Powered by Blogger.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Gift of Life, One Year Later

Hay hay haaay, hookahs!!

I finally made it to my parents where I will be living it up early 2000s style for 5 days!  I've mentioned before how much I love coming home to visit my family, and returning to princess status where I belong.   Plus it is officially Christmas here which automatically amps the happy up by 150%.  It makes me super excited to get my Christmas decorations out when I get home and get my house all spotless for Santa.

As I told you guys before, today is a special day in my family, and I really hope we get the chance to celebrate.  So, this may get a little long winded, sorry :)  but hang with me!

One, year ago today, my family was given the most amazing gift... the gift of life.  One year ago today,  my dad received a kidney transplant, thanks to his amazing and beautiful sister, my Aunt Tammy!  My dad was diagnosed with a rare progressive kidney disease when he was in his early 20s getting a routine physical for his new job.  When I was 10, I remember him having a biopsy and our family being told to prepare for the likelihood of dialysis and the need for a transplant... well I remember he had surgery and that everyone got really scared and I was sitting in my dad's lap and he held me and cried, which I can count on 1 hand the number of times that has happened in my life.  Luckily, the disease process was much slower than the doctors imagined and it took 15 years for my dad's health to reach the low point (one kidney was completely dead and the other had 8% function), and timing couldn't have been worse.

In January 2011, his mother was diagnosed with cancer that had spread, and being a tough lady, she decided to fight.  We were told that if effective, the treatments could give her up to 3 more years.  During her treatment, my dad was told that it was either dialysis or transplant time, and my dad had made it very clear that dialysis was not an option he was willing to consider.  My aunt immediately asked what she had to do to donate her kidney proclaiming that she was already facing the possibility of losing her mom and couldn't lose her brother as well, and the process began.  My grandmother died at the end of April, knocking the wind out of all of us, and we realized just how precious life and more importantly, family really is.  Transplant evaluation started and after testing, their kidneys were a near perfect match, which doesn't happen often.  However, both my dad and Aunt had to lose about 40lbs before the surgery could be scheduled, so they got to work.  My aunt immediately cleaned up her eating and hired a trainer and within a few months she had lost all the weight (and looked amazing).  My dad, of course, was able to stop drinking sweet tea, and watch his calories and lost 40+lbs in about a month.... sickening.

last set of lab work before the transplant!
 The night before the transplant, my parents, my aunt her husband all went out to dinner.  My parents had picked out a necklace with an angel wing pennant for my aunt  (My grandma had told my aunt that she had earned one of her angel wings by being such a great daughter and never left her side during her last months, and it had sort of become a family joke/saying during that time) so now she had earned her other wing and was an official angel. Hearing my mom tell me about it sounds like it was an amazingly beautiful moment and I would have loved to see it.

Transplant day was finally here, and we were a wreck.  Two members of our already shaken family were undergoing major surgery that had major risks to both, but we all knew that the surgery would be harder on my aunt than my dad, which also made it hard.  Luckily, my grandma was soooo tight with the big guy up in Heaven and everything went perfectly, "textbook" per the surgeons.  They both recovered well, and within 48 hours, my dad's kidney function levels were only slightly above normal.  My aunt had a lot of pain, but healed quickly and was up and about in just a few days also. It was a long road for all of us, but we made it!

Christmas!! about 1 1/2 months post transplant!

One year post transplant, my dad is doing amazing!  His kidney function is normal, and other than gaining back some weight he doesn't have side effects from his truckload of medications.  My aunt is also doing great, and our family couldn't be closer.  2011 was a tough road for my family, and through it all we learned to laugh louder, hug tighter, love harder, and that faith always gets you through.  My aunt didn't have to donate her kidney to my dad, but she did it without pause.  Even though a sibling is the best match many people aren't willing to take that risk, which was surprising to hear, and working with transplant patients, I see it all the time.  We will never be able to thank my aunt enough for what she did.  She says it was a "duh" thing to do, her brother needed a kidney, she had one, she didn't want to lose her brother, so bam!  She even tells people that donating the kidney saved her life because of the 40lbs she had to lose to get ready.

I have no words to express the feelings I have for my aunt, gratitude really isn't enough.  She gave me my daddy, how do you even begin to thank someone for that?!  Because of her, my dad will be walking me down the aisle next year, be there to see my children, and whatever else this crazy life has in store for me.... all because of the love she has for her brother.

Every year thousands of people get put on the transplant waiting list, and every year thousands of people die waiting.  My family was very lucky to have a willing donor, but not every family is, and since a kidney is the only organ that can come from a living donor, most don't have that option.  Organ transplant is an amazing thing, but it isn't possible without donors.  Every day, I work with patients and families who have just received a transplant or are in desperate need of one, and it's an amazing thing and sometimes heart breaking.  I can't imagine not making the decision to donate if something tragic were to happen to me and my organs could save someone else.  I'm not here to force you to become an organ donor, but if you do, make sure your wishes are known to your family, it can't happen without their permission.  Also, find your state's donor registry and add your name.  Organ Transplant and Donation is a passion of mine, and I know there are a ton of myths out there regarding donation.  If any of you have ANY questions regarding organ donation e-mail me at jenlynn426 dot gmail dot com, and I will be glad to give you any information you would like or I will find it for you!!

Okay, you made it!  Thanks so much for reading my story, and now you know part of why I am so thankful this year!  Have a great weekend!!


  1. What a wonderful post! I bet you are more than a million times happy to be home with everyone :) I hope you have a great visit and get to celebrate till the cows come home! xoxo

  2. So incredibly sweet, I'm so glad for your entire family... what an amazing gift!! <3

  3. What a great story! You have an amazing family it sounds.

  4. Great post Jen:) What a wonderfully amazing story. You are blessed to have such a generous family - loved reading this.

  5. I'm now sitting at my desk in my office doing the ugly cry... Great story!!

  6. Thanks for sharing that wonderful story! Your family sounds great, enjoy your time at home with them. =)

  7. Hey Jenn!

    I finally posted my blog award post--hopefully it'll send some traffic your way! Thanks for nominating me!

    Samantha Griffin