Tag Archives: Wendy Brabon

Could detailed processes avoid a family’s pain– after kidney was thrown away?

Preparing for a donor surgery is anything but easy, but definitely worth it! With months of preparation and testing for the donor and the recipient. It’s not only difficult for the donor and recipient, it’s a family affair– knowing you have two family members in surgery at the same time is very stressful!  I know this first hand since I am a sister who donated on behalf of her brother just a year ago! I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the opportunity.

As Good Morning America reported this morning, when a Toledo Hospital threw away a kidney just before it was scheduled to be implanted into his sister, I can only imagine the devastation the family felt.  The hospital admits they threw the kidney away, but they are not admitting substandard medical care,Fudacz family lawyer James E. Arnold told ABCNews.com.

As a lean six sigma black belt, I see first hand how errors can occur when detailed processes
are not in place. Yes, mistakes can happen, particularly human error– however having a concise process that eliminates the possibility of costly mistakes is essential.lss

What is Lean Six Sigma (LSS)? Six-Sigma is the pursuit of accuracy and making everything right the first time. Lean is the pursuit of speed and therefore doing it as quickly as possible. When a hospital adapts LSS they utilize a set of tools and techniques/strategies for process improvement, LSS was originally developed by Motorola in 1981, however I believe it’s best known after Jack Welch made it a main focus at General Electric in 1995. Source: Wikipedia

Consider the flow of making a pot of coffee. Do you have a clear process every morning when making coffee? Do you use the exact amount of coffee, filters and water for quality and consistency? Is your system of making coffee done in the least amount of steps as possible, therefore is everything ready, easy to access and prepped?

Many hospitals and organizations are adopting Lean Six Sigma’s strategies to reduce the amount of errors and increase patient quality. In Toledo, Doctors tried to resuscitate the kidney, but it was rendered unusable, both sides have said. After a state investigation, the hospital’s live-donor program was temporarily suspended, but has since been resumed. Read full article

Based on the article noted above, The university at Toledo had “created a unique environment of safety in transplant and other programs that is second to none”.

This is a terrible way to learn and I know hospitals work diligently to avoid costly mistakes from both the patient’s experience and the reputation of the hospital. I would guess– they have changed the process in how they manage donor’s organs today and its something we can all learn from!

After all we are not in competition when it comes to saving lives, we are all in this together!

In Lean Six Sigma we are always looking at “continuous improvement”! Tell us some of the ways you see improvement in the transplant community?






Wanting too much leaves little time, five ways to get focused!

At times I have so many things I want to do, I can barely focus. For example, I want to learn a new language, finish my book and make a difference in organ transplant and that’s just the beginning. I realized this morning that I am not focused on the things that matter. Having too many “wants” does not allow you the time and energy to commit to what is important.  Am I destined to have a bucket list that is all desire without accomplishment?

Too many wants leaves you feeling unfocused and not committed!time

I had a Ah ha moment where I realized my problem is that I was not committed to what was really important. For example, if I went back to school would I really be able to finish my book, work, etc? What would I be gaining? Or more importantly would I have the time to follow my true passion?  I realized I needed to prioritize my list to what was doable in a specific time frame (while I still can) and make choices based on what I really wanted.

So here is how I cleared up the noise in my head and got focused!

Your WHY behind each goal is your motivation, be sure to ask why you want to make it happen.

1. Make a list of everything you want to do and do your best not to rate it — just write them down.

2.  Organize your “wants” into categories for example; Work, Money, Travel, Relationships.  If it’s in your head –  write it down.

3. Next prioritize your list. Ask yourself…  Is this something immediate or long-term? What is the “WHY” for wanting it? Keep in mind your WHY will motivate you when things look blurry. Rate your list based on what is most important to you.

4. Take your “A” priority goals and start planning. What do I need to do to make this happen? Create a list of items that need to be completed before you achieve each goal.

