Tag Archives: Wendy Brabon Kidney Donor

Power of love that fuels the mystery of miracles. Living Kidney Donor

The coffee shop where I was seated was just about empty when David Tobey and his sister Sue walked in.  I had first met Dave a few months ago to talk about his kidney donation to Sue. I had been so taken by the immense love and support he expressed for Sue and the entire Tobey family – which includes five other siblings and many nieces and nephews – that I wanted to learn more about their special story.   In truth, I recall feeling a twinge of envy about the close familial bond I had perceived from Dave.

I have come to believe that this extraordinary love and Sue’s “take it as it comes” attitude saved Sue’s life. 

Tobey Family - Sue Lennox Tobey and Dave Tobey

Tobey Family – Sue Lennox Tobey and Dave Tobey

Five years ago Sue was diagnosed with FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulo sclerosis), a disease that occurs when the filter on the kidney is damaged and becomes scarred.  When this happens, the kidney is no longer able to adequately perform its function of filtering blood.  With this diagnosis, Sue was told it was only a matter of time before she would require dialysis or a new kidney.

With no hesitation or prompting, every member of the Tobey family – all six of Sue’s siblings – eagerly went through testing with the intention of helping their sister resume her life as a wife and active mother of three.  Dave, a twin and the second youngest of the family, turned out to be a perfect match, and better yet he was deemed an excellent candidate because he was extremely healthy and fit.

It was quite unexpected to Sue’s team of doctors – and to the Tobey family – when Sue’s body almost instantly rejected her brother’s kidney. 

Sue’s transplant team was able to reverse the rejection.  But it was the better part of a year filled with near death moments before Sue was in the clear.

The Tobey’s were no strangers to a family crisis.  They had lost their own Mom to cancer when Sue was just 17 years old.  So when their sister met with life-threatening complications, the Tobey’s rallied hard but seamlessly.

They all pitched in to make meals, help Sue’s and Dave’s family with house chores, and assist with additional expenses that come up when family members are in the hospital.  Sue expressed that she did not want her son & daughters lives to be interrupted with her illness.  At the ages of 12, 17 and 18, they were like most kids busy with school and sports activities. So the family helped get the kids where they had to be. 

As Sue and Dave relayed their story, I witnessed a beautiful love. Dave is protective of her in a delightful way.  And I found it so endearing that her other brothers and sisters were so selflessly involved in her road to wellness.

Modern medicine can do wonders. But the power of love… that fuels the mystery of miracles and happy endings.


Attitude – Living Kidney Donor Journey

Friday evening I attended one of my favorite yoga classes of the week. In this class I can usually find myself letting go of my day, my week and my thoughts. When I am in this space I tend to move into a feeling of gratitude which is almost magical where every fiber of my being feels joy.  I let go of my fears and my worries and I am focused on the present, the here, the now.  

Wendy, Audrey & Allegra

Wendy, Audrey & Allegra

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Max Planck, Nobel Prize-winning physicist  this is so true for me this past week. Last Saturday I had gone for a bike ride and then became sick and passed out later that same evening and I became overwhelmed with new fears. Then on Monday morning I read a question a member posted on a forum who continues to feel exhausted a year after her kidney donor surgery and wondered if anyone else had the same experience. Within 53 minutes 12 people had responded with the same experience including myself.

The evidence of the post along with the 12 responses backed up my own personal fears. (I was attaching myself to someone else’s experience that I know nothing about) I began to think that I would never feel completely healthy.  My energy was low for the next few days, I felt exhausted and it was difficult to get things done. We all have our own unique experiences;  however I personally feel that our attitude can fuel how we perceive a moment, a memory and life in general.

I often think of bike riding as a metaphor for life, when I am tackling a large hill and I am confident that I can make it up the hill–  the ride is much easier. However, when I am not in a confident state I find myself negotiating….” If I cannot make it up the hill, I can get off my bike and walk the rest of the way or if I do make it up I won’t have the energy to go the distance  and I will need to shorten my ride or even worse I am not good enough, I am not strong or healthy enough”.  By the end of the week I had completed two long bike rides and four yoga classes and I feel great!   I listened to my body, took care of myself and didn’t over push. All of this has left me feeling more confident in moving towards perfect health. 

