Close friends and family know what my husband and I went through when we lost our daughter. She was only lent to us for 13 years. It took more than that many years for us to finally let go of her physical memories- her stuffed animals, trinkets, and whatnots. After we finally found peace and acceptance, I thought that was the end of our greatest struggle. But when RJ was diagnosed with a chronic glomerular disease last year, I did not realize it was possible for one’s world to completely fall apart twice in a lifetime.
I am trying to keep depression at bay as I fight these demons and struggles each day. I am strengthened by the faces of my two beautiful grandchildren. I’m turning to you for help. I’m not going to lose another child.
Renal disease has intruded into my life far too close and far too often.
It was 1990. I was 16 and in the Philippines when I first saw it rear its ugly head. An aunt so beloved that she was like a mother became afflicted. I remember going to the hospital and seeing the humongous machine she had to be hooked up to several times a week. It was the size of a large chest freezer, with matching horrendous sounds to boot. I remember her ashen face, her constantly sad face when the end was drawing near. But I remember, too, her red lipstick, her perfume. I remember the many times of going to her bedroom, looking for her, and sliding next to her in bed when I wake up too early for school. She passed at 54.
Not 10 years later, it claimed another one of us. A cousin was in the prime of her life- a loving husband, five kids, a white picket fence, and the whole spiel. But then, the ugly brown Baxter boxes started coming in and piling up. In the Philippines where education is a valued commodity, where I grew up hearing the generation before us say that education is the only real legacy parents can bestow on their children, my cousin’s end came with an extra kick of tragic. Her husband was not there when the end came. Literally at that moment, he was haggling and straggling with local authorities brought about by all the financial strain on the family. So on her deathbed, she took off her wedding ring, gave it to a daughter, and made her swear on it that the youngest child will be made to finish college. My cousin was 44.
By 2005, I was already in the United States when news came that yet another cousin was on dialysis. When he passed, I vividly recall locking myself in a closet- wailing, bewailing, and being very, very angry. He was 36.
Very recently, this disease dared to come even closer to my doorstep.
My beautiful, most patient, most nurturing, most-everything-I-am-not sister needed a kidney. Among other reasons, our family moved from the East Coast to the West Coast to be closer to her. And because I had gestational diabetes with my recent pregnancy, I got turned away at the first step of applying to be a living donor. Nonetheless, the seed had been planted so today, my Washington State driver’s license proudly says “DONOR”. My sister, too, is today proudly strutting around with her husband’s perfect match of a kidney. They are literally, figuratively, and perhaps down-to-the-molecular-level- a perfect match.
But our family's story continues. Our next win will be for RJ. Please HelpRJ.com.
I am as ordinary as it gets. I am 46, married, with two kids 14 and 8. I dabble in carpentry, and stocks trading here and there. For fun, I play neighborhood basketball, bowling in the winter, tennis in the summer, and hopefully soccer, if I could find a local league. I am a loyal Lakers fan the last 20 years and counting. And boy! do I see Lonzo Ball on that championship court already! I drive a minivan everywhere, and go to church every Sunday. Really nothing special about me. Other than having but one kidney.
I donated the other one. No coercion, no hesitation. Just knew it was the right thing to do.
I married a girl 15 years ago, again no coercion, no hesitation. I had known long before the wedding bells that her kidneys had an expiration date. But I didn’t really give it much thought. It was easy to forget, as she was healthy as can be. Healthy enough to bring forth our two beautiful children, beat me at tennis once or twice, hiked mountains, and explored caves with me. I won’t even talk about her unbeatable stamina for scouring the best bargains, on foot! With only 18% of her kidney function left, we cycled downtown Portland. Yes, that Portland in Oregon with the hills and bridges. To an onlooker, it would be impossible to tell that her kidneys were shutting down.
And there are many like her. Quietly walking among us. Precariously treading that thin line between living and dying everyday. Dialysis is a temporizing measure, and not without its own risks. Kidney transplant from a living donor is the best available treatment there is, for now.
So I volunteered. Nurse Regina was my first contact in the world of organ donation. She introduced herself as the ‘donor coordinator’. She was to be my confidante. Our phone appointments were never hurried, her voice consistently calm and gentle. The objective of the first stage was two-fold. One was to give me a clear picture of what donating an organ entailed. The other was to ascertain if this was a mindful decision on my part. The next one was all about blood tests and xrays at my convenience. When my results came out, I finally earned the privilege to meet face to face with Regina and the transplant team’s kidney doctor. Then more blood samples, this time for fine tuned tests of compatibility with my wife. I still wonder why this stellar team of professionals won’t take my word, that I already knew we were compatible from the day I met her, and proven by all these years of being married.
But unlike marriage, I can change my mind and back out, at any stage. Also unlike marriage, all of my testing was paid for by her insurance, not because I was a dependent on her plan, but because donor testing, donor surgery, and donor post operative follow up were all part of her treatment.
After about 2 months, the transplant team declared me a fit donor, and a perfect match!
I am doing just fine 12 months running, with one healthy kidney. As do all the other donors of shapes and sizes I got to meet at the summer picnic. Made me feel ordinary again. Fifty-something mom, young fellow with a toddler on his neck and a baby girl hanging from his chest, a younger sister, a guy who gave to a stranger at his synagogue. All living fully with one kidney. Because it’s all we need. Therein lies the wisdom of God in creating human beings with two.