Last Thursday evening, I was filled with great excitement as I arrived at Sierra Donor Services, my local organ procurement organization, in Sacramento, CA. I was meeting transplant recipient friends, Natasha and Lori, so we could go together to visit our friend Danea, at UC Davis Hospital, who received a kidney transplant. On my drive to Sierra Donor Services, I reflected on a visit I had with Danea two weeks prior. We had a wonderful lunch and delightful conversations about life and her upcoming transplant. Before I left her home, I asked if she had any questions for me. Danea asked, “If there is one thing you wish you would have known before your transplant, what would it be?” The look in her eyes and the expression on her face when she asked me is a clear snapshot in my memory. I responded, “How wonderful life would be after my transplant.”
It is thanks to becoming an Ambassador for Sierra Donor Services that I was introduced to Natasha, Lori and Danea. Natasha had a liver transplant three years ago. Lori had a kidney transplant nine years ago and Danea had a kidney transplant 10 days ago.
On the car ride to UC Davis Hospital with Natasha and Lori, it became apparent the irreplaceable and unexplainable bond people share when enduring similar challenges in life. I have only been around Natasha a few times and Lori once and I felt more comfortable with them than some people I have known my whole life. It was non-stop chatter and laughter the entire evening. We talked and joked about side effects and things that have happened to us, from the medicine we take, how we are about germs and getting sick, and things that only we can fully understand and appreciate.
Our visit with Danea was priceless. She looked fantastic and is doing so well. Natasha, Lori and I reviewed her medicine list and compared it to what we take and shared many stories. The jokes, laughter and smiles continued. The room was filled with such infectious positive energy and the nurses were enjoying it so much that they were hanging out in Danea’s room with us. When I was getting my transplant, I did not have anyone around me that had received a transplant. I felt so blessed to be in Danea’s room as an 11-year kidney transplant survivor. The energy, joy, positivity and strength between the four of us that evening was invigorating.
We gave Danea a special ‘transplant survival basket’ that the three of us created. The basket was given to Natasha after her transplant and she graciously passed it on. We filled it with hand sanitizer, a blanket, socks, natural cold remedies, a journal, wishbone/kidney necklace, masks, lotion, nail polish, chapstick, sanitizer wipes, and pill cases. All items that we found useful after our transplants. We also created a special book for Danea titled, “Transplant Among Friends – Shared Inspirations for Surviving the Journey to Good Health.” It included a special message from each of us to Danea and her husband Phillip, who donated his kidney to Danea. It is filled with quotes and pictures that inspire all of us. We also shared what our transplants mean to us and allowed space at the end for their friends and family to write positive affirmations to them.
Four miracles enabled our paths to cross in life. The gift of life has a ripple effect of giving and has given me these amazing transplant recipient friends. That evening I was high on the gift of life and realized that people do need people. How good it felt to be in a room with young women that totally understand what being a transplant recipient is all about. I encourage you to share your story. Be open to meeting others going through the same challenges as you. Embrace the feeling that, “There is no normal. There’s just me.”
Congratulations on your kidney transplant Danea! We are overjoyed that you are doing so well. Thank you Phillip, Danea’s husband, for giving our friend a second chance to experience how wonderful life is with a kidney transplant.
Please be an organ donor. Please donate life!
How have other people helped you along your journey?