It was Thanksgiving 2004 when my Mom told me that her kidneys were failing. She has had type 1 diabetes since she was 12. I watched my grandfather suffer and succumb to the disease my whole life, and at 44, I didn’t expect it to affect my Mom so soon.
Since I heard the news, I tried to be tested to be a donor, but at 24, they told me I was too young. My uncle and father were both tested, and their blood types both matched. They tested my uncle first, and he was a match! The surgery was set for Tuesday, December 14th, 2004.
On the day of the surgery, we woke around 3 am, so we could leave at 3:45 am. We had to be at the hospital at 5:30 am, so that they could do blood work. If my Mom’s potassium was too high, she would have to have dialysis before the surgery. Thankfully, it wasn’t. My Mom had a fistula inserted into her left arm a few months before the surgery, just in case she had to go through dialysis, but she never had to use it. We’re very happy for that.
At 5:30, we arrived at Hershey Medical Center and signed in. After a few minutes, they called out a few names, including my Mom’s. The whole group went up to the 2nd floor Same-Day Admissions waiting room. My Dad held my Mom’s hand on the walk up to the room.
Around 6 am, my Uncle, Wayne, arrived at the waiting room. He had slept in a nearby hotel the night before. His wife, daughter, son, and future daughter-in-law accompanied him. My Mom was very nervous, but having her family and Wayne nearby really helped her, I think. Wayne was in great spirits, and kept joking of running off. They also named his kidney that day, “Lefty.” He also joked about getting the kidney “primed” for my Mom, by having cake the night before.
They called Wayne’s name around 7 am. (His surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am) He was taken to another waiting room, where he could have only two visitors at a time. We took turns going in to keep him company. Then at 7:30 am, they took him to another area to await his surgery.
Around 9:00, they called my Mom in to the other waiting room, and once again we took turns visiting her to keep her company. She got extremely nervous after talking to one of the anesthesiologists, who told her about all of the possible complications that could occur. He also told her not to worry if she woke up in Recovery with a tube down her throat, which also made her very nervous. They gave her something to calm her nerves. She was fine and a little sleepy after that.
Around 11:00, my sister came out of the waiting room to tell us that the doctors had come down to tell her that Wayne was doing great in his surgery. They also told her they would be ready to take her into surgery in about an hour. A few minutes later, they told her that they were ready to take her to surgery. (We were surprised, but pleased, at the change) They also told her that Wayne was finished, and he was doing fine. He was in Recovery where he would remain for the next few hours. We all said good-bye to my Mom. (Actually, we kept saying “See you soon!”) She was taken somewhere else, and we also moved to another waiting room.
We entered the 5th floor waiting room – the waiting room for those waiting for people in surgery. There was a volunteer stationed at a desk with a phone. When a patient was finished in surgery, and gone through Recovery, they would call the waiting room, to let the patient’s family know what room they were in. Wayne was finished with his surgery around 11 am, and was in surgery for nearly three hours. We went to see him, while we were still waiting for my Mom, and he was doing well. He was still a little funny, from the medication, and he was joking a lot. We were glad to hear him joking around!
Soon after, while we were back in the waiting room, a doctor came in and told us that my Mom was doing fine, and that her surgery was finished. She would be in Recovery at least two hours, and we could see her after she was moved into a room. We finally went to lunch at 3 pm.
We came back and visited with Wayne a little more, and it was getting close to 5 pm, so we went back to the waiting room to see my Dad. He hadn’t had anything to eat all day, and he wouldn’t go (even to the hospital cafeteria) to get something to eat. After about 15 minutes or so of waiting, Wayne’s daughter and daughter-in-law came up to the waiting room (Wayne was on the 4th floor) to let us know that my Mom was in a room, down the hall from Wayne. We quickly went downstairs to see her.
When we walked in, she was asleep. I think my Mom is really sensitive to anesthesia and medications, because I know it usually takes a long time for them to wear off with her. After a few minutes, she opened her eyes and smiled at us. My Dad asked her how she felt and she said, “I hurt.” It was so sad to see her in pain, but we were so happy that she was healthy. She kept drifting in and out, but whenever she was awake, someone would ask her how she was feeling. She kept saying “groggy.”
We went between her and Wayne’s room telling each of them that the other was doing great. Wayne eventually was standing up, and as soon as he could, he walked down the hall to my Mom’s room. When he walked in, my Mom’s eyes lit up. She was so happy to see Wayne walking around. She was so worried about him. (The day before the surgery, she kept asking him “Are you sure you want to do this?”)
She looked at him and spoke more than she had to any of us. She said, “I keep getting the urge to say ‘Chick-en!!'” We all laughed, and thought it was just the medication talking, but Wayne explained. At Thanksgiving dinner every year, my Uncle Wayne says, “This is good chicken,” and we all have to yell at him “It’s not chicken, it’s turkey!” It’s kind of a running joke in our family. Well, before the surgery, we also kept joking that we were worried once my Mom got my Uncle’s kidney, she would start acting like him. She was saying that she was feeling like him, by getting the urge to say “chicken.” It was really interesting that none of us got the joke right away, except for Wayne. They definitely have a bond between them, and it is only stronger from this experience.
Wayne was out walking around that night, and even more the next day when we went to visit them. My Mom had gotten out of bed that morning to stand on a scale to be weighed. She had gained 11 pounds from the surgery! They said that the kidney was very big, so I guess some of the weight was from that. They also had her on several IV’s.
Wayne was doing great, and the doctors told him he could leave that day (the day after his surgery). He told them he wanted to stay another night, however. I think he did it so that he could stay with my Mom another day, to keep her company. She was only sitting up that day, and not walking. She was afraid to damage the incision, I think, and she was still feeling a bit groggy from the medication.
The next day, which was Thursday, Wayne went home, after he had my Mom up and walking down the halls. I heard that he had sent the nurses in at 6 am to see if she was awake yet.
My Mom was doing much better on Thursday, and she seemed much stronger and more awake. They had her down to one IV, and they took her catheter out, which she was very happy about! During this time, she had all kinds of counselors and nutritionists and specialists coming to talk to her about her care after she goes home. The surgical team (or perhaps another team of doctors, I’m not really sure) also stopped by several times to talk to her.
Before Wayne had left the hospital, a few doctors stopped by to present him with a few items – a “Recycle Life” t-shirt, a bag of goodies, and a kidney-shaped pillow. It was for him to hold on his incision if he had to cough, to lessen the pain. It also came with a marker, and we all signed his “kidney.” He also received a Thank You card from the surgical team, thanking him for donating the kidney to his sister. He truly gave the gift of life!
For a few weeks after the surgery, my Mom had a lot of resting to do with a number of restrictions to help her heal. Our whole family pitched in to help her through this, and I learned that there was much more things besides being a donator to do to support my Mom. After surgery, the hard part was over, but there was still the possibility of rejection and/or infection.
It’s nearly two years later, and my Mom and Uncle are doing perfect. They both recovered just as they should with no complications, and our entire family couldn’t be happier.
write by Stephen