5. Finally, review your goals daily. Check off each item “your to do’s” that move you closer to each goal!

Today, clear the clutter and feel the certainty of moving towards your goals– your bucket list!

Have you kept a list in the past and found it worked well? Tell us about your experience?

Share your experiences!




One year after my donor surgery brings new awareness and passion

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!Me - Rochester, NY

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?

With gratitude.



My Dad– a life of survival, acceptance and trust.

Being raised in London, England during World War 11,” I never felt like a victim during the war, people often referred to us as the poor children, it was part of my life and I accepted that” said Ken Graham.

Kenneth Peter Lewis Graham was born in the Spring of 1938. World War II  would start a year later when he was just one year old . While being raised in the midst of war, their Mum worked as a cook  and their Dad was in the Royal Air Force and served in India and Burma during the war, their Dad was a complete stranger to the boys until 1945. Ken spent much of his time with his 17 month older brother Derek.

My Dad and Uncle Derek in 1947. London, England

My Dad and Uncle Derek in 1947. London, England

When the war started many young children were sent away from London and moved to areas thought to be less at risk from aerial bombing. Operation Pied Piper, which began on September, 1939, officially relocated more than 3.5 million people.

Ken and Derek were sent to a farm at Chalfont Saint Peter, shortly after arriving the boys came down with dysentery and nearly died, they were sent back to their Mum in London after they had recovered enough to travel. While many children left London to live safely in the country, Ken and Derek spent their childhood in the midst war.

Both the boys attended Droop Street elementary school. They walked to school every day with gas masks slung across one shoulder. At times when the air raid sirens went off, they would hide in a shop doorway until the all clear sounded . During classes if the air raid sirens went off all the students would stand up and then continue their lessons in the school air raid shelter. If a buzz bomb went overhead we would all hold our breath and hope the engine would continue. If the engine stopped it meant the buzz bomb had run out of fuel and dropped from the sky filled with high explosives.  Source: Derek Graham

As a small child Ken would run around with his friends, one time he got caught throwing rocks at German Prisionors of War until the Tommy (British soldiers) yelled at them and sent them running. Often during the day Ken and his brother would collected shrapnel or tin foil dropped by departing bombers to help the efforts. The city was in the dark thorughout the war, at night they would find themselves running to bomb shelters due to airraids.

By the time the war ended in 1945 Ken was about 8 years old, he grew up fast in the streets of London. I have heard many stories about the gangs of London and my Dad’s explorations. I heard the reason why my Nanny (Grandmother) chose to get on a ship to Canada was to give Ken and Derek a new life.  At that point my Nan was 59 and 9 months when she emigrated to Canada, leaving her three grown up daughters in London to start a brand new life with her boys . They sailed from Liverpool on the Empress of Scotland and landed in Montreal and from there they spent two and a half days on a Canadian Pacific train to Edmonton


My Dad and his family outside his home celebrating end of war!

 Celebration – War has ended, outside my father’s home in London, England.

Arriving in Edmonton, Alberta Canada at the age of 15, my dad met my Mom two years later. He taught my Mom how to speak English, since she was from the Nederlands and spoke mostly Dutch. The two of them loved to dance, go rollerskating and have fun. It wasn’t long before my parents were married with their first baby on the way. By the time Tim came into the world my Dad was barely 18 years old.

My father wanted desperately to give his family a good life, he worked hard and felt kids should be seen and not heard. Respect was important in my family and we did not talk back. My parents had the first four of us kids before moving to Toronto, Canada where my father found better work and started taking engineering classes in the evening.  Soon after, my youngest brother Trevor was born.

I recall my Dad sitting us all down for one of our family meetings excitingly telling us we were moving to the United States of America, home of the free and lots of opportunity. He loved the idea that we could be whatever we wanted to be in life.

Moving from the city of Toronto to a small town in Kendall, NY was not easy. It was quiet in the Country and a bit of an adjustment especially for me– since I had never climbed a tree and  had an accent which made me feel different. 

