A Family Story
My story begins with my father’s. His family was plagued by kidney disease, and in January 1969, my father went into kidney failure. He started dialysis, and a few months later received a kidney transplant. I am so grateful that I was able to grow up knowing my father.
His first kidney lasted 20 years, and in 1997, he received a second kidney transplant. My older brother, John, was diagnosed with end stage renal disease while my father was recovering from his transplant. It was an extremely difficult and emotional time for my family. My brother started dialysis, and five long years later in October 2002, he finally received his second chance at life. His experience changed his life, and he is now a licensed minister, helping others.
Finally, I enter my story – in September 1998, I got a new job, which required a drug test. I passed, but the technician asked me if I had kidney problems. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! The tech suggested I see a physician because the protein in my urine was high, so I scheduled an appointment with my brother’s nephrologist at the Cleveland Clinic. I had a kidney biopsy, and it showed 98 percent kidney function – what a relief! I saw the doctor on a regular basis, and didn’t worry about kidney problems for three years.
In 2001, I started feeling different. I gained some weight and felt strange. I went to my nephrologist, and, after a few tests, I was told I was fine, but I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t concentrate as well as I used to, and the weight gain was not normal for me. More tests, and still no real answers. I got married in March 2002, and was still seeing my nephrologist to monitor my kidney function. During a routine biopsy, my doctor determined I only had 15 – 20 percent kidney function, and I was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS.) Essentially it was chronic kidney failure. I was faced with same choice my father and brother had to make – dialysis or death.
I choose dialysis, knowing a kidney transplant would eventually be necessary. That Thanksgiving, I got so sick, I nearly died. I was finally dialyized, and now, I would live on the machine – the machine that would keep me alive until I was transplanted, or until I died. My nurse, Paula, helped me through the dialysis process – thank God for Paula. It took two years for me to be listed for a kidney transplant. While I was waiting for my transplant, I wrote a song. I wanted a transplant so badly; so many people I knew on dialysis died while waiting for their Gift of Life.
In February 2005, my dad died. He lived 35 years because of his heroes of donation. Thank You! His funeral was planned around my dialysis sessions – that was hard, dwelling on my dad, while I was on dialysis.
I had a hip replacement in August 2005, as a result of some of my medications. I had been on crutches for nearly a year and a half because of my hip problems, and had to learn to walk again. I was learning kidney disease affected more than just my kidneys.
On May 8, 2006, I went to church. That morning I really enjoyed the meeting. I used to think when I got baptized, I just promised myself to God not knowing if I could be a good person or not. I gave testimony about how that touched me. I went by myself and wished my wife and son would have been there. About 4:00 that afternoon, I received a phone call. My wife usually answers the phone. Today, this call would be one for me to answer. It was the OSU Medical Center – the woman said they had a perfect kidney match for me! I could not believe what I was hearing! I had to ask her to repeat what she had said. I totally lost my composure. Our prayers had been answered! We arrived at 6:00 in the evening, and the next thing I remember is waking up the following morning in recovery with my new kidney!
It was a bumpy start on the road to recovery, but after many prayers and trying to no longer worrying about things, my health began to improve. My kidney is now working better than expected, and I am so thankful. I look at life differently now – never wasting a single day. Time is so precious – I appreciate what I have and thank God and my donor for my second chance at life. I can finally walk around the neighborhood again, and sing the song I wrote while waiting for my transplant.
Be a donor! Save somebody! I have happiness now for the first time in a very long time.
(Editor’s Note: This is a shortened version of Hugo’s story. For his full account, please email Hugo at email@example.com.)