Tag Archives: Wendy Brabon

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!

Wendy

Fearless…. Kidney donor

Tonight I felt frightened for the first time as long as I can remember. The day started really nice with a trip to the public market to pick up lots of fresh vegetables and to share a cup of coffee and conversation with my friend John. 

It was a beautiful day– after a long winter it’s pretty exciting when Spring truly arrives and most everyone in Rochester is outside and enjoying the weather. I had planned a long bike ride with my friend Kyle immediately following my trip to the market, so I had loaded up my road bike, my head gear and water bottle and headed to the lake to see my friend. I was excited about going on this ride, it had been almost a year since I had been on the bike. I wondered what kind of experience it would be for me today. In the past I had always shared these bike rides with a man I was in a relationship with and we had enjoyed the ride together talking about life, enjoying the views and we would challenge ourselves physically with speed and distance. Things changed and towards the end of our relationship these rides had become bitter between us and a place to argue and discuss our issues. 

So today was a new day and it felt exhilarating to be on the bike. Kyle and I rode hard along the river, over bridges, up and down hills and the sights were beautiful. We saw a swan sitting on her nest protecting her eggs, a boy scout troop, and many other riders on the path. We rode 20 miles and challenged ourselves with this first ride of the year. When we were done Kyle made a nice salad and we enjoyed some intesting conversation in her home on the lake.photo[1]

Afterwards, I stopped at Wegmans a local grocery store thinking I would stay in for the evening and enjoy a movie and just relax. I was tired and felt fulfilled after a busy productive day. That changed when my friends called and invited me to a fundraiser for the RPD, typically I would say no– but the new me is looking to be more adventures and say yes.  I was dressed and ready to go in 15 minutes.

When I arrived I was happy to see many friends that I had not seen in a long time; however within an hour I was dizzy and ready to collapse. I knew I was in trouble and wasn’t sure if I could move in fear of passing out, let alone drive home. I confided in my friend Shelly who escorted me to the ladies bathroom, she found a paramedic to see if I was OK – my pulse was low, my face was flushed and my skin clammy. I found steadier legs after sitting down in a quiet space for a while and drinking some cool water. I am not sure why this happened, was it the affect of the rigorous bike ride and perhaps I didn’t stay hydrated enough? Or could it be my creatinine levels from my kidney, what I do know is that I have found myself easily tired since the kidney donor surgery.

I felt frightened and alone, I realize it was nothing serious however moments like this can bring out unexpected fears.  For example; I have no family nearby,  who would be called if something serious happened? Would I no longer be able to push myself as hard as I used to?  Can I complete some of the goals I had set out to do this year, such as the 100 mile bike ride and the Tour De Cure ride? 

I know this too will pass. I find myself thinking about what others have to deal with and I feel embarrassed for giving this any power over me.  In the meantime I will continue to ride and build myself back up and definately look to stay hydrated during my workouts!

W.

Best in human kindness – Kidney donor

This morning we gathered to celebrate living donors at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC hosted by  Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation at UPMC.

Dr Humar who is Chief, Division of Transplantation Surgery Clinical Director talked about human kindness. I love those words “human kindness”.  I often refer to a letter by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother where he talks about creating art that shows human kindness and what that meant to him. For Van Gogh it was not about doing the popular thing to sell his art it was about being true to himself and painting what his eye saw in people and places.  Dr. Humar talked about the worst and the best in humans today. It comes at a time where so much tragedy and fear has affected our world, however we cannot forget the kindness of humans that will give part of themselves to others.  Whether its the gift of an organ, fighting for our country or the compassion we have for one another.

Dr. Tevar, Tim and I

Dr. Tevar, Tim and I

I was deeply touched today by a women who spoke about her family. When she married her husband 25 years ago he had kidney disease. They have three children together and each one of the children carry the same disease. She donated her kidney to her daughter in college  who otherwise would not survive and she is now looking for a kidney for her son. She desperately wishes she had more to give – for a mother to have to make a choice on which child to give her kidney to is  devastating. Her daughter was at today’s event and you would never know that just a year ago she was fighting for her life– for she looked beautiful and healthy.

A kidney is a second chance at life for many and I hope and pray they will find a kidney for her son along with many others who are waiting.

Tim and I saw Dr. Amit Tevar today! Dr. Tevar was both Tim’s and my surgeon during the kidney transplant and donation.  He is so friendly and kind and we had such a great experience, I thanked him for not just his surgical abilities but for being so genuine, so positive and good with all of us including my Mom the day of Tim’s surgery.

