Donor Diary: Kimberly Harris and Julie Feiner

By Kimberly Harris

In 1994 my mother passed away from complications from polycystic kidney disease (PKD).  She was only 66 years old, and was shocked when she was diagnosed out of the blue 10 years earlier. There was no evidence of PKD anywhere else in our small family.

 

When my mother was diagnosed, she never thought a kidney transplant was an option. She believed she could not afford the medications and spent years alternating between peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis. My younger sister, brother and I went in to be tested for PKD and the results came back positive for all of us. I was 29 years old at the time and my doctors told me there was nothing that could be done to stave off eventual kidney failure. I lived with that hanging over me for nearly 30 years! I felt all I could do was watch my protein intake and give up all alcohol. But once I accepted that a transplant was inevitable, I became proactive and researched what I could do to delay surgery for as long as possible. I worked closely with my doctor and dietitian to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Even when my GFR was below 10, I was still feeling well. I was hiking every day and taking care of my horses and dogs. But, I knew that I needed to act quickly if I wanted to stay off dialysis. Because of my mother’s experience on dialysis, I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

My brother was fortunate to receive a transplant from his wife seven years ago. My sister is currently in the process of finding a donor. Since all of my family members have PKD, they weren’t able to donate. I decided to take an unconventional approach to finding a kidney. With the following Facebook post, an angel came forward to save my life:

January 5, 2011 at 12:54pm

If anyone has made the New Year’s Resolution to be a live organ donor, I think I know someone in need…. ME!

I have the same congenital kidney condition that took my mother 17 years ago. I have known about this for many years, but thought I would beat it. However it has progressed to the point where I am at end stage renal disease. I am now in the kidney transplant program at UCLA. I’m number 80,000+ on “the list”.

Through alternative medicine, I have stabilized the downward spiral and feel better than I have for years. Those of you who see me every day would never know anything is wrong.

It took some profound soul searching to build up the courage to post this on Facebook. I didn’t know how you’d take it. I know it is a lot to ask. Many of my Facebook friends are work colleagues. Please don’t think I am unable or unfit to work. I am hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

If you have considered making this generous gift, or if you know someone who’s talked about it, I would be honored to be considered as a recipient. If you are interested, I will give you a number to call UCLA to start the process.

Please feel free to re-post. There are over 80,000 of us waiting!

Thank you.

Miraculously, two people volunteered, and my friend and work colleague, Julie Feiner, was a perfect match to donate.  On January 22, 2014, Julie and I underwent kidney transplant surgery at UCLA. We both sailed through the surgery and the recovery.

Kim  Julie Feb 1 (3)Sometimes I wonder if I am worthy of this gift, but, still, I am so thankful to not only have received a kidney from Julie, but for her enthusiasm.  It was her idea to make a documentary about our experience to inspire enough potential donors to eliminate the waiting list entirely!

My advice to anyone who is looking for a kidney is not to give up.  There are billions of people in the world with two kidneys.  They only need one to live a full, healthy life. There are millions of spare kidneys out there and people who are willing to give. You just have to find each other!

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