Back in 1974 I had cervical cancer and I had a lot of radium treatments. It was all different back then than it is now. Scar tissue built up in my bladder over the years, and I had a little trouble, but I just thought I was getting older.
By 2002, I decided that I needed to see a doctor, and the testing started. My creatinines were high, but we had no idea why. Over the next year, the doctor put stents in four times. Finally, they gave me a CT scan and discovered the problem was my kidneys.
I had surgery where the doctors put a nephrostomy tube into each kidney. They came out my back, and I had a bag that strapped on each thigh. I emptied them several times a day. They were bothersome, but they kept me going from 2003 through 2010. That’s when the doctors decided to do an ileal conduit, which I still have
The dialysis may keep you alive, but it will make you wish you were dead for a while afterwards. I told my doctor that what the dialysis did to my body was just killing me at a slower rate than my failing kidneys without the dialysis. He assured me that I was on the waiting list. I would get a transplant. It seemed like forever, but my time on the active list lasted only about seven weeks, from the last of January through March.
I had retired for the night, since I had to be up at five o’clock the next morning to get ready for dialysis. I had to be at the center by six o’clock. Anyway, I was almost asleep when I heard the phone ring. My husband answered it in the other room and said, “She is in the bed.” Then I heard him say, “Oh, okay.” He brought the phone in to me and said, “It’s for you.”
I couldn’t imagine who’d call me that late; I asked, “Who is it?”
“It’s Isaac Payne.”
I had the phone in my hand and whispered, “What does he want?” Then I figured I should just talk to him.
Isaac asked me, “Do you want a kidney?”
I said, “Yes. When can you get me one?”
He answered, “Can you be here by midnight?”
I didn’t believe him! “You’re kidding!”
“Get on in here and find out,” he said before he hung up.
So my husband called our son and my sisters to tell them the news while I dressed. By the time I finished, our son had arrived to drive us to the hospital. We made it with time to spare.
My transplant went smoothly, probably because my donor was such a good match. The doctor told me that we matched as well as siblings. That’s the hardest thing about the transplant: knowing that someone gave her life that I might live, just like Jesus gave his life for me.
After my transplant, I felt like I had been let out of jail! I was free of the tubes and dialysis and all of the things that restricted me from doing the things I wanted to do. My husband is a minister, and I love doing work in my church. We make quilts and other crafts that we sell in order to help the less fortunate. We have done five or six quilts this year and around ten baby quilts. We do wreaths and flower arrangements, jelly, jams, pickles, and apple butter.
My transplant has given me five good years living a normal life, and I thank God each and every day. I met my great-grandson, who is two-and-a-half months old. God willing, I’ll see him grow a few more years. I’ve spent summer holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays with my family and my church family. I can cook and bake, which I didn’t have the strength to do before. My husband and I even visited my sister in Vermont. It was Autumn, and we went to New Hampshire and Maine, too. Autumn is the most beautiful time to visit New England. I know there are more things. If you asked me on a different day, you might get a different list.
I love to “talk” to people about my transplant and organ donation. The average person doesn’t know desperately people waiting for organ transplants need them. Or they believe myths – things I believed, too, until I learned more about it. There is no reason you can’t register as a donor. It’s not going to hurt you. When you’re gone you don’t need them anymore. Someday, someone in your family might need an organ and you’d want someone to donate for them.
I’m seventy-four and after two rounds of cancer and a kidney transplant, I don’t have much in my body that is any good, but I am a registered organ donor. If I have something someone can use, they are welcome to it.