In listening to Dr. Humar open up today’s celebration talking about human kindness ~ I  feel grateful for my experience.

When I hear the stories about the hero’s,  the acts of kindness in Boston that transform us in the worst of times– I continue to believe in human kindness.

Wendy

 

Miracles – kidney living donor program

This morning I checked in at UPMC Starlz Transplant Institute for my six month kidney donor checkup.  Ironically or perhaps not–  my brother Tim also had his monthly appointment for receiving his kidney.  I picked Tim up early this morning both of us feeling pretty good in our journey.  Tim was a bit nervous and hadn’t slept well the night before, he really just wants to be left alone and feel good. Tim has side affects of the medications and worries about possible complications and will need to be watchful in regards to his health. With all of that Tim is so appreciative for where he is and how far he has come. He no longer needs to be on dialysis, his body is getting stronger every day and he is excited about a project he is working on in researching the Veltman family history (my Mom’s side).    

Tim and his daughter Emily.

Tim and his daughter Emily.

As I walked into the Transplant Center it was like visiting an old friend. some of the staff greeted us and asked how we were doing. My six month check up went well, I got the OK to ride my bike 100 miles in May, 2013 for Ride for the Missing and to do the Tour De Cure (ride for Diabetes) in June.

With so much sadness going on in the world– the horrible bombing in Boston and the explosion in Texas~ I see miracles here at UPMC.  This morning I met a young women Amanda who is married with a 7 year old son who had received a kidney from her Aunt just three months ago. Amanda is vibrant and beautiful — you can see the gift of life in her after being on dialysis for 3 years.  We sat in the waiting room and talked about her experience in receiving a kidney along with her pride in her son and her family.  None of of this is easy, Amanda had a large box with her medications on her lap and was taking her 20 plus pills for the morning. I could see the determination and appreciation in her. Her new kidney could last as long as 30 years and we are hoping that a well tested mechanical organ will be in place by the time she is need of  a new one.

After dropping Tim off at his home, I checked into the Family House which is walking distance from UPMC. I immediately ran into a women I knew from my previous stay. Her daughter had received a liver transplant from a family friend and was  recuperating at the time.  She had gone home and was doing well until she got the flu –which turned into more issues. She was eventually air-lifted from Miami to Pittsburgh and after a two month stay in the hospital she is finally doing better.  

As I sit here writing this blog in the library at the family home a woman walks in looking for a book. She stopped to tell me her story about her son, you see this is a safe place where we all feel part of an extended family. Her son had received a double lung transplant, she cried as she told me the story of sitting by her son’s bedside one night at the hospital and listening to his labored breathing and how he would take a breath and then grunt trying to catch his next. As a Mom she felt so sad as she listened to him fight for every breath. She smiled with tears in her eyes it’s been 3 weeks since he has received his new lungs and he is now breathing and recuperating well.

I wondered this morning as I sat in a very busy waiting room at UPMC Starlz Transplant center if the nurses and doctors who tended to us really understood the miracles in the lives of these recipients and the work they do?

Miracles are happening every day! I am grateful for good news.

Wendy

 

Six month check up – Kidney donor

I woke up in the middle of this night with a longing to write. It’s been a while since I have blogged, but yet I write often as I work on my book. My book’s working title is “Courage to Give”.  The book reflects both my experience in donating my kidney as well as others; several of the people that I have interviewed are from my chain.  You see since I was not a match for my brother, I became part of a chain of eight all donating our kidneys and therefore “linking” us together within two weeks last August. With my kidney going to NYC, my brother Tim’s kidney coming from Philadelphia,  etc.

Next week I have my six month check up at UPMC in Pittsburgh and while I am there I am planning on attending a donor reception in hopes of learning more about the process and experiences others have had.me

One thing in talking to other donor’s their is not enough information about what we go through, what to expect and how to take care of ourselves. The brochures and articles I have read from medical institutions say that we will be back to ourselves in just a couple of weeks; however that wasn’t the case for myself and others who have donated our kidneys. One thing we all agree on is that we are grateful for the opportunity to donate on behalf of a loved one. 

I am learning so much about myself through this process and one thing I know for sure is we are all in this together. Our thoughts and secrets only keep us separate from one another, when the reality is we all have our struggles and they are not so unique. Whether it’s financial, worthiness, shame, relationships, or just feeling alone in this world,  I have found that sharing with someone who has earned my trust  releases the weight of my thoughts and brings me closer to others.

