Today is a special day in our house. It's June 23, what we like to refer to as "Kidney day." It was the day I became a living kidney donor when I 'shared my spare' with my brother-in-law, Andrew. This is year 7 since the transplant, and you may be wondering why I'm posting about this now. In fact, I rarely ever talk about it, but there are some rather scary statistics out there about organ transplants and donation, and I hope by sharing our family's story it will spur more people to stick that little orange sticker on their driver's license.
|Andrew and his brother Dwayne (my husband) when they were kids|
|Andrew before his first kidney transplant|
Andrew underwent his first transplant when he was seventeen, his father having been his first donor. After the transplant Andrew went to college and got his teaching degree, married his high school sweetheart Kisber, and welcomed our daughter and two sons into the world. Son, brother, husband, uncle and brother-in-law living life, all because his dad 'shared his spare'.
Fast forward to 2008 when we got the news that his donated kidney was failing after twenty years. The truth is 20 years is a long time for a transplanted kidney to work, but now that it was failing it left Andrew with only two choices, find another living donor or go on dialysis and wait for a donor from the list. We have a very small family and since he already had his dad's kidney, the only other person who could donate was his brother, my husband. So we began the pre-workup donation blood work for my husband. Since I had to go pick up the kit for my husband, I got one for myself, too. I figured on the off chance we were a match, I could be the backup quarterback. Then the day came that they called us to tell us Dwayne was a match....and so was I.
A trip to Mayo in Rochester to test my husband ended in the news that he couldn't donate because of his high blood pressure and being under 40. After delivering that news the nurse looked at me and said, "Since you're here, if you want we can start your workup." And then she left us alone to talk about it. We sorta looked at each other in shock, unsure what to do. My husband was worried. After all we had three little kids and the idea of losing me during that type of surgery was very real, and it was for his family no less. I can't say I wasn't just as scared, but there was a voice inside me that wouldn't be silenced, so when she came back we told her yes, I would be tested. What we found out? Not only was I a match, but I was a better match than his brother. it was meant to be and......
Long story short
June 23, 2009 was a scary day, a happy day, a sore day, a worry filled day, a prayerful day, a 'perfect match' day, a hopeful day, a new day, and a day I will never forget. I learned some very important lessons on June 23, 2009; love conquers all, love wins, do unto others, it is better to give than to receive, and to trust in the Lord and His plans for us.
Since 2009 Andrew's wife Kisber went back to school and finished her nursing degree, now working full-time for a local hospital. After the transplant, Andrew went back to school and got his master's degree in Art and Art Education, hosting a gallery showing of his master paintings. (I only have two pictures, I wish I had the awesome paintings he did of how he sees himself after the transplant. SO COOL!)
|Witch Tree of Lake Superior by Andrew Mettner|
Sunset over Lake Superior (Now on my wall :) ) by Andrew Mettner
You may be wondering what I've done since 2009. I'm sure the majority of you are here because you know me as the author of the Sugar Series. If you've read the Sugar Series you also know how important organ donation is to Sugar.
That part of Sugar's story is there because he's important to me. Every person on that waiting list for an transplant, is important to me. The only way to spread the word about choosing organ donation is to use our voice, through whatever medium is our talent, to present these hard facts and the stories of families like mine. If we don't, no one will.
In the time it took you to read this blog post, another person in the US was put on the transplant waiting list. As you go through your day, this will be the last day for 22 of those on the list, because they won't see tomorrow morning. There are 120,000 men, women and children on the transplant list, and 82% are waiting for a kidney (And yes, you can share your spare with a stranger!) Here's the most interesting statistic: 90% of Americans support organ donation, but only 52% of them are registered.
I hope next time you go to the DMV to get a new driver's license you remember my family's story and you reach for that organ donor sticker. It's important to note that even if you have the donor sticker, you need to share your wishes with your family, and make sure your choice to donate life is added to your living will and filed with your hospital, and your physician.
Thanks for reading and sharing with our special day. As Sugar would say, "God bless organ donation and the lives it changes."