What to do when you are expecting to donate a kidney in 2 WEEKS

This weekend (already less than 2 weeks from surgery): 

The goal is to get our minds off of everything. We are going on a mini pre-transplant weekend trip to Atlanta, GA to see the new Braves stadium and take our foster children to their first Major League baseball game. This should be a lot of fun!!! We are so thankful to our friend Greg McMichael who has invited us out to see the new stadium and watch the Braves play. Going to a Braves game every year has been a tradition for Steve and I but we weren’t able to make it out last year. Sunday we have dinner plans with some good friends (one of which is a living kidney donor and has been such an amazing source of encouragement and support to Steve and I).

The week before surgery: 

I plan to bust butt at work and get as much as I can caught up. I plan to clean the house from top to bottom. Also, I am going to try my best to STAY CALM… this will probably be hard because the nerves are starting to set in and I am sure are going to increase as the day gets closer. Keeping busy and talking to friends and family will help keep my mind off of the anxiety.

Then the weekend before the transplant (how in the world are we already this close to the transplant???): 

Steve and I will need to go to the grocery store and make sure we are stocked up on all the essential non-perishable items we will need after the transplant for when we get home. We will need to pack up our foster children’s things as they will be going on respite while we have surgery and recover. Maybe Steve and I will have a nice romantic dinner date (as romantic of a dinner as you can have with two babies in tow).

Week of Transplant: 

Monday and Tuesday I will be finishing up things at work/transition my work items to coworkers. Possibly go get a manicure or pedicure with a friend to de-stress a little. In the evenings I will be doing laundry, packing for transplant, getting a lot of extra snuggles in with my foster babies…. and most likely panicking (haha just kidding, hopefully I will be as calm as a cucumber). Steve and I will need to remind each other to breathe and trust that God is in control.

The 27th Steve and I will be heading to Nashville. Surgery is scheduled first thing in the morning on Thursday the 28th!!! I cannot believe how quickly it will be here.

 

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

 

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My Everything

I cannot express the feeling that came over me when I held the letter from Vanderbilt in my hands that said “you have been approved as a living donor.” That letter, those words, that sentence, carry so much value to me. To put it into perspective you would have to understand what has brought me to this point of wanting to donate but nobody can really fully understand. I fell in love and got married to my best friend and he happens to have chronic kidney disease. When we were dating and he told me that he had kidney disease and would likely one day need a transplant or be on dialysis I knew that I wanted to donate a kidney to him when that time came if I could. Since marriage I have lived this disease with him, in sickness and in health for better or for worse, we are fighting this together.

About a year ago things took a turn for the much worse. I was sitting in my husband’s hospital room in the ICU. My husband was dying. The month prior he had very suddenly had to start dialysis for the first time. Now I was sitting beside him in intensive care… He was not awake but I could tell he was in excruciating pain but his blood pressure was so dangerously low they could not give him anything to make him more comfortable. He had gone into septic shock from an infection in his dialysis catheter that went through an artery in his chest near his heart. His prognosis did not look good. The grief I felt as I sat there beside his hospital bed in the dark room was so heavy that I had to keep reminding myself to continue to breath. Up until that moment I had no idea grief could physically hurt so much, I felt like there was an anvil on my chest. It physically hurt to breath.

As the overwhelming realization came over me that I likely did not have much longer with my husband I did the only thing that I could think to do, I crawled in bed with him. I started to sing our wedding song as tears streamed down my face. All I wanted was more time, more time with him – my everything. As I sung the words to our song “Everything” by Michael Buble my thoughts went back to the summer we fell in love, the first time we danced was to that song and I can remember it so vividly. We laughed as we danced, the song kept cutting in and out because he was playing it on his phone and he had poor service. It was so romantic, but in our own special way. “Whatever comes our way, oh, we’ll see it through/And you know that’s what our love can do/In this crazy life, and through these crazy times/It’s you, it’s you; you make me sing/You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything…”

When I came to those words in the song I snapped back to reality… this crazy life, these crazy times. I looked around at all the monitors, the sterile room, and at my husband – Could our love see us through THIS? Everything seemed completely hopeless at that moment but I knew if anyone’s love could get them through this our love could.

I did not leave that hospital a widow. My husband slowly began to recover and I got to take him home. There is something about grief though that changes you forever. It took several weeks before it felt normal to breath again. I look at the world different, I cannot explain it. You cannot unfeel the intense pain of grief, it definitely left a mark. That I have the opportunity to extend the life of my husband, to increase the quality of his life, and give us more time together is the most incredible blessing and honor. When I think of all the hardships and all of the pain that has led us to this point., I feel a little bit of everything. When I read “you have been approved as a living donor” I felt hope, peace, joy, and immense gratitude.

