Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Can you live a normal life after donating a kidney?


Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor and I don't pretend to be one. This post is not intended to give medical advice.

ALWAYS refer to your medical professionals. In the case of transplants, that would be a transplant team. Experts would include the transplant surgeon and transplant coordinator.





As a living kidney donor, I get asked about my life after transplant. Some people, after finding out that someone like me donated (I was 53 at the time!), look at me a little differently. But considering life after a transplant is an important factor for everyone involved.  

When I started the process, I was relieved to find that an entire transplant team (each donor gets one) wanted to meet with me. Donor candidates and recipients have their own set of experts. Information is kept confidential and not shared between the teams. Most hospitals include a transplant coordinator, social worker, psychologist, and transplant surgeon. Each member met with me to explain their part of the process, answer my questions, and discuss how I would handle any possible complications.

In my experience, they told me that the more physically active that I was before the surgery, the quicker that I would recover. Like other inpatient surgeries, there are always risks, however small. 

After recuperating at home, I went right back to teaching in the classroom. It took me a while to get my energy back, but within a few months, I felt "normal."  As a part of the donation process, I had lab work and doctor appointments six months, one year and two years after the procedure. My remaining kidney continues to function just fine.  

As a matter of fact, because of the extremely thorough testing process (By the time I was done, I felt like I was applying to be an astronaut.), donor candidates are usually among the most healthy individuals. Talk about a good bill of health.

I don't have to take any special medicines or avoid any certain foods. Any changes that I needed to make are healthy choices for most people. 

When people ask me if my life is "back to normal," I usually say no.  It's better. I'm more aware of how blessed I am to be healthy.  I'm fascinated with the incredible life-saving and life improving medical advances. And, I'm passionate about equipping people with information to consider when they are facing kidney failure. Normal? No way. Better than ever.

What would you like to know about life after transplant?


Friday, January 26, 2018

T-shirt campaign lands a kidney for Robert Liebowitz


Need a kidney? Looking for a donor? One way is to tell your story. Sometimes, it can lead to a chain of events.Within the past month, Robert Liebowitz received a kidney.


Photo of Robert Liebowitz and his t-shirt that spread wild on Facebook

Did you hear how it started? He designed a tshirt and wore it when he and his family were at DisneyWorld.

Apparently, another DisneyWorld guest, Rocio Sandoval, spotted the shirt and asked if she could take a photo and post it on Facebook. It went viral!

Check out the links below to see how a total stranger, Richie Sully, saw the photo and became Robert's donor. 


Click to watch the kidney recipient and his donor on the Today Show, one week after the transplant.


Click to read the article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

It sure is an incredible story.  What about you, the one searching for a kidney? How will you tell your story? If you need help getting started, click to visit The Living Kidney Donor Network. If you are c curious about getting started, the previous link will help. If you need more direction, email me, lisa@lisahetzel.com  I sure would be nice to see another person have a successful transplant.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Consider donating a kidney

Not sure if everyone is going to be happy with the gifts that you've chosen?  Have you thought about donating a kidney?  I know, this post is written on Christmas Eve.  Transplants from living kidney donors don't happen overnight.

But, have you thought about getting tested?  Some of you might be among the donors who have given. Some other readers might be searching for a donor. It is my deepest desire that everyone who needs a kidney gets one.

But that can't happen without more living donors.  There simply aren't enough viable kidneys out there.  Even with the kidneys from deceased donors, there is a huge shortage. That's why I encourage you, if you're healthy, to consider donating a kidney this year.

If you are the least bit curious, please contact your nearest hospital's transplant center.  All of your questions can be answered and you can remain anonymous.  There is no obligation.  Of course, I'd love to chat with you if you want to know more about my experience as someone who donated a kidney.  Three years have passed since the transplant. Both my recipient and I are doing well.

Do you have any questions about donating a kidney? Let me know.  I'd be happy to help you find the answers.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Why Should You Register as an organ donor?

Almost 120,000 organ donors are needed.
I signed up as an organ donor years ago. Most likely, it was when I got my license. I really didn't think about it. My parents and friends were probably registered.

Fast forward 40 years. Organ and tissue donation became personal.  My cousin was in kidney failure and needed a transplant.

Immediately, I ruled myself out because I thought that I was too old (learn why I wasn't on my "about" page).

I checked my license to look for a note about being an organ donor. Technology advances have replaced the form on the back with a scannable fingerprint. I was probably still on an organ donor registry, but had moved and married. Would an address and name change make it more complicated? If something happened, and no one could speak for me, would someone take the time to scan my license and know my wishes?

I visited my driver's license site and learned that a small red heart icon is printed on the front of organ donors' licenses. Mine didn't have one, so I ordered an update. I also made sure to tell my family and friends my wishes. As I started talking about this, I learned that several people I knew had received tissue transplants. My grandmother had cornea transplants, a friend had a new ACL and another had plastic surgery after serious burns.

