The Challenge: The Decision
After being married for nearly 28 years, there was no question that Kathy was willing to donate one of her kidneys to her husband. Living-donor transplantation was an option their family was already familiar with, because other relatives required transplants due to the genetic nature of PKD.
When the nephrologist from the UPMC Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program said it was time to explore transplant as an option, he asked if there was anyone willing to donate. Kathy was in shock that things were progressing that quickly, but responded, “Oh yeah, that’s me!”
“My biggest apprehension was that I wouldn’t be an [organ] match or that they would find something that would preclude me from donating,” Kathy explains.
The Path to Living-Donor Kidney Transplant at UPMC
Kathy’s family fully supported her and was willing to help throughout the process in any way they could. Although they were concerned about possible complications, they loved her husband and wanted him to return to a normal lifestyle.
“My coordinator was unbelievably supportive and fabulous. She helped me through all of the emotional and medical questions that arose. Anything she could do for me, she was there,” says Kathy.
During the evaluation process, a preexisting condition was identified. Kathy needed to have a portion of her liver removed in July 2011 prior to being approved to donate. However, it was better for her to be treated immediately, rather than at a later point in her life.
“The coordinators at UPMC make things as easy as possible. The biggest obstacle in living-donation is that [the transplant team] wants to make 100 percent sure that they can do this, and that you as the donor are going to be medically OK with donation. So, you go through every test known to man. It is nerve-wracking, but it’s all being done for the donor’s benefit. When you get to the final process of donation, you’re very confident this is great for the recipient, but it’s cleared from the donor too.”
Kathy’s living-donor kidney transplant occurred in September 2011.
The Results: Fast Recovery
Kathy was released the very next day. She was driving within a week and completed her first full day of work eight days post-surgery.
“It was so much of an easier process than anticipated. We didn’t need the in-home care that I expected to need from our kids.”
Kathy states, “I was very, very tired after an 11-hour day, but I was able to do it. The biggest part of recovery was some fatigue. I didn’t have quite the stamina I had before. That took a few months to go back to feeling like I didn’t need to take a nap. But that is such a small price to pay for my husband being able to do everything he couldn’t for years and years.”
The time spent with her nurses and coordinators played a big part in reducing any apprehensions. When she went with her husband for his follow-up appointments, the team always asked about her as well.
“I think my husband and I would each say that we are very lucky to have met each other and fallen in love. We’re soul mates. We didn’t necessarily become tighter, because we were so tight. It did provide some unique experiences that we will always have to share.”
To learn more about living-donor transplants, or to register to become an organ donor, visit UPMC.com/LivingDonor.
Kathy’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
Learn More about Living-Donor Kidney Transplant
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