The day comes to an end as I sit outside warmed by the sun, I listen to the trees swaying in the breeze and I contemplate the events of the past year, I feel unsettled, like the seasons in New York, I’m in transition. I wish I could feel the lightness, the relief and elation I felt the first few months after my donor surgery. I’m sure feeling unsettled is partly due to my father passing away just last week.
A year ago today I donated my kidney on behalf of my brother and wow what a year it’s been. I walked into the hospital the day before my surgery filled with stress from the prior eight months. With anticipation, I expected to let go and after recuperating I would get back to my life. What happened was very different, so many gifts have come my way and nothing is what I expected!
As I look back over my previous blogs, I can see how far I have come. it was truly an amazing experience– by donating a kidney I was able to save my brother’s life. I had merely set out to help and thought in four-six weeks I would resume my life.
Instead it catapulted me emotionally, physically and fueled a new passion. My first two weeks after my surgery was spent at the Family House in Pittsburgh. It was an experience that forever changed me; I became connected to the lives of other transplant families, where we would share our experiences in the kitchen after a long day of visiting loved ones in the hospital.
For me– I was healing and in pain, but happy – I had connected with my Mom in a new way, I had let her in. I felt truly grateful for the entire experience and happiness poured through every fiber of my being. Three weeks after my surgery I traveled to Los Angles and then flew to Japan to visit my children and family.
I returned from traveling six weeks after my surgery and felt ready to take on the world. However, I found that I was still not feeling myself physically or emotionally and was desperately trying to hang on to the feelings I had earlier. Much of my time was spent researching organ transplant, I trusted I was moving in the right direction as my passion built. The time I spent at the Family House with families either waiting for a transplant or loved ones in the hospital receiving an organ had forever fueled this new passion in me.
It wouldn’t be till my eleventh month after surgery that I truly felt I was physically healed. I don’t know if this is typical for most donor patients, I attribute this to my age or perhaps hot yoga, which I was doing three to four times a week. It was after another episode of passing out that my Doctor told me to stop hot yoga, the heat was depleting my energy and affecting my organs, particularly my heart. Yoga itself is wonderful and really helped with my overall healing in mind, body and spirit. I now continue to do yoga without the heat.
A couple of months ago, while attending a TED conference, I met a surgeon from the University of Rochester who is truly passionate about donor registry- Dr. Chris Barry. I now reside on his board of directors at www.blifeny.org and I look forward to doing some interesting work. In addition to that I am working on a NIH grant to research the donor experience. Our hope is to create a product that will drive a positive donor experience and reduce the time it takes to be approved.
When I look back on this year, I have learned a great deal about myself, but most of all I learned to trust my gut, follow my instincts and to love me. I am grateful for the experience, the people I have met and a passion that brings new meaning to my life.
What I know for sure is that when life breaks us open, we feel more present, more compassionate and grateful. Ready for the next adventure!
How was your experience after organ donation?