Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Testing - Part I

Potential kidney donors have to go through a testing phase to ensure that they are an acceptable match for the recipient, are healthy enough for donation, and are mentally and emotionally able to make a good decision on whether to donate. This testing phase can be done over an extended period of time or can be accelerated over a short period. I did my testing over two visits.

My first visit was a short one. I met with the transplant coordinator who explained a little more about the process. She answered my questions, checked my weight, and took my blood pressure. My body mass index (BMI) needed to fall below a certain level in order to be considered healthy enough to donate. My BMI was below the maximum but I learned that my recovery would be faster and easier if I were a little lighter (more on that at a later date).

Blood pressure is one of the critical tests. High blood pressure puts a strain on your kidneys which could cause problems down the road. At this point I had already reported that I didn’t have any high blood pressure issues but the transplant center must also register two low blood pressure readings over two visits to be absolutely sure. I have never had a problem with high blood pressure and I registered my first normal reading.

I went from there to have an electrocardiogram recorded to check my heart. They hooked a 12-lead EKG up to various parts of my body. It was a quick test but did feel like something out of a science fiction movie. From there I went to have blood work and a urinalysis performed. Great fun!  Unfortunately I didn't realize I was going to be doing the urinalysis so I had used the bathroom just before going in for the tests.  Oops!  Luckily I was able to give them just enough to get their 4 vials for the testing.

That concluded the first round of testing. I scheduled round 2 for a few weeks later.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Decision

Candi first told me about needing a kidney over a year ago. We were both working at a newspaper group in Northern Virginia.  I instantly felt the urge to help but I am ashamed to say that I didn’t act on that urge. I just assumed that I wouldn’t be a match and never got around to doing the research to see what was involved.  A few months later I moved back to our corporate office in Richmond which put Candi's need a little further out of my mind.
Luckily, Candi posted a message to her Facebook page last April that brought her need back to my attention. A local news program aired a story about a lady who found a live kidney donor by posting her need on Facebook. Candi figured this was worth a shot. She posted some particulars about the process and she mentioned that the first hurdle was that the donor had to have the same blood type as the recipient. She listed her blood type as O (the positive and negative don’t matter).

Well I have type O blood which got me past the “there is no way that I could possibly be a match” phase. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to put things off any longer. Candi put me in touch with the Transplant Coordinator at Inova Transplant Center at Fairfax Hospital.

Inova sent me a packet of information on the technical side of donation and the potential risks involved. They encouraged me to go over the details with my family as they consider it very important to have a lot of family support. The biggest risks seemed to be with the surgery itself.

First, there is always a risk when going under anesthesia. I am young and very healthy so I viewed this as being a small risk. Second, there is always a risk of infection with a major incision such as is required to remove an organ.  From what I read, it sounded like this risk was minimal as long as you do a really good job of keeping up with cleaning the incision.

I found the long term risks to be a lot smaller than I expected. 97% of kidney issues affect both kidneys at the same time so only having one kidney does not greatly add to that risk.  Adding to my comfort level was the fact that kidney disease does not run in my family.  You are strongly encouraged to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible when you only have one kidney and you need to avoid some medications that are considered to be toxic to your kidneys.  Overall, though, it sounded like I wouldn't have to take any medications or change my diet.  I would be able to go on living my life much like I do now.

In reviewing all of the materials and doing some additional research online, the importance of my decision was amplified by learning more about what Candi was facing.  I learned more about the challenges of dialysis and the freedom that comes from a new kidney.  I learned about the advantages of a recipient receiving a kidney from a live donor instead of a deceased donor.  Both the short term and long term success rates were a lot higher with a live donor.  And there was the open question of how long Candi would have to wait for a kidney from a deceased donor.  She has already been waiting for 6 years.

When weighing the advantages for Candi against the potential risks, my decision seemed like a relatively easy one. The next hurdle was discussing my decision with my family. This part made me a bit nervous as I figured my family would be far more concerned than I was. I had it about ½ right. I found that the women in my family were completely supportive but the men were more concerned. I was really expecting it to be the other way around. But with a little education and some time to digest everything, my entire family warmed to the idea and gave me their blessing.

The decision was made - I was ready to proceed. I filled out the paperwork and faxed it back to Inova. I had taken the next step in the journey.

Candi & Myself

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Welcome to The Kidney Project, a blog about my journey through a live kidney donation. Let me start by saying that I am an accountant. I am in no way, shape, or form a kidney expert. This blog is not designed to be a technical resource about kidneys or transplants.  There are plenty of technical resources online.

Instead, this blog is meant to bring you along on my journey. I have found that there are not a lot of resources available for those considering becoming a live donor that describe for them what the live donor process is like for the person donating the kidney.

I have also found that there are a lot of misconceptions about donating a kidney. As my friends and coworkers have found out about my decision, I have heard everything from fears of my impending death to absolute certainty that kidney donation means that I will be on dialysis the rest of my life. Several of these individuals expressed that they would love for me to blog as I go through this process to better educate those who know nothing about kidney donation. I hope this blog will help fill both of those needs.

In the weeks that follow, I will describe how I came to the decision to donate, the steps I went through in the testing phase to find out whether or not I was a match and fit to donate, what the actual surgery was like, and then bring you along as I recover. I will also give periodic updates after recovery to report in on any longer term effects of the process. My friend Candi, the transplant recipient, has also agreed to do some guest blog entries to share the experience from her perspective.

There are three ways to keep track of new posts.  The first is to click on Follow up in the upper left hand side of the screen and new posts will pop up in your Blogger Dashboard.  This will only help if you check in with Blogger regularly.  The second way is to click on "Like" under the Find us on Facebook box on the right hand side of the blog.  New blog posts will show up on your Facebook homepage.  The final way is just to check back often.

So, once again, welcome and thanks for joining me in this journey!