Gathering Places


Thursday, May 3, 2001

Donating an organ
benefits the donor, too

Recently I gave one of my kidneys to a friend who has had kidney problems for 19 years. We attend the same church, where many have prayed that she would be cured. After she had been told that she would be put on dialysis, I volunteered to be a donor for this special lady.

Taking each medical test one at a time, I started with a needle stick to type my blood. We matched and 13 vials of blood were taken and I was given two containers for a 24-hour urine catch. I had to undergo a CT scan with an IV to determine the size, shape and blood flow from the arteries to my kidneys.

I admit that with an IV in my arm, I did not want to proceed, so I started praying. I am not particularly brave about needles, doctors, or hospitals. Because this test turned out well, I did not have to take the renal arterialgram. That requires an incision into an artery in the groin where a catheter is inserted. The catheter is then put through the artery, reaching the kidney where it is tested for functionality.

In the next step, a nephrologist determined, through the 13 vials of blood, that I was not prone to future kidney problems of my own. Through all of these tests, there is as much concern for the donor as for the recipient.

The initial workup for surgery started. I met with my surgeon, Dr. Whitney Lim of St. Francis Medical Center. Dr. Lim is the most caring physician I have ever met. He spent almost one hour with my husband and me answering questions and going over the blood work.

I also was scheduled to see a psychologist to ensure that I had no doubts about either the surgery or my future with only one kidney.

Despite the needles and being poked and prodded, this was the hardest test because I was never given a clear definition of what to expect. I was given reading, math, writing and inkblot tests. The transplant team decided to proceed even though I cannot add 2+2 and it was discovered that I do not I have any imagination.

A date for surgery was scheduled, which we missed. As a Christian, I believe in the Lord's timing, and the first date, for whatever reason, was not His timing. Another date was scheduled, which I kept. The first evening started with an IV to hydrate my kidney, then the surgery the next day, and recovery after that. My hospital stay lasted four days.

Of course, after any surgery there is discomfort that includes IV's, shi-shi bag, an inability to move pain-free, doctors and nurses doing their jobs, incisions and the challenge of eating when you're not hungry, thereby proving an ability to keep food down.

Overall, the experience was positive from beginning to the end. You cannot tell that I have a missing "part," and my life has not changed drastically since the surgery. I will have to go for yearly physicals, watch my diet and exercise. I am looking forward to downhill skiing, hiking and power walking.

Francie Mendes of Mililani is a computer instructor
at Tripler Army Medical Center.

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