Written by Mary Allis Gracheck, a living kidney donor
My dad is an amazing man. He has supported and provided for his family, instilled within me a love of sports (even though I do not have an athletic bone in my body), and is a living example of how far hard work and determination will take you in life.
When my father was diagnosed with FSGS, a form of kidney disease, our family was thrown into a chaotic and confusing situation. A variety of questions continued to persist: What caused this? What are the effects? What do we do now? This journey has been challenging, but ultimately beautiful.
The amount of support that we received from friends and family was amazing and we are eternally grateful. My father had countless friends and family members come forward to see if they were a viable match for a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, everyone was ultimately eliminated.
After my uncle was eliminated as a match, I remember sitting in my car and talking to my mom on the phone. My mom embodies strength, patience, and grace. During that phone call, I could hear the worry and anxiety in her voice. This terrible disease was taking its toll on my father. My dad is extremely active and loves to cook for everyone. FSGS had zapped his energy and he constantly had flu like symptoms. Dialysis would have been an absolutely devastating future. Organ donation seemed to be the only option for my dad in order to have his full life back.
After that phone call, I decided to see if I was a match. I spent a day at Baylor where an amazing team of nurses and doctors put me through a variety of tests and walked me through the process of organ donation. It was definitely an intimidating process, but when I sat down with the hospital social worker for an interview I knew it was what I wanted to do. She simply asked me why I wanted to donate my kidney to my dad. I began to cry. I was so embarrassed and flustered, but her kind face encouraged me to talk (even though it came out more like blubbering). I wanted to alleviate the anxiety my mom and dad were experiencing. I wanted my dad to have his life back. I wanted to see them happy and healthy. Everything became very clear. Organ donation was the answer.
When I delivered the news to my parents that I was verified as a match and wanted to go ahead with the donation, they supported me more than I could have even imagined. I know I am blessed with amazing parents, but through this process I was reminded of how truly extraordinary they are.
The day of the surgery was tense, but hopeful. We arrived at the hospital around 5:30 AM and we were ushered into a waiting room and then into prep for the OR. The surgery in itself is amazing. I only had four small incisions on my stomach, all performed laparoscopically. My kidney was transported to my father’s OR to be inserted. I am in awe of the team of nurses and doctors at Baylor who made this possible. They are truly incredible.
After the surgery was over, I was wheeled into recovery. It was truly incredible to see the amount of people who came to the hospital to support my family that day. About 15 friends and family members flooded the waiting room. Post-surgery the support and love continued. Friends and family came together to cook meals for us, sent flowers, called, texted, came over to the house, and acted in the most selfless way possible. My brother, sister-in-law, and boyfriend showed up to the hospital every day, bringing food, endless entertainment, and support. To put it simply, we are so lucky to have friends and family members who are incredibly kind and loving.
When my dad and I saw each other for the first time post-surgery it was awesome. We are eternally linked in a beautiful way. Everything went so well and both of us were recovering smoothly. Of course the road to recovery is not easy, but my dad is improving every day and, in typical fashion, doing absolutely everything the doctors ask him to do. Today, my dad’s kidney function is at 70% and the doctors believe it will only go up from there. Before the kidney transplant, he was at about 5% kidney function. He has his life back.
My father and mother have given me everything. Without their steadfast guidance and love, I would not be where I am today. I am honored that I was able to give back to them through the process of organ donation. Organ donation changed our family forever. I hope that if you are considering becoming a donor, you remember all of the amazing outcomes that can come from your gift.