The Kidney Donor’s Wife

It’s been just over 4 weeks since my husband, Kevin, donated his kidney.  I wanted to try to remember everything we went through so of course, what better way than writing it all here.  The goal of this is mainly to share our experiences in case anyone else is going through the same thing.

This whole process started about 6 months ago for us, and 18 months ago for Kevin’s dad.  Shortly after we got married, Kevin’s dad, Kyle, was told he was in severe kidney failure, due to years of Type 1 diabetes.  They started him on dialysis around October 2012.  While helpful, dialysis isn’t a permanent fix.  The only real fix is a kidney transplant.

We checked with a few family members but the best match turned out to be Kevin.  After months of testing, Kevin was the healthiest living donor possible for Kyle.  I don’t think it really hit me that “this was happening” until surgery was scheduled.  It was definitely happening in a big way!  Surgery was scheduled for July 14th, 2014.  Here we go!

Kidney donor

A quick photo before heading to the hospital!

Getting checked into the hospital.  No turning back! :)

Getting checked into the hospital. No turning back! 🙂

A hug and thanks from dad.

A hug and thanks from dad.

We got into the hospital Monday morning (7/14/2014) at 5am. Kevin got called to go upstairs by 5:15 and Kyle had to get a potassium test to check his levels.  Before they can do anything, they have to make sure Kyle is good to go.  No sense in cutting Kevin open if they can’t put the kidney anywhere!  haha.  Also Kyle had to show up at the hospital when we did because they don’t want him getting held up somewhere, or worst case, getting into an accident as Kevin’s on the operating table.  We were all in pretty good spirits until it was time to say goodbye.  Then I just lost it!  I “knew” everything would be okay but of course I still couldn’t help but think of the worst case scenario.  I couldn’t imagine life without him 😢 after that I went downstairs to the lobby, cried a little more with Kevin’s parents, then basically sat around for the next 8 hours.

We had quite the posse in the waiting room!  Kristi, Kelsie, Taylor, Mark, Kelly, and Margaret all came to sit with us.  It definitely helped get my mind off things!  Kidney Donor, Living Donor, Kidney Transplant

The Craft Corner!
IMG_3178 IMG_3177IMG_3176Kevin’s Aunt Kelly even brought us a little friend for comfort (turns out it was more for my comfort), but we named him Sydney the Kidney!  One of the many awesome plush organs from I Heart Guts.  Check it out!

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Kevin’s surgery started at 8:02am.  The hospital sent progress updates via text which was awesome, and had an electronic status board in the waiting room.  He finished right around 12pm.  The surgeon came out to talk to us and basically said everything went as planned.  Kyle got called up at 10am but his surgery didn’t start until 1:45pm.  He got done around 5pm but Dana didn’t get to see him until 8pm.  In total, Kevin’s surgery was about 4 hours, while Kyle’s was 3 hours.

Kidney donor, living donor, kidney transplant

#83098!

Kidney donor, living donor, kidney transplant

By coincidence….

I finally got the text saying I could see Kevin by 2:30pm.  He was awake and pretty “with it” when I saw him.  First thing he said was “see I’m strong like bull!”  Which pretty much melted my heart.  He later got moved to a room where we were able to sit and visit with him more.  His pain was moderate with a high of 7 out of 10.

Kidney transplant

Donor and recipient right after surgery!

Kidney donor

“See, strong like BULL!”

By 10:30pm he sat out of bed and took his first walk around the nurses station.  It didn’t seem like it was going to happen at first since the whole afternoon it hurt just to turn sideways or sit up even a tiny bit.  But he did it!  It’s crazy to think about how far along he got within just a few hours!
kidney donor, kidney transplant, living donor

The doctors said Kevin’s kidney “woke up” in Kyle before surgery even ended.  He was making a ton of urine on his own and everything looked great.

The next day (Tuesday), both guys looked really good.  Kevin even sent me a selfie in the morning!  He would kill me if I posted it though haha.  He took a few more walks and even walked all the way to his dads room on the 4th floor (we were on the 8th).

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Homer & Homer

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Already racing each other around the nurse's station

Already racing each other around the nurse’s station

In order for Kyle to receive the kidney, the doctors had to severely reduce his immunity system so his body wouldn’t reject the new organ (thus why Kevin is wearing a mask).  He had a lot more requirements as far as who he could be around and for 4 weeks after surgery, couldn’t see anyone besides his wife.  Just for safety.  If he caught a cold it would have been devastating to his body.

We had heard that the donor has a harder time post-surgery than the recipient…and it was definitely true!  Both Kevin and Kyle felt pretty good one day after surgery, they even asked Kevin if he wanted to go home on Tuesday!  But after that, things got a lot harder for Kevin.  His body had to adjust to not having one of his kidney’s.  On Wednesday, he basically felt like he had been hit by a truck.  Nauseous from some of the pain medication and just sick feeling all over.  Meanwhile Kyle was feeling like this!

Happy guy!

Happy guy!

Kevin was feeling the worst of it now so we really just had to wait it out.

kidney transplant, kidney donor
kidney transplant

Ice cream helps!

Ice cream helps!

Wednesday morning the doctors had a little ceremony for Kevin and Kyle.  They both got an award from the American Kidney Association and a few other gifts, like t-shirts and pins.  The whole point was to celebrate Kevin for giving such a generous gift.
kidney transplant
One thing no one tells you is how hard it is to sleep in a hospital.  It’s nearly impossible!  Someone was coming to check him for something at least every 2 hours.  I tried catching a few zzz’s in the chair by his bed but of course that wasn’t easy.  We were ready to get out of there!  By Wednesday, the doctors were very pleased with all of Kevin’s results and said he could go home when he felt like he was ready to.  Finally around 8pm, we got the all clear sign!  After 3 full days in the hospital, it was time to head home!  Adios Loma Linda!

Loma Linda University Transplant Unit

The bumpy ride home!  He could feel every nook and cranny in the road…kidney transplantHis first request… but by the time we got it for him, he was passed out.

kidney transplant

Mac Dough

Finally able to rest!
kidney transplantHe was pretty much knocked out all day Thursday.  A combination of not sleeping in the hospital and just being physically exhausted.  I was surprised by how much I slept too!  Also his diet wasn’t really limited once he was ready to eat again.  We started slow with soups but by dinner time Thursday, he wanted a Del Taco Bean & Cheese Burrito 🙂 I pretty much gave him whatever food he wanted for the next few weeks haha.

In case anyone’s curious, here’s what his incisions looked like!  They made the cuts laparoscopically, then made a big incision by his belly button to take the kidney out.
kidney donor, kidney surgery, kidney transplantOn Friday he felt ready to travel so we headed back to our apartment!
kidney transplantHe made a few trips outside to walk.  He made a new goal each day for how far he wanted to walk.  Plus it felt good to get outside!
kidney donor
After a few weeks, we went back to visit Kyle.  He was doing really well!  He spent 5 days in the hospital (mostly because he was on IV’s and other medicine).  They’ve definitely bonded over the whole experience though! kidney transplant
kidney transplantI had 3 weeks off work, which was awesome!  We got to spend a lot of time together and make sure Kevin was feeling well.  Here was one of our last breakfast dates!  kidney transplantToday Kevin is feeling great.  His daily routine is almost back to normal and this week (4 weeks post-surgery) he was cleared to return to work the upcoming Monday, with light restrictions.  I’m thankful this whole process is nearly over.  Well at least the worst is behind us….hopefully! 😛 It was a huge gift that his dad will forever be grateful and I’m so proud of Kevin for doing it.

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12 thoughts on “The Kidney Donor’s Wife

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! My sister has been on dialysis for 3 years and on the list for 3 years. Monday, October 6, 2014, my husband will be having bloodwork to see if he is a match for my sister. I could not donate because I have the same disease as my sister and right now, I have normal function. After talking with Piedmont in Atlanta, by the time I need a kidney, my husband will be out of age range. Hope you guys are does well! What an awesome gift!!!

    • Thank you for the sweet words Lisa! That is so hard… I’m sure you are being strong for your sister but have to think of yourself down the road too! My husband and his dad are both doing very well. Hopefully your husband is a match!

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I donated a kidney as part of a paired exchange 10 months ago for my husband, Kevin. It absolutely is a worse recovery for the donor but well worth it. Days 2 and 15 were my worst, but it’s a distant memory.

    • Lisa, my recipient had her transplant at piedmont. I can’t remember the name of the coordinator I worked with but she was fantastic. Slight British or Australian accent.

  2. Hello, I was just transplanted last Monday (July 06, 2015). My husband was my donor. I am 26 years old! I found your story very touching and emotional because I felt there were many similarities. I also was diagnosed with renal failure due to having type 1 diabetes for 21+ years, and I was also transplanted at Loma Linda university hospital. We are barely coming into week 1 of post surgery and we are both still in extreme amount of pain, and our appetites are small. I am also restricted to engaging in large crowds etc. I have a four year old daughter and it breaks my heart that I cannot take her to the park or somewhere fun to interact with her as I once could. I know time will heal all, I am just so anxious to gut out in the world again. I’m glad all has worked out well for you and your husband. I’ve been told that my recovery is running as it should. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • That is incredible Stephanie! How wonderful of your husband to give you such an amazing gift. You are more connected than ever! You are definitely through the hardest part… I think you’ll start to feel a lot better this week! My husband’s 1 year anniversary is this Tuesday (7/14). Both he and his dad are doing incredibly well. Even within a few months I think you’ll be shocked at your progress. Hang in there! ❤

  3. Thank you for your explanation of the process. I am going to final testing this week to become hopefully a donor for my brother. I have been reading as much as I can about the recovery process and it seems to vary I case-by-case basis, but it was helpful to know what Kevin’s recovery looked like. I have three children ages 3,7, and 10 and just want to be prepared for how well I can or cannot care for their needs.

    • That’s great! Yes, recovery time definitely varies. I would say it takes two solid weeks to really feel like you can keep up with your normal routines. With 3 kids, that’s tough! Definitely take your time and make sure you’re feeling up to it before you do too much. The hardest things were going upstairs, turning at the waist, and bending over! Have your 10 year old help pick up the house maybe 🙂 Congrats again!

  4. THANK YOU for posting this. My Husband is donating a kidney to our sister in law. Surgery was pushed up (as of tonight) a month and a half early. So he goes into surgery in 2.5 weeks from now and I’m scared. This really helps me to understand the process better then the books they gave us. I hope all is well!

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