In 2003, I found out that my mother had kidney failure.
Not only did she have kidney failure, but due to the fact that she had been given unfiltered blood during a transfusion, the level of antibodies in her system made the possibility of her getting a kidney close to impossible.
I was always prepared to give my mom a kidney or anything else she might need to survive, for that matter.
But the possibility of that choice being taken away seemed too much…too unfair. On a whim, my mum took the advice of a nurse who told her about some doctor in Baltimore who was using this process called plasmaphersis and was conducting paired organ donation with his eyes closed practically .
Who would’ve known that the Chief of the Transplant Surgery Division at Johns Hopkins would respond to emails personally?!
A few weeks later, Dr Montgomery and the Johns Hopkins team went about saving my mother’s life. Not only did they take care of her medical needs, but they made sure my mum and the rest of our family were coping with the entire process. We had ‘training sessions’, where they prepared us for what would happen, we met with psychologists who ensured that we were ready and Mum and I got advice about giving up smoking…which took some time to sink in for both of us..but we got there in the end.
On July 7, 2006, I gave my mother a kidney. Maybe for the first time, Im going to state that it is something that I’m proud of. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. While one in four women and one in five men are said to suffer from kidney diseases, rates are said to be higher in Caribbean and South Asians.
Unfortunately, many developing countries do not have donor lists and so depend on their family members and friends for donations or the illegal kidney trade. But by getting what is called a ‘living donation’ my mother’s survival chances increased significantly (18 v 13 years; I think the longest living donation is over 40 years). It kept her from being on dialysis any longer and waiting on a kidney that probably would’ve never come otherwise.
Also, I know this sounds strange to say, but for those who are scared or nervous about being a donor, not only was it one of the best things I’ve ever done, but honestly it was one of the easiest. Of course there are risks. Yeah the surgery bit was rough and there was some pain involved. But some weeks after surgery (under the close supervision of my brother Chris, who was our rock through the entire period of my mom being ill), I was at ATI (Apple Temptation Isle), one of Jamaica’s biggest party weekends, raving with my girlfriends (all of whom offered to get tested when my mom was diagnosed…my ride-or-dies).
And even now, my life has not changed much. Yeah, so I generally try to watch my salt intake and avoid ibuprofen (to those pill-popping hypochondriacs who take pain killers for everything under the sun, high doses of ibuprofen contributed significantly to my mother’s kidney failure). But other than that, my lifestyle went back to normal, including the fact that I still have my mother to call me everyday to see if I’ve eaten properly, make fun of the boys I date and hold it down for the Levers clan in general. Im blessed to have her in my life to this day. But my family and I have Dr. Montgomery and the Johns Hopkins team to thank for that.
Our family is forever indebted to them. I thank them for not only my mother’s life, but the thousands of lives they save everyday by performing surgeries, providing treatment, conducting innovative research and educating others.
Become a donor today. Change your life by changing the lives of others.
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