Everything by Michael Buble

How Spanish & Faith Make Dreams Reality

Visualizar y verbalizer (visualize and verbalize)- a phrase my Spanish teacher used to repeat every class followed by a philosophy lesson… in Spanish, because it was a Spanish class after all and not a philosophy class (haha). He taught more life lessons than actual Spanish. It has been over a decade since I took his class and I don’t remember hardly any Spanish but those words have stuck with me – “visualizar y verbalizar.” He had us recite those words every class, multiple times per class. We would discuss the importance of visualizing and verbalizing what are hopes were for the future.

Often times I find myself visualizing and verbalizing. I did it before I knew I was a match for Steve. I chose to visualize how I was going to tell him the news before I knew I was going to be a  match; then I verbalized that we were a match by putting those words on a baseball card in hopes that I would be told we were a match and that I could give him that card to share the news to him in a special way. I also visualized and verbalized during my donor testing earlier this month.

I was at my last appointment of the last day of my donor testing – the nutritionist appointment. Like everyone else I met at Vanderbilt the nutritionist was amazing! We talked and laughed and I really enjoyed speaking with her. She spoke about Steve and my future after transplant and I really appreciated her optimism. I told her about how I look forward to being more active with my husband after the transplant. She said it was her hope for us that we would be approved for surgery soon and recovering sometime this Fall and we could take walks together in the crisp Fall weather… my mind went wild and I could see it. I visualized it! Steve and I were holding hands, the leaves crunching under our shoes, the beautiful trees with their orange, red and yellow leaves dancing in the wind, we were healthy, happy, and smiling. Visualizar!

I told the nutritionist that we will be walking this Fall after the transplant and I was going to send her a picture of us after the transplant walking with the trees and their changing leaves surrounding us. She smiled and said that she would like that very much. I smiled and decided then and there that was going to happen. I visualized and verbalized what I hope to happen in the future, and I plan on doing just that. I cannot wait to go on that walk. I cannot wait to send her a card with that picture I promised her! Visualizar y verbalizar!

Monday the transplant committee is scheduled to meet to make a decision on whether or not I am approved to donate.

This is my hope: I am going to get the call from my donor coordinator that the transplant committee has come to a decision and they have approved me to be a living kidney donor for my husband. We will schedule surgery. Everything will go smoothly with both of our surgeries, my kidney will work in Steve immediately, and for the first time in a long time he will feel what it is like to be healthy because he will have a working kidney. We will have an uneventful recovery. We will take lots of walks together during recovery and regain our strength. I will send the nutritionist at Vanderbilt a photo of us this Fall after surgery walking together surrounded by all the beautiful trees changing colors.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

 

How Fostering and Living Donation are Similar

Foster care and the kidney transplant are really the only two things I have been thinking about this week… I am so preoccupied with thoughts of what is on the horizon for us (Steve and I and our foster children). Bear with me… this might be a stretch but I was thinking about it today – fostering and living donation are similar. I don’t think of my kidney as being mine. Ever since I decided to start the process of donating my kidney to my husband I have thought of it as already his. Right now I am just incubating my husband’s kidney. I am taking care of it like I would my own (actually even more carefully because it does not belong to me and I want to give it to him in pristine condition) but in the back of my mind I know that eventually (hopefully) it will be going home to live inside my husband (haha that sounds so weird). That is where it belongs if the doctors determine that it is safe for it to live there! In some ways foster care is a lot like that.

People say all of the time “I could never give them back!” about fostering as a reason they could never foster. While I understand that fear of loss and I have experienced that enormous grief of having to let go of foster children the intention is to love them and care for them temporarily. Fostering is not about my wants. As much as I would love to adopt, as much as I would love to never have to say good-bye to these precious babies that I am madly in love with, as much as I do not want to let them go, they do not belong to me. I was given the blessing of “incubating” them for a season until it is safe for them to go. It will be painful. I knew that going into it but the outcome is worth any pain I might feel if it helps them feel less pain. Nobody said it would be easy, but it is worth it!

Fostering and living donation have become two of my greatest passions and I hope that my story can inspire someone else to consider fostering or becoming a donor. Fostering and going through the process of trying to become a living kidney donor has enriched my life so much through all the friendships I have made and all that I have learned through my own weakness and need for help! There is nothing better than being able to give the gift of life! The act of taking care of something/someone, for someone else, despite how it may hurt has brought me so much closer in my relationship to God and understanding how He loves me.

