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Recipient Stories

My Second Chance – Sonia J.

My story begins like most transplant patients that I know. I consider myself an average housewife and mother, living on a farm in southeast Ohio with my husband, Calvin.

I was raised on a small farm in Meigs County, and I have always had a love for animals and any thing that goes with farm-life. I have been a 4-H advisor for many years, and a member of the Athens County 4-H committee. Being a person that enjoys working with children, I’ve enjoyed being a bus driver for Federal-Hocking schools for over 12 years. I would say that I was living the American dream, living on a farm, working with children, and having a job that I enjoyed. But all this began to change in the fall of 2004 when I was diagnosed with Polysistic Kidney Disease (PKD), a genetic disease that often results in kidney failure and dialysis as the treatment.

I was somewhat familiar with PKD, because 18 relatives have been diagnosed with various degrees of severity of the disease. My mother had PKD and was on dialysis for approximately 5 years before she passed away. Prior to her death she was placed on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, but she died before a suitable donor could be found. Another aunt I had was on dialysis for 18 years before her death. I therefore knew that if the disease progressed my life would change greatly and many of the activities that I enjoy would be difficult to continue. I am a person who believes in prayer, and we, as a family, began to pray for a positive outcome.

In the fall of 2004, it was determined that my kidneys were functioning about 40%. I began a regiment of dietary means to slow down the progression of PKD. I know that this can be successful in some patients, because my sister, Teresa, has had PKD for over 20 years and through proper diet and proper lifestyle choices, she has been able to avoid dialysis. So I began the initial treatment the doctors closely monitored my kidney function. But with each hospital visit and each test, it became obvious that my kidney function was continually decreasing.

In the summer of 2007, doctors began to discuss the possibility of dialysis or maybe even the need for a kidney transplant. This is where we believe God intervened in the hearts of people. We had been attending church with a wonderful lady by the name of Joyce. She knew of my condition and had been praying for me. After church one Sunday, she and her husband Gary asked if they could come over and visit. That afternoon Joyce said she knew her blood type was the same as mine and she wanted to begin the testing to see if she could be a possible donor. We know God answers prayer, because I nor my husband had ever asked for a donor. Words cannot express the feeling you have when someone comes and offers to give the gift of life to you. To add to this story, my other sister, Marcia, also came forward and said she would like to be considered for a possible donor. Donors are a very special people. To give a part of oneself in order to enhance the life of someone else is by far the greatest thing a person can do for another human being.

So in the fall of 2007 both Joyce and Marcia began the testing to see if one could be suitable for donation. The biggest concern was whether my sister may have PKD since it is a genetic condition. After testing, it was determined that not only did she not have PKD, but that she was suitable to be a donor. Since she was a family member, doctors decided that she would be more suitable for a successful transplant. I thank Marcia, but I have a place in my heart for Joyce. Though she was not going to be my donor, she demonstrated a love for me that I know God will reward.

On February 29, 2008, I was given a second chance on life. Both Marcia and I were released from the hospital a few days after the operation. Marcia was able to return to work shortly after the donation, and today she is back to her normal lifestyle with the knowledge in her heart that she has made it possible for me, her baby sister, to enjoy life as well. I have done well post-transplant, and returned to driving a school bus in August, six months after my surgery. I feel better than I have for years.

The reason I wanted to share my story is that whoever reads this can get the perspective of transplantation from the recipient’s point of view. The term commonly used, “Give the gift of life,”  is exactly what it is. Marcia, through her willingness to be a donor, has given my life back. If you are reading this and are not registered to be a donor, I hope you will consider registering today. And I want to thank all of you that may have been a living donor, because it is the greatest gift one could give. And those of you that have had close family members or friends that have enhanced the lives of others through organ donation upon their passing, I want you to know that through their “Gifts of life” are greatly appreciated.

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