Coming from the city we were used to living in a small space, however this home in Kendall was huge with six bedroom on 12 acres of land.  My father said this was his favorite time in life, where he enjoyed his six children (my sister Audrey was born in Kendall). For the first time my Father was part of a community, working at Eastman Kodak and coaching the boys baseball teams.

My Dad renovating our house in Kendall, NY

My Dad renovating our house in Kendall, NY

Things became more complicated and competitive as “the boys” got older.  I remember my Dad holding a family meeting and asking what kind of engineer did each of my brothers want to be? They were required to make a decision in that moment, each one of my brothers spoke up one-by-one. Tim, Manufacturing, Ron, Mechanical, Shane, Manufacturing, Trevor, Mechanical when I asked my Dad, what about me, he proudly stated that I could work at a the local hospital as a nurse’s assistant and meet a nice doctor.  

His thoughts on women were old fashion and I never bought into it, however I know he wanted us to be successful and to be the best we could be.

For me, its important to understand where we come from and what our parents have endured.  I had the priviledge of spending the past week with my Dad in San Diego, where he shared his life with me in ways I have never expereinced before.  I am forever grateful.

My father has managed his illness very similar to how he dealt with war as a child… as a survivor with acceptance and trust.

My Father passed away this evening on August 6, 2013.



Moving on and letting go! Living kidney donor

One of the advantages of getting older is the ability to let go! Last week was big for me.  For the past six months I have been harboring these negative feelings around someone who in my eyes–had done me wrong.

During the day I’m pretty good, but at night the thoughts would haunt me. I would go over  the situation in my head and emotionally felt drained .  I made a decision to move forward and let it all go. Some of my friends would argue that was the wrong decision,  particularly since assets are involved.  I certainly felt the need to be right; however this was not serving me– in fact it was costing me!

It affected my sleep and I didn’t like the negative thoughts in my head. I berated myself for the decisions I made and in truth I  was wasting valuable time and head space. With all of the good things going on in my life,  I know longer wanted to harbor these destructive feelings.

When you consider the laws of attraction a belief where “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results.   For example a close friend of mine carries a great deal of fear and I see her hanging on to it like a life line.  By keeping the fear close, she keeps herself in a box and repeating the situations over and over and wondering why the results are always the same.   Fear has a way of stopping us in our tracks!

Typically what you see in others is often a reflection of yourself. So what can you today to let go of negative thoughts? Ask yourself….

I often feel….
But the truth is…..

What is your truth? Where can you let go of a thought or a fear and move forward and just trust that it will be OK!

 Good night Wendy

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.


Sitting quietly may not result in organ donation – living kidney donor

Sarah Murnaghan,  a 10 year old girl who suffers from severe cystic fibrosis and whose efforts to qualify for an organ donation spurred public debate over how organs are allocated, underwent a successful double-lung transplant on Wednesday. Source: Comcast News.  Read more on Sarah receiving a lung transplant!
Many people nationwide understand the importance of raising awareness about organ donation.  If Sarah’s family had sat quietly by her bedside without fighting her story would be very different and likely one that none of us would have ever heard.Sarah-Murnaghan
I often see requests from men, women, and children in need of an organ and using social media as a way to get the word out  in asking for a donation. Social media can be an excellent way and their are many success stories utilizing facebook to find a donor. I recently read that one in 10 American adults, more than 20 million, have some level of CKD (chronic kidney disease).  Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why do some recipients appear to have a large group of family and friends ready to participate while others quietly die waiting for an organ. Why are some families and friends inclined to do whatever it takes and others are not? I know in my family when my brother Tim needed a kidney, he shared very little information.  He didn’t tell us he needed one because he was uncomfortable asking us — probably because he was the oldest of six and was never in the position to ask for help. 
I took it upon myself to find out more information and then got tested.  I was disappointed to find I was not a match and thought that was the end of it – until a good friend of mine Dr. Brian Justice mentioned that I could donate my kidney as part of an exchange program.  In a paired donor exchange, or a kidney swap, two kidney recipients essentially “swap” to willing donors. I had no idea this was a possible option! The hospital didn’t mention it to me nor did my brother Tim.
For my family, like Sarah’s, this story has a happy ending.  I was able to donate a kidney through the National Kidney Registry (NKR) and my brother in turn received one and is doing great. All of this happened within 24 hours of being approved on the NKR!
What is the answer for those waiting for a life saving organ donation? For Sarah it was getting the attention of the media, changing a law and getting on a list.
But what about those who need an organ– a living organ is often the best solution.  I urge you….
  • Find an advocate-  it can often be easier for someone else to tell your story than yourself 
  • Shout it from the rooftops – reach out to the press, social media and tell your family & friends
  • Tell a compelling story – tell your personal story.
  • Arm yourself with as much information as possible about the organ donation process and your options.
  • Attend a workshop for example:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/LivingKidneyDonorsNetwork



