When I was 16, we were about to go on a big family vacation when mom bailed on us and insisted the rest of us go ahead without her. She had a good reason – she had been waiting on the kidney transplant list and a match became available for her. A few months later she was standing next to me as I got my first driver’s license, and I couldn’t say no when asked if I wanted to be an organ donor. I felt it was wrong to move parts of one human into another human. Of course I wanted my mother to be alive and in good health, but I was uncomfortable with how it happened.
Fast forward 19 years. I had the organ donor notation removed from my license a long time back. Transplanted kidneys don’t last forever, and mom’s first one started failing about 2.5 years ago. She started dialysis, and went through testing to get back on the transplant list, but her doctor soon suspended her from the list due to an unknown finding on a CT scan.
She’d had a recurring fungal infection in her abdomen, and he feared that if she got a transplant the immunosuppressant medications would cause the infection to return and kill her. There was a little spot on the CT scan that he insisted was the infection again, and he kept saying things like “take this antibiotic for 6 months and if it goes away we’ll put you back on the list” then “oh, it’s still there – stop the antibiotic for 6 months and if it doesn’t grow we’ll put you back on the list”.
This summer he told her that what showed on the CT scan might be a tiny bit of ureter that had been left behind during a previous surgery, and if she had exploratory surgery and they could find and remove it, then she’d be put back on the list. Otherwise, she could count on being on dialysis the rest of her life. She postponed the surgery a bit due to first her prior commitments and then the surgeon’s leg injury, but it was due to be done on October 29th.
Her doctor threw out one last bit of hope a couple of weeks ago, deciding that if she had another CT scan and it still hadn’t grown he might consider letting her back onto the list without having the surgery. She said it was false hope, but got the test done anyway. He finally called her Wednesday night and announced that the surgery was cancelled. As soon as they get the required paperwork done she’ll be back on the transplant list.
The time she spent waiting still counts, so she has 27 months of time accumulated. There’s a good chance of her getting a kidney quickly. However, I can’t stand to watch her going to dialysis 3 times a week when there’s a chance that could be stopped sooner. Tomorrow I’ll be calling the transplant center to find out how I get tested to see if I can donate to her.
I still feel really weird and uncomfortable about the idea, but some things have changed in the past few months. I had my first surgery, an emergency one to remove my gallbladder, and although I was terrified going into it, I found that it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. The possibility of donating to mom surfaced in my mind, but I still had to work on that problem with moving body parts between bodies. So I signed up to donate blood. This wouldn’t have even been considered at the time mom started dialysis, as I’d never had blood drawn in my life before last year, but it has happened repeatedly since then and I figured I could handle them taking even more blood than usual.
I’m not in any rush to go change my driver’s license back to organ donor status, but for my own mother I would give a kidney up. There’s no guarantee that I’ll be a match, or that they’ll deem me eligible to donate a kidney, but I have to try. In the meantime, I’ve found a gift to celebrate mom’s future transplant, no matter where it comes from.