By Aubrey Turner, three-time kidney transplant recipient
I’ve never known what it’s like to be truly healthy. When I was two, just a toddler, I was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulo Sclerosis, a rare disease which attacks the kidneys. When I was two, just a toddler, my parents were told I would eventually need a kidney transplant to survive.
My mom, not wanting her baby to struggle, donated one of her kidneys when I was four. Through the next eight years her gift allowed me to go to school, have friends and to be a normal kid. Unluckily, a series of health crisis when I was 12 caused my gifted kidney to fail. I vaguely remember this time in my life, but I do credit the power of prayer with helping to get me through.
Due to my kidney failing, I found myself again in need of a transplant. This time, my dad stepped up! My transplant took place in the summer of 1998, immediately following me competing in the Transplant Games of America. His gift enabled me to go through middle and high school, to be a student, do activities and spend time with my friends.
Then, on Mother’s Day 2000 my parents received a call they never wanted to hear – I was diagnosed with skin cancer. It was staged severe enough that I had to undergo surgery and the treatment plan placed me at risk for losing my “new”
The skin cancer treatment went on all through my eighth grade year. Four years later, as a senior in high school, my kidney finally failed from the combination of chemo and radiation. Graduation day came and I’m thankful I was able to walk and experience that milestone, but at the same time it was the most miserable moment in my life. At this point I had very little kidney function and I was beyond swollen. Immediately after graduation we went to Nationwide Children’s Hospital to begin dialysis.
Since I was out of parents to be my living donors, and I was an only child, I had to do what hundreds of thousands of others do, join the national transplant waiting list for a new kidney while receiving dialysis.
My wait began in 2004 and lasted until 2016. 12 years. 12 years of waiting. 12 years of dialysis. 12 years of health issues. And 12 years of staying positive, knowing a hero would save me.
And a hero did, on July 13, 2016, the day before I turned 31. When my phone rang at 4:00 in the morning, I KNEW it was my transplant coordinator. I was hesitantly excited as I heard the words, “We found a match for you.”
Three hours later I was being prepped for surgery – my time had come! Waking up from my transplant was an adjustment – I hadn’t had the urge to urinate in 12 years and it was an odd sensation!
Reflecting back on how my life was after receiving my gift, I remember the amazing feeling of not having to do dialysis – I just couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to have received a transplant! Without my donor, dialysis would still rule my life – now the freedom of health and life is my new pathway. I have the ability to work, be with my family for holidays and spend time with those I care about.
I am so incredibly thankful for this gift. I’ve written my donor family, but haven’t yet heard back. I would love to meet them in person and truly express my gratitude.
Just think, YOU have the power to save someone, like my donor did for me. Register today to save a life – www.lifelineofohio.org.