A unique anniversary....

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.

Yep, check him out.  A handsome, handsome dog.  That was really my one requirement of this whole giving-up-a-kidney thing.  Since I had to spend 2 weeks recovering in Chicago, I wanted Paris there to cuddle me.  He's a great cuddler.  World-class.  I have other dogs - a Lily spaniel and a Bill chihuahua, but, does Lily look like she's going to cuddle and comfort me?

No, she's probably plotting my murder as we speak.

And this is maybe the whole time in his life that Bill has sit still.  Cuddling is not his strong suit.  Running in terror?  He's a champ.

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!!


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