Tuesday, August 31, 2010

happy, healthy blood

Let's review, shall we? So, as I mentioned in my last post, they have found a match for me. Yeah!  The match they located is from the UCLA Medical Center, in sunny California. Their transplant coordinator mailed me a blood kit and instructed me to get one more blood test that would then be shipped to CA for the final test to complete the match process.

My primary physician's office suggested I go to a blood draw facility, where they would be more familiar with this type of unique situation for a blood test. So, I did. Last Friday I promptly made the appointment for 7am Monday morning at the local LabCorp here in Schenectady, thinking it would be so convenient to pop in on my way to work and still not be tardy. Nope. Mr. Blood-draw Man suggested I take it to Ellis Hospital's Blood Draw facility for testing, where they would be better equipped and familiar to do this type of test. Do I sound like a broken record yet? 

I drive over to Ellis Blood Lab and Ms. Blood-draw Lady says, "60 cc's of blood? We can't do that here, it's too much."  Ok, so where do I go then, Ms. You're-Letting-Me-Down-and-My-Patience-is-Wearing-Thin Lady? She tells me to go to the main entrance of the hospital and they can do it there. I get in my car and drive to the hospital, park, and am now arriving to have this test 40 minutes AFTER I was supposed to have had my original appointment at 7am. I sign the sheet at the desk. Can I just say that I'm always hesitant to sign one of these when I'm still not sure I'm in the right place to get the service I'm there for. It's like standing in a customer service line for 20 minutes to have them finally call your name only to inform you that you're in the wrong line. Who doesn't love that?!

The administrative assistant at this lab was so nice, but she too suggested they might not be able to do this test here either. Really? Ok, I have an idea - give me the needle, I'll fill the vials, box them up, slap a FedEx label on it and drop it in the orange and purple box. I mean, how difficult could this be? You throw the phlebotomist a curveball by actually being prepared with a ready-made kit for this procedure and they look at you like you are asking them to fill the test tubes with chianti instead of blood. She eventually fills 7 vials with my happy and healthy blood and sends it off FedEx.

Now what? As always, I'm not sure. I think it gets mixed with the recipient's blood and then the smarty-pants technicians come out in their white lab coats and run some crazy mathematical formulas on it and bamm! - it's a go! At least I hope so. I should be hearing from my coordinator from Weill-Cornell within a week, which at that time she will inform me of the final results and if it's positive, a surgery date will be scheduled. This is an exciting time for me right now. Not excited as in... I just stumbled across a shoe sale at Macy's kind of excitement. It's more like the type of anticipation an expecting mom might be experiencing, or the butterflies that flutter in your tummy when you're waiting to hear about a job offer.

This journey is now becoming all the more real for me. It's really happening, and it's sneaking up on me quicker than I had imagined it would. I'm loving every minute of it, and I'm so anxious for that phone call to come to inform me that my kidney is going to be transplanted into another human's body. It's absolutely amazing to me to think that we have this ability to help someone by passing off an organ to them that was once our very own. I'm fascinated that something that is coming from my body will be able to provide a better quality of life for someone.

You can do this too, ya know! Just think about it, please? It's such a small sacrifice. The urine collections, the multiple blood tests, the x-rays and body exams, the phone calls and research are nothing. Nothing. If anything, I have found that during this time, I have gained so much information and knowledge about something that quite honestly, I never knew was possible. It's been so interesting to me, and I'm intrigued by the science behind it all. I am looking forward to the next step!

Until next time... summer is coming to a close very soon, enjoy these final days outside in the sun!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

exciting news

At 3:40pm today I received a phone call from my transplant coordinator at Weill-Cornell. They have found a match for me! Unfortunately it's not Derek Jeter. Oh, wait... that's another match I'm waiting for. Hubba, hubba.

I'm so thrilled to receive this news today and much to my surprise, it has come much sooner than I anticipated. I don't know much, other than this: it's a 28 year-old female. (We might have a problem here if it's Snooki.)  Apparently her husband wanted to donate his kidney but is not a match for her. Because he is willing to donate his kidney, my kidney donation may be part of a paired donor exchange transplantation! (Watch the video imbedded in the article, it's a great story that explains this process and how if benefits so many.) See, I give mine to my recipient, her husband then gives his to yet another recipient in need, and so on, and so on.

So, what happens now you might ask? Gee, I don't know. Kinda like I haven't really known too much throughout this entire process until it's actually happening. Maybe that's a good thing. I received another phone call today, shortly after the call from Marian (my transplant coordinator). Suzanne, a living donor transplant coordinator from UCLA, called to brief me on my recipient and to explain the next step in this process. Just as I predicted, more blood. I'm not going to have any left at this rate. They will be mailing me a blood test kit and yes, I again will need to get more blood drawn. Immediately after, I will schelp it over to FedEx and overnight it to California. I have a better idea, why don't I go to California and let them draw the blood there. I've never been and could use a little vacation right about now. Once they receive my ziploc 'o blood, they do another round of tests to confirm that I am indeed a match. Within two weeks I should be getting a call to confirm that I'm ok. Soon thereafter, the transplant coordinators schedule my surgery date. Then I need to put down the glass(es) of wine. Kidding. No I'm not. Yes I am.

