Word has been spreading about our documentary. Today, I logged into the email account I set up for it, and caught up on the emails. One of them was about a woman’s uncle who donated to her father (donor’s brother) in 1980. His name is Guy and he is now 72 years old. He was 40 when he donated, just like me!
Sadly, though the surgery was a success, his brother’s PKD didn’t take too kindly to the new kidney. He never made it out of intensive care and died right away. As he told me this, I broke down on the phone. I took a couple deep breaths, because I didn’t want him to hear me upset. Here’s a 72-year old man, who just got home for the day, talking to a stranger on the phone about something he did over 30 years ago.
I asked him some basic questions about the surgery. He was in the hospital for 2 to 3 weeks. WEEKS! I was only there for 2 DAYS! He’s also got a pretty big scar. They used to take the kidney right out of your back, and the scar cut across the ribs. The healing from that was pretty brutal. He was back to work right when he left the hospital, but his soreness lingered for several months.
He’s not comfortable being filmed, and I’m ok with that. It was, however, great to talk to someone who had donated so long ago and is still living a happy, healthy life. He’s had one kidney since 1980.
People ask me a lot how I would have felt if TinyMom never went home after the surgery. I can’t bear to think about it. It’s not that I would think my kidney was wasted, which people ask me about a lot. It’s just that she’s my mom and I wouldn’t want to think anything badly about the donation process. I guess we were pretty lucky, but these surgeries are successful every day.
Don’t be scared. Guy’s 72!
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a High School in North Scottsdale. My friend Kerstin teaches there. I spoke there a month after my surgery, too. They moved to a beautiful new campus and I was excited to see the kids. I sometimes miss teaching. (I taught Middle/High School for 6 years.)
This group of kids is in a pre-med club. They are REALLY good kids, too. They had asked ahead of time about equipment I would be needing, and everything was set up for me. I had some pictures on my laptop I wanted to show, but I prefer talking and attempting to draw the human anatomy by myself on a whiteboard. It’s pretty funny seeing me try NOT to be inappropriate. The kids always get a kick out of it, too. I think that’s why I was such a good teacher: humor.
Many of the students asked questions after I was done presenting. It was really cool how interested they were in it! Later that day, I got a text from Kerstin, telling me one kid was already thinking about it.
Today, I got a thank you card in the mail. I had a really great day today, and it was just the topping of the cake. Some of the kids signed it, and some are even thinking about donating. I cried. I know that if I had known I could do this decades ago, I would have done it. Just knowing that I got 20 kids to think about it, makes it easier to go through all the emotions.
Our story remains very emotional for me, and it’s been almost two years since I agreed to begin testing. I still relive a lot of it, because I’m always asked to talk about it. I’m glad to, but sometimes I have to leave parts out. My experience was very unique, because I also lost my job and had a lot of publicity to deal with. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure!
So, keep talking about what you’re passionate about. You never know who you could inspire.
Even though it’s been over 18 months since I donated, I’m still filled with emotion and overwhelmed whenever there is an event, especially at the Mayo Clinic. At the beginning, when they mention the various staff members, doctors, nurses, and advocates, I always start to cry. Some of those people were there for me – and still are – every step of the way.
The best part, though, is seeing the other donors who I’ve met through this whole process. One woman, Cindy, I met at my very last appointment at the Living Donor Network. We started talking about donating the next week, and when I asked her which day, it was the same day as our surgery. In fact, she donated two hours before me! It was a chance meeting, but destiny. I remember her coming to my room, the next morning after our surgeries, and I knew I’d be ok. She was up walking around and I was about to take my first walk. She looked so amazing and it made me feel so much better.
I also saw a friend who had two family members go through it last year.
Then, there was Rebecca. She started to follow me on Twitter after seeing our story on the news. She had a very sick aunt, and by me talking about it so much, she decided to take the plunge! She just donated 6 months ago. I went to the hospital that morning to hang out with all her family members while the surgery took place. I was so proud that someone else made such an important decision, but more than anything, I was so glad people were asking me questions about how she would do after the surgery.
People get sick of me talking about it. People say I did it for publicity. Guess what? THIS is the result of all that publicity (some of which was grueling!). THIS is why I have to make this film.