Life’s assumptions – living kidney donor

The light on my car dash reads 15% Oil Life!  I wonder how often we react to information that is displayed in front of us and how it affects our daily life? I purchased a new car that now has about 5000 miles on it, the message on my dash last week read 20% oil life. So I stopped at my local garage station and asked the mechanic to check my car’s oil, after checking it he said it was fine. That didn’t make sense to me since the message on my dash said I had little oil life left. I explained to him that it was important for me to know since I was taking a trip that weekend and didn’t want to damage my car. They assured me the oil was fine. dont-make-assumptions

A week later the message on my car’s dash read 15% oil life and I now have an orange light on my dash and I’m worried.  So here is what’s going on in my head. Did I purchase a lemon? Will I consistently have problems with this car? What if I drive the car and their is no oil in it, will the engine die? Can I make it the two miles to the garage station? Maybe I should  pick up a quart of oil and drop it in my engine to be sure I am OK . Yes, believe it or not it’s all going on in my head. This time I went to a different garage and asked for help. I got out of the car to watch what they were doing and sure enough I got the same response that the oil was fine. The mechanic explained that the light is on to let me know that I will need an oil change soon and not that I needed oil!

Well that added unnecessary stress to my day, but in was small perhaps ten minutes! Where are we adding stress in our relationships and in everyday circumstances?   Consider that our subconscious mind is the part of your mind responsible for all of your involuntary actions.  Source: M. Farouk Radwan, MSc.  I think of our subconscious mind as narrating every moment of our life and it’s time to take control!

Miguel Ruiz who wrote the four agreements says “Don’t make assumptions”.  How often do we make assumptions in our life with our health, our partner and in general? In the book the four agreements Miguel Ruiz writes:

  • Find the courage to ask questions
  • Communicate often and clearly to avoid misunderstanding, sadness and drama

Ask yourself today.

Are you making assumptions with  your health, your partner, your life? What’s going on in your head and how can you change the messaging?

Quoting Dr. Wayne Dyer: Change your thoughts, Change your life.

With gratitude,


Memorial Day Weekend – Living donor

This Memorial weekend I went to Pittsburgh PA to visit my brother Tim and his family.  Last year I had done the same with Emily’s upcoming birthday and her dance recital its a good weekend to visit. So much has changed since last year Tim is no longer on dialysis since he received his new kidney on August 30 of last year!  Aside from the improvement in Tim’s health his personality is coming through. I can remember last year’s visit– he was quiet and would often just sit their with little to say feeling exhausted and sick. Tim would never complain, but you could see it in his body language, he was spending three days a week in dialysis and had been ill for a long time. To me, Tim had seemed depressed and perhaps hopeless however I do remember seeing the joy and pride in Tim’s face as he watched his daughter in last year’s recital.

Tim and Emily before the dance recital!

Tim and Emily before the dance recital!