Good night. Wendy

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

healing begins…. Living Kidney Donor

Wednesday morning Tim woke up in intensive care and was doing 100% better. I was so relieved and hadn’t realized what a toll it had taken on me both physically and mentally. They are expecting to move him to his room today.  I continue to have a “Disney experience” with UPMC, Starzl Implant Institute. Every time I called a nurse for an update on Tim in ICU– they took their time with me, were respectful and seemed to be really great with Tim. I am so appreciative!

It’s been three weeks since my surgery and this morning I woke up feeling more energized and with no pain– it’s an uplifting feeling.  It feels good to want to get things done and to be planning for what’s next, however I quickly realized I need rest in between. I recently read “the kidney is considered the seat of courage and willpower and any impairment will show as fear and paranoia“. Harmony healing. I am curious about that. I wonder what happens when people receive other peoples organs and in my case when an organ is removed. For me I know medically my kidney instantly enlarges and naturally takes on the function of both kidneys.

I have a business meeting this morning and am struggling with what to wear. For the past three weeks I have been wearing yoga pants and a t shirt simply because I don’t like any pressure on my stomach and that will have to to do for today’s meeting. I have lost a total of 16 pounds since May of this year mostly due to eating healthy and working out,  six of the pounds were lost since the surgery due to a smaller appetite.

Looking forward to the day.

broken – Living Kidney Donor

Tim is still in intensive care, we are not completely sure what is going on. His kidney is responding better each day, however it’s not completely functional. Tim is in a confused state, they have him in ICU and strapped to the bed; when he is awake he wants to go home and remove his IV’s… They have ruled out uremia (thank god) and his infection seems to be clearing up. The transplant team is testing him for everything, however they believe his medications have simply not filtered through his body – therefore resulting in access of medications since his surgery.

For me I  feel shattered, I have always had a picture of what my life will look like. Now I see a broken image, I suppose this is because of all the changes that have impacted my life this year.  I feel exhausted mainly because of my own surgery along with worrying for Tim.  It feels odd where almost three weeks ago I was running a few miles a day and today I am walking slowly around the block in my neighborhood (which isn’t very far).  At night I am sore and get up often to stretch and walk around the house. I am eating healthy and juicing daily to build up my energy!

It sounds like I am feeling sorry for myself, I do have many good things going on; I am making new plans for my business which is exciting. I spoke to my son Juliun and will see him and Natalie in Los Angeles on Saturday.  I will see my younger son the following week, I do miss my children they both live so far away. We raised them to think big and see the world and they are doing exactly that ~ I am so proud of them.

For me I am praying that tomorrow Tim will be out of ICU and back in his room recovering. I will need to be more patient with myself and get the rest I need and realize that I have a lot of freedom in my future, I can can create my own path from scratch.

I am so grateful for my family and friends.  My friend Carol made me this awesome stew and chicken soup that I eat daily.  I have received so much love and support from friends and family through all of this.

Throughout this process, I have posted on facebook a request to send prayers and thoughts Tim’s way. I really do believe the more positive energy sent Tim’s way the better.

Good night. w

Kidney Donor

A year ago my brother called me regarding his health, he found out his kidney’s were failing. It was only a matter of months before he would be on dialysis.  For years Tim’s health had been failing due to diabetes.  I come from a family of six children where diabetes is prevalent; according to data from the National Diabetes in 2011 a total of 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes. However another 70 million people are “prediabetes”.  That’s about 12% of our population.

Tim is my eldest brother who is married,  they have a beautiful 10 year old daughter.  Tim has saved my life twice. Once when I dove off a raft into a lake Ontario as a child and came up gasping for air. Tim saw me from the shore and immediately swam out to save me, he arrived just as I had given up and was going under. The second time I was in a barn fire around 12 years of age.

It was a fairly easy decision for me to donate my kidney, I figured it would cost me surgery and four weeks of recuperation in exchange for saving a life. I immediately went to my doctor and requested a physical along with determining my blood type. I was disappointed to find out my blood type was different and therefore not a match. A friend of mine told me about the National Kidney exchange program. When I called the Clinical Transplant Coordinator at UPMC in Pittsburgh PA and begin the rigorous process of determining whether I was completely healthy to donate.

I am donating my kidney next week on the 16th of August. I am planning to write about my experienceMy brother Tim and I leading up to the donation and then after the surgery in hopes of sharing my story with others who are considering this process.

Wendy