June 27, 2017

My Version of Living Kidney Donor Testing

Originally posted on June 17, 2013

 have wanted to post for two weeks and keep running out of hours during the day. How does time pass so quickly? Maybe I'm just moving at a slower pace these days.

Many people have asked what is involved with being tested for living organ donation. I can only speak to kidney donation, but I imagine there are some standard tests that apply to all organs.

If you are considering donating an organ to a family member, friend, or through a paired matching program, I highly recommend starting with prayer. Yes, prayer. Consider this your test prep and hand the thought over to God who will guide you to a sound decision.

I will be honest, I wasn't instantly sure that I wanted to donate. I did instantly want to be tested to know if it was an option and asked God to lead me to the right decision. Also, Mom didn't instantly want me to do it. I asked Brad, and he was good to go from the beginning. 

Last fall, Dr. Kellum, Mom's nephrologist, told her the time had come; she definitely needed to be on the transplant list. Her creatinine levels were not reducing and on a slow, yet steady, rate of increasing. As big of a pill as this was to swallow, we were grateful for making it seven years since the last time we had this discussion.

First, we had to make sure Mom was approved and placed on the active list. She and I went for her evaluation this past January, then Brad I went for my donor evaluation in February. We did all this during the final push to finish the house. "Load My Plate Up, Please & Thank You!" should be my motto.

Before the actual evaluation at UAB, I was required to have my blood pressure taken for 10 consecutive days. UAB recommended going to the nearest fire station. So, off I went to the station closest to my office. First, I parked in front of the fire truck garage. Thankfully, I realized this before getting out of the car. Couldn't you just see there being a fire, my car blocking the truck causing delay. Brilliant. Next, I clicked around the building in heels looking for the main entrance never to find it. A brawny fireman was outside doing something to his car. Me: Hi, my name is Christie Berry. I am being evaluated as a kidney transplant donor and need my blood pressure taken. Fireman: *Facial expression of what did she just say?* Ok, come inside.

We walked in the fire station filled with two rows of recliners, dimly lit and an action movie on the biggest TV you've ever seen. I think we were all looking at each other like "What is this?...." Again, I state my name and purpose. The official blood pressure taking fireman of the group took my blood pressure while I explained I needed to come back every day for the next week. I must have been their first potential kidney donor, because they were not familiar with this arrangement. As I left, I exclaimed "Bye!" and reminded them I would "See y'all tomorrow." When I got in my car, I called my mom and reminded her how much I love her to go through that. It was so awkward and hysterical at the same time! Speaking of the fireman, I need to take them some cupcakes and let them know how grateful I am for the role they played in this renalvation.

Ok, the actual testing -
The evaluation included a 24-hour urine sample (I had a custom travel container thanks to my pal Abby!); lots of blood drawn (I'm pretty sure I counted 19 tubes.); chest and torso x-rays; abdominal CT scans (Whoa, that die is serious business and so weird!); EKG; educational classroom session and a grand finale of individual interviews with a nephrologist, psychologist, social worker, donor coordinator, surgery assistant and surgeon.

That's it! That's all it takes to be tested as a living kidney donor - a lot of prayer, 10 days of blood pressure readings, and a day at UAB or another transplant center.

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