John 15:12-13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

 

5 HUGE Ways God Has Knocked My Socks Off

I want to give God all the glory for everything that has transpired over the last 2 weeks and really my whole life… He has had this plan laid out for a long time. The feeling of immense gratitude I have right now is bursting out of my pores and I just have to put in writing my thanks. I am completely blown away by His grace and mercy in Steve and my life! If I can use Steve and my story for any type of recognition I want that recognition and acknowledgement to be how great God is! Do not praise me or Steve; praise the LORD – He is good. Please do not be discouraged in whatever circumstances life has thrown you, like I was, God is good even when our faith and strength waiver. I find so much comfort that God works and His power is made perfect in our weakness.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

1 –  First of all He answered my prayer! All last month I was praying for a miracle – boy, did he deliver!!! I was struggling with my faith. I wrote a blog entitled “I am Angry at God” last month because that is how I felt. Eventually, (probably just out of sheer exhaustion) I surrendered and begged God to show me He had not forgotten me, to show me that He still loved Steve and I, and to show me that He still had plans to prosper us and not to harm us. He showed me his love in the most unexpected way imaginable.

2 – God placed it on THOUSANDS of people’s hearts to reach out to me, to pray for my husband and me, and to encourage us. I cannot even begin to express how overwhelming it is to get messages from people literally around the WORLD saying they are thinking about you and praying for you. The peace and encouragement Steve and I have felt from all the prayers has been incredible and so very needed.

3 – The friendships that I have made from people reaching out to me has been heartwarming. People who are living donors, recipients of transplants, people on dialysis, people in the process of hopefully donating a kidney to someone, people who are battling other health issues,  and people who just were touched by our story. I have not had the opportunity to respond to everyone but the conversations that I have had with the people I have been able to respond to have been so uplifting and I hope I was able to encourage some of you as much as you encouraged me. If you have reached out and I have not responded I am sorry, I very much appreciate the time you took to message me. The generosity/love/kindness has been so humbling from everyone who has reached out. God bless you all!

4 – Another way God has blessed me is something that makes me a little uncomfortable to talk about – finances. Steve and I take pride in working hard and providing for ourselves and our foster children. With Steve’s health issues things have been difficult financially because he was out of work for awhile and then was only able to work part time due to his dialysis schedule. I had no idea how we were going to make it work in order to continue to pay our bills while we were both out of work recovering. It is so hard to ask for help and neither Steve nor I felt comfortable doing that. The night I posted the video I got a message from Jonathan, he was a stranger at the time but now he is a good friend. I seriously cannot wait to meet him and his wife in person! He sent me a message, “I’d like to do something to help.” I kind of dismissed the comment and thanked him for his kindness thinking he was just being nice and not really feeling comfortable accepting help from a stranger. Then he started telling me how he was going to help and he immediately went to work to help alleviate some of the financial burden. His generosity, action, and determination in helping us is humbling and so very much appreciated. I am really happy he reached out and I think that we will be friends for life! He was just one of the many people who have stepped up and helped Steve and I financially and we are seriously blown away that so many people would give of their personal resources to bless us.

5 – Lastly, (this is definitely not an exhaustive list but I don’t think anyone would want to read as long as I could write about how God has blessed me) God has blessed my socks off by renewing my spirit! I have felt so discouraged and now I feel uplifted. I have not been able to pour into others as much as I want to because of how empty I was feeling. When I shared my blog about being angry at God my godfather messaged me and told me not to forget that God was the God of all circumstances and “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” I responded that I knew that but I had grown weary of the valley and longed to be guided beside quiet waters and for my soul to be renewed. God heard my cries and answered my prayers. I am sure Steve and I will have struggles in the next few weeks but I am so glad I am approaching the next phase of our life with a renewed, encouraged spirit.

God bless you all!! Seriously thank you for your support, encouragement, and love. I will keep you updated as our story unfolds so you can praise God alongside of us for all He has done and continues to do. August 9th and 10th I will be going for 2 days of additional testing, if everything goes well surgery could be just a few short weeks after that.

 

I did not expect this

“What to expect when you are expecting to donate a kidney” is the name of this blog I started back on May 4th of this year to chronicle my journey in hopefully donating a kidney to my husband Steve. Apparently, you should expect the unexpected! My husband battles chronic kidney disease, gout, and Type 1 Diabetes. Steve was diagnosed with kidney disease 14 years ago but just recently reached low enough kidney function to qualify for a transplant. I did not expect in my wildest dreams that our story would go viral! I am a pretty private person and wanted to film Steve’s reaction to finding out we are a match for us to have as a memory. Then I reluctantly decided to share the video on my Facebook and thought some close friends and family would like to see it because they had been praying for us. I wanted them to share in our excitement! Wow, I am blown away by everyone’s support!

