Holding Onto HopeWoman stays positive as she waits for kidney transplantAfter the birth of her second daughter 10 years ago, Emily Garcia was diagnosed with reflux nephropathy, and while she is about to get her name on the national organ transplant waiting list, she uses her spare time to educate others about organ and tissue donation.“And just letting people know how many people they can be saving when and if they die,” she said. “One person can save up to seven people just on the major organs.”
Garcia, 32, said reflux nephropathy is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged by the backward flow of urine into the kidney. By the time she was diagnosed, her kidneys were only functioning at 40 percent. She and a friend go to the Farmers Market to try and spread the message about the importance of talking about final wishes regarding organ donation and registering as an organ and tissue donor.
“And we’re also trying to give out information about kidney functions and statistics about how many people in America come down with renal failure,” she said. “We have at-risk quizzes there you can take and see if you are at risk for kidney failure.”
Garcia said they want people to now there are ways to help, and there are a lot of people in need of organ and tissue transplants.
“Our big message that we’re trying to get out is that it’s an OK thing to do,” she said. “It’s not as painful and as scary as it was before.”
Kidney transplant surgeries are not a major ordeal for the donor, Garcia said.
Living donors are closely tested, and if there is any doubt that the donor would be able to donate or that he would get sick afterward, he would not be selected to donate.
“Your scarring is very minimal, and you are in the hospital for a total of like four days, maybe, not even that,” she said. “Surgery is like four hours, it’s really not that big of a deal.”
Garcia began dialysis about three years after her diagnosis, and did home dialysis for nine months — four times a day — before receiving a kidney from her dad.
“I was able to work and be with my kids and not have to be in the hospital and be in treatments,” she said. “It was amazing; it was really amazing.”
When her transplant failed in 2007, she began home dialysis treatments again for about two years, and she did a night treatment for a while, until she developed a hernia. In February, she began hemodialysis for about four hours — three mornings a week at a treatment center.
“Basically, it just cleans out the blood of all the toxins and then puts it back,” she said. “You do tend to get cold; you do tend to get a little bit light headed afterwards.”
Garcia will have another surgery soon on her arm to reconnect veins, which will provide an access for needles.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a kidney soon,” she said.
Garcia is finishing some testing before she officially is placed on the transplant list, but she has met with the transplant team at Porter Hospital in Denver. She said she doesn’t mind waiting for a cadaver, but her aunt may be tested to see if she is a match.
“The typical wait time for a kidney — depending on where you are at the list — is three to five years,” she said.
For now, the biggest thing, she said, is maintenance and diet.
“Staying away from those foods that you’re not supposed to have, and taking your medicines and doing your treatments,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing is doing your treatments and keeping up with that.”
Garcia said she is focusing on today and staying well for her husband, Dominic, and daughters, Robyn and Shea. She also is a part-time evening care teacher at Park Avenue Child center. She said she is hopeful.
“I have my days,” she said, “but I’m optimistic, and I think it’s going to be good.”
For information on how to register as an organ donor, visit the National Kidney Foundation at www.kidney.org; sign up online in the Colorado Organ and Tissue Donor Registry at www.DonateLifeColorado.org; or wishes may be indicated on driver’s licenses or state IDs when being applied for or renewed.