I was a juvenile diabetic, so I always was very aware of my health. I was able to stay pretty healthy until I was 26. That’s when my kidneys started to fail.
In 1987, I began peritoneal dialysis treatments to do the work my kidneys could no longer do. Dialysis was horrible for me. I suffered constant fatigue, nausea, and swelling and eventually found it very difficult to continue working. When my doctors began talking about a kidney transplant, my husband and I decided to return home to Columbus, with our three very young children, to have the extra support of my family.
Since my diabetes led to the failure of my pancreas and kidney, I wondered if my doctors could transplant both for me. At the time, kidney/pancreas transplants were a new concept and The Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC) said I was the perfect candidate. If all went according to plan, I would be the first kidney/pancreas transplant recipient at the hospital!
I began hemodialysis treatments that same year and waited for a kidney and pancreas to become available for me. On March 1, 1988, I received the call that would change everything. It was hard to believe that a donor had said yes and saved my life. The power of my gift set in the day after my surgery. I no longer needed dialysis or insulin, and I was able to return to a productive life.
My donor gave me my life back! I took the opportunity in this new life I was given to go to college, obtain my Master’s degree in Social Work, and begin working to help others. I was able to take care of basic tasks without struggle, spend time with family and friends, volunteer and become an advocate for organ and tissue donation. I started corresponding with my first donor’s family to express my gratitude and eventually met them. It was an extraordinary experience, and an opportunity for me to try to say thank you for this incredible gift.
After 20 years of health, my donated kidney began to fail. I went through, what to me was, a grueling experience of hemodialysis again. At that point, the waiting list was so long that I was looking at another five to seven year wait for a deceased donor kidney.
Many friends and family members offered to be donors. When my cousin’s step-daughter was visiting from Italy, she volunteered to be a donor and turned out to be my perfect match.
On May 13, 2011, I was given life back again from the generosity, loving and selfless act of my cousin’s step-daughter. I underwent a second kidney transplant at OSUMC. My pancreas from my first donor is still going strong after 23 years, which I understand is rare and very encouraging for others.
I am so grateful to my donors! I look forward to every day I have because I know how valuable life is. I have seen my three children grow up, and have been able to get to know my 11 grandchildren. I look forward to many years ahead and, hopefully, getting to travel and see the world.
To say I’m a Buckeye for Life, is an understatement! Not only did I have two successful transplants at OSUMC, but I received my Master’s degree in social work at OSU, and my youngest daughter is a graduate of OSU. I would attend sporting events where my dad and an uncle were ushers, and I had another uncle who was in TBDBITL!
I hope you’ll be a Buckeye for Life too, by registering as an organ and tissue donor during the Buckeye-Wolverine Challenge for Life. I’m living proof that organ donation works and I hope to one day leave the same legacy that was given to me through the ‘Gift of Life.’