On May 25, I did something that I never would have imagined I’d do, and I would do it again if I could.
I donated a kidney altruistically, which means that I donated to a stranger. As much as it has been a life-changer for my recipient (more about him later), it has been life-changing for me as well. I am hoping that someone reading this might feel touched by its content and want to learn more so that people like East Meadow resident, Autumn, can find a donor.
Two years ago, I was asked to watch a video about a former colleague’s cousin who needed a kidney. I was very moved by it. At that time, I was an athletic 60-year-old…a long-time runner and triathlete. My daughter was just beginning her second year in the University of Delaware’s doctor of physical therapy program. I decided to contact the organization that the cousin was working through, to get a little more information.
After giving me more background into what a kidney donation process was like, the representative asked that I speak with my daughter. At that point I decided that I really needed to wait until she completed her graduate school program so that she could fully concentrate on that. Over the course of that next year, I kept seeing articles and news stories pop up about kidney donation. I had very casual discussions with my daughter and knew that if and when the time came, she would be fully supportive.
In November of 2021, I was able to start to formally consider becoming a kidney donor. By then, my colleague’s cousin had already been approved for a donation, so I was waiting to see what my next step should be. A couple of months later, my daughter saw an article about a young man needing a donor. I went to the website provided and filled out an informational questionnaire. I soon received a call from Montefiore Hospital. While I was not a match for him, I let them know that I was open to donating to a person in need.
I was lucky to have known several people in the running and triathlon community who were donors and scheduled a Zoom meeting with a few and with my daughter and ex-husband so that they could get a better feel for the process and for what to expect after surgery. It was very helpful for them and relieved some of their anxiety.
I began testing at the beginning of April 2022 and passed the extensive process. A recipient was identified and even lived locally in the Bronx! Surgery was set for May 25. I was so at peace with my decision, I was not even nervous going into surgery. I knew that I was going to be helping to make a difference in someone’s life and that this experience would be a life changer for me as well. Also, I realized, that since both my parents died by suicide (26 years apart) it would be wonderful to give more life to someone.
Surgery went well and the recipient immediately responded positively to my donated kidney. I stayed in the hospital for two nights and then went home. Yes, I did have some discomfort, which is totally expected with major surgery (the surgery was done via laparoscopy) and I did experience nausea and a lack of appetite for two weeks. All was tolerable. They encouraged walks as soon as I was able and I took well advantage of that, starting with about a quarter of a mile and building up. I was able to start cycling and running at three weeks. At four weeks of recovery, I didn’t even feel as if I had ever gone through surgery.
I participated in my first post-surgery 5K in mid-July and completed my first post-surgery sprint triathlon at the end of August.
Most importantly, I felt great physically and I felt a great sense of peace knowing that I had impacted another person and their family. That person, Vu Dang, who moved to the U.S. from Vietnam 30 years ago, feels great. He no longer needs dialysis, which was part of his life for six years. My daughter and I got to meet him, his wife and his niece at the end of August. It was such a wonderful experience. We continue to email one another weekly.
I write this so that I can raise awareness about live organ donation. It’s a real thing and the impact on the recipient waiting list a testament to it. Currently, there are more than 100,000 people waiting for an organ donation in the U.S. The wait for a kidney is generally five years or more.
She needs a kidney to live. Her health is declining, and she will be starting dialysis any day now. She has been a resident of East Meadow for 33 years and raised her son there. She is a caring person who has always helped others. She helped start a community garden a few years ago to assist those in need. She was unable to continue it this year due to a lack of strength caused by her kidney disease. She lives with her two dogs who depend upon her.
Written by Mindy Davidson