By Deyra Rodriguez (leer en español)
When I was nine years old, I developed Type 1 diabetes. I dealt with the condition all my life and began experiencing kidney problems when I was in my 20s. After becoming pregnant in 1995, my kidneys failed.
Doctors tried to treat my condition with diet and medication but as a young professional trying to pursue a PhD and balance my family life, I began to suffer. I always felt tired and my lack of energy became a way of life – I started to think that it was my new “normal.”
Each morning when I would wake up, sit in bed and think, “I have this whole day ahead of me.” I had to push myself to meet my responsibilities and struggled to keep up with my young son, Angel. I didn’t feel like I could offer him quality time and I wanted to do more. When he got a new bike and was nagging me to go ride it, I took him, but I had to sit and watch. I couldn’t actively participate like other moms and that was really rough.
In the fall of 2001, I was listed for a kidney and pancreas transplant. I was ready for a long wait, as doctors predicted it could be years before a transplant came. My family supported me, especially my husband’s grandfather, Santiago or ‘Papa Chago.’ He always called me his Nena (little girl) and stayed positive, rooting for me to get my transplant.
On April 12, 2002, Papa Chago passed away and my family was devastated. Since I was waiting for a transplant when he died, my husband’s family asked us not to attend the funeral, encouraging us to stay home in case we got “the call.” We thought there was a slim chance I would get a call so quickly – but we reluctantly stayed home.
We were shocked when we received the news the next day that a kidney and pancreas had become available for me. We joke that Papa Chago made it happen, that as soon as he got to heaven he found a match for me! I do know he was looking down on me smiling, knowing that my life would go on because of this amazing gift.
Immediately following my surgery, I felt better than I had in years and I was ready to go! Because of my illness, when I was little, I grew up thinking I wouldn’t live to see my 30s and I look forward to turning 40 this year! I am no longer diabetic and am grateful to be free from insulin.
I am so thankful for this second chance. My transplant has helped me achieve my goal of finishing my doctor of philosophy degree in molecular genetics and I currently am an editor for scientific journals, a job I love. But, most importantly, I am here for the little things, the everyday things, and the opportunity to have one more day… and another after that.
And at the end of the day, I am grateful for the fact that I am here and I am able to just be. I am able to be a mother to my son and offer love and guidance when he needs it. I am able to be a wife and build a home and a foundation for our family, and provide love and companionship to my husband. I am able to share smiles, hugs, kisses, kind words, and lend a helping hand when needed. I am able to share my love of baking, especially birthday cakes, with my family and friends. The “little” things that, when you look back and reflect on life, are really the “big” things, because these are the moments that bring us joy – and they are all thanks to my donor.
The best part of the day for me is the end of the day, when my son, my husband and I hug and kiss good night. That hug and kiss is a way to show appreciation for each other, but more importantly, it is a promise and a hope for another day when we are able to be here for each other and do the same again.
So if I ever meet my donor family, I would of course thank them for this gift but, more importantly, I would give them a Hug and a Kiss.