Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting Approved to be a Donor

I knew that being approved as a kidney donor would be a lengthy and detailed process of medical examination, but I was completely wrong about the reason for the scrutiny.

I work in the medical field. For thirty years, I have been in and around hospitals. But as I went through this process, I began to realize how naive I was. I thought the tests to approve me as a donor were to determine if I had a kidney healthy enough to be of value to a recipient. I worried that I was too old and no one would want a 55 year old kidney. Would my kidney be big enough? I could be described as petite.

So I first met with the Social Worker. I am a Social Worker so that was comfortable for me. She asked about my emotional makeup and living arrangements. She seemed to be determining if I had the resources and support to aide me through the surgery and recovery. I met with the Psychologist next who I assume was making sure I wasn't a wacko. Just kidding. He seemed to be determining that I was stable and was not being coerced in anyway. There also was an ethical issue to consider in my case. My designated recipient was a co-worker. Was there anything I might gain from giving my kidney to this person? For example, if the recipient were my supervisor, I might think by giving my kidney, I could get better hours or raises, etc. But since, I hold a higher position in the organization than my recipient, I have nothing tangible to gain.

I actually found these interviews helpful and not at all intrusive. It was really the first time I had talked about donation in detail. By talking about it, I was able to clarify for myself my concerns and motivations.

Then the medical tests started. Twenty-four hour creatinine - every drop of urine for 24 hours has to be collect in a jug and refrigerated. That was gross. There was lots and lots of bloodwork, but our phlebotomists are the greatest. I had a CT scan with contrast of the abdomen to get a clear look at my kidneys. Two interesting things happened with the CT. The technician had my same birthday (though years younger) and his first and last name where my younger and older brothers' first names. I love discoverying silly connections like that and I will not forget him. And, my left kidney has two arteries. That is not so unusual, but most kidneys only have one artery enering it. If my recipient has only one artery, then my two arteries will have to be joined into one so that it can be sewn to the recipient's one artery.

The most challenging test was the cardiac stress test with an echocardiogram. I hate doing cardio exercises in the gym so I was afraid I would not do well. I had never had an exercise stress test, so I didn't completely know what to expect. I knew I would walk on a treadmill but that was about it. Yes, you walk on a treadmill, but at certain timed intervals, I think it was every 3 minutes, they not only increased the speed, but they also increased the incline. You start off nice and slow and flat. After about 12 minutes you are running up a steep hill!! When you absolutely can't go anymore, you jump off the treadmill and roll onto the exam table on your side as fast as you can so that they can get an echo image while your heart is at its most stressed. Oh my gosh, it was stressful and I'm glad there are no video cameras. I guess I passed.

Once all the tests were complete, I met with Dr. Hamid Rabb to go through the results. That is when my eyes were opened. His job was to look at my current health, the health of my parents and siblings, my lifestyle and my tests. Then to look into a crystal ball and predict my future. Was there any reason to think that my remaining kidney would fail? Was there any reason to believe that my health would deteriorate and place stress on my remaining kidney? Would I develop hypertension or diabetes?

Dr. Rabb said, "My job is to make sure we end up with two healthy people. The worst thing would be if you, the donor, went from healthy to unhealthy." At that moment, I was blown away. All this was not just to make sure I had a healthy kidney to give to someone, but to make sure that I would remain healthy. No matter how badly someone needs a kidney and how willing someone is to give them theirs, they will not jeopardize the donor's health.

I was ready.

1 comment:

  1. Pamela, You are really a wonderful person. I know how important it is to donate the kidney to make someones life better...Because that person is waiting for second life...I appreciate your thoughts!! May God bless you...