Some people have called me brave, because I am planning to donate one of my kidneys to my stepfather, who is in end-stage renal failure. But I don’t feel courageous. First of all, the donation hasn’t taken place yet. So, I still see this mountain in front of me that I have to climb. But secondly, there is nothing I can do to guarantee that this transplant will work for him. I can only give him the kidney and pray that it does some good. So, in that way, I feel a little helpless.
To me, it is a brave person who can easily talk with strangers, put them at ease and make them laugh. I’m not always comfortable in social situations. But my husband is. He is also the person who has inspired me to give to others when I can. I never would have been able to do this if not for seeing his generosity over the past 25 years.
While I love my stepfather, Gary, and consider him a big influence in my life, I feel like my doing this is as much a gift to my mother as to him. When Mom told us that Gary was approved to be a kidney recipient, it seemed obvious to me that we (the family) should try to see if we could donate. Although I’ve had a few panicky moments while thinking over the risks involved, I still come back to the thought that I am blessed to be able to even think about doing this. And, I can’t imagine waiting for him to get a kidney from a stranger.
Even though my decision to do this seemed clear and obvious when I started on this journey, it is interesting how the reality of what I’m about to do hits me like a ton of bricks every now and then. I have two kidneys now; in a couple of weeks, I’ll only have one. Wow, that’s a big deal! How will I handle it? I hope to be strong, positive, and ready to conquer it like other “mountains” I have climbed.
A few years ago, my husband and I climbed Mt. Rainier with some friends on a guided trip. It was really amazing, and I think back to the fact that one false step could have been fatal on certain parts of that climb. Although such an incident is rare, it could have happened. When I was faced with the scariest moments on that climb, I just kept moving, with a “don’t look down” attitude. I hope that kind of outlook, coupled with faith and prayers, will help me get through this, and hopefully my stepfather will be better off afterward.
After the surgery, I hope I will be able to be brave enough to continue doing triathlon races with my husband. Everything I’ve heard indicates that I should be able to. However, I’m still a bit unsure how soon I’ll be able to get back in the saddle, so to speak. And, it will be a while before I’ll be able to decide whether I can attempt an Ironman-distance race. We shall see.
The surgery date for me and Gary is Dec. 9. So, I thought now would be a good time to start counting down the days to the donation. I hope this blog will be useful for anyone who is considering being a kidney donor. I will recount all the testing I had to go through to this point and talk about the support network I’ve found along the way. And, of course, I hope to chronicle the surgery process itself and what life is like afterward.