Throughout this journey I have been doing lots of thinking. Too much, probably. I've been thinking about the 85,000+ people out there that are in need of a kidney and what their days/weeks/months/years are like on dialysis, their quality of life and the pain and discomfort they have to endure every day. I know that I have yet to have my surgery, and that there is going to be pain and discomfort in the near future for me. But it's temporary. It's a very small sacrifice that I have to make that will enable someone to live a full life again, and for longer. I'm reaching out to my audience to please take a moment to review some information about how to be a living kidney donor at the National Kidney Registry's website. As I've said before, I know that this is not for everyone, and I get that. I also know that for many others it's only a matter of educating yourself to feel confident and comfortable about taking steps to become a living kidney donor. I did - please follow me.

Until next time... I'm taking in the sounds, sights and flavors at Saratoga Race Track this weekend - and I can't wait!

Monday, August 9, 2010


I have a close friend that gets so anxious when she receives gifts. Makes her feel uncomfortable, as she puts it. I kinda share her feelings on this, but not on my birthday. Bring. It. On! The intention is to feel self-absorbed on your birthday, and it's the one day out of the year where it's perfectly acceptable for it to be "all about me." Right?

It's the other occasions when I feel a little weird about receiving a gift - ya know, like a wedding shower. I mean, think about it for a minute, really. Let me see if I got this right - I am choosing to make a union with a partner for life (or not - oops, did I say that out loud?) and social norms have dictated that people throw presents at me because of that. I know, it was a different economic climate 50 years ago and when couples chose to marry, they didn't have a pot to piss in because they were like 12 years old. Ok, not 12 but 18. Makes sense to me that they might need a set of sheets and a pot to boil some water in (for the potatoes and cabbage). I find it's not necessary that this tradition still exists and wish it would slowly fade away to be buried with the other ridiculous ceremonial practices of the generations past. Wedding gifts today are expected, pre-selected, ostentatious, and impractical.

The gifts that I just can't seem to get enough of are the ones without the tags and the gift receipt attached. I'm talking about the gifts you receive from the heart, the ones that require the labor of love, the hours of a day, the shoulder that's there for you to cry on and the laughter from the time spent with a close friend. The gifts I love most are those of experiences, not items:
  • my mom cooking a wonderful dinner for me and baking her yummy desserts - more junk in my trunk
  • my family helping me move - only 12 times
  • my close friend spending time with me chatting and laughing over a bottle of wine - don't worry, my kidney told me it hates wine
  • surprise Sunday adventures that fill me with happiness, planned by a special friend
  • emails from old friends that have slipped away over the years
  • a card in the mail
  • a smile from a stranger - like from the cute guy at the gym that is half my age and doesn't know I exist
You get it, don't you? I know I do. These gifts are special because they are unconditional. They are not listed on an index card that Hallmark created as a suggestion to present to someone. They are presented with unconditional love, thoughtfulness and care. They are experiences, not items that can be purchased in a store. Although every girl can appreciate a little trinket, in a little box, with a little light blue logo that starts with a "T" and ends in an "s". I'm just sayin'. 

The best gift I feel that I have been given is my health. Mom, don't get your panties in a wad because I didn't say 'the green acrylic sweater you gave me for Christmas in 1985'. Sorry about that, but you'll get over it. I rarely have to think twice about an ailment I have. Why? Because I rarely have one. For those of you that are stricken with chronic pain, disease, or even a disability, I give you all the credit in the world. I can't imagine the struggle and discomfort that you must endure every day. I don't have any of those challenges in my life. I wake up, and outside of being stiff from an intense workout the day before, I feel fantastic! I am so fortunate, and blessed to have a body that is not impeded in any way. I love the feeling of getting a yearly physical and actually get excited to read the blood test results. Everything internal works just as it should - with the exception of when I consume a Jimbo combined with a Bomber's burrito too late at night. 

I really feel that God has given me this good health for a reason. My decision to donate my kidney is my unconditional gift to my recipient. I don't know who this will be, and I might not ever meet them. But that's ok, because I don't need to. This isn't about the response or reaction from the recipient. It's about my ability to pass something on to someone that will hopefully create a better life for them. I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful health that it's a no-brainer to not pay it forward. It's like a chain of goodness. I've been given this gift, now I want to give my gift. Hey, I have two of them anyway, right? That would be greedy of me to keep them both, plus I want to make room for more of my mom's desserts down there. I'm giving a gift that is very special to me that I know I appreciate and never take for granted. I know that there is someone out there that needs this, much more than I do. So, take my gift to you, and with it I hope that you can find even a small nugget of the good life that it has given me.

Until next time... word hard, but play harder - we only get one shot at this.