Michelle A. saw how her father suffered on dialysis so when she learned that a close family member’s kidneys were failing, she wanted to take action.
The family member* was diagnosed with diabetes many years earlier so they were no stranger to living with a chronic disease. But kidney failure was different. As their creatinine levels started to increase, their doctor recommended that they get listed for transplant. They did not yet require dialysis but with wait times for a deceased donor kidney spanning between 5-8 years, their doctor wanted to get the ball rolling.
After two years on the transplant list, it was time to start dialysis. The family member was still working so they opted for peritoneal dialysis. This allowed them to connect to a machine in their home for nine hours every night so they were ready to work the next morning. Michelle says that while home dialysis was convenient, it meant they had a nightly curfew and coordinating shipments of fluid and supplies complicated travel plans. The family member’s doctor asked if their children, or other relatives were able to donate. Michelle became aware of the need and asked about the requirements to donate. She learned that blood type matching and good donor health were top priorities. After discussing with her doctor, who noted her good health, she decided to fill out the living donor application. She dropped the paperwork off at the hospital and then…
The pandemic hit.
Michelle’s work up was on hold while hospitals adjusted to COVID-19 protocols and the new work-from-home life. Eventually testing began.
With her O+ blood type and no conflicting antibodies, Michelle was deemed a match! The next question was whether or not she could safely donate her kidney without harming her own health. Michelle was assigned to a donor team, separate from the recipient team to ensure that there was no conflict of interest in determining her fitness to donate a kidney. After a battery of physical and mental exams, it was determined that she was an excellent candidate and donation would not negatively impact her.
On December 14, 2021, Michelle and her recipient underwent transplant surgeries. Michelle’s kidney was removed using a laparoscopic method. She returned home the next day. Once she heals, she’ll have four small round scars on her abdomen and one small 3” incision scar below her bikini line.
Her adult sons and daughter-in-law came to take care of daily tasks like running errands, making meals, and household maintenance. Michelle says, “All I had to do was take my medication.”
She credits her faith as the most critical part of her story, “My faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is the most important. I was able to move forward knowing that no matter the outcome, this was meant to be. I did not really fear this procedure. I had many people around the world praying for us and the success of this surgery. I have had many people checking and continuing to pray for healing. This is of great support as I know my prayer warriors are sending prayers and blessings to God and that [my recipient] and I were in good hands.”
Michelle’s advice for others considering living donation is this, “Go ahead and do it but remember to keep yourself healthy. If I wasn’t healthy enough, I never could have even considered being a donor. I don’t feel any different, other than a small scar. Don’t be afraid.”
For those waiting for their life-saving gift she says, “There are people out there willing to do this for you!”
Michelle says she and her recipient are both feeling good and recovering nicely. They enrolled in a medical study that looks at the role the APOL1 gene plays in people of color. Her recipient began working remotely since two weeks following the surgery and is very happy about no longer having a nightly curfew for dialysis. Her kidney recipient is also looking forward to travelling when it’s safe to do so.
*Michelle’s family member wished not to be named or identified.