Guest Blogger: Jessica Traskey, previous Johns Hopkins patient & a networking colleague of Pamela Paulk
There are few incidents in life which can give you instantaneous goosebumps.
Pamela is a member of the board for a nonprofit at which I work in
I have had a kidney transplant.
I will not forget the brief exchange that we had at that time. I explained my situation and history, Pamela appeared in awe, and immediately said something along the lines of, “Well should you ever need another let me know.” There was something in her delivery of that sentence that I believed.
Time moved on, and at a board meeting in September last year, she beckoned me to a corner of the room and said, “I have some news to tell you.” Then she announced with a light in her eye that she had made the decision to donate one of her kidneys and that the process was in the works.
Her telling me this gave me the instant goosebumps and, amazing even myself, I was filled with tears. I felt completely overwhelmed, in a positive way. It reminded me of the life-changing changes that someone was about to experience. It reminded me that for someone an end was coming to many complications. It reminded me of the second opportunity of life that someone was to be given.
We can survive on one kidney. I do, and have been surviving on a transplanted kidney for 24 years. Yes, I as a recipient take medication daily, and suffer some minor hurdles now – which are closely monitored – mainly due to the two decades of taking the immune suppressant (anti-rejection) drugs. Yet I will be first to holler from the rooftops that life now compared to pre-transplant days is so much better, and at last leaps and bounds away from the illness and weakness that preceded the life-changing surgery.
I was two and a half when I first showed signs of repetitive illness, which largely came in the form of excruciating bladder infections. There were years of appointments and visits to and from local hospitals in southwest
I was taken to
On my return to England I was sent to Guy’s Hospital in London, a high flying city (training) hospital, which seemed leagues ahead of the rural town hospitals that we had been used to nearer home in Dorset. I had excellent pediatric care at Guy’s. In time I was under the care of a urologist, Tony Mundy. He made clear what he wanted to do, and that I would be the first pediatric patient in
It was in February 1985 that my kidneys finally packed up and I was put on hemodialysis. My mother and I had to live in
Brother & Sister
A kidney became available for me in August 1985. I had gone on a ‘Dialysis Holiday’ with the pediatric unit, my parents had been ‘sent away’ for a break of their own and were in
There were 12 of us dialysis children on the holiday with a number of nurses. We were in a caravan park on the
Over the first few days I think four children were called back to
Then within a few hours a boy called James and I were called – matches had been found. It was an extraordinary time, and even the nurses and doctors were amazed by the sudden availability of donor kidneys that month. It was unusual and rare. James and I were accompanied back to
Much is a blur, yet some memories are as fresh as yesterday. James and I became ”kidney” brother and sister. We both had a kidney from the same cadaver - in the 1980s receiving a kidney from a live donor was, I think, very rare - and through surgery and recovery we were toe to toe in ICU rooms; our bond seemed destined to last forever. But it was a tough few weeks following. My kidney needed a jump start with some dialysis, and I was still getting bladder infections. James, who had other complications, unfortunately died of septicemia. It was an awful time, and very scary for a 12-year-old.
I am a kidney transplant patient. I was fortunate to receive a kidney. The donor was a young man, — a son, a brother, a grandchild — who was killed in a motorcycle accident. His family made the decision to donate so that I and others could live. I owe it to that family to look after this kidney for as long and as best I can.
To receive a live donation is also a staggering privilege and honor. That someone makes the decision to give a part of themselves so that another can be free of debilitating illness, a life led by machines, and separation from family and friends, is an almost incomprehensible gift.
Now, nearly 24 years on, I’m living in the
The Gift of Life
Pamela’s decision and her journey really begins this week. She will be giving someone a second chance at life, and that person will have the very special honor of saying that they know their donor. Above all, may others understand and be inspired by this extraordinary, selfless gift of life.