My Living Donation Journey – Part 6: A New Kidney for Tyler

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.

April 17th, Tyler’s transplant date, came much quicker than I thought it would. I knew Tyler and his family would be stressed the week of the surgery, so I limited my communication with them a little. Tyler and I exchanged a few Facebook messages during the week, and as I suspected, he was pretty anxious. I couldn’t blame him – I was anxious for him. The night before Tyler’s transplant, I was a nervous wreck; I can’t even begin to imagine what Tyler and his family must have been feeling. I had so many different emotions all at once: anxiety, excitement, happiness, and fear. I took my dog for a jog to try to calm my nerves, but it didn’t really help.

When I got home, I posted my latest blog post to my Facebook page and included a request for prayers and good vibes for Tyler. I have been receiving a ton of support and well-wishes since I started speaking out about being a living kidney donor, but the amount of support I received this night in particular was incredible. I thought my phone was going to blow up from all the Facebook notifications I was getting. I wasn’t just receiving prayers and support from my friends and family though, I was also receiving thank-you messages from Tyler’s friends and family as well.

It’s a little strange to be thanked for doing something you feel is just the right thing to do. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the “thank yous,” because I do. I understand what a difference I am making by donating a kidney, but it’s still strange. Tyler and his family always say they don’t know how to thank me, but I also don’t know how to say “you’re welcome” to them. In my eyes, I really haven’t really done anything yet to deserve being thanked. I know I’ve made the commitment to donate and it will happen May 1st, but since it hasn’t happened yet, I feel a little like I’m taking credit for something I didn’t do. Also, a part of me feels like I should be the thankful one. Being able to help someone in such a profound way is an amazing feeling, and this whole thing just feels like it was meant to be.

Tyler’s transplant was scheduled for the same day and time as my pre-operative appointment, so I made plans with him and his family to meet up that day. I knew I wouldn’t get to see Tyler until after his transplant, but I figured I’d head over and see his family after my appointment since they’d be waiting for Tyler. I brought my mom to my pre-op appointment so she could meet Tyler’s family afterwards too. My appointment went well. I learned I would be the second surgery being performed in The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s new building, which I was really excited about.

Before I knew it, it was time to finally meet Tyler’s family face-to-face. There were so many hugs and smiles! My mom and I met Tyler’s mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather and aunt. We stayed with them and talked while we waited to hear news about Tyler, and it felt like we had known them for years. They told me Tyler had been very anxious before the surgery, so the doctors gave him some anxiety medicine which made him a little silly. He told his mom he was “so happy,” and then followed it up with “I can’t wait to get my degree!” Priceless.

Meeting Tyler face-to-face for the first time, two days after his kidney transplant

Initially, I had been disappointed Tyler and I would not be having surgery the same day. However, being able to be in the waiting room with his family as we received updates, and then hearing the surgeon say, “Everything went well. The new kidney started making urine so we went ahead and removed Tyler’s dialysis catheter” made me so glad things worked out that way! (Side note – I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about urine in my whole life!)

As I left the hospital, I had some quiet time to myself for the first time all day and began to reflect upon what I had just experienced. It was so surreal and amazing to think earlier in the morning, Tyler had been sick and on dialysis, and by the afternoon he wasn’t. The events of that day left me feeling more confident in my decision to be a living donor than ever before.

I also realized this was a side of transplantation I’ve never gotten to experience. I mean sure, I educate others about donation and transplantation and yes, I have met recipients who would not be with us today without their transplant, but I’ve never really seen it all unfold. It dawned on me that if my dad had received a transplant, this would have been what my day had been like the day he went into surgery. I spent most of my night thinking about my dad and how losing him had shaped me into the person I am today. It made me wonder how this experience will also change me in the future.

Tyler and I, six days after his transplant (and nine days before my donation!)

The day after Tyler’s surgery, was a busy one for me at work, but I was able to get updates on Tyler throughout the day and they were wonderful! I was so happy to hear how well his new kidney was working. I couldn’t wait to see Tyler, and we made plans for me to come by in a couple of days so he could have time to recuperate before our first meeting.

Thursday afternoon, I headed to the hospital to meet Tyler face-to-face for the first time. I was so excited, but a little nervous. He was sleeping when I got there, but his mom woke him up to see me. The three of us sat and talked for a while. Tyler told me he was sore, but he still felt pretty good overall. He couldn’t stop talking about how he hadn’t been able to eat without feeling nauseous (and sometimes vomiting) for years while he was on dialysis, and now he can eat whatever he wants (mainly pizza) and feels completely fine. These are things so many people take for granted, and he is just so thankful to be able to eat without feeling terrible after.

We joked with his nurse and talked about his future plans. Seeing the look on his face as he talked about finishing school and becoming a nephrologist was priceless. It was definitely a bit of a sappy moment. He just seemed so happy and excited to have his life back and I was so incredibly happy for him I couldn’t even express it (besides the tears that were welling up in my eyes). We talked a lot about peeing also, but that is to be expected when you’re dealing with the kidneys! I will spare you all the details though. (You’re welcome.)

The amount of support Tyler and I continue to receive from our families, friends, coworkers, and even strangers has been incredible. I can’t speak for Tyler (although I’m sure he feels the same way I do), but I am so thankful and appreciative for all the kind words of support and encouragement I’ve heard from so many people. It is truly humbling to know so many people are praying for Tyler and me, as well as Tyler’s donor and my recipient. Please keep spreading the word about organ & tissue donation; living donation may not be an option for everyone, but designating yourself on the donor registry is! (If you are a Maryland registrant, you can sign up as a donor by visiting www.donatelifemaryland.org.)

Now that Tyler’s transplant has been successful, I am counting down the days until my own kidney donation! Stay tuned, as I am sure I will update at least one more time before I say goodbye to my left kidney on May 1st!

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.

3 Responses to My Living Donation Journey – Part 6: A New Kidney for Tyler

  1. Aunt Amy says:

    It was so special to have you and your mother with us. What Lauren didn’t mention was that they spent about 4 hours with us. Truly amazing people in every sense of the word. I know we won’t hear when your “left kidney” starts to make urine for another unbelievably thankful person. But I know it too will be an overachiever!!!

  2. Jane Waller Earlt says:

    Lauren, I always look do fiestas to your blogs. You are one very articulate young woman. I also can’t even put into words what you have done for our family. Tyler’s mom is my niece and Godchild! She is not only a wonderful person. But an exceptional mom. Our whole family is so grateful to you and rest assured we will all be sending out prayers and shout outs to you on May 1st. Please keep
    us all posted and up to date when you can after your transplant. Good luck earthly Angel Lauren, along with our angel Lauren (Tyler’s sister) in Heaven.

  3. Cathy Shry says:

    Lauren, You are an awesome woman! Thank you for sharing your journey and you will be in our thoughts and prayers next week! Looking forward to your next blog.
    Tyler, Congrats on your transplant! I have been praying for you and your family! Enjoy your pizza and everything else that new kidney will bring you!
    Sincerely,
    A Transplant Mom

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