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My Ten Year Transplant Anniversary!

By Vee Penn, kidney recipient

In 2003, I was an activated Army Reservist at Fort Bragg, NC waiting to be deployed to Iraq when I was diagnosed with kidney failure.  Needless to say, I was never deployed to the war zone and within six months of my diagnosis, I retired with ten years active and eleven years reserve duty with the Army.  I was glad to retire from the service.  My daughter was graduating from high school and going to college and I wanted to be there for her.

Back in Columbus, I visited a nephrologist, a kidney specialist, and began treatment to maintain my renal function.  Just like in the Army, I followed the doctor’s orders, but despite my best efforts to be healthy, after seven years my kidneys stopped working. I was forced to go on dialysis.

Unfortunately, I did not have a match or qualifying family member who could donate their kidney, so I joined tens of thousands of others on the national transplant waiting list.

I continued to work full time and did home dialysis every night. Called peritoneal dialysis, I would connect myself to a machine about 10:00 every night and would not disconnect until 5:00 the next morning.  No matter how bad I felt, I did not tell my co-workers that I was on dialysis – I didn’t want to be treated any differently.

Again, I followed doctors’ orders, never contracted an infection and stayed healthy enough to remain active on the transplant list.

Two and a half years later, I got the call.  My transplant coordinator said, “We may have a match for you, pack your bags and we will call you back.”  I called and texted the whole family and asked them to start praying. A few hours later, I received the news I had been waiting to hear – it was a match! I was thankful when I received the call. I was excited. I was ready for my transplant!

Since my kidney transplant ten years ago, a whole new world has opened up!  I have taken vacations in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Texas and New York. I have taken on a larger role at my work and I am always quick to jump in a car and go see a friend.

I can now also speak freely about my kidney disease and my transplant – and, most importantly, my gratitude to my donor and my donor’s family.

I want people to know that no matter their age, religion or background that they can be a registered organ donor.  The oldest donor in the country was 95 years old! Organ, eye and tissue donation only becomes an option after all lifesaving efforts have been made……..and your final contribution to mankind can be to save someone’s life.  My organ donor is my hero!  Would you like a chance to be a hero, too?

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