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Laura’s Story

NDD - A NON-DIRECTED, LIVING KIDNEY DONOR

Helping on person may not change the world, but it could change the world for one person - Laura Diaz Moore

 
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I DID IT!  I’m so grateful for all the people that wished me the best and shared their stories the week before I went in to donate.  You inspired me, thank you.  I also couldn’t wait to update all of you, hoping that this could maybe inspire someone else to do the same thing and share their spare!

May 2019: I’m 3 days out from surgery and I find myself shopping at Target looking for a Colorado Rockies baseball t-shirt which my 14-year old son had requested before I left Utah for Colorado.  “As long as you’re in Colorado, donating your kidney, could you pick me up a Charlie Blackmon or a Nolan Arenado shirt?”  I take this as a good sign.  Perhaps my son’s generation will remain this nonchalant about organ donation.  Perhaps it will be so commonplace that it’s not just a big deal.  As he would say, #Lifegoals.

But as I wander the store, I keep reminding myself that I just had one of my kidneys removed – just 3 days ago!  It seems surreal.  If not for the sore incision and my achy shoulders, I wouldn’t know the difference.  Perhaps I really didn’t need that extra kidney after all!  Yeah, it’s really not that big of a deal.

Although for the most part I had remained totally committed to donating my kidney, I did have moments when I paused and thought to myself, “Wait, what did I just agree to do?”  Mysteriously, these moments seemed to be followed up by some kind of affirmation that what I was doing was the right thing.


One of those moments came on my flight to Denver.  Although I live in Utah, the surgery was going to take place at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.  Due to some concerns by the transplant team, I had to change my flight at the last minute and get there a day earlier.  Keep in mind that besides a kidney, the donor also donates transportation and lodging costs so last minute travel changes are not helpful. (There are, however, new programs being developed and new laws being presented right now to help lower or remove travel and lodging cost burdens on the donor.  That will be a huge help for people.) Nevertheless, I am on the plane and we’re waiting for our turn to take off.  While we are waiting on the runway, the pilot says that the Denver airport just closed due to the wind!  Ugh!  I have early morning tests that if I don’t arrive on time, I may not get to have done. My surgery and 7 other surgeries are dependent on these tests happening!  You can imagine, I was frustrated and anxious.  What did I get myself into? 

I turned to the woman sitting next to me and blurted out my story.  Little did I know, I was sitting next to a transplant warrior!  She told me that if the Denver airport doesn’t open she would drive me the 9 hours to Denver!  She then told me why.  Ever since her niece received a double lung transplant, her entire family felt differently about organ donation.  In fact, the family motto became, “No one should die with two kidneys!”  Her brother and 3 friends have all donated kidneys and she recently was matched for a liver donation.  What are the chances of me sitting next to this person happening?!  I am reminded that nothing is by chance, and she reminded me that this was the right thing to do.  When we disembarked the plane, still in Utah, the Delta pilot, upon hearing my story also told me that whatever it takes, he would get me to Denver!  He kept his promise and I arrived in Denver.  And with the help of these two people, I arrived with a renewed commitment and belief that I was, in fact, doing the right thing. 

The surgery happened!

Now I look back on all the hoops I went through to help make this happen, nothing seemed too insurmountable to make this day possible.  I would definitely do it again, a thousand times over.  #shareyourspare

- Laura

After Surgery: Keeping in mind, everyone is different but I must admit, my surgery was not without a significant amount of pain in the beginning.  As I woke up in the recovery room I realized that I had grossly underestimated the pain that a 5-inch incision in my belly could cause.  I felt like my abdomen was on fire.  Through a mix of desperate hand signals and one-word sentences I got it across that I needed something for the pain.  A cocktail of opiates did the trick.  Although I wanted to limit my use of opiates for this surgery, I soon realized that was totally unreasonable, at least for me.  Painkillers during those first few days were critical for my wellbeing.  They allowed me to heal patiently and get up to move afterward.  I can’t stress enough, walking as soon as they allow you to, and as soon as you can, is so important.   Remember, I’m walking in Target now, by myself, 3 days after surgery!

It sounds strange, but I kind of enjoyed my 3 days on the transplant floor in the hospital. Maybe it was because I was treated like transplant royalty: a non-directed living donor!  The nurses would continuously thank me for my donation.  I felt valued and loved.  I never met such a professional yet loving group of nurses before.  They were so kind and attentive and went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable.  Each one asked me for my story of why I donated.  My favorite nurse, Brooke, said that nurses see first hand the difference a kidney donation can make.  The improvement in the donee can be very quick and dramatic.  This is why she and the other nurses were so grateful.  At the end of each shift, they would say goodbye and thank me again.  

And yes, I did find my son one of the shirts, but don’t tell him yet!

And yes, I did find my son one of the shirts, but don’t tell him yet!

My donee was not with me in Colorado but at the University of Wisconsin – Madison Hospital.  My kidney was going to fly on United Airlines, and apparently, by its mere presence, give that airplane priority in take-off and landing.  A courier was taking it to the hospital and surgery was scheduled for that evening.   The day after surgery, I learned that sometime after midnight the surgery in Madison finished up and the kidney started working right away.  My kidney was doing its job in its new home!  At that moment, it became so real.  My surgeon was so casual about it too, I questioned whether he was telling me the truth.  I kept asking him, “It’s working?”  He answered, “Yes”.  “It’s a success?”,  “Yes”.  “It really works?”, “Yes”.  “Everything is okay?” , “Yes.”  I am sure I annoyed him but I had to know and I’m glad I persisted. I’ll hopefully find out more but I won’t know who the recipient is unless they decide to reach out.  I would love to hear from them and even meet them someday, soon or down the road.  But if I don’t, I understand that too and I’m overjoyed that it worked for them.

