Brenda (Mother): In 1983, I was diagnosed with hypertension and learned that my kidneys were functioning at 80%. Eventually, the uncontrolled hypertension caused my kidneys to completely fail. I started dialysis in 1997, and was on three day a week, four hour treatments for years.
While on dialysis, I heard patients mention transplant and social workers handed out information about the procedure. I always had an interest in being off dialysis but never took the next step. I had started the initial process of being listed for transplant several times but to no avail.
Being on dialysis was difficult, tiring and often painful. I had to develop a new lifestyle around the treatment that was basically keeping me alive. There are many diet restrictions and I was limited to 32-ounces of liquids per day.
Raquel (Daughter): When my mom started dialysis, I wasn't aware of how seriously ill she was. I knew she had health issues, however end stage renal disease was new to our family. She started on peritoneal dialysis at home and once that mode of treatment failed she remained on hemodialysis until she had the kidney transplant on July 10, 2012.
She had been hospitalized many times due to complications of dialysis. Mom has had multiple aneurysms in her access sites which required revisions and cosmetic surgeries to both arms. It's devastating to see your loved one suffer and lack the quality of life that you are used to seeing them enjoy. If you are not the patient, your only recourse is to stand by and comfort them. Mom was a fighter but she began to feel like she was losing and that dialysis would be her end - especially after 15 years. Dialysis is a life-saving treatment option, but it is not natural and the toll it takes on the body is disheartening. It's hard on the heart, hard on the patient financially, socially, mentally and psychologically.
When mom considered looking into having a transplant, I saw the determination she had for being off dialysis. I also witnessed her increasing desire not to live with the stress of it all. I told her that I wanted to be tested to see if I was a match. If I wasn't, then in my heart I would know I've done my best. One night, I had a long, serious conversation with my husband Reginald to discuss my desire to donate to my mom. After much thought and prayer, he gave his blessing for the procedure and we took it from there. When the labs came back and the coordinator told me that I matched my mom perfectly, we cried and hugged and thanked God for the news. Mom had actually given birth to her own miracle!
Brenda: Since transplant, I feel so much better! My energy level is stable. I have a positive outlook on life. I've started to develop a good diet plan and exercise routine. I'm going back to college to finish my degree in health administration and just live life to the fullest.
Raquel: I can breathe a sigh of relief. I've been with mom for the long haul and this journey has been long and rough. We kept the faith and we believed that her end was going to be greater than her beginning...
Brenda: I urge people considering organ donation to consider the other person in need. Consider your options and just do it!
Raquel: If you have a family member or friend that is in need of an organ and you are a healthy adult, imagine their life as a healthy adult and how you could help them. As a donor, you must do your own research about the procedure and the life-long benefits for the other person. It takes a totally selfless person to give of themselves to this degree. Yes, there is pain involved and recovery time, but to see the other person well and healthy, it is worth it and I'd do it all over again.
Brenda: I thank my daughter Raquel for her gift of life to me. Also, I thank my support system: My family, Rabbi Nate, our congregation and friends for being there for me throughout this long journey to healing.
Raquel: I'm honored to return the favor of life to my Mom!
One year later, an update from Raquel:
My mom returned to college five months after the transplant, after being out of college for 20 years. From her previously attended university, Chicago State, she was able to transfer 77 credits!!! Mom is now a senior at UNO, studying to complete her Bachelors of Science in Health Administration. She is a stellar student & has motivated me to complete my degree in Paralegal Studies and in the future Pre-Law. The transplant has truly changed our lives for the better!