However, I was shocked to learn that many people die everyday because there aren't enough life-saving organs.  According to DonateLife.net, "95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor but only 54% are registered." Click here to visit Donate Life's website.

Since my cousins' kidney transplant, she has become a grandmother.   Now, she takes care of her grandson.  She looks great and feels incredible.

On the other hand,I have a friend who has been dialysis for over 5 years.  He is exhausted and is now on disability.  Three times a week, he spends hours hooked up to machines.  Dialysis doesn't last forever. He needs a transplant soon.

TWEETABLE
"95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor, but only 54% are registered." DonateLife.net  (Click to tweet)
 
What do you think can be done to help to meet the need for more organ donors?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why do people donate kidneys to strangers?



Seems strange to many.  Why would someone choose to undergo lengthy testing and an unnecessary operation in order to donate to a stranger?

I've met several of these people.  They're referred to as altruistic donors.  Many of them will respond to the question above with the same response, "Why Not?"

Amazing.  Listen to a few of them in this Youtube video.  Click here to learn why some people choose to donate.

Recently, I connected with Ned Brooks,an altruistic donor who shared his rationale at a  TEDx event. Click here to watch Ned Brooks explain why, at age 65, he chose to donate to a stranger.

Here's something else that's cool.  Many of these people continue to promote living kidney donation.  Ned is the founder of Donor to Donor. Visit www.donortodonor.com to learn how they help End Stage Renal Disease patients find compatible donors.

What would you like to know about kidney donation?



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How to Get More People to Consider Donating a Kidney

I'm  so excited!  A fellow living donor sent me this decal for my car.  She's on a mission to get one in every state.

Want to get more people to consider stepping up to donate a kidney?  Invite a kidney donor to your next meeting: house of worship, civic group, neighborhood cookout, anywhere.

There are so many misconceptions about donating.  If you don't know someone in your area, visit my favorite website, The Living Donor Network, www.ldkn.org.  In addition to the information that's included, the founder, Harvey Mysel, offers webinars to field questions.



By the way, if you live in the southeast, I'm willing to travel.  If you live further out, we could hold a Skype session.

Interested in more ideas about how to get started?  Contact me: lisa@lisahetzel.com  I'd love to help you.

Monday, February 6, 2017

When your friend needs a kidney



This is Terry.  I met him through a friend of mine.  She mentioned that Terry has been on dialysis for 5 years and needs a kidney.

Terry's story is common.  Due to a genetic disease, PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease), his kidneys are failing.  His life has dramatically changed from working as a truck driver, riding his 2003 Harley and hanging out with friends.

Now, he spends 3 days a week, four hours each day, hooked up to a dialysis machine.  That won't last forever.  Even though there have been a lot of advancements in dialysis, time will run out.  Dialysis is a temporary fix.  It's benefits come at a cost.  You don't hear a lot about people on dialysis dying of kidney failure.  Many times, these patients die because of the tremendous stress on their heart.

The only way that Terry can regain his strength (He can't even lift 20 pounds anymore) and stamina is with a transplant.  He's done all of the things that his doctors have advised.  And, yes, he is on the waitlist.

Terry's blood type, O, could make him a universal donor (if only he were healthy). However, he can only receive a kidney with someone with Type O blood. The waiting time is long for a Type O kidney from someone is deceased. If Terry gets a kidney from a deceased donor, it will allow him to live dialysis free for an average of 7-10 years. However, with a kidney from a living donor (like I did), the "lifespan" of the kidney can double!    

And here's a sad statistic.  Every day, 18-20 people die while they are waiting for a life-saving transplant.  (Click on my "about" button to learn why I decided to give.)

Some people automatically rule themselves out because they don't have the right blood type. But there is still a way.  If someone began the testing process and "qualified" as a suitable donor, s/he could donate in something called a paired exchange.  Here's a link from the Living Kidney Donor Network (www.lkdn.org) Click here to learn how any blood type could help Terry.

I challenge you to learn more about kidney donation.  Choosing to step forward is a big decision.  It's very personal.  You can find out information about the process at the Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, GA by visiting this website. Call the Transplant Center's number (888-605-5888) and tell them Terry's information (His name and birthdate 3/26/58). The transplant center can answer any questions that you might have. There is even a screening form on the website.  Again, it's anonymous.  Check it out.  Who knows?  You might even be a good donor candidate.  I was floored to learn that I could donate a kidney at age 54.

I had many questions:
  1. Could I afford it? Yes, because the testing, procedure and follow up would all be paid by my recipient's insurance (at no cost to her) 
  2. Would I have huge scar?  Most likely no.  Most donors are operated on as a laporoscopy ( 3 small incisions and one a few centimeters long). 
  3. Would I have to take medication after the surgery? No. As a matter of fact, I went right back to my normal life. (Well, except for the fact that I became much more grateful for my health.)
The process is anonymous and comes with no pressure from the medical team.  If it's not something that you would consider, inform yourself so that you can support someone who does get tested.  It can also help if you know someone who is waiting for kidney. Someone like Terry.  Just a thought.