This week was a great reminder that attitude is a choice and I get to make that choice in every experience.

Cheers to a beautiful productive day!


Lesson’s learned from donating a kidney…

If you have read my posts since the beginning, you know how donating my kidney has impacted my life. This particular journey continues for me; however to date here are the lessons learned over the past five months since the donation…. 

Lesson one- Giving my kidney to my brother is never a good time, but absolutely the right time in my life.

Lesson two- Truly understanding compassion. The problems that one is facing are small compared to saving a life. Look in the eyes of those you love and don’t run.

Lesson three- Then the miracle sets in and you are actually saving your own life. Broken open, seeing more clearly.

Lesson four -Broken glass, looking in the mirror and not seeing your life’s path and trusting not to look for a quick fix, just allow it to unfold. God’s plan is bigger than yours could possibly be.

Lesson five -Just stop. Feel, listen, don’t judge, be present. Life happens and it’s all about how we choose to manage the present moment.

Lesson six. – How do you move forward and continue to stay mindful?  Back to lesson five.

Lesson seven – Pay attention to your gut! It may start screaming at you and this time listen and trust in yourself

Lesson eight – Finding my spine, confronting those who are close to you in a clear and loving way.

Lesson nine – Finding love for myself,  this is  my biggest lesson. I always felt that choosing love over fear meant doing the right thing for someone else. I’ve since learned it means doing the right thing for yourself.

Lesson ten – Being vs. doing regardless of the consequences. Not always easy, not always safe but definitely worth it! Follow your passion, follow what brings you joy.

Rochester, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles,  Japan, back to NY – home at last.  Truthfully — home is you, you are home….

And always knowing that this too will pass.

With gratitude! Wendy

Tim’s Post surgery – Living Donor Program

Tim’s surgery was overwhelming, I was exhausted and terribly soar by the time we left the hospital on Thursday evening at midnight, exactly two weeks from my surgery.  We were in the waiting room since 4:00 pm with my Mom, Tim’s wife and daughter– Julie & Emily and Julie’s sister Dora.  All of us anxiously awaiting the results, however the kidney did not arrive from Philadelphia till 5:30 which is about the time they took Tim to surgery. UPMC did a great job of keeping us comfortable and informed.  Tim’s surgery was one of the last scheduled surgery’s of the day so basically we had a waiting room to ourselves, either a nurse would call or stop in to update us on Tim’s surgery over the next four plus hours.

Around 10:30 pm Dr. Tevar (the same surgeon I had for my surgery) came in to talk to us. He looked directly at my Mom and explained in detail that the surgery was a success “it was smooth as ice”.  We asked questions about where they placed the kidney, what to expect next, etc. True to form Dr. Tevar took his time answering questions and explaining what to expect next. Dr. Tevar is such a great communicator and so compassionate, at one point my Mom looked at him and said “thank you for taking such good care of children”. It was really sweet.

It would be past midnight before we left the hospital. Tim had some minor complications coming out of the anesthesia so it took some time. I saw Tim before I left and found myself so overwhelmed with emotion knowing that the surgery was a success,  I suppose I hadn’t realize how much I was holding in, it was like I had been holding my breath.

I was doubled over from pain in my abdomen from not resting my body enough for the past two days and it took me hours to fall asleep that night. We woke up early the next morning to visit Tim in the hospital– he was doing great. Already sitting up and later in the day walking around, Tim was talking more than I had seen him talk in years. He seemed happy, relieved and excited. Much of my family came up to see Tim,  Trevor and Jeanne from Ohio, Shane and Debbie from Charlotte and of course my Mom from California. Both Ron and Audrey who live in California called frequently for updates.

Tim’s kidney was slow to respond due to the trauma of traveling from Philadelphia, etc. However we can see each day it is responding better and better, this can be a pretty typical process.  Tim is also managing all the medications for rebuilding his immune system, blood pressure, pain management, diabetes, and of course anti rejection medicine.  It’s a complicated process to ensure all the medications are working properly and Tim is feeling good.

I am so grateful the surgery went well and so terribly exhausted!