My Living Donation Journey – Part 4: The Approval

Although The Living Legacy Foundation only facilitates deceased organ, eye and tissue donation, our organization is supportive of all members of the transplant community, including those involved in living donation. Because of this, Lauren Muskauski, community outreach associate for The LLF, thought it would be interesting to write about her own experiences as she navigated through the process of becoming a living donor. These blog entries, pulled from her personal journal, will be posted in parts for the next few weeks as she awaits the final stage of her journey: surgery. For more information about living donation, you may visit one of our transplant centers’ web pages: University of Maryland Medical Center, www.umm.edu/transplant or The Johns Hopkins Hospital, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/transplant.

Once I made the decision to continue with the living donor evaluation process, things moved fairly quickly. I spoke with my transplant coordinator and asked a lot of questions about all the tests I had to schedule and complete, and then I worked on scheduling them.

As I mentioned before, I was very nervous about having all these tests done because I was afraid of what they might reveal about my health. Because if this, I dragged my feet a little and by the time I finally sucked it up and scheduled everything, it was February. I decided to take a day off from work to knock as many of the tests out as possible. My first stop was a lab for blood work and to obtain necessary materials for the 24-hour urine test (this ensures my kidneys were functioning properly). My next stop was the doctor’s office to have a PPD skin test. That was a little nerve-racking because I had no idea what that was, but all they did was inject something under my skin and told me to come back in two days so they could look at it. Piece of cake.

I decided to do my 24-hour urine collection over the weekend, since my urine had to stay refrigerated and I was pretty sure my coworkers didn’t want me using the office refrigerator for that. So, Super Bowl Sunday, I showed up to my best friend’s house with a cooler of ice and my specimen jug in-tow, and we watched the game, had great food, and I happily drank water all day.

This was me the day of my all-day evaluation, right before my EKG. I took a picture of myself because the hospital gave me (what I thought was) the largest hospital gown they could find and I couldn’t get it to stay up. It was quite comical.

With this round of testing done, all I had to do was wait for my test results. Of course I obsessed over this for about a week, until I received a call from my coordinator telling me all my tests looked great and that they’d like to schedule me for the last part of the evaluation process.  This would include more blood work and an all-day adventure at the transplant hospital where I would meet with a transplant surgeon, a nephrologist (kidney doctor), a psychologist, a social worker, and my transplant coordinator.

Throughout the testing, I continued to keep in touch with Tyler’s family, but still hadn’t told them I was being evaluated as a potential donor. I planned to keep it to myself until I was definitely accepted as a donor, but my plans changed one afternoon while speaking with Tyler’s grandmother, Judy. She mentioned her family wanted to try to go to the media about Tyler’s condition in order to encourage people to consider being a living donor for him, but they were afraid to do so because they knew someone had started the testing process and they didn’t want their plea to discourage them from moving forward with testing. It turns out Tyler had gotten very sick the previous weekend and had ended up in the hospital, which gave his family quite a scare.

At this point, I thought about how I’d feel if I were in the same position as Judy, Tyler, and the rest of their family. On top of waiting for a possible phone call letting them know a donor had been found for Tyler, they also knew someone had stepped up to be tested as a donor in October, but hadn’t heard anything since. If I were in their position, not knowing and not having any control over the situation would drive me crazy. I thought about it, and I decided I should just tell Judy I was the one who was being evaluated, so I did. After our conversation ended, I felt very relieved and at-peace with my decision to tell her.

Over the next few weeks, I was able to talk to Tyler’s mom on the phone (she and Tyler’s grandmother just might be the sweetest people on the planet), and also completed my all-day evaluation appointment at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I was very nervous the day before the appointment, but once I got there, things moved quickly and before I knew it, my evaluation was complete. Everyone I met that day was supportive and answered any questions or concerns I had truthfully and thoroughly. They showed more concern for me and my well-being than I expected. I felt very cared-for and left the hospital feeling like I was in very good hands.

A week after my all-day evaluation, everyone I had met that day (the transplant surgeon, nephrologist, psychologist, social worker, and my transplant coordinator) came together to decide if I was able to be a living donor or not. I was a basket case while I waited – it was almost as bad as when I was waiting to hear if I got into college years ago! I was in the middle of a meeting when my phone started vibrating.  I silenced it and looked at the screen to see who was calling. When I saw my transplant coordinator’s name, my stomach started doing flips. I quickly excused myself from my meeting to take the phone call, and my coordinator let me know I had been approved as a living donor.

I was ecstatic. I went back into my meeting and blurted out my news to my coworkers, who were all so supportive. I waited until I got home to call Tyler’s family. Talking to his grandmother and mother and letting them know that Tyler was definitely going to get a kidney transplant soon was an amazing feeling.

Stay tuned for more progress on my journey to become a living donor!

More entries from this series:
My Living Donation Journey – Part 1: The Decision
My Living Donation Journey – Part 2: Defending My Decision
My Living Donation Journey – Part 3: Taking a Break
My Living Donation Journey – Part 4: The Approval
My Living Donation Journey – Part 5: Holy Toledo!
My Living Donation Journey – Part 6: A New Kidney for Tyler
My Living Donation Journey – Part 7: Ciao, Left Kidney!
My Living Donation Journey – Part 8: The Surgery
My Living Donation Journey – Part 9: The Recovery

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About Lauren

Lauren Muskauski is the communications associate at The Living Legacy Foundation. She heads up many community outreach initiatives and projects, with a focus on middle school, high school and college outreach. She also manages The LLF’s and Donate Life Maryland’s presence on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Lauren’s commitment to donation started early when she registered as an organ, eye and tissue donor at the MVA upon receiving her first drivers’ license, but was then reinforced a few years later when her father passed away while waiting for a liver transplant. Now, she continues to be inspired on a daily basis by the generosity of donors and their families, as well as the gratitude exhibited by every recipient she meets.
This entry was posted in Living Donation, Transplant Recipients. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to My Living Donation Journey – Part 4: The Approval

  1. Aunt Amy says:

    Lauren, we truly Love you. Thank you just does not begin to express it.

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