On March 4, 2016, after some routine lab work, I got a call from my doctor to go straight to the ER because my hemoglobin was dangerously low and my creatinine was high. Once at the hospital, they quickly realized I was in end-stage renal failure. 30 years of being a Type 1 Diabetic had finally caught up with me.
The nephrologist was dead set on putting me on dialysis right then and there, but I was far too stubborn to give up that quickly. I told him that I wanted to talk to the transplant team at Baylor Scott and White in Temple, Texas first. Being a wife to an active duty soldier and mother of three, I refused to spend the rest of my life on dialysis if I could avoid it. After a good bit of back and forth, he gave in and set up the appointments.
On May 5, 2016, I had my first transplant appointment. I met with the social worker, pre-transplant coordinator, nephrologist, dietician, and surgeon. They gave me my list of additional appointments necessary to go on before the review board. It took almost two months to complete the list, and in that time my creatinine spiked so high I had to have a vas cath placed for dialysis. On June 29, 2016, I started my adventures in dialysis with Flo the Robo-kidney.
On July 25, 2016, I received the call that I was being put on the dual organ list. Dual organ! It was decided I was a great candidate for a kidney-pancreas transplant. I hung up the phone and looked at my mom and said: “I’m going to get the call by my birthday (August 25).” I could just feel it in my heart.
I continued with dialysis three times a week for 5 hours at a time. On August 25, 2016, at 3 PM THE CALL came in that they had found a match, a 24-year-old male with no known health issues but still considered high risk due to incarceration. They needed to do the in-depth testing that took 4 hours. The risk was a concern, but I also knew my doctor wouldn’t do the transplant if something wasn’t right when she did her once over of the organs. I tried not to get too excited because there was still a chance it would be a no go.
“Happy Birthday!!! It’s a perfect match!”
The longest four hours of my life passed, and I heard nothing. I accepted the fact that it wasn’t a match and started thinking of a new goal date. As I was putting my boys to bed, the transplant department called back saying “Happy Birthday!!! It’s a perfect match! We need you to come in immediately.” I got the most life-changing news ever for my birthday! The next hour of my life was a total blur. I grabbed my go bag, rounded up the kids and called everyone I could think of. We flew to the hospital to start the process. There are no words to express the emotions that come with THAT call. I was overjoyed to know that my life was about to have a new beginning, but at the same time, my heart ached for my donor’s family and their loss.
I barely slept because of my excitement, and of course, the nurses coming in and out of the room trying to get me ready to go down to surgery. At 6 AM, they wheeled me down to the OR where I was greeted by my surgeon, Dr. Jacqueline Lappin, and her team. There were words of reassurance and just a joyous feeling in the room. I remember seeing the anesthesiologist and telling him how he was one of my favorite people. Then, the next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery 8 hours later. The procedure went flawlessly, and my organs started working right away.
This journey hasn’t been without a few bumps in the road, but I just celebrated my one year anniversary of my “replacement parts.” I have dedicated my life to advocacy for living donor and organ/cornea/tissue/marrow/blood donation. My life was forever changed by someone else’s selfless gift, and I want so many more to be able to receive the same gift.