It’s a new year. Many of us make resolutions to improve ourselves. Some of us hope the new year will bring changes and improvements to our lives. Those of us who are on the transplant list are hoping that this is our year.
Living donors can provide kidney and liver donations. If a person donates a kidney, the remaining healthy kidney will grow and compensate for the lost kidney. A healthy liver will grow back after part of the organ is donated.
Amy donated to a near stranger
Amy Gray-Cunningham (www.amygraycunningham.com) considered kidney donation after her husband read aloud from a friend’s Facebook page.
His friend’s brother, David, was in dire need of a kidney transplant. Amy thought of David’s two daughters and heard God say “with every sense, ‘Amy, that person will be you.’” She thought that experience was too odd to share with anyone, including her husband. But a day later, David’s sister posted on Facebook that David’s blood type was O+. Amy had the same blood type, and this is the first “match” required of a donor.
Amy shared her feelings with her husband, explaining that she was sure she probably wouldn’t match—what was the probability or likelihood? Chuck worried what would happen if Amy’s remaining kidney failed or a family member needed a kidney and she didn’t have one to give because she gave one to a stranger. They each had a son to consider, and they had been married only about two years. In this small world, David was friends with Amy’s husband Chuck in high school. And their kids had attended school together when they were younger. They lived only about 20 miles apart! The match between people who live so close is a 1 in 20 million chance.
Faith trumps fear
“It’s not something I would normally do myself, but if it’s God’s doing, I can’t put off saving someone’s life (because of) fear,” Amy told her husband. “ I have to have faith that God will provide if I needed anything.”
She contacted the Carolinas Medical Center Transplant Unit (www.carolinashealthcare.org/cmc-transplant), still assuming she wouldn’t be approved. Then she got a THICK booklet of information with a thorough application. David’s transplant doctor initially denied Amy as a candidate because she had an extra artery at the top of both kidneys. He didn’t know if he could re-attach it, and if he couldn’t, how much kidney function would be lost.
Amy and Chuck attended a prayer service with David’s sister Jennifer. David was too ill to go. He was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2004 and began peritoneal dialysis in 2009, but when that wasn’t sufficiently cleaning his blood and removing toxins and fluids, David went to hemodialysis. When Amy became aware of David’s need in January 2011, he was near death. Despite the initial decision, Amy was approved as a close match for David in June. They had the surgery three weeks later. The surgeon wasn’t able to re-attach the additional arteries, but David’s kidney functions at 100%!
Amy used her “Superpower of Donation”
With her joyful, positive attitude, Amy gave me advice to share with those considering donation.: Listen to your inner voice. “You never know whose angel you were meant to be that day,” she said, and then immediately asked, “What would have happened if I had said no and disregarded that voice?” She encouraged people who consider themselves unspectacular to use their “superpower of donation”.
She offers tips to possible donors.
- Anyone can test to donate a kidney. The first is a blood test and medical profile. Amy expected that some decisions earlier in her life might make her ineligible, but she was approved. “God gave you two (kidneys) for a reason. You only need one. David needed my other one,” Amy said matter-of-factly.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Don’t be afraid.
- Consider that this is “elective surgery” (but the recipient’s insurance covers all medical costs for recipient and donor, including initial testing). Amy spoke highly of the medical staff at CMC. “The clinic nurses and surgical recovery staff were so good and really looked after me. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” she said.
Amy shared the story of God’s provision, as well. When she considered donating a kidney to David, she and her family were living paycheck to paycheck. She didn’t have any idea how they would make ends meet while she was out of work. But her employer provided short-term disability, which paid her during her absence at 100 percent after she took her week of earned vacation.
Look for miracles
Four years later, Amy is healthy and suffers no repercussions from the surgery.
She volunteers with the non-profit National Kidney Foundation of the Carolinas and offers advice for patients awaiting a donor kidney:
- Don’t quit believing; don’t give up hope.
- There’s somebody out there (to donate to you).
- Everything happens for a reason. I know you don’t want to hear that, when you are going through it!
- And remember that blessings and miracles are happening every day!
Amy sums up her experience saying, “If I could donate again, I would, because the rewards have been amazing–not only for me but for many others, too. “
If you or someone you care about is facing dialysis, please share your experiences and concerns. This is a forum for learning and inspiration. Please share your stories and questions. What were your experiences and challenges with dialysis?