Many people have expressed surprise how quickly the whole kidney transplant transpired. Here is the comprehensive timeline detailing how the whole thing unfolded. I put it together using my Palm and email archives.
January 29, 2007 While my wife was out of town, I read an article on Reason Magazine’s “Hit and Run” blog about kidney donations, a topic I had been interested in for some time. It linked to an article called “Here’s Looking At You Kidney” by former Reason editor, Virginia Postrel, a kidney donor herself. Her article mentioned MatchingDonors.com. I contacted Ms. Postrel, via her husband, to establish who pays for the donor’s operation. She promptly responded that the recipient’s insurance pays for the donor’s medical costs. She also made herself available to answer my myriad of dumb questions. I began an exhaustive amount of web-based research into the nature of the surgery and learned two important things:
1. The surgery itself was a routine procedure with a quick recovery time. 2. Living with one kidney was exactly the same as living with two kidneys.
January 30, 2007 I spoke with a friend who is a very talented surgical transplant nurse at Rush Hospital in Chicago. She put me in touch with the transplant coordinator for the hospital, who was a real moron. Eventually, I was able to get my point across to the pinhead on the phone that I wanted to donate my kidney to a stranger on Rush’s transplant list. She informed me that they didn’t do that at Rush, but she believed that Northwestern Hospital in Chicago had such a program. I made an appointment with Northwestern Hospital’s Transplant Department for an orientation session. Unlike Rush, Northwestern’s staff was friendly and helpful every step of the way.
January 31, 2007 I discuss the possibility of donating a kidney with my wife, Lisa. After being presented with the facts, she was receptive to the idea. We looked at the Matching Donors website and saw Brenda’s listing. We also watched a You Tube video featuring Brenda on a local newscast. The news story indicated that Brenda had found a donor from Texas who had stepped forward to donate a kidney. Lisa and I discussed at length the ethics of choosing someone from MatchingDonors.com vs. simply giving my kidney to the next person on the hospital’s waiting list.
February 2, 2007 I attended an orientation session at Northwestern Hospital in a room full of donors. I was the only donor there without a recipient. Dr. Talia Baker (who later removed my kidney) did a PowerPoint presentation answering all questions and addressing concerns. Following the presentation, I had blood drawn to establish my blood type for possible matching. I began the paperwork to become a “non-directed” donor, meaning that I would give to whomever Northwestern felt was most needy.
February 3, 2007 I sent an email to Brenda Lagrimas, the woman whose profile I had seen on MatchingDonors.com to see how she was doing. She didn’t respond immediately, so I moved forward with Northwestern’s Non-Directed Donor program. I made my second appointment with Northwestern for donor screening.
February 8, 2007 Brenda finally responds to my email, and I learned that her Texas donor had fallen through, and she was searching for a suitable donor who wasn’t going to jerk her around. We set up a phone conversation for the next day.
February 9, 2007 I spoke to Brenda on the phone and told her that if we were a match, I’d gladly give her my kidney. I contacted Northwestern Hospital to change my donation from non-directed to Brenda as my recipient.
February 15, 2007 I had my next appointment with Northwestern where I gave more blood for testing, and they performed a chest x-ray to establish that I do, in fact, have two kidneys. I passed this phase of screening.
March 4, 2007 I collected my pee in a jug for 24 hours for testing at Northwestern. This was utterly humiliating.
March 5, 2007 I turned in my jug of piss at the hospital. The hospital had me meet with a Transplant Social Worker to ensure that I’m sane enough to donate a kidney. I also met with a transplant surgeon who answered my new questions about the procedure. The hospital performed a CT Scan of my kidneys to ensure that the plumbing was appropriate for transplant. I passed every step of this phase.
March 20, 2007 Brenda and I heard that we were cleared for transplant. We chose April 19 as our transplant date.
April 2, 2007 Brenda and I met for the first time at Northwestern at our pre-operative doctor’s appointment. We were shown a video that answered nearly all of our questions about “k-day,” and we met with the fantastic Lori Gardner, Northwestern’s Transplant Coordinator, who answered the rest of our questions.
April 17, 2007 My co-workers threw a surprise party for me at lunch to wish me luck. Interviews with Fox News, The Chicago Sun Times and The Chicago Tribune took place.
April 18, 2007 My last day at work before the surgery. The press barrage hit the papers and television.
April 19, 2007 Surgery day. I was under the knife around 11:30 a.m., awake around 2:00 p.m. The surgery was successful and painless. Drugs regulated post-op pain. I was up and walking later that night.
April 20, 2007 Lots of walking around the hospital. Peeing on my own was very difficult that day, but after succeeding, I was sent home around 3:00 p.m.
April 21, 2007 Brenda was sent home. Her new kidney was functioning perfectly.
April 22, 2007 More recovery at home. Fox News aired a follow-up story celebrating Brenda’s return home.
April 23, 2007 I walked a mile with my son, returned to volunteering at the National Runaway Switchboard. This was my first day without painkillers other than Tylenol.