By Judy Jackson, kidney recipient
My journey to a kidney transplant was unexpected. As a nurse and a mother I am used to taking care of others and never anticipated that a routine physical would lead to a life-threatening discovery. In 2005 my doctor referred me to a nephrologist, a kidney specialist, after my blood work indicated abnormalities. I learned that my kidneys were only operating at 25 percent capacity and that a transplant was in my future.
Just a few months later, in February 2005, I joined thousands of others on the national transplant waiting list. I started dialysis while I waited and it took a lot of adjusting to make it work. I was undergoing peritoneal dialysis treatments with the hope that I could continue my work as an operating room nurse. Peritoneal dialysis is done at home and consists of filtering fluid through your abdomen to remove waste products. This procedure allowed me to live a relatively normal life for awhile. Knowing that my days were numbered depending on when a transplant might come, I tried my best to spend quality time with my family, and even managed a few very carefully planned vacations.
Unfortunately, I ended up with an infection at the filter site and had to quit my job and switch to hemodialysis, a procedure that directly filters your blood. I underwent treatments at a clinic for hours at a time, three days a week. The process left me exhausted and I felt like as soon as I started recovering from a session, it was time to go back again.
As I continued to wait for a kidney transplant, my entire life revolved around dialysis. I felt fuzzy mentally and wasn’t quite myself. I had young kids, Adam and Ashley, 11 and 5 years old at the time, and I struggled to keep up with them, but they gave me the motivation to fight through the pain. I lost my mother when I was in second grade and I didn’t want my children to go through that too. I told myself that God wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle and continued to push forward.
Nearly two years after I was listed for a kidney transplant, the call came on May 17, 2007. It was 5 a.m. and it was the best news I had ever received – I tear up just thinking about it. I was hysterically happy and anxious as I drove to the transplant center!
When I arrived, it was like clockwork. I was in surgery before I knew it and when I woke up I overheard nursing saying that my kidney was working. I knew everything would be alright.
After I recovered I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was. Living with a transplant is a lot of work, but I am so grateful for my donor’s gift that I’ll do whatever it takes. I absolutely appreciate everything about my life, and this second chance to live it.
Thanks to my donor I went back to working as a nurse just a few months after my transplant. My kids won’t have to live without their mother, my husband won’t have to go without a partner and for that I am so grateful.
Today, I work at the James Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University Medical Center and can empathize with all of my patients. I think my transplant helped me to be a better nurse and I am thankful that I am still able to take care of others and make them more comfortable. Now, as a Donate Life Ambassador, I am trying to give back for the incredible gift I received. I hope that people reading my story can see the impact a transplant can make. And to all donor families, I would like to say thank you for letting life go on.