By Beth Bernstein
On August 26, 2015, my old friend from high school, Aron, posted a note on Facebook announcing that after 30 years with a successful kidney transplant, the kidney failed and he was heading to the hospital to go back on dialysis. I saw the post several hours later when it became stuck at the top of my newsfeed. I knew that Aron had a kidney transplant from a deceased donor when he was 17, but it had lasted so long—a testament to how well he’d taken care of it—that it hadn’t occurred to me that he would need another.
I’ve always had the donor sticker/imprint on my driver’s license but hadn’t considered being a living organ donor. I spent the next half hour researching it and, within that short time, I knew everything I needed to know about the testing procedures, the surgery, and recovery time. I knew that I would be able to live a normal, healthy life with one kidney. That transplant recipients have an increased chance of success with a living donor organ, that the kidney lasts longer, and that the effects are more immediate. Intuitively, I also knew that I would be a match for Aron. I called Aron’s mom, and with Aron still in the hospital fighting to recover from kidney failure, I began the application process.
Once the initial application was approved, I was assigned to a transplant team at UCLA, who called me with the good news each time I passed a test, and supported me each step of the way. Near the end of the process, RAND, my employer, helped make the short-term disability paperwork process easy. I received the final greenlight from UCLA on December 14th. After talking with Aron, a videographer, about his work schedule, it seemed clear that scheduling the surgeries for the end of the year was the most beneficial to us both. The UCLA Transplant Team was instrumental in accommodating us and helping to make it happen.
On December 29th—exactly four months after the process began—Aron and I, along with our loved ones, met at UCLA Medical Center and were quickly ushered into pre-op. Our rooms were side by side. We had a chance to talk and hug and take pictures, and then the nurse gave me something to relax. Even before the anesthesia, I was out! The next thing I remember is waking up in my hospital room post-op and receiving the good news: The surgeries had been a huge success! My kidney began working immediately in Aron, and all of his levels had returned to normal.
I am so grateful that I am blessed with good health and that I was able to help Aron improve his quality of life. I get excited when I see or hear him making plans for the future, and the future is looking very bright indeed. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about donating to just go for it! There are many resources available to guide and support you all along the way.