By Lauren Herschel
In the fall of 2010, I made a decision to become a living kidney donor. I didn’t know anyone who needed a kidney but after seeing a story about a non-directed donation on television, I thought I’d look into whether or not that was an option here in Alberta. I’ve always supported organ donation, however I didn’t realize until the last few years that there were many options for living donations including kidney, partial liver and lung lobe.
When I was in my teens, my dad had faced a life threatening illness which he eventually passed away from, so I understood how important quality time with your family and friends can be. I thought if I was able to donate, I could give that kind of time back to someone with kidney disease who was likely on dialysis. (Dialysis is a life saving treatment that kidney patients must undergo several times a week for hours at a time. It essentially cleans their blood of toxins/fluid the way their kidneys would, just not as well).
As I went through the medical testing process, which can take several months, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to increase my fitness level to be ready for the surgery – which is how I started with First Step Fitness. With any surgery, the healthier you are going in, the better and faster your recovery tends to be!
After a few months of tests and evaluations (and a few more of just waiting), I donated my left kidney to a stranger in June 2011. I thought I was helping one person. However my donation started a chain of multiple transplants that wouldn’t have been possible without a “non-directed” (donating to a stranger) donor like me coming along. I’ve been told the last recipient in the chain likely had been on the waitlist for a donor for a very long time. I was a part of something that not only helped several people, but had a huge impact on their families and friends as well.
I recovered quickly from the surgery and went back to work in under two weeks. Just three months later I participated in the 100KM Kidney March, which I did again in 2012. Since the surgery, I have had no complications and my right kidney is doing very well on its own. Overtime, my remaining kidney will likely double in size as it gets stronger from doing “double duty”. Most people can live healthy, active lives with one kidney so I should not have any long term health problems because of my donation. I have continued to focus on becoming more fit and maintaining a healthy blood pressure in order to protect my future health and “solo” kidney.
Being a living donor isn’t for everyone. However it is a lot easier, and safer than most people think and it gives you the opportunity to make a big difference in someone’s life. If living donation isn’t in the cards, people can always register to be an organ donor after they die. In Alberta, that is done by noting your intentions on the back of your health card and talking to your family about your wishes. For the over 4000 Canadians waiting for a life saving transplant, your actions can give them the second chance they are waiting for.