The introduction says the publication was created "to inspire hope for End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) patients, their family members and caregivers...to motivate and empower ESRD patients to explore all treatment modality options, including kidney transplant."
In this time when we gather together to give thanks for our families and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I thought it might be nice to celebrate some rebirths as well. That's what a kidney transplant really is, you know – a rebirth, a rejuvenation, a second chance at life. A second chance to be with your family and give thanks for many more Christmases to come.
Here are just a few real stories from Your Life, Your Choice. (Because reprint rights are so hard to obtain during Christmas week, some names have been changed here. The emotions have been left completely intact.)
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"Hello! I'm a three-year kidney transplant recipient and am feeling just wonderful! My name is Carole and I live near Harrisburg, Pa. I had reflux disease at birth culminating in ESRD when I was in my 60s.
"I remember very clearly when I faced the decision of whether to remain on peritoneal home dialysis or receive a kidney transplant. I was on the dialysis machine ten hours every night, seven days a week. It was a difficult time for both my husband and me, but we depended on our faith in God to see us through. I had an awesome personal relationship with Him, so when transplant was needed I was on solid ground with my faith and trusted in the Lord to help us.
"My energy level is way up and I sleep so well at night. It's great to be able to eat whatever I want with very few restrictions. Today I look in the mirror and my skin tone is back to normal. Wow! It just doesn't get any better than that for me.
"I wrote a memoir about my journey through renal failure and dialysis to a kidney transplant. My story is honestly written (through my darkest days) with my personal thoughts and feelings in journal entries, and it's called Transplanted to Better Health. For more information, please check out my website: http://transplantedtobetterhealth.weebly.com/.
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"I retired from the Post Office in 2002. My wife and I planned on traveling, and we took cruises and enjoyed our retirement until I started getting sick. We found out I had high blood pressure. No matter we did, in 2008 my kidneys failed and I had to start dialysis.
"Dialysis was getting on my nerves. I was washed out after treatments; some days I could barely make it to my chair when I got home. Being on dialysis for four hours, three times a week took a lot out of life. We stopped our travel plans.
"A few months after I started dialysis, the staff asked me if I wanted to be listed for a transplant. I was a little concerned about my age – 77 – but I said yes and did everything they asked. My wife didn't think they would give a kidney to someone my age. The people at the transplant center were wonderful, they treated us like family. The first call didn't work out, but two weeks later I had a second call: a young girl had donated her organs and I was given her kidney.
"At age 77, I feel like I've been born again. It's a new life. My wife says I am happier, too. Now we have time to go out to lunch, shopping and all the things I was too washed out to do when I was on dialysis. We are now looking forward to a European cruise.
"I would recommend a kidney transplant to anybody. It's the only doctor's office that I don't mind going to."
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"Because of Polycystic Kidney Disease, I had been seeing a nephrologist for 17 years when he told me he was retiring due to ill health. He gave me into the care of one of the young doctors in his practice. When this doctor saw my creatinine level of 4.1 (average range for this kidney function indicator: 0.5-1.2), he handed me a list of vascular surgeons and told me to have a fistula put in ASAP – and, goodbye!
"Needless to say, I was stunned by this news. As my father had, in 1966, been Long Island's first dialysis (PD and HD) patient, I knew exactly what I was in for and decided I didn't want it! I decided to get a second opinion. At my first meeting with this new doctor, I knew he was the right nephrologist for me. He told me i was a perfect candidate for a pre-emptive transplant. He proceeded to manage my medications and diet so I could stay healthy enough to remain off dialysis while I searched for a donor.
"Next I signed with a very well known kidney transplant center in New York City. Even though I brought six altruistic donors to the center, they were all summarily disqualified. When the last donor, a girl of 24, was disqualified on the very day I was expecting to receive my surgery date, I knew that I would never have my transplant at that center.
"That same day, via online research, I contacted a transplant center on Long Island. I made an appointment to meet the transplant surgeon and his team. Immediately, everything and everyone felt 'right.' I learned more in that one meeting than I had in over a year at the other center!
"When all the test results were in, combined with those I had at the other transplant center, the team and I discussed my two donors – the last disqualified donor and my sister. We started with my sister, who I brought in to meet the team. She was tested and found to be a good match except for the fact that she was 35 pounds overweight. Instead of disqualifying her on the spot, as the other center had, the dietician and my transplant coordinator worked with her so that she could lose the extra weight.
Thus, on Feb. 23, 2009, my sister and I entered the hospital together and the transplant was done at 7:30 that morning. I remember joyously hopping up on the operating table, in great anticipation of my operation and with complete confidence in my surgeon. The doctor who invented the laparoscopic kidney removal procedure, using his own new technique, performed my sister's surgery. She has only a small scar to mark the occasion of her donation to me.
"My care in the hospital was superb. The nurses taught me how to change my bandages, what my medications were for. I left the hospital only 48 hours after my transplant, and have not had one problem since!
"How thankful I am for this transplant, for it gave me a new life! Each morning I wake up so happy, to be able to do whatever I want and to have all the energy I need to do it – something I couldn't say for the first 60 years of my life! I can now eat anything I want and travel wherever I please. My brother, also a transplant recipient, and I attend the Transplant Recipients International Organization meetings each month in order to learn all we can to continue to keep our kidneys healthy.
"Every day I feel so blessed to be alive, energetic and happy! Whenever I speak to someone who is either on dialysis or soon to be, I tell them what a difference my transplant has made in my life.
"Everyone who is in ESRD has a choice to make for the rest of their life. I tell them to "Choose Life" – choose transplant and LIVE!"
Merry Christmas, everyone. Healthy New Year.