(Or Five Reasons Why I would donate a kidney all over again)
1. My cousin, Denise, can spoil her grandchild. When Denise had her first child, her mom had already started dialysis. Denise's mom wanted to help her take care of the baby, but she could only stay for an hour or so. Progression of PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease), along with dialysis left her exhausted. Now, years later, Denise has all the energy that she needs. She's even going to take care of her grandson when her daughter returns to her "day job." Talk about changing family history.
2. Denise is dialysis free. Because the transplant was done before she had to begin dialysis, Denise was able to avoid it altogether. Dialysis does not offer a cure. It was originally designed to help patients while they wait for a transplant. On an average, patients on dialysis may survive 5-10 years. (There is data that many can live longer.) The transplant coordinators have said that patients who can move directly to transplant feel better sooner.
3. I feel better than ever. As her living kidney donor, the transplant team follows my medical history for two years. Most procedures are done as a laparoscopy. I have four small scars to remind me that transplants save lives. Lab work and consultations are regularly scheduled to ensure that I do well. Our second anniversary, called a "kidneyversary," is coming up this December. I feel wonderful.
4. Guess what? She'll need another one. The sad news is that there is nothing in place to maintain Denise's health for the rest of her life. Transplanted kidneys from deceased donors last an average of 7-10 years. Kidneys from living donors, like mine, may last twice as long. Denise and I are both in our 50s. Unless medical research improves, Denise may face dialysis in her 80s.
5. There is no cure for kidney disease yet. There is a lot of progress in the area of portable dialysis units, but no cure has been found. Until that happens, I'll keep advocating for living kidney donation. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.