During this time, I was determined to help my brother and I was going through the tests to become an organ donor. It turned out I was not a match and was entered into the NKR (National Kidney Registry).  Within 24 hours of being added into the database they found a match and their were eight of us in the paired exchange.  

What a difference a year can make! Tim is alert, determined and always has something to say. His health has improved tremendously although he still has a ways to go, it takes time to get used to the medications and rebuild strength after such a long illness.

Many people are waiting to hear good news and my wish for you is to always do your best including; eating healthy, exercise and don’t ever give up! Share your story and ask for help we are all in this together.

Today is Memorial day and I dedicate this post to my brother Tim who served in the US ARMY along with the many men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. Thank you!

Grateful for change.


Moms – Living kidney donor

This morning I ran into Wegmans to pick up a cup of coffee and a few things. It’s the day before Mother’s Day and the store was a buzz with fathers, husbands, and son’s shopping for the women in their life.  With all of my travels throughout the US, Asia and Europe I have never experienced a grocery store like Wegmans.  When you walk into Wegmans it takes in all of your senses, the store is alive with color, taste and smell and today the store manager was at the door welcoming every customer. While I was in the checkout line,  I met an elderly man who had been searching for something special for his wife — he said they had everything they could possibly need but it was important  to recognize her on Mother’s Day.

My Mom, Tim, Ron, Shane, Me and Trevor

My Mom, Tim, Ron, Shane &, Me 

While approaching my car, I noticed a young Mom holding her three children tightly to protect them from the busyness of the Wegmans parking lot. She had a serious and determined look on her face that I recognized in myself many years ago.   I thought this is what counts–  the day to day actions that Mom’s do to ensure there children are safe.  Its the small things that go unnoticed like a kiss goodnight, a clean bed to sleep in, a dinner prepared at the end of the day, a smile when they walk in and their favorite cookie on a special occasion.  For me as a Mom it was important to widen my sons view by  introducing as many new experiences into their life and thereby showing them its a  big world with many different occupations, personalities and cultures. They could do whatever they set out to do in this world– this is one of the biggest lesson’s I learned from my own parents and I wanted to pass it on.

My big lesson this year is my Mom and one that I will always cherish.  I donated my kidney on behalf of my brother last August and when I was released from the hospital I was required to stay in Pittsburgh for two weeks due to traveling and follow up medical visits. During this time I stayed at the Family House in Pittsburgh and my Mom who had traveled from California stayed with me. I often consider my Mom as one of the most impatient people on this planet, but for those two weeks she was an angel. She stayed by my side and just looked after me by cooking, organizing, washing, lifting and always being gracious.  It was a crazy time for me with the recuperation from the surgery, the large amount of emotional baggage I carried along with feeling anxious about my brother’s surgery two weeks after my own. I can be stubborn in thinking that I can do it on my own and so I rarely let anyone in– let alone help me. This experience has taught me much, including opening myself up and letting my Mom in and for that I am forever grateful.

My Mom and I

My Mom and I


Being one of six children my Mom was busy, working, raising us, getting dinner on the table and ensuring we had clean clothes and she never had a moment for herself. Us older kids had very little one-on-one time with her but she did find the time for occasional bedtime stories and a cup of tea.  My Mom is Dutch and she grew up in Utrecht, Holland during World War II and has amazing stories of the Americans camped out in her backyard and war planes flying over the city she lived in. Oma who is grandma to my boys  would often tell  them wartime stories at night before they went to bed, I often wonder about the influence these stories has had on my children’s lives.  English is my Mom’s second language which is all she has spoken since we were born, however it’s not her native language and with that words sometimes are misinterpreted.  My Mom who has nine other siblings learned to make due with the bare minimum and she continues to live her life this way. She has an amazing strength and determination along with a deep love for all of her children.

On this Mother’s day can we focus on the simple moments of our life, think about the small things your Mom has done for you and let go of the stories that keep the painful memories alive. Consider how much our Mom’s gave of themselves and how they worked to keep food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in and let that be more than enough. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms!