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Kidney Donation: My Story
Mar 23, 2018 by Toni Reinhart
Have you checked the box agreeing to organ donation on your driver’s license form? Is this something you have thought about?
Right now, there are over 116,000 people on the national organ donation transplant list and 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
I checked the organ donation box, but I’ve already been a donor. 30 years ago, I donated a kidney to my sister. I never expected to be a “living related donor”, or actually any kind of donor while I was still alive, but it turns out I was an almost perfect match for my sister.
Thirty years ago, we were still young women. My sister had a small baby at home and was suffering with failing kidneys and twice-a-week dialysis treatments. Believe me, dialysis is very hard on a body. And, it is not a cure. It is merely a stop-gap to the eventual loss of all kidney function. Dialysis cannot replace your kidneys. It was a difficult time for her and everyone in the family.
When the doctors recommended a transplant to my sister, it still didn’t occur to me that I would be a donor. My brother had declared that he would gladly give his. Well, it turns out, you have to be a match. He wasn’t. So, I agreed to go through the process to find out if my kidneys were a match. The only way we could have been a better match is if we had been identical twins.
I was nervous, of course. I was a young woman in great health and the only surgery I had ever had was an appendectomy. I still wasn’t thrilled with the scar from that. But, the opportunity to save the life of my sister was something that meant a great deal to me. I know what it’s like to see someone you love die too early and it’s a pain you have to live with but would do almost anything to avoid. The gift of kidney donation to my sister was not just a gift to her, but an amazing, powerful gift to me.
Thirty years later, I still have my sister and my life has only been enhanced and not diminished. In fact, I just skied the Alps of Switzerland last week.
Maybe you will never have the opportunity to give life to someone through organ donation while you are alive, but please consider checking that box on your driver’s license and giving the gift of life to someone.
Toni Reinhart owns the local Comfort Keepers offices, providing in home care for seniors in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties. To learn more, call (703) 424-9519.