I meant to write this last week during my actual anniversary - but this is probably close enough. A year ago today I was still as high as I've ever been in my life -- so it counts.
And some of you are immediately taken aback thinking "What? How can she be saying this? Especially since I can see her typing in front of me in Con Law" Well, let me make this perfectly clear - I was legally high. One year and 7 days ago, I donated my kidney. The left one, specifically. March of 2012 I had two perfectly healthy, if not a bit overweight, kidneys. April - bam. One kidney.
I know, crazy, right?
This was not one of those Discovery Channel things where I woke up in a hotel in Tijuana in a bathtub full of ice and blood. That would have been awesome. Well, if by awesome, I mean something that would get me on TV.
I gave my kidney to my mother in law. My husband's mom. I'm not sure what other kind of mother in law I could have - but I wanted to clarify. In 2010, when I first started dating my now-husband, he was really stressed out because his mom had recently been diagnosed with a regressive kidney disease (I still don't know the details). He knew that he'd never be a good candidate and as an only child, he knew there weren't a lot of other options.
Without giving it much thought, I told him one day at lunch that I'd donate a kidney if she ever needed. Keep in mind, this was a guy that I was kind-of dating. We'd been dating casually for a couple of months. I'd never met his mom. But he was a nice guy, his mom was sick and I had an extra kidney. I figured what the heck. I wasn't using it.
Fast forward two years. I'd always kept the kidney offer open - through dating and engagement and a wedding. Fortunately, I met Mimi a few times and liked her a lot. If she was mean, I may have rethought my offer... who knows, maybe not. I really love my husband and still didn't need the kidney. In Feb of 2012, Mimi told us that she'd been to the Mayo clinic and her doctor was wait-and-see as usual, but she'd done some research and wanted a second opinion from a doctor in Chicago that was doing a different kind of transplant. She invited me to come with her as a potential donor and learn about the process.
So, we went to Chicago. I didn't really see the sites, but I did hang out at the University of Illinois, Chicago Medical Center for quite a while. I did countless medical tests and gave up more blood than I thought possible. At one point, they made me stop, have a snack and then come back to give up more blood. In total, I gave 26 vials and am surprised I made it through the day. I also had to do a psych interview to make sure that no one was bullying or blackmailing me into giving up a kidney. They'd never met me before and didn't realize that I worked at Biltmore. No one was going to tell me to do anything - especially be sliced open just a few short months after I'd had another slicing-open surgery on a nearby body part (it was sort of weird, they used the same incision - just opened it right back up & did a much better job of closing it the second time).
Miraculously, they found us to be a preliminary match and I was without any blood-borne disease, infection or abnormalities that would prevent a donation. Despite being chubby, I was (and probably still am) in very good health considering my age. We were sent home and Mimi was scheduled for much more thorough testing. In the meantime, I waited.
About a month later, I went to Chicago a second time. This time, however, I spent a weekend at an airport hotel, with nothing but a quick trip to the hospital to break up the monotony. On this second trip, I was CAT scanned and X-Rayed and did a few more tests. Again, the insides of my body seemed to be in lovely condition. It was now all systems go.
Less than 2 weeks later, we went back to Chicago a final time. Mike drove out with our things, and my handsome Paris spaniel.
So, we checked into the hotel.... and then came the worst part of the whole thing. I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO EAT FOR 2 1/2 DAYS!!!! I was on a "clear" diet - which means juice, jello, water, tea, etc. Stuff you can see through. You cannot see through steaks or chocolate. I was really upset. I was stressed out, because I was going to have major, life altering surgery and I was hungry. Needless to say, I was grouchy.
Finally, on Monday morning, April 2, 2012, I went to the hospital at 4am... maybe before 4, I don't remember. It was early. They checked me in, I signed some papers and started an IV. That's about all I remember.... until I woke up 8 hours later, really high and kind of sore.
The surgery was seamless. Well, not technically, I had seams all over. I have 5 scars scattered over my abdomen, which makes a solid argument for my participation in gang-related activities. But I came out healthy, Mimi came out healthy and the doctors were pleased with everything.
For the next 3 days, I was in the hospital -- STILL NOT EATING -- also, because they had to see how well my kidney was working, I wasn't allowed to drink anything. I got IV fluids and had to measure everything that went in and out... ugh. Worst 2 days ever. I was always so thirsty. Once they gave me the green light - I drank gallons of water.
Getting out of the hospital was kind of a hassle. They took their sweet time discharging me on day 3 - assumably so they could charge the insurance for another day. Then I got to go back to my rented home and sleep in a fluffy bed with my Paris dog.... which watching Law and Order. It was my own little corner of heaven. For another 10 days or so, I relaxed and healed. Generally, it was comfortable. I had enough drugs to keep me pain-free until my body was ready to do it on its own.
Maybe I'll talk more about it another time... Mimi and I had a long chat on our Kidney-versary and are both still very happy about my decision. Go organ donors!!