Mircles DO Happen, and Sometimes One After Another

Complimentary Story
January 2024
   Jeremiah 17:14, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for Thou art my praise.” Jeremiah 30:17, “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord.”

   As a 68-year-old father of two, and grandfather of two, hailing from eastern Minnesota, I was recently given the gift of (extended) life, by receiving a kidney transplant. How this organ came to be ‘mine’ is a truly remarkable story.

   On October 27, 2023, a “Medical Emergency” call was received, and an EMT team was dispatched to a location in Central Minnesota. Upon arrival at the scene, the EM Technicians found a 36-Year-Old Male (“Jim” for the purpose of this story)
not breathing and no pulse was detected. The EM Technicians found Jim’s wallet and determined that his driver’s license indicated a “Donor” status. With this knowledge, the Emergency Medical Team jumped into action. Within 22 minutes, they were able to restore a pulse, thereby enabling Jim to be put on a respirator, to restore and maintain basic bodily functions. I certainly consider that to be the first miracle. Jim remained unconscious, and his bodily functions were maintained for 5 days, while Jim’s family deliberated the best course of action.

   What’s my story? I have been battling chronic kidney disease for the past 6 years, having spent the past 15 Months enduring Hemo-Dialysis; three times per week, and four hours per session. The only other alternative for me was a kidney transplant. I had been pre-examined, and was found to be qualified for the “Kidney Transplant List.”

   The average waiting time, however, to be matched with a deceased donor is in the 5+ year range, or more — not exactly a favorable circumstance for anyone in this situation!

   It should also be noted that there are many people that have been tolerating dialysis for 10 years or more, which includes my younger brother, David. So, I am one of the few fortunate people to spend as little as 15 months waiting for a donor!  The differences between having a donated kidney versus continued dialysis, for who knows how long, are numerous and dramatic.

   As one who has endured dialysis, and then a kidney transplant, I can attest to the fact that voluntary organ donation for transplantation is a huge factor. Not only does dialysis require the commitment of a large chunk of time each and every week, but there are many additional physical and health disadvantages, including cardio-pulmonary issues. Most Dialysis patients have a life expectancy of 5-10 years. My brother, for instance, has been on dialysis for ten years, and has experienced a stroke and two minor heart attacks during that time frame. Though, thank God, he still survives, these health issues now preclude any possibility for him to obtain a transplant. Dialysis patients also experience many little-known discomforts such as being nearly immobile during the four-hour process (due to two large needles in one arm, and a BP cuff on the other), loss of independence, highly restricted travel opportunities, and other physical symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion (“dialysis fog”) nausea, cramping, loss of appetite, constipation, lack of focus, and a highly regulated diet.

   Other health risks include a higher susceptibility to stroke, heart disease, bone disease, nerve damage, swelling of the legs and feet, and skin itching. Repeated access with the large needles required also creates significant build-up of scar tissue, leaving the affected area with unsightly large protrusions in the skin called “keloids.”

   Conversely, however, the best part of dialysis, by far, is the awesome people who work in the industry. Having had dialysis treatments at multiple facilities (both Buffalo MN, and Shakopee, MN) I found the doctors, nurses and technicians to be caring, loving, patient, highly trained in their field, and truly inspiring to me.

   Those who are fortunate enough to obtain a transplant have a much healthier and longer lasting life. Once recovered from the surgery, travel is possible, the patient feels much better, with much more energy, cognition and vitality. Life expectancy for a kidney transplant patient can be 30 years or more, depending, of course, on other health issues. Among the few “disadvantages,” a transplant patient must take anti-rejection meds daily, for the duration of their life. Due to some of these drugs, the immune system can also be weakened, so it is imperative that one remains vigilant of sanitation, and avoid being in contact with those who may have been exposed to any communicable illnesses.

   Here, now, is where the rest of the miracles begin to unfold. It happens that Jim was an acquaintance of my wife’s nephew (“Nick” – again a pseudonym) who visited the family at the hospital where Jim was taken. It’s also true that Nick is now married to Jim’s ex-wife (Chris) who also visited the hospital with “Cody” who is Jim and Chris’s offspring. Therefore, while meeting with Jim’s family, both Nick and Chris were able to speak up on my behalf, immediately and vehemently declaring that I was in need of a donated kidney. That’s miracle number 2 – the fact that someone within my extended family knows, was also known by Jim’s family. Otherwise, this connection would not have been possible. Jim’s family immediately agreed that one of his kidneys could, at least potentially, be donated to me.

   Now for Miracle Number 3:  It was then determined that Jim’s blood type was “O” which is nearly always a universal  match to other blood types, including mine. The next step was to conduct a tissue matching  test, (also called cross-matching) which required blood samples from both Jim and me. I was then asked to report to my transplant hospital, Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, for a blood draw and other tests. The results of the cross-matching test confirmed that my blood and tissue and Jim’s were fully compatible (one doctor said it was a “perfect match”) therefore providing the most favorable odds that my body would accept Jim’s kidney. That’s Miracle #4.

