Thursday, July 19

give life

June 26, 2012 5:30 AM, Pre-op
Three weeks ago I had surgery.  While I was in one room being operated on, my friend Crystal was in the room next to me, also being operated on.  During the surgery the surgeons removed my left kidney, flushed it out, and placed it in Crystal's lower abdomen.

I've tried many different ways to approach this on my blog for the last few weeks, but it's been difficult.  It seems I can easily put into words the silly stories of my kids, but when it comes to something a little more serious, like an experience that means a lot to me, it's harder to articulate.  So whatever comes out now is as good as its going to get.

Crystal is my neighbor.  She's just a year younger than me and, despite what you might guess because of her need for a kidney, doesn't actually have kidney disease or kidney failure.  Instead she was born with only one kidney, one that worked great for her up until the doctors removed it and tried to put it back in.  About a year ago a renal aneurism was discovered on her only kidney, and the decision was made to try an auto transplant (this means they removed her kidney, repaired the aneurism, and then tried to place her own kidney back in her body). During the surgery something went wrong and the kidney died.  Fortunately Crystal survived the surgery, but her life was changed from that point on.  You can google what it's like to live without a kidney, or read the archives of her blog to get a bit of an idea, but what you'll find is that living without a kidney can hardly be called living.

I received a range of responses from people when they heard about my decision to be a kidney donor.  Some people called me a saint, some people called me crazy.  While I can understand both responses, I don't think I'm either of those things. I did have two main reasons for choosing to do it, which I would like to share.

First Reason: I don't believe in looking at other people's misfortunes and saying things like, "Glad that didn't happen to me", or "that's their problem, not mine".  Other peoples problems are in fact everybody's problems.  No one can get through this life on their own, and while I don't think I can help everyone in the world, I do think I should help where I can, even if it seems like kind of a big deal, or a bit scary, or maybe even a little stupid.  I've had my own share of problems in my life, and each time I've dealt with one, kind people helped me even though they didn't have to, which made all the difference in the world to me.  Crystal had lots of other people in her life who also thought this way and got tested to be a donor, but were ineligible for one reason or another.  I bet if you ask her, she'll tell you that the fact that people were being tested (even if they eventually couldn't donate) made a positive difference in her attitude and her ability to deal with her "problem".

Second Reason: As I was thinking about getting tested for Crystal, one day at church (we are in the same LDS ward) I happened to be sitting near her while she was looking especially sick and defeated, and the Lord prompted me with a simple statement, "You can help her."  That statement was all it took for me to begin the testing process.

Post-op, slightly drugged, facetime chat

I will be forever grateful that I listened to that prompting because being a kidney donor has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Yes there were times I doubted my decision, there were times when it was a little scary, and times when I thought what I was doing was crazy, but it has all been worth it.  Crystal has her life back, Avery and June have their mother back, and Chris has his wife back.  That all happened because the Lord put me in Crystal's path and told me to help her.  I suppose it would be possible to get a big head about what I did, but instead it has been a completely humbling experience for me.  I got to be part of a true miracle!  And during the process I got to find out just how many people care about me (which is a lot, for whatever reason).

Walking the hospital halls

I had been warned that my recovery would be rough and that I might be down and out for several weeks, but amazingly enough, my recovery has been pretty smooth.  I've had rough moments, like a bout with debilitating nauseousness a few weeks ago, and some crazy restless legs that make sleep difficult, but otherwise I have no complaints.  The only thing I can possibly attribute this quick recovery to is prayer.  Crystal and I have had more people than we realize praying for us, and we can feel it. After this, I will never underestimate the power of prayer.  So thank you to everyone who has prayed for us.  Thank you to everyone who has cared for our families, who has brought us dinner, who has visited us, and who has supported us.  It means the world to both of us, really.

And thank you especially to the hospital for the package (my last one!) of Lorna Doone's that I ate while typing this up--they helped me get through.

A few other things:

*Jeremy was incredibly supportive of this from day 1, and is even still today, despite the fact that he's the only one that does any work around here lately.  (Wait, that's not that different from normal...) This would not have happened without him.

*Despite what some people think, you can in fact live with only one kidney.  My remaining kidney immediately picked up where the other kidney left off, with no difference felt by me.

*The surgeon told me I have amazing kidneys with record high function.  How's that for a hidden talent?

*A cool article in the Deseret News several weeks ago about a charity fundraiser put on for Crystal.

*A link to join Team Hadlock for the Kidney Walk in September.  I'll be there!

*I don't generally talk much about my beliefs on my blog, but in this case my beliefs were so fundamentally core to my decision to donate a kidney that I couldn't help but share.  If you want to learn more about what Latter-Day Saints believe, go here.

*If you aren't registered to be an organ donor, please reconsider.  If you live in Utah and would like to register, go here.

*Not enough links yet?  Well, if you aren't yet a fan of Lorna Doone's maybe this will change your mind.

*And for those of you curious, here's a picture of my old/Crystal's new kidney (taken with a disposable camera, so pretty poor quality).