I had the honor of donating my left kidney to my sister’s husband in July of 2007. There is no real way to fully describe the feelings and emotions that go with being a living organ donor. I believe that only other living organ donors truly understand.
Living donors are not all alike. Some of us enter into donation with trepidation, questioning everything and everyone. Others enter the world of donation with a light skip in their step and an aura of happiness. For the record, I was in the first category. We all enter donation with the goal of saving another person from either death or a lifetime of dialysis.
After three years of conversing with many other living donors, I’ve discovered we all shared one feeling, and that was the odd feeling after donation of “what now?” It’s almost like planning for your wedding day or your prom, where leading up to it, you are special, different, about to be a bride or prom queen. Then the day after, you are back to being you. I have one donor friend who purposely went to all of her recipients followup appointments just so she could sneak in a few questions about her own recovery. “Is it normal to still feel lethargic?” “Is it normal to be numb around my incision?” “Does it look like this is healing OK?” This gave her peace of mind during her recovery.
After my two-week followup at UMMC, where I was deemed healthy, I was released to my regular physician for my 6-month followup appointment. I explained to my family doctor that I had donated a kidney and my creatinine levels would probably have increased about 50%. So whereas I normally ran at .8 I was running more around 1.2. I took the tests and a week later received a panicked phone call from my doctor, who worried that my creatinine levels had jumped 50% and I needed to come back in immediately for further testing. I calmly explained that 1.2 was my current normal and instead of my doctor reassuring me that I was OK, I had to educate him and reassure him.
In the spring of 2008 I had decided to do a fundraiser for organ donors but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I wanted to do it for a reputable organization, but didn’t want to just choose a national organization that I’d have no personal contact with. I planned a meeting with Nina Schroeder, who had been my UMMC appointed social worker throughout my donation. As we sat talking over lunch, she told me that UMMC was starting a Living Organ Donor Clinic to offer free testing to those who had their surgery at UMMC. Would I be interested in helping raise funds for them? I jumped on the chance! What a great idea to offer free followup care to donors so they knew it would be handled by specialists.
In August of 2008, I planned my first Country Concert to benefit the UMMC Living Organ Donor Clinic. My church in Falling Waters WV (about 80 miles west of Baltimore) offered me their sanctuary and sound system free of charge so ALL money donated could go directly towards the clinic. Approximately 120 people came out to the event, which included a silent auction of autographed country music memorabilia. We raised $5,000. The following year, another donor by the name of Marla, joined me in my fundraising efforts and we included a “pre-concert fundraiser” to solicit funds from family and friends online. Along with the concert, which grew to about 170 people, we raised over $9,000.
This year’s event is planned for Friday, August 13th. It will be held at Harmony United Methodist Church in Falling Waters, WV. Nashville recording artists Megan Mullins and James Wesley will be performing. Once again, we are raising funds prior to the show and will also have a silent auction during the show. Our goal is to raise more than $10,000.