Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2,861 miles away and alive, in julia

My physical recovery from my surgery has been going so smoothly, and improving at a much faster rate than I had anticipated. I'm still feeling lethargic, but it's not stopping me from pushing forward. I'm running again - well, skipping/shuffling/scooting, is more like it. It's coming back, but I am taking it easy and only increasing my time/pace minimally to avoid any setbacks.

My emotional state since my donation has been better than expected as well. I feel fantastic, and probably more alive than ever. I feel like my spirit is lifted, my heart and soul is fulfilled. To be honest, I never really felt like this surgery was a 'big deal'. Yes, it was a pain in the a** getting stuck with a needle a thousand times, and all the emails, phone calls and organization of the logistics during this journey was quite honestly, just annoying. But that's it. No. Big. Deal. I hopped on the table in the O.R. for my surgery, I awoke hours later, I rested for a week and now I'm at close to 100%, or at least I feel like I am.

The past week or so I have been thinking more about my recipient. Wondering...How she was doing? Was she healing, or was she suffering setbacks? What about her new New York kidney - was it living up to its expectations, or was it checking out once in a while for a Pinot Grigio and a glance at Derek suffering the loss during his last game of the season? I have heard nothing from her transplant coordinator and decided that I would give her a call in about two weeks to see if she could 'check in' on my lil' kidney. She mentioned to me in a phone call the day after my surgery, that the recipient wanted to contact me and would do so by letter. Just like my grandmother waiting for her TV Guide Magazine, I sprinted to the mailbox daily, with hopes of seeing an envelope postmarked with a big "CA". I truly felt like I would never hear from her, and had pretty much accepted that, sadly, but never regretting once my decision to donate. Everything happens for a reason and I felt that if she didn't want to reach out to me, she had her good reasons, and that's ok.

On Saturday, October 23rd, I pulled an envelope from my mailbox, postmarked from Bakersfield, CA. I barely had a moment to retrieve it from the box before my heart and eyes poured tears of joy. My hands shaking, my eyes crying and my heart filling with purpose. I haven't cried that hard since Ricky Martin came out of the closet. It was ridiculous and had I been in front of an audience, I would have died of embarrassment. It took about 3 minutes before I could even open it, I was admiring her handwriting and my mind was buzzing with curiosity as to what was inside. Quite honestly, I didn't care. She could have inserted a coupon for a free car wash and signed her name and I would have been satisfied. Just the very thought of receiving contact from her was very emotional for me. I had been waiting and wanting, but truly feeling like it might not ever happen.

I pulled out the notebook paper folded neatly inside and out popped a small photo of her taken with her husband and daughter. So, again, the tears were flowing like a river and I'm gasping for air. Look! - it's my recipient, there she is with my kidney inside of her!  She's real, and that's her family right there in front of my eyes! I can't believe it's real and that this is the person that is living freely with my crazy little bean inside of her. Unbelievable!

Her letter so beautifully scripted, so precise and elegant, so gracious and kind, thoughtful and caring. It was so much more than I ever had expected.

             "...you donating your healthy kidney to me has given me 
              a second chance at living a longer, more healthy, and 
              more fulfilled life. You, Angela are my 'Angel' and I 
              will always hold on to that."

              "...recovery for me has been going well. My labs have
               been great and the doctors are happy with my new 
               kidney function."

               "...know how grateful and thankful I am for the best 
               gift I could receive... your donation was the beginning 
               of a chain that will save so many other lives - may 
               God bless you abundantly for your act of kindess."

Two pages of sincere gratitude and honest thoughts that mean more to me than I ever imagined. After reading this, I now know that this was a big deal -  a very big deal. It's really real and I am amazed that I am sitting here today in New York, and my kidney is 2,861 miles on the other side of this country providing a new lease on life inside a woman that I have never met. It has finally hit me and this entire journey that all along seemed so simple is now so much more. I am thrilled and filled, with emotion. I am blessed and proud to have given this gift. I am so very excited to begin a beautiful connection with this woman that will forever be a part of me, this woman named Julia.

Again I am asking you, the reader, to please just entertain the thought for a moment as to how easy and possible it is to donate your healthy kidney to another that so desperately needs it.  I encourage you all to at the very least consider the conversation with yourself. You can't imagine how meaningful this experience is, and how little sacrifice you are making to provide someone with a much deserved quality of life that most of us take for granted. Ask me how you can become a non-directed kidney donor - how you can save a life.

Until next time... Happy Halloween!


  1. Angela you are an Angel. What a wonderful story.

  2. Love you, lady. You're a great friend to have- I wish I could have had someone give my dad a kidney when he needed it. He may still have been here today.

  3. Angel(a)

    This is just a fantastic blog. I am so happy that you have heard from her. I can't imagine all of the wonderful things going through her head as well as yours. I am so very happy for you and you are an angel!!!


  4. Fantastic to know that you have gotten (such beautiful and heartfelt) words from your recipient....how wonderfully touching and reaffirming! Truly, the gift of life...and your recipient is so appreciative :-)

    Robyn, one of your 1-kidney "sisters"

  5. Angela....I find such joy reading your entries. You continue to amaze me!

  6. hello angela
    isnt life full of amazing twists. 2 years ago this would never have entered your mind. now its all you can think about

  7. Hi Angela,

    I've been reading your blog for some time now. I stumbled across it while doing research about becoming an altruistic donor myself - and I've decided I'm going to go for it! I live in Jersey City, NJ (right across the Hudson from lower Manhattan) and work in NYC, and after reading about your wonderful experience at Weill Cornell (and given its proximity to me), I decided I want to go through them as well. However, I called the hospital and never got a call back. Could you provide me some information as to how to get the ball rolling?? I'd also love to ask you some questions about the process if you have time to help me out by any chance!

    Thank you, in advance, for your help!!! You truly are an angel, as so many before me have said, and I know your story will continue to inspire others to donate the gift of life, just like you so generously did!!!

    I love forward to hearing from you!!!


  8. Hello Melissa!

    Please feel free to contact me at ars0168@yahoo.com.
    I would be more than happy to chat with you, but can't contact you because I don't have your email address.

    Looking forward to getting to know you!


  9. just stumbled across your blog.. great stuff

  10. From one anonymous donor to another- YOU ROCK!!!!!!! I love your blog and I love your love note from Julia! Beautiful! Thank you for articulating these feelings for me- feeling like it's "no big deal"...yet the lurking feeling that behind that "curtain", there indeed is a gift so big, and full of so much love, that it almost can't be contained at all. When I get a glimpse of the "big" of it, it makes me have happy love tears!
    Take care!

  11. Thanks for posting this...I found your link to your blog on Living Donors online. I myself have just started the journey (and a blog of the journey) to see if I can be a non-directed donor here in Canada. Reading this part of your story (and I plan to read more!) has really made me sure I am on the right path. Hopefully I can donate and help someone as you have.

    Thanks again for sharing

  12. Lauren...

    Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for deciding to begin the journey of giving the best gift you can give. I wish you much luck and please keep me posted of your progress: ars0168@yahoo.com.