It's been just over 4 weeks since my husband, Kevin, donated his kidney. I wanted to try to remember everything we went through so of course, what better way than writing it all here. The goal of this is mainly to share our experiences in case anyone else is going through the same thing. This whole process started about 6 months ago for us, and 18 months ago for Kevin's dad. Shortly after we got married, Kevin's dad, Kyle, was told he was in severe kidney failure, due to years of Type 1 diabetes. They started him on dialysis around October 2012. While helpful, dialysis isn't a permanent fix. The only real fix is a kidney transplant.
We checked with a few family members but the best match turned out to be Kevin. After months of testing, Kevin was the healthiest living donor possible for Kyle. I don't think it really hit me that "this was happening" until surgery was scheduled. It was definitely happening in a big way! Surgery was scheduled for July 14th, 2014. Here we go!
We got into the hospital Monday morning (7/14/2014) at 5am. Kevin got called to go upstairs by 5:15 and Kyle had to get a potassium test to check his levels. Before they can do anything, they have to make sure Kyle is good to go. No sense in cutting Kevin open if they can't put the kidney anywhere! haha. Also Kyle had to show up at the hospital when we did because they don't want him getting held up somewhere, or worst case, getting into an accident as Kevin's on the operating table. We were all in pretty good spirits until it was time to say goodbye. Then I just lost it! I "knew" everything would be okay but of course I still couldn't help but think of the worst case scenario. I couldn't imagine life without him 😢 after that I went downstairs to the lobby, cried a little more with Kevin's parents, then basically sat around for the next 8 hours.
The Craft Corner! Kevin's Aunt Kelly even brought us a little friend for comfort (turns out it was more for my comfort), but we named him Sydney the Kidney! One of the many awesome plush organs from I Heart Guts. Check it out!
Kevin's surgery started at 8:02am. The hospital sent progress updates via text which was awesome, and had an electronic status board in the waiting room. He finished right around 12pm. The surgeon came out to talk to us and basically said everything went as planned. Kyle got called up at 10am but his surgery didn't start until 1:45pm. He got done around 5pm but Dana didn't get to see him until 8pm. In total, Kevin's surgery was about 4 hours, while Kyle's was 3 hours.
I finally got the text saying I could see Kevin by 2:30pm. He was awake and pretty "with it" when I saw him. First thing he said was "see I'm strong like bull!" Which pretty much melted my heart. He later got moved to a room where we were able to sit and visit with him more. His pain was moderate with a high of 7 out of 10.
By 10:30pm he sat out of bed and took his first walk around the nurses station. It didn't seem like it was going to happen at first since the whole afternoon it hurt just to turn sideways or sit up even a tiny bit. But he did it! It's crazy to think about how far along he got within just a few hours!
The doctors said Kevin's kidney "woke up" in Kyle before surgery even ended. He was making a ton of urine on his own and everything looked great.
The next day (Tuesday), both guys looked really good. Kevin even sent me a selfie in the morning! He would kill me if I posted it though haha. He took a few more walks and even walked all the way to his dads room on the 4th floor (we were on the 8th).
In order for Kyle to receive the kidney, the doctors had to severely reduce his immunity system so his body wouldn't reject the new organ (thus why Kevin is wearing a mask). He had a lot more requirements as far as who he could be around and for 4 weeks after surgery, couldn't see anyone besides his wife. Just for safety. If he caught a cold it would have been devastating to his body.
We had heard that the donor has a harder time post-surgery than the recipient...and it was definitely true! Both Kevin and Kyle felt pretty good one day after surgery, they even asked Kevin if he wanted to go home on Tuesday! But after that, things got a lot harder for Kevin. His body had to adjust to not having one of his kidney's. On Wednesday, he basically felt like he had been hit by a truck. Nauseous from some of the pain medication and just sick feeling all over. Meanwhile Kyle was feeling like this!
Kevin was feeling the worst of it now so we really just had to wait it out.
Wednesday morning the doctors had a little ceremony for Kevin and Kyle. They both got an award from the American Kidney Association and a few other gifts, like t-shirts and pins. The whole point was to celebrate Kevin for giving such a generous gift. One thing no one tells you is how hard it is to sleep in a hospital. It's nearly impossible! Someone was coming to check him for something at least every 2 hours. I tried catching a few zzz's in the chair by his bed but of course that wasn't easy. We were ready to get out of there! By Wednesday, the doctors were very pleased with all of Kevin's results and said he could go home when he felt like he was ready to. Finally around 8pm, we got the all clear sign! After 3 full days in the hospital, it was time to head home! Adios Loma Linda!
Finally able to rest! He was pretty much knocked out all day Thursday. A combination of not sleeping in the hospital and just being physically exhausted. I was surprised by how much I slept too! Also his diet wasn't really limited once he was ready to eat again. We started slow with soups but by dinner time Thursday, he wanted a Del Taco Bean & Cheese Burrito :) I pretty much gave him whatever food he wanted for the next few weeks haha.
In case anyone's curious, here's what his incisions looked like! They made the cuts laparoscopically, then made a big incision by his belly button to take the kidney out. On Friday he felt ready to travel so we headed back to our apartment! He made a few trips outside to walk. He made a new goal each day for how far he wanted to walk. Plus it felt good to get outside! After a few weeks, we went back to visit Kyle. He was doing really well! He spent 5 days in the hospital (mostly because he was on IV's and other medicine). They've definitely bonded over the whole experience though! I had 3 weeks off work, which was awesome! We got to spend a lot of time together and make sure Kevin was feeling well. Here was one of our last breakfast dates! Today Kevin is feeling great. His daily routine is almost back to normal and this week (4 weeks post-surgery) he was cleared to return to work the upcoming Monday, with light restrictions. I'm thankful this whole process is nearly over. Well at least the worst is behind us....hopefully! :P It was a huge gift that his dad will forever be grateful and I'm so proud of Kevin for doing it.