We’re celebrating National Kidney Month because it is now an even bigger part of our lives as my mom was able to give life to my aunt by donating her own kidney. About 3 years ago, in August 2014 my Tia Rosa began battling with kidney failure. She’s been a diabetic most of her life and her kidneys began failing due to her diabetes. After three years of struggling and going to dialysis several times a week, both of her kidneys became very low functioning. The time came when our family began to think about if my aunt was a candidate for a kidney transplant. After some tests, we found out she was and my mom and her siblings decided to go through a list of family members that could test to be compatible with my aunt for a kidney transplant. We were all praying and hoping that someone would be a match.
As of January 11, 2016 there are 121,678 people waiting for an organ transplant. Of those, 100,791 are awaiting a kidney transplant. Health, compatibility, and availability of organs, determines when an individual can receive a kidney transplant and there also is an approximate wait time of 3.6 years. Back in 2014, 17,107 kidney transplants took place in the U.S. and 5,537 of those who donated are living and 11,570 of those are deceased. There is an average of about 3,000 individuals added to the kidney list each month and every 14 minutes someone is added to the kidney transplant list. Sadly, an estimate of 13 people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant.
So my Tia Gela tested first, my mom’s youngest sister, but unfortunately, she was not a match. Next up on the list was my mom. I had no idea what was going to happen if my mom was or was not going to be a match but as a family, we had decided if my mom were to be a match, she would do it. She expressed such grace and selflessness; the courage she had to do something so serious with risk factors and possible side effects, just amazed me.
So the testing cycle began. My mom had to go through several tests before the doctors could tell if she was a compatible match with my aunt. After a few weeks of waiting for the results, we finally received the news. Of course, my mind was going in different directions thinking, “what if she is a match?” “how should I feel?” “what are the risks?” etc. My mom sat down with me one night and told me she was a match for my aunt, and she was going to donate one of her kidneys to her. Ahhh in that instant I had so many emotions. I could not believe it – I was happy for my aunt. To be honest, if I were to ever be in a place where I was a match to donate an organ, I would. So I could see how mom felt and could tell that she knew the Lord sovereignly had His hand over this entire situation. In her heart, she wanted to help her sister, she knew Tia Rosa would not live long without a new kidney.
We found out my mom was a match in October 2014 and the transplant was scheduled for some time in February. That date got postponed and the rescheduled date was set for May 5 – yes, Cinco de Mayo! There were only a few things my mom had to do in order to prepare herself for the actual transplant, however, my aunt had to stay healthy by maintaining her grueling regimen of eating and drinking very little, taking her medicines, and enduring dialysis three times a week until the day of the transplant.
My aunt’s life before the transplant was a monotonous cycle of sitting through dialysis for 3 to 4 hours every other day and trying to keep up her will to live. Her body was not healthy and it continued to grow weaker and weaker. Also, she was so worried about my mom and she wanted to make sure that she was okay and that nothing would happen to her. My aunt’s response to my mom being a match was of joy, thankfulness, and love. The transplant was going to make her healthy again, allow her to enjoy her family, and essentially, save her life.
May 3, 2015. We arrived in San Francisco two days before the transplant took place. The night before the surgery, we gathered together to pray; pray for the surgeons and nurses, and pray that the Lord would be in the midst of everything that was going to happen in the surgery room. We spoke to the surgeon who was going to perform the surgery on my mom and he assured us of the many times he had performed this procedure, that my mom looked great and all testing results for both my aunt and my mom came back positive. They were ready.
Both procedures went just perfect. My mom and aunt were so strong, their bodies adjusted to the change and now my aunt has a fully functioning kidney that can do its job and allow her to live a productive life. With her health back, she can do what she loves – take care of her grandkids and cook – and she can finally pee! We were all overjoyed and at peace that everything turned out great and with no complications!
After this incredible journey in our family, it opened my eyes more to the fact that many people go through this exact same thing. Living donorship is not that popular; in fact, many people who die are donors. The struggle of not having a good working organ is a matter of life or death sometimes. I am super thankful my aunt was able to accept my mom’s kidney and now I see her so joyful, full of laughter and love; the transplant changed her life.
My mom demonstrated courage, strength, integrity, humility, grace and love during this privileged time. I admire her so much for this amazing gift she gave her sister. It is a miracle performed by God that my mom’s kidney addressed my Tia’s needs immediately; it was such an amazing sacrifice, a reflection of selflessness. I am so honored to have her as an example of truth and purity in generousity in my life. She was a heroine during this time and is and always will be a heroine for us as a wife and mother.
The National Kidney Foundation is one of the most substantial and recognizable organizations dedicating itself to the work of prevention, treatment, and understanding of Kidney diseases. For more information on how to become a living donor here.