My big brown eyes popped wide open and I had never felt more alive in my entire life! I have lost track of the number of surgeries I have had, however I know I have always been quite groggy when I awake from anesthesia. But I vividly remember waking up from my transplant surgery on August 13, 2002. I recall my eyes suddenly opening with excitement, I had my full-of-life smile back and I vividly remember all my family members standing around my bed looking at me with smiles full of joy. The first words out of my mouth were, “I want to go for a walk!” I remember everyone giggling and telling me I needed to relax. In my head, I thought, “I’m alive! I’m alive! I feel GREAT!!!” I had been sick for so long that I forgot what it felt like to feel good. I was in awe at how Sally’s kidney instantly gave me energy, hope and the spark of life. An unforgettable feeling!
When people hear that I had a kidney transplant they say, “Oh, that is great. So now you are good to go?” Unfortunately, transplanted kidneys do not last forever. My body is constantly fighting the “foreign” object and that is why I am on immunosuppressant drugs. These medicines suppress my immune system so that my body will not reject the kidney. Since I was transplanted so young, at 19, the odds of me needing another transplant some day are pretty high. I have had my transplant for more than ten and a half years, and “she” is doing great, with a creatinine of 1.09. I take immense pride in taking the best care of myself. I respect this second chance I have been given and am a very diligent transplant patient. I see my neprhologist every four months and ask tons of questions in order to become as educated as possible. I get monthly blood work done and review all of my labs to assure my numbers are in the normal and healthy range. I take my blood pressure regularly to check that my body is not working harder than it has to and is not putting any extra stress on my kidney. I am extremely organized with my medicines and take more than 20 daily pills on time, every day. It frustrates me to no end when I hear patients that do not take care of the gift that they have been given. I consider myself privileged and honored to no longer be on dialysis, thanks to the transplant. Dialysis and transplantation are the only options for those of us with PKD. The life of a kidney is just like our own lives; there are no guarantees. However, if I do all that I can as a patient to care for it, then I know I am playing my part in helping it to last as long as possible and the rest is a little bit of luck, hope and faith.
Technically we have all been given the gift of life. Every morning that our eyes pop open, we should all be thankful and ready to make the most of every day. For those of us who have received transplants, we have been afforded a second chance at life. Sally gave me a gift that I never saw, never touched, and yet has forever changed my life. I believe all trials in our lives prepare us for what we will become. Taylor’s Gift Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to Regift Life, Renew Health and Restore Families, has a powerful saying of “Outlive Yourself” which really speaks to me. By being an organ donor, we have the opportunity to outlive ourselves. I think it is amazing to know that my heart can be beating in someone else after I pass away. I want my positive energy to live on not only through my story, but also through my organs and that is why I am an organ donor. In honor of Donate Life Month, I want to thank all of you who have registered to be an organ donor. For those of you who have not, I hope by learning of how life-changing Sally’s “gift” was to me that you would consider signing up to be an organ donor. You have the power to give someone else a second chance at life like I have been so fortunate to have been given. Let’s join together and Donate Life!
“When you make loving others the story of your life, there is never a final chapter, because the legacy continues. You lend your light to one person, and he or she shines it on another and another and another.”
April 19th is Donate Life’s National Blue and Green Day. This is a day where you are encouraged to wear Donate Life’s colors of blue and green to show your support for organ donation. I would love if you would all join me in this fun initiative. It would be great to put a face to the names of those of you that have left comments on my blog and who read my blog. I am inviting you to friend me on Facebook, Valen Cover Keefer and on April 19th post a picture of yourself wearing blue and green in support of organ donation. You can write something like, “I am wearing blue and green in support of organ donation for Valen’s Virtual Blue & Green Fashion Show. PKD Will Not Beat Me!” I will mail an autographed copy of my biography to the person whose picture receives the most “likes.”