Sunday, January 8

Happy Kidney Day!

This is a very special day in our family, because back on this date in 2004, my brother, Andrew, was given a new life with a brand new kidney. It is one of those stories that whenever I tell anyone, they are amazed and I think it helps renew some faith in society.
Back in 2002, my brother was diagnosed with IGA nephropathy, which came out of nowhere. Apparently, it is one of those things, like cancer sometimes, that some people just get and they don't know why.
They said it could have been from him being sickly as a child and done damage to the kidneys then, but who really knows. At the time he was only 19, away at school and this diagnosis changed his life. There were tests galore and all the time. There was a major diet change and prescriptions. He finished that year at school in 2003 and even with more problems and a hospitalization, like the diease progressing faster than expected, he returned to school in fall 2003, but it didn't last long. He was very ill and the constant high blood pressure was giving him intense headaches making it impossible to concentrate on anything. When he returned from school, what we all feared worse was upon us. He had limited time and he needed dialysis twice a week. I was unlucky enough to pick him up from treatments a few times. The first time I had to go, I walked in and saw a room full of very old people all hooked up to machines and there in the middle, was this kid. My brother. He looked so out of place. Here he was amidst all these people you just knew were knocking on heavens gates, not the most inspiring of places.
He had already been on the donor list along
with tens of thousands of other people, but the testing of immediate family began. Everyone who could be a donor was tested, my mom and I had to do it twice because they messed up the first time. On Halloween, I found out that neither my mother, my sister or I had matched and was completely upset. The ex was over to take lil Max trick or treating and had asked what was going on with him. I explained our desperation to find a match, that we were worried about time and didn't want him to have to wait years on dialysis getting sicker and sicker. He immediately said he would be tested, he would do it. I hadn't asked, no one did. He just volunteered.
He was tested right away....a match. The ex was not only Max's dad, but the high school sweetheart. We had been together 7 years and up til this point known each other for 13 years. He knew my siblings when they were just kids and had even coached their soccer teams. They are all like family to him because he has seen wach of them grow up. I remember, at one point asking him if he "was sure about this" and his answer was, "this kid is like a brother to me and I know he is going to go on and do great things, I am not going to just sit back and watch him die." That is when I stopped worrying so much.

Three months later, January 3, 2004, my brother got a new kidney and it was perfect. He spent a week in the hospital, but Alex was up and about the same day and out of the hospital the next. I saw him in the hospital the day after the transplant, and something changed in that moment. We had plenty of horrible times together in recent years, fighting and hating each other, but in that one gesture, I knew regardless of what he had done, he was a good person. For this one simple act, I am eternally grateful as is the family. He can do no wrong now in their eyes, they practically erected a statue.

My brother went back to school in the fall of 2004, just 8 months later and is doing great. That's a picture of him that I just love because it was our first time visiting him at school in October 2004 and he looks so happy with his girl, Katie.
He is 22 now and I hope that this experience really makes him appreciate life. It sure made me. Which is why the day is so huge to me, a reminder that life is precious, that people really are good and organ donation is a wonderful thing.

It is sad when I see the statistics and before this whole experience I was a donor but never knew any really information about it. I never even knew people could live with one kidney! But I never thought for a moment, that anyone I knew would need a transplant or that anything like this would ever happen to someone I love. But it did.
89,000 people are currently waiting for a kidney transplant and 17 people die every day waiting for could have been my brother and I am so thankful that it was not. Thank You.


Mimi said...

Congratulations to your brother and Happy Kidney Day!

Just Me said...

Oh...congratulations! ex's can be so wonderful sometimes...

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