cases, now, it is easy to look back at what I did and say, “Aw, it was nothing. No big deal.” But I know that’s not true. It was a huge deal to have a successful donation and to give my stepfather some years (two whole years now!) free from dialysis and any other related complications. And completing the Ironman, in addition to being the thrill of a lifetime that brought me even closer to my husband, my sister, and some of our dearest friends, was a moment that totally erased an enormous question in my mind: Can I do this?
From now on, if I decide to do another Ironman — or anything else on that scale — I have the confidence to know I can handle it. Maybe it will be harder next time or more complicated, or maybe my next challenges will push me to some other kinds of limits. But the question and self doubt won’t be there, at least not as big and imposing as it was before.
This point, two years after my donation, also marks something else… In a few days, I’ll return to the donation clinic for my final checkup. And I’ll definitely be telling my surgeon that I just completed an Ironman 🙂 … Donation clinics are only required to follow donors for two years and take note of their blood pressure, creatinine levels, etc. So, any data that I would have used to make my decision about whether it was safe to donate was based only on the statistics from this two-year timeframe. Everything past this point is not tracked officially. It is like the reason for writing this blog has finally come into its own. What I am able to tell you about my health and life after this final checkup -though purely anecdotal- will be the info I think might matter most.
Until next time.