It has now been over 10 months since that wonderful day last October when I got my new kidney. In that time, I have learned a great deal about the type of struggles a transplant patient may face.
Back in June, I experienced my first setback. My kidney function had started to decline, and I was faced with an uncertain future for my new kidney. Just thinking about my kidney failing or rejecting was a lot to take in. I know when Felesia and I were talking about this donation prior to my transplant, I had contemplated what it would feel like to lose my kidney. I had decided at the time that it was still worth the risk, and I knew deep down that I was not going to do anything, on purpose, to harm my borrowed organ. Knowing this, I knew that the future of my new kidney was still uncertain. So many people get kidney transplants every year, and outside of their own control, they lose them to rejection or other problems.
Then in June, those thoughts of losing my kidney were in the forefront of my mind. I had to have a kidney biopsy, and it did reveal some rejection. As I was experiencing this, all I could think about were the decisions I had made in the last few months. Did I eat or drink something that hurt my kidney? Did I injure my kidney? Did I ignore some rejection symptoms?
Over the next couple of months, I figured out that my kidney had experienced some infection that did harm my kidney, but just like my kidney’s original owner, she proved to be quite resilient. I hated that this happened, but it did teach me some valuable lessons.
I have learned that I can’t let anyone or anything get in between me and the health of my kidney. I have to take even the slightest sniffle seriously. I have to call my transplant coordinator with the slightest problems. It may be a small issue like a sniffle or a cough, but it must be dealt with before it becomes a serious problem. I also learned even more that I shouldn’t take my life for granted. Even if I only have one more day with my kidney, it is a blessing. Even if I lost my kidney and hooked back on a dialysis machine, my life is still a blessing.
Through this experience, I also learned the first thing they teach you in a kidney transplant training; a kidney transplant is a treatment, not a cure. I think that is one of those hard lessons in life where a textbook just doesn’t fit. Had I not gone through this, I may have felt invincible. Now, I know that my kidney is strong, but just like the millions of others facing similar battles with kidney disease, it is not the cure, but it is a much better option than alternatives.
Katie Holland can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.