I got the news that we were a match on Thursday July 6th. I was at work, got a call from the transplant donor coordinator, she asked if I had a moment to talk (um yes, of course!!! I have been waiting on your call all week!!!), then she told me the news – “we got the results from your blood work back and you are a match!” I started bawling. I felt so overwhelmed – I have been given the opportunity to save my husband’s life. The donor coordinator told me they would be calling in the next few days to schedule me to come back to the transplant center for 2 days of additional testing to make sure I am in good enough health to donate. Our lives were about to change forever! I could not wait to tell my husband. The news would have to wait though because I wanted to tell him in person and in a special way.

Rewind earlier that week before I had gotten this life changing news. I was thinking about how I was going to tell my husband when I found out we were a match. Even though the odds of us being a match were small, I had faith we would be a match! Why not, right? He is my perfect match in life so why would I not match him for this? I did not want to think about the possibility of us not being a match because hearing I was not a match would have devastated me. This hope of being able to help him is what I had clung to! I went ahead and ordered a customized card from Topps to announce the news to him. Baseball and card collecting has been an escape for us from the stresses of battling this disease so I thought it would be a fun way to tell him. I put in some cheesy baseball puns and ordered it. I put my work address as the shipment address in case we were not a match I did not want my husband to see it. I ended up getting the news we were a match before I got the card in the mail so I contacted Topps customer service. I talked to Sabrina in customer service who was AMAZING!! She contacted distribution and had them rush my card, she sent me the proofs of the card so I could print it out and tell my husband that evening, and she overnighted my card order to me.

I posted the video and I am overwhelmed with the support and love we are getting from around the world. That our video touched so many people is very humbling. My hope is that it brings awareness to living kidney donation and more people consider getting tested to see if they are a match. Kidney disease is so hard! My prayers are with all 100,000 (ish) people who are currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. My hope is that Steve and my story will cut your wait time down substantially, people (friends, family, strangers) will step up and get tested to be a living kidney donor, and that you will all find your match and live healthier, happier, longer lives. Thank you all for watching our video and sharing in our excitement! Please continue to pray for us as we prepare for the next stages of testing and hopefully our upcoming surgery in the next few weeks.

Here is the link to the video:

Waiting Game

Last Thursday Steve and I went to Vanderbilt so Steve could do his pre-transplant testing and so I could do blood work to see if we are a match. It was an incredible day! I was really impressed with Vanderbilt – how thorough they were at explaining everything and how smooth and efficiently the day went. We had an orientation class that lasted about 3 hours where we learned a LOT about kidney transplants – the before, during, and after transplant. We learned about what the costs are involved in a transplant, what type of support we would need to undergo a transplant, and what life after a transplant might look like. Then Steve had multiple appointments for different tests to determine if he was healthy enough to undergo a kidney transplant. I had my blood drawn to see if our tissue type/blood/antibodies are compatible.  

The nephrologist (kidney doctor) Steve met with at Vanderbilt was AMAZING. We really liked her a lot. She was Steve’s local nephrologist at UT Medical’s mentor when he did his residency at Vanderbilt and Steve’s doctor has spoken very highly of her and now we know why. We had been really anxious about the process and she definitely calmed our nerves. Steve and I almost broke down crying in her office with relief. It felt right. She reassured us that Steve was an excellent candidate for a transplant and she wants to help us make that happen. 

Now we wait. The donor coordinator told me it would take between 5-10 days for the results to come back and as soon as they got the results they would call and let me know. The suspense is killing me! If I am a match Vanderbilt will schedule me for 2 days of testing at Vanderbilt to make sure I am healthy enough to donate a kidney. I have already done some pre-screening tests (answering a questionnaire that asks about health issues you have that might disqualify you from donating and I did not have any of those health issues) but the 2 day testing will be more in-depth. If I am not a match I can sign up to be a part of a donor chain – where I donate to someone’s loved one in exchange for them donating to Steve. This helps more people get kidneys when loved ones are willing and able to donate but are not a match for their loved one.  

If we are a match we could be undergoing surgery in a matter of weeks. I want so badly to be able to give my husband this gift of life! This experience has made me so much more grateful for my own health. I will keep you all posted on results soon! Hopefully by the end of this week or beginning of next week we will be celebrating the fact that not only are Steve and I compatible as husband and wife but that we are a perfect match. Regardless of what ends up happening, I believe God has such an incredible plan for our life that he orchestrated before we ever knew each other and it is unfolding for us and our friends and family in a beautiful testimony of His love for us.

My next post will be THE NEWS on if I have found out if I am a match or not.