Thursday, November 29, 2012

kidney redux

This morning I had the unique opportunity of spending several hours with my brother, talking about our kidney transplant experience. We were asked to participate in a video our hospital is producing to educate potential donors, recipients and their families about the process.

We were one of 4 success stories that wanted to share.

That in itself is very cool.

I had no that was only the beginning.

Dave and I don't talk about the transplant anymore. While it was front and center for months, now its an occasional reference or offhand joke. Which is great. Life moves on.

And while we were in the middle of it we talked more about next blood test dates or messages from transplant coordinators or poster design (for our operating room signage). We spent almost no time looking back on how we got to this point, how it felt, where we'd end up.

We had the chance to do that today.

I got to tell him he was my hero, that his lifelong perseverance against chronic illness and challenges most of us will never know, is awe-inspiring.

We talked about getting to the point of needing a transplant. Of the realities of dialysis. Of how he'd never known what it was to feel healthy until now. He'd lost his first kidney to cancer at 9 months, the other was irreparably damaged by radiation and from then on his body was always comprised.

I knew that the gout he'd be suffering from for 20 or so years was gone. I found out today that the severe osteoporosis he'd had was significantly better.

Both thanks to his new kidney.

I watched the entire tech crew laugh and sometimes groan at his puns and swift comebacks. He also entertained them by wiggling his ears which is much harder than it sounds.

He learned that I'm a good speaker. It was nice to see my brother impressed with something I can do.

We discussed the tremendous differences we learned to navigate and accept in the months we spent constantly in touch. I'd forgotten how furious I'd become when he likened his surgical team to finding a good car mechanic. Fortunately I can laugh about that now.

And we acknowledged how sick he was.

He was really sick. So sick that I was terrified if the transplant didn't happen in a timely fashion it would've been too late. I couldn't say that out loud before. But now that it's part of the past it felt good to let it go.

We talked about how grateful I was that I was actually able to help after years of feeling increasingly helpless.

And we talked about miracles. Cynical as I can be, I will never stop considering transplants a miracle. That a life can be so dramatically, so positively, so immensely changed. That surgeons and doctors and nurses and coordinators can make this happen, that a kidney can be taken from one body, transplanted into another and make itself at home.

The one thing I didn't say this morning that I wished I had: while this transplant changed his life immeasurably, it also changed mine.


but its vegan said...

Thanks Elisa. You are my hero.

Heather Von St. James said...


I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could e-mail me?


Elissa Stein said...

Heather, hi. Email me at and I'm happy to answer your question.