Today, Feb. 14, is National Organ Donor Day. It’s meant to raise awareness about the lives that can be saved through organ donation. It holds a special place in my heart because last year, I donated a kidney to my son, Mark.
Dealing with a disease
Mark was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis at the age of 12, which causes inflammation of your blood vessels. He spent nearly a
month at the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. There, he had IV medications, high doses of steroids, immunosuppressants, multiple procedures, X-rays/scans, blood transfusions and lab tests, as well as visits from more providers and specialists than I could count on my fingers and toes. We were told that we came very close to losing him.
While in the hospital, there was some discussion that Mark may need to start dialysis due to the damage his kidneys received from Wegener’s. However, with time and medications, his kidneys rallied and function improved.
We were told there was a good chance that the damage to his kidneys could lead to the need for a kidney transplant in the future. With any luck, we hoped that day would never come. However, in the spring of 2015, approximately 10 years after his diagnosis, Mark’s nephrologist (kidney specialist) said it was time. He was referred to the University of Minnesota to see if he was a candidate for a kidney transplant.
Finding a donor
For me, there was no question. I wanted my son to have as “normal” of a life as possible and was very hopeful that we could avoid the need for dialysis. So I signed up to be evaluated at the U of M to see if I was a match. The initial transplant evaluation consisted of MULTIPLE blood tests, urine studies, a chest X-ray, EKG, MRI of my kidneys, as well as consulting with my transplant coordinator, social services staff, dieticians, nephrologists and a transplant surgeon.
About a week after the evaluation, I got a call from my transplant coordinator who told me that I was a match! I was excited and, to be honest, scared at the same time! I
was the one who called Mark to let him know that I was a match. He was speechless and surprised, but we were both so relieved.
Working through setbacks
Unfortunately, before the transplant could be scheduled, Mark became ill, and his kidneys failed. He was admitted to St. Cloud Hospital and started on dialysis.
The transplant was scheduled for March 17, 2016, but because Mark had a rough several months leading up to it, where he was hospitalized multiple times with pneumonia and pericarditis, the transplant was cancelled. The U of M Infectious Disease Department checked Mark to be sure he did not have an infection or disease that could cause risks during surgery or possibly even rule him out as a kidney transplant candidate.
Thankfully, he was cleared by the specialist, and we were back on track for the transplant.
In the spring of 2016, Mark’s Wegener’s Granulomatosis came back and attacked his intestines and lungs. After another hospital stay, which consisted of high doses of steroids and Rituxan infusions, Wegener’s went back into remission. The U of M required that Mark be in remission for six months before he could be approved again for the transplant.
A successful ending
Finally, Mark was approved for the kidney transplant. We both repeated the transplant evaluation and were approved. The transplant was scheduled for June 11, 2017.
The transplant went smoothly, and Mark had 2 gallons of urine output by the next morning! (I should explain that Mark did not urinate AT ALL for over a year, so this was
great news!) The first 24 hours were pretty rough for me, but once we figured out that most of my symptoms were due to the pain medications, they were discontinued,
and I got better.
I was discharged on July 13, and after spending a couple more days with family in the Metro, I felt up to the 2.5-hour car ride home. Mark continued to improve as well and was given the OK to go home much sooner than we anticipated.
Words cannot explain how grateful and honored I am that I was able to do this for Mark. I am so thankful that he has been doing well since the transplant. I am hopeful that my kidney will give him a record number of years before he needs a new one. If the need arose, and if I could do it again, I would not hesitate. After all, he is my child, and we as parents would sacrifice anything for them. They are worth every ounce.
About the Author: Holly Anderson is an LPN at TCHC’s Verndale Clinic. She and her husband, Erick, live in rural Verndale and have two children: Mark, 24, and Kaitlyn, 14. Holly is a proud mother-in-law to Amanda and grandmother to beautiful little Mallory who is 9 months old. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, listening to music, and the outdoors.