My sister, Jennifer (Jen!) was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in July 2015. After 14 months Jennifer started Haemodialysis, twice a week, 4 hours at a time. I live in New Zealand and knew as soon as I heard that Jen was so ill that I would happily give her one of my kidneys. My love for my sister far outweighed any fear I may have felt when it came to helping her.
Prior to donating a kidney to, Jennifer, I would say my focus on healthy living was pretty average. Once Jen told me that she was unwell, I really started to focus on being more conscious about what I was putting into my body. Then when she finally needed a transplant I was really determined to be as healthy as possible, and I wanted to make sure that I was giving her the absolutely healthiest kidney. Jen and I both started workup toward transplant. She in South Africa and me in New Zealand.. Jen said it was the most surreal thing, thinking that she would have to have my kidney in her body so she could live. There was never a moment during this time that I hesitated; I wanted my sister to live.
Sometimes people ask you, “how did you decide?”, well I didn’t really, there was no pondering over whether it was the right thing to do, and giving Jen a kidney came instinctively. On the day of Jen’s transplant, I can’t even say that I was nervous or frightened, it was more elation. Watching my sister on the dialysis machine and seeing how unwell it made her feel after dialysis was not a pleasant experience, I just wanted that to end.
For a few months after the transplant, back home to New Zealand, I had a difficult time getting back into the swing of things. I returned home 11 days after the surgery, so I wasn’t there to see how much better Jen was feeling, I didn’t see the progress and that was very hard. I work in a very busy emergency department and every day we have people coming in with health issues purely related to their total disregard for the limits of their bodies. From horribly unhealthy diets to problems related to alcohol and drugs, and it’s a case of “here I am, fix me”. This can be very frustrating and I honestly found myself resenting these patients.
During follow up appointments with the renal team, the Nurse specialist mentioned that these feeling were actually very common amongst donors. I had the opportunity to talk this through, and have found that I have the capacity to educate people a little, when they present to the emergency department, be it ever so briefly. These days I almost forget that I’ve donated. I feel exactly the same as I did prior, there is absolutely nothing that I can’t do now, that I could before. I am conscious that I need to take care of the kidney that I have, and it seems like such a small thing, but maintaining a good fluid intake is probably my biggest struggle!
My favourite part about this entire experience is that my sister is healthy. If you have a family member or friend needing a kidney why not have yourself tested as a match? You may just be able to help in a way you ever thought and ultimately save someone you care for’s life.