I also learned that the kidney that was donated on my donee’s behalf in Wisconsin was flying to California.  The kidney being donated in California was flying to Washington DC and the one from DC was completing the chain up in Maine.  Eight surgeries.  Four new kidneys.  

Now I look back on all the hoops I went through to help make this happen, nothing seemed too insurmountable to make this day possible.  I would definitely do it again, a thousand times over.  #shareyourspare


Before the donation - April 2019

I am one week away from being a non-directed living kidney donor.

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That is, I am donating one of my healthy kidneys to someone I never met before, someone I don’t know, living several states away. All I know is that he or she needs a kidney in order to live and we are a match!

I will actually be the first person in a 4-person kidney donation chain. This is because my recipient has a friend or relative willing to donate but does not match with him. Therefore, I will be donating to my match, and his friend or relative will donate to someone else on his behalf. This second kidney recipient has a friend or relative who will then donate on to a third person on his behalf and so forth. In total, there will be 8 surgeries, and 4 people who are waiting on the National Kidney Registry (NKR) getting new kidneys. And as for everyone else on the NKR, they will move up 4 spots on the list.

Although this seems ironic, I can’t help but feel that I am getting the better deal in this whole arrangement. Sure, I am giving a stranger one of my healthy kidneys, but I feel like I am getting back so much more. In fact, I don’t know the last time I have done something that seems so self-serving. My friends think I’m crazy and tell me what I am doing is the complete opposite: totally selfless. But, let me explain.

Several months ago I came across a Facebook post my sister shared. It was a plea. A mom was trying to find a kidney for her 16-year old child and time was running out. Having a 16-year old child myself, I was instantly drawn to the post. I started clicking on the links and reading about what it takes to be a kidney donor. As if struck by lightening, I realized, “I can do this!” It seemed like common sense. Not some huge undertaking, but something so necessary and relatively easy to do. I signed up.

In fact, the image that keeps popping up in my head is one of a giant warehouse in the middle of a desert. From wall to wall and up to the ceiling, it is filled with food. Outside the warehouse are people starving but the doors to the warehouse are locked! To me, this image represents all the people dying every day as they wait for a healthy kidney - while busy people walk by them with two healthy kidneys, when they only need one.

I feel I am a perfect candidate. I am 51 years old and not planning on having any more children. I am healthy and fit, working out at Orange Theory Fitness several times a week, snowboarding and playing ice hockey. I have a great support system and a flexible work situation. Having had 6 previous surgeries for sports injuries and c-sections, the idea of another surgery didn’t bother me. If I couldn’t do it, who could? I’ve always admired organ donors and I feel that this is my time to walk this walk.

A few weeks later I got an email saying that the child no longer needed my kidney but asking if I would still be willing to donate. Having already read countless articles and FAQ’s, watched some Ted talks and listened to many stories, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!”

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And what did I receive in return? Empowerment. Purpose. Euphoria. Community.

Empowerment. At times I feel completely overwhelmed at the state of the world. The hatred, hunger, fear, violence, a deteriorating environment, the insidious political divisiveness. The problems seem too great for one person or even many people to solve. It can be downright depressing at times. And then I came across this saying: Even if you can’t change the world, you can still change one person’s world. Coincidentally, kidney donation was on my mind. It affirmed my decision to donate a kidney. I felt empowered. I might not be able to change the world, but I could help change one person’s world…or maybe even four.

Purpose. I consider myself privileged. Most importantly, I am healthy. Health privilege is more valuable than all other privileges put together. Plus, I live in an amazing community in Park City, Utah. It’s a ski town with limitless access to the outdoors all year round, wonderful schools, friendly happy people. I have a great job as a Mountain Host at Park City Mountain Resort, snowboarding much of the day. I am married and have two awesome kids, a dog, two cats, a bearded dragon and two fish! Life is good. Being grateful for one’s good fortune is important, but I’ve realized that it’s even more important to give back. Giving back gives one a sense of purpose. Donating my kidney, sharing my privilege, has given me a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

Laura knew, after seeing a Facebook post that she wanted to donate her kidney.

Laura knew, after seeing a Facebook post that she wanted to donate her kidney.

Euphoria. I have heard this many times. An unexpected consequence of donating your kidney is a feeling of euphoria. I’ve been told that it’s similar to the feeling of giving birth to a baby. I am a week a way from donating and I already know what they are talking about. You are giving life to someone. It feels good. In fact, just this weekend I was driving home from chaperoning a prom. I was driving up the canyon on I-80 and it was pouring rain. I could hardly see. I was nervous and felt especially protective of my kidneys! After all, my recipient is already aware of the match as he/she is also just one week away from surgery. At this point, I feel as if I am carrying someone else’s baby, someone else’s chance at life.

Community. Probably the most unexpected gift I am receiving from donating a kidney is community. I had no idea there was even a kidney donation community out there. It is full of euphoric people who are empowered and have purpose! I am one week away from donation and I’ve already met so many of these amazing people across the country. I feel a part of something that is big and full of momentum.

Hopefully the transplant is a success. And hopefully I will be able to meet my recipient. And if I do, I will say to him or her: thank you.