   Jim’s life support was subsequently discontinued at approximately 11:30 AM on November 2, 2023. Among many other “life-saving” organs, the harvested kidney was  then rushed from a Hospital in central Minnesota to Abbott NW Hospital, while I was already in the process of being prepped for surgery. However, the Doctors warned us that there was one additional concern – what will be the relative condition of the kidney upon arrival?  

   Subsequently, Miracle #5 was that, indeed, the kidney was in perfect condition, and the decision was to proceed with a transplant. Late at night on November 2, I had a new kidney – a birthday present beyond compare, though one day early! 

   I awoke on my birthday, November 3, with a “New Lease on Life” – Praise the Lord!  The asurgeons said that the new kidney started working ‘immediately’ upon connection to my system!  This is also, purportedly, somewhat unusual. As was the case with the dialysis staff, I found the surgeons, doctors, nurses and all the caregivers on the fourth floor of Abbott NW to be wonderful, knowledgeable, and more than willing to make my five-day stay in the hospital as comfortable as possible.

   I’m very humbled, grateful and pleased to report that my recovery, now (at the time of this writing) approaching the 8-week milestone, is going very well. My “blood chemistry” has improved to the normal ranges for all the measured parameters, and my “waste elimination” process is also quite normal and comfortable. 

   Please let this serve as a reminder for everyone, to get an annual physical, including regular blood tests, which can detect any abnormalities in the function of your kidneys. It is also imperative to closely monitor blood pressure levels, and maintain a healthy diet and exercise (BMI of 25 or less!) and no tobacco use. 

   Smoking, for instance, can actually constrict the arteries which feed the kidneys, thus causing damage to the kidneys, potentially resulting in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). 

   God is SO good, and does great things, including “multiple miracles.”  Please join me in prayers of thanks to God for all He has done. My kidney transplant is one of some 40,000 which are performed annually in the U.S. Thanks to the readers and staff of  Wisconsin Christian News who have been praying for me during the 15 months I was on dialysis (a process which, of course, I no longer require!) and while my “CKD” progressed over the years.

   Thank you to Rob Pue, the Publisher of the Wisconsin Christian News for helping us proliferate my need for a kidney donor.  My wife, Patti, and I are truly thankful for your Christian love and prayers. Near-term, I will remain in the care of the Abbott Northwestern Hospital team. This means blood tests twice weekly, but that tapers off rather quickly, after the first 2-3 Months. Please also say a prayer of thanks for Emergency Medical staff, and all medical professionals across our great nation. Please also be in prayer for “Jim’s” family, who are still mourning his untimely passing.

   And, if you’re not yet an “Organ Donor” PLEASE strongly consider checking “yes” the next time you renew your driver’s license. Currently, there are over 100,000 people on the Organ Transplant waiting lists, and only 59% of U.S. citizens are classified as being voluntary Organ Donors.

   If you support organ donation, please take action now. Almost anyone can be a donor, regardless of age or pre-existing medical conditions. Call 1-888-5-DONATE with questions. Please also visit www.kidney.org to learn more about this disease, and how YOU can decrease the possibility of contracting CKD. Please also consider a donation of funds to the National Kidney Foundation.

   Just one donor can have a positive effect on up to 200 people with various organ and tissue needs – truly an expression of Christian love for others! 

   Words cannot express how I’m ever so grateful that Jim decided to indicate “Donor” on his driver’s license. Please, for the benefit of MANY people, won’t you do the same?

   God’s Peace to you, and your Family, and a Blessed New Year to all! God Bless America!  -Randy C.

• • • • • •

   Here’s a contribution from my niece, Katrina, who happens to have donated a kidney to my elder sister, some 15+ years ago: A few words from a LIVING donor-based perspective...

   Hello! I am Katrina, Randy’s niece and David's daughter. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my experience as a living kidney donor.  It is believed that the kidney disease so prevalent in our family, that the genes which created this genealogical condition will likely not be commuted to my generation of the family.

   I donated one of my kidneys 15 and a half years ago at the age of 19, to my aunt Mary. For me, the decision to donate was an easy one to make, but I know that for others, the thought can be very intimidating. The concern I heard the most from my loved ones was that I did not know how painful surgeries were and how long it would take for me to recover. The truth is, that a transplant is much easier on the donor than on the recipient. Donor surgeries are done laparoscopically, so I had four very small puncture-like incisions and one two-inch incision where they removed the kidney. I was a bit sore, mostly what felt like sore back muscles and some tenderness around the incisions, but within a few weeks, I was back to my normal self. I live a very normal life. I am encouraged to drink water, and because of the familial risk of kidney disease, my blood chemistry is checked regularly. Outside of that, there are no special care instructions for a person after donation. I have had no complications and no side effects. 

   The act of donating my kidney has given my life incredible meaning and purpose. There is nothing more empowering, more meaningful, than knowing that you took a part in saving a life; in extending a life. There has not been a single second in these past 15 years that I have regretted my choice. A couple of weeks of recovery gave someone I loved 12 years of life. I would do it again if I could but all I can do is encourage others to donate by sharing  my own story. Please consider donation, if not as a live donor then definitely as a deceased donor.  Thank you so much for reading, and considering being a Donor!   -Katrina C.

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