One Year Kidney-versary

Today is a very special day. May 25, 2022 is exactly one year since I underwent my donor nephrectomy surgery. That is fancy for donating a kidney.

Those of you who follow my blog saw many posts in the first few months after the surgery, but things have been quiet for a while now. And that is as it should be. The doctors and other medical personnel at the Cleveland Clinic told me that within a few months I would feel like I did before the surgery; there were times–especially during the first two weeks–when I did not believe them. Thank God, I am feeling great and so is the recipient. My donation has not limited my physical activity in any way. I have 5 scars, but they are “war wounds” that I wear with pride.

I am excited that our “daisy chain” of donors and recipients will be getting together this Friday evening for a Shabbat dinner at our home. Looking forward to getting caught up with this eclectic mix of people who share nothing in common except for a 4 oz organ. We will toast to good health and to the amazing advances in medical technology that made these life-saving procedures possible.

A few thoughts on this anniversary.

  1. Most people think they have to be dead to donate organs. This is not 100% true. Kidneys and partial livers can be donated, and they are in most cases preferable to cadaver organs. If you are in good health, consider donating and saving a life.
  2. It has been great to talk with people who saw what I did and have expressed interested in donating. Next month, one of those people will be donating to a total stranger. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to hear this.
  3. Not everyone can donate an organ. There are many ways to save a life, though. Blood and platelet donations are also life-saving. Learn CPR and how to operate and AED (Automated External Defibrilator). Get involved in policy decisions that help promote laws that save lives. Take good care of your own health and well-being.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to make a difference. Donating a kidney was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done (makes a half marathon look like a piece of cake!), but also one of the best things I have ever done. One year later, I am feeling blessed!

A Month After Donating a Kidney

Framed Embroidery Kidney Anatomy Art. Hand Embroidered.

On the one hand, it seems like the surgery just happened. On the other hand, it seems like it was ages ago. I will blame my confusion on the residual anesthesia still coursing through my body.

When I posted last about my kidney donation, I was still in what I refer to as “the rough period.” This recovery has been more difficult than I expected. I was told that the first few days would be tough; the day of surgery and the day after were a piece of cake since I was on a lot of pain medicine. The following day when I went home was a lot harder; the car ride home was torture!

I got a list of what I should expect after discharge from the hospital, but somehow I was still caught somewhat by surprise. There was a fair amount of discomfort. I lost a lot of weight (which I did not need to do). I began to feel like I had turned a corner until 10 days after surgery. After 2 weeks, I was back to training clients virtually–albeit with naps in between! After 3 weeks, I was training my in-home clients, and then a few days later I went back to teaching my fitness classes. The main thing now is that I still tire quite easily; as I indicated in my last post, I have really had to listen to my body and figure out what I can and cannot do. I do finally feel like myself again, though, and look forward to building up my strength and endurance.

Would I do this again? Absolutely not–I intend to keep the one kidney I have left! Did I think this was worthwhile? Absolutely yes! A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I had dinner with Phil and his wife; he is the guy for whom I donated, but was not the one to actually receive the kidney since we were not a match. It was great to see how well he is doing; unlike the donor, the recipient feels better almost immediately. Sometimes in life we wonder if we really make a difference. This time, I know that I did. It was also just amazing to have this connection with a stranger.

Next week, the Cleveland Clinic will be hosting a reunion for the 3 donors and 3 recipients in our “daisy chain.” This will be when I meet the guy who got the kidney I donated (I try not to call it “my kidney,” because now it is his). I am kind of nervous about it. I had gotten to know Phil through social media, but the recipient is really a total stranger. I hope it will be just as amazing to have a connection with him; we will see how it goes.

In the meantime, I have heard about three people I know who need kidneys. One is in the thick of finding a donor. It is refreshing to see the outpouring of concern, support and prayers on Facebook. Hopefully, it will translate into something more. Hopefully, someone will see it–just like I saw a post last year–and decide not to keep scrolling, or to just “like” the post, but actually take the first step to find out about donating.

Despite all the discomfort, I feel so grateful that I was able to do this. I am thankful that I did not wait until it was too late. I am proud that I have made my health and fitness a priority.

Thank you to my wife, my family, and my friends for all their support. Thanks to everyone at the Cleveland Clinic: my doctors, the kidney donor coordinators, the nurses, aides, phlebotomists, environmental services, and administrative staff. In my book, you are all heroes too!