Diary: Why I decided to Donate My Kidney and How This Decision Has Changed My Life
On February 22nd, 2017, I donated a kidney to my dad. I made the decision a few months after his kidneys failed, particularly after seeing him struggle with dialysis.
Diabetes and high blood pressure did a number on my dad's kidneys, forcing him to the emergency room on February 19, 2016, my birthday. His kidney disease had advanced to a critical stage, so he had to go on dialysis almost immediately.
Getting dialysis three times a week interfered with my dad's wellbeing. He would feel frail after every treatment, sometimes passing out if they extracted too much liquid or if the sessions ran too long. He also had to adhere to a strict kidney diet, and because his dialysis schedule was less than ideal (Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays), he had to miss out on any activities that fell on those days.
It didn't take long for us to connect with one of the kidney centers in New York to understand our options. I accompanied him to a seminar at Montefiore Medical Center to get him evaluated and put him on the transplant list.
We learned that transplant lists have a seven to a ten-year waiting list. Because dialysis patients have an average life expectancy of 5-10 years, I decided to keep it safe and signed myself up to be a living donor.
Becoming a living kidney donor was no walk in the park. I went through a series of physical and psychological evaluations to make sure I was fit to donate. I gave a great deal of blood and had a full day of meetings with a transplant coordinator, a living donor advocate, a surgeon, a nephrologist, and a nutritionist. These sessions eased the misconception I had about organ donations, but also increased my anxiety about the pain and seriousness of it all.
I gave a ton of blood, sometimes 10-20 vials, every time I visited. They wanted to make sure I was in good health, so they also did an EKG, a CT scan, and a few X-rays. I had been obese for quite some time, so to avoid future complications, the doctors urged me to lose some weight. They were pretty blunt about my weight loss, if not a little hurtful. My nephrologist told me that I would develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and potentially need a kidney in the future if I didn't change my ways.
Despite the badgering from my doctors, it took me a few months to discover an approach that worked for me. It wasn't until December 2016 (almost six months later) that I discovered Whole30. It was the holiday season, and still, I pledged to eat only whole foods for 30 days. I attended holiday parties and didn't touch alcohol, fried foods, or processed treats.
I did Whole30 for sixty days and lost a total of twenty pounds. I almost achieved my goal of reaching a BMI of 30 before surgery and vowed to continue to get down to a healthy weight.
Becoming a living kidney donor has been a blessing. In an effort to save my dad's life, I am taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle and save my own.
I am ready for the next phase of my life. Now that we got a second chance, I can't wait to experience life alongside a happier and healthier father.
Have you or are you thinking of becoming a donor? Tell us about your experience in the comments.