It's Saturday and I'm writing this at 3:30 a.m. and now I've got coffee onboard, so I might be extra wordy. I tried to go back to sleep after waking up at 2:20, but way too much on my mind. Dale and I are leaving today for Oklahoma.
Yesterday I thought of all the "last" things I was doing before the surgery and this life-changing event, with the kidney still in me. Last training session at the gym, last day at work, last time on base, last night in my bed. I don't know how much the same these things will be after return and recovery - I expect, pretty much the same. We shall see, and it's going to take some work to get there.
As I said once before, there are three big parts to being a living donor: 1) the pre-donation process and tests, 2) the surgery and recovery, and 3) the life afterwards with one kidney. #1 is a lot of work, I can tell you. When you're driven to do it, it just becomes part of what you need to do just as if you had your own health crisis, but it's a very long and involved process. That's a good thing in many ways. It shouldn't be too easy to do something so big. You know how you can go to a car dealership these days and literally walk away with tens of thousands of debt and a shiny new car within hours, thinking "That was way too easy"? Yeah, fortunately or unfortunately, kidney donation isn't like that. Anyway, #1 is successfully completed and it's almost time for #2 which is going to be tough - the surgery I just have to show up and endure, but the recovery will take some work. #3 is the big unknown, and of course this applies to Dustin even more so than me. The words I remember regarding that were from Dr. Perrone, a colleague of my brother Seth (a nephrologist who is the unsung hero in all this -- I will write about him another day!), who described living donation and transplant this way: "Most of the time, this works out extremely well." That sentence speaks volumes. Another phrase that stuck out to me was Seth's, about living donation, "It’s a wonderful, complicated thing." Yes, yes, it is. It is both.
It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that kidney donation has much in common with joining the military. Relating to those same three big parts, #1 is the testing, qualifying, recruiter coordination, military entrance processing, and preparing for the big day. #2 is getting through basic training or boot camp, skills training, and whatever else they have you do. #3 is then living the rest of your life as a military member and/or veteran. #3 has some unknown risks. Most of the time, it works out extremely well. There are a lot of benefits to military service. But you also have to be willing to take on the risk that it might not turn out well. You have to be willing to give all.
On other things... yesterday was wonderful -- a surprise luncheon from my work team to send me off. I had no idea they were doing that. I thought I was going to lunch with two friends, but when I arrived there were 20+ co-workers and spouses, several former/retired co-workers, 4 family members, and several gym friends. They gave me sweet and thoughtful gifts, said really nice things, bought our lunch, made cupcakes with donor ribbons and cute kidney decorations, and gave me a card with some wonderful messages. It was quite incredible and so heart-warming!! I appreciate all of them! I told Dustin he is gaining yet another family. Earlier in the day my 98-year old grandmother emailed me and said of Dustin, "After Monday he will be FAMILY, a blood relative." So true. So he gets all of my family, and now my work family also.
I also got a LOT of online messages yesterday - email, Instagram, Facebook, text - I appreciate each and every one of them. They make me happy and help me stay strong. Of all the things I hear from others about this, "inspired" is one of my favorites. This is true of strength training also, and is the reason I don't mind people knowing what I do, even if humility might tell me to be quiet about it. I've changed in this way as I've matured, but it's actually because I think LESS about myself (not less OF myself). Let me explain. I would describe my younger self as "self conscious." This is a not-pleasant condition where a person tends to shy away from view, have concern over what people might think of them, and generally feel uncomfortable with any sort of attention. But sometime about middle-age, I realized that "self-conscious" is actually a form of self-absorption, and the antidote was to let go of constraints on what I'm letting out and just be more concerned with other people than with myself. It works. I just "do me" and let people take from it what they want. If it is inspired, that is a great honor. Inspired means they are spurred to action towards a positive thing. If I can inspire people towards helping others, being strong and healthy, prioritizing the important things in life, or just doing what their heart tells them to do, that's all good. Someone might even be inspired to donate a kidney. I was inspired by Leilani! Here's a link to the story if you haven't seen it.
One more thought for today then I must get ready to travel. Mom and I were talking yesterday about something we might do when she comes up to Oklahoma at the end of my stay to drive me back home. She has become interested in Oklahoma history recently via some of my stepfather Steve's family connections. In their research they've learned about the relocation of Native Americans in the 1830s, namely the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. She said it's eerie how many of the names that we have here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are also seen up there in Oklahoma; the creeks, parks, woods, counties, etc. So it seems that there is already an established history of transplant from Mississippi to Oklahoma. I suspect there is more symbolism and knowledge yet to be gained from that.
Ready to learn and absorb more in the coming days. Can't wait to see Dustin, Kenzie, and Ben tomorrow! With all the events surrounding this thing, we are at the center of it -- and in the eye of the storm, the winds are calm, the sky is blue, and the world is peaceful... at least for a brief time.
Anna Cannington has offered to be part of this program. As a kidney donor with a nephrologist brother (not to mention next level human) she will be able to provide unique insight into "other side" of the transplant process. It is particularly apt for her to join up as she is Dustin's Donor. To schedule a conversation with either of Anna or Dustin just connect with either of us!
Dustin was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy (Berger's Disease) in early 2007. He and his family know well the struggles that come with suffering kidney failure, dialysis and the transplant processes. Born from these fustrations and Dustin's love of strengths-based coaching (centered on what is best in people) comes the Kidney Koach program. This NO FEE program is for Renal patients, their families and nursing staff that want support, understanding and a little help on the path.