My Second Chance
For anyone considering organ donation, but isn't sure it's for you - this is an interview with my husband, Curtis, who had a Kidney transplant from a live donor last month.
Anyone who knows Curt will tell you he has had two reactions to this whole process; fine, and alright.
So when he offered to be my organ recipient story, I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but I put my journalist head on and shed my wife coat, and here it is...
"I was worried I wouldn't be there to see my daughter grow up."
When Curt found out about the diagnosis of kidney disease, he says he was more angry than upset:
"I did ask, 'why me?' But I wasn't upset as such, no.
"For the transplant process itself, I was scared about it. I was worried I wouldn't be there to see my daughter grow up. I'd already missed quite a bit of when she was a newborn, because of how ill I was. I was exhausted all the time."
Like any father, Curt was prepared to return to work shortly after the birth of his daughter in December. His previous job before the diagnosis meant he would be away for most of the week, but he had been stationed at home so that he could dialyse. He was looking forward to being around a bit more for the first stages of fatherhood, so when he said he'd rather have been away, I was confused:
"Being here but not being with it was worse than being away for the week and being back on the weekend. I was so tired all the time, I missed a lot. I didn't really think I was that ill until I looked back on it - back at the photos and stuff. When it was pointed out, I saw how I looked, and realised I'd not been involved in Amelia's life that much as I was just too ill."
"We're the heads of the family"
Curt's father Steve, came forward as a live match in January 2017, after the original timeline had been drastically shortened. At the point of diagnosis, Curt was told that he would need a transplant in three to five years time. Just three months later, his kidneys had failed completely. Steve was confirmed as a match in May, and the transplant was booked in for the 18th of that month -not even a year after the whole process started.
"My dad and I never really talked about it. We're quite old school in the our problems are problems and other's problems are ours too. We're the heads of the family, and it's been very difficult dealing with it because it's happened so fast, but we get on with it. I'd never actually say any of this to my family in person - you want to stay strong to let them know you're OK.
On the day of the transplant, I saw dad in the morning between everything else the team were doing to get him ready. I was nervous for him - I focused mainly on him being OK at that point after they took him down. I just wanted everything else over with. I can imagine it's been difficult for my parents to see me going through this. Even though it's happened to me personally, if it was me watching my daughter need a transplant I would have struggled massively."
"You are giving someone a normal life"
The testing to be a live donor is extensive, and can take up to three months once a match has been determined. The final stage after the medical tests; to determine the donor is as healthy as possible, includes a psychiatric evaluation and an assessment to confirm the relationship is sound and no money has changed hands. As a live donor, you can stop at any time. If you ever decide you're not ready for the operation, you can say so and other options will be explored.
while there's no pressure put on a potential donor, Curt says he would encourage people considering it to do it for sure:
"Go for it. You are giving someone a new life. If you could be there to see what it does for the person, I can only imagine that would give you joy. To see what you gave to that person. Look at me - after only a few days I felt really good. I've got normality back. I can go out for the evening with my family - I can see a film after 8pm. I don' have to think 'Oh, I've got to leave now so I can go and dialyse.' You are 100% changing someone's life.
I was very ill. As I get back into normal life, I’m realising that I was sort of knocking on death’s door with the colour of me. You look like death. I didn’t think that much of it at the time - I just thought 'oh I'll go on dialysis and everything else will be normal', but in fact, I looked old; a grey/yellow colour.
"I'm getting back to the way I was now. Even this quickly after the operation, people have been surprised to see me - I’d had major surgery a week before and I was up and about chatting away to everyone. I was how I was before everything started. I'm looking forward to taking my daughter swimming, and getting back on a climbing wall. I'm also really looking forward to enjoying a bacon sandwich with the guys on golf day. I'm going to get normality back. That's what you're giving someone as a donor. You're giving them a second chance."