I celebrated my 6th “Kidneyversary” today (5/10). Six years ago I received a call from UAB that they had a kidney waiting for me and I needed to get there as soon as I could. I remember like it was yesterday. I was in the process of doing my nightly routine of hooking myself up to my dialysis machine. My husband worked nights at the time. The kids were sound asleep. It was around 10pm and I had waited to the absolute last-minute to hook myself up. Though I had a long cord I would still be tethered to it for the next 10 hours or so. Like any other night I was getting everything prepared so that I could lay down, watch a little t.v. while my life line, the dialysis machine did all the work. I had done it so many times over the past 2 1/2 years I could do it on auto pilot. For what ever reason that night I didn’t feel pressured to do it right at the stroke of 10pm. I didn’t have any appointments in the morning so I would be ok if I wasn’t able to disconnect until 10 or 11 in the morning.
The phone rang. I just knew it was my husband calling because he had forgotten to do something. Instead a male voice that was not my husbands, was telling me they had found a kidney match for me. I couldn’t hardly say anything but “Thank you Jesus”, and to answer yes I would be able to get to the hospital. I dialed my husbands number. Of course this would be the night he wouldn’t answer his phone. I called again, then again, and I still didn’t get an answer. I called a friend who possibly could have been with him. Still I got no answer!! One of the most important nights of my life and I couldn’t get my dang husband on the phone!!!! I called my in-laws to let them know what was going on, then my best friend so that I could have someone to keep the boys. Finally my husband called back. I was so excited my brain was moving faster than my mouth, so I had to actually take a few deep breaths to be able to tell him what was going on. He was home 20 minutes later. The boys were sleep walking to my in-laws car while we stood in a circle holding hands praying for traveling mercies, and that my surgery would go well. I packed my bag into the car. I knew I had forgotten something or things, but I was to excited to pack.
It seemed we were the only one’s on the road that night which ended up being a good thing. That night had to have been the darkest and most foggy night of the year. I don’t know how fast my husband was driving, but he definitely had his foot on the gas. I think I prayed all the way there! I wasn’t sure the of the window of time I actually had to get there. I knew from past transplant education classes I wouldn’t be the only one there getting crossed matched. I could be one of a handful of people called that night for the same exact kidneys!! We felt an urgency to get there before my competition even though tests, not time would prove the winners.
I arrived at the hospital and was placed in the room I would be in for the night. It was painted white and was one of the most sterile looking hospital rooms I had ever been in.They asked all the normal questions they ask you when you are admitted into the hospital. I had repeated these questions so many times over the years I didn’t even have to think about it. Do you have any allergies? What meds are you on? Do you know the dosage? Who is your emergency contact? Do you have a living will or a power of attorney? Yada, Yada, Yada. Who could think about those things when in just a few hours I was going to be wheeled into surgery. Of course I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I had a mix of excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and a handful of other emotions you have when you find out that your life is going to be changed forever! I laid there in the dark thinking about how wonderful a gift I was going to be given. The calls from my family in California had died down for the night. I expected it to resume in the morning; if not on my phone it definitely would be Cornell’s. My family was overjoyed with the news. They had been worrying about me from a far. Sometimes the distance makes any illness worse than it really is. I could only guess that everyone thought I had one leg in the grave with one eye closed. For at least an hour I stared at the ugly floral picture on the wall. Who decorates hospital rooms? They always have the worst art work. They do nothing to help “uplift your spirit”. Tonight I didn’t need it. It seemed every 30 minutes I would say a prayer of thanks. I may have been saying the same thing over and over again. I can’t really remember, but I was extremely grateful. I found myself doing it for possibly the 15th time that night. My mind began to wander and I began thinking. While we were rejoicing, somewhere in this hospital a family was in pain and grieving the lost of their, son, brother, uncle, father. Someone’s loved one had to die so that I could live. I didn’t know how to feel about this at the time; sometimes I still don’t.
When the time came I was rolled down several long cold sterile hallways. We finally reached the operating room. Earlier I had been given something to help me relax. Others say it causes them to not remember a thing. It seems to not have the same effect on me. I always remember everything. This time I was grateful. I wanted to remember this moment for the rest of my life. I never wanted to forget this miracle that GOD allowed me to take part in. There aren’t usually that many smiles in the room, but this time there were more than a few. It felt like when a baby is born. There is always an anticipation of a brand new life being brought into the world, that has all the opportunities dreams can hold. I glanced to my right and saw one of the surgeon’s bathing a bright pink healthy kidney in a saline bath. Just like a baby, it is crazy how something so small can have such a large impact on your life. As they prepared me to go under I began to count down trying to keep my eye on my little pink miracle. I looked as long as I could. Not only was I looking at my blessing, I was looking at the beginning of the rest of my life.