Living organ donors can transform lives

LANCASTER | Heather Shenk

My boyfriend has genetic kidney disease and was diagnosed with kidney failure when he was a senior in high school.

He received his first transplant in 1989 at age 20 after waiting on the list for about six months. Because that transplant lasted an astounding 25 years, it transformed his young adult life, providing a quality of living he wouldn’t have otherwise.

Even before his first transplant declined, I decided to educate myself about being a living donor. When the time came in 2013, I had lots of testing to see if I would be able to donate — and I was. But the surgeon put things on hold because of another health issue my boyfriend was having. So he was on dialysis for 26 months before he was cleared for the transplant surgery.

I accompanied him to as many dialysis sessions as I could because I didn’t want to miss out on spending time with him. While I knew I wanted to donate one of my kidneys before, being with him in the dialysis unit affirmed my decision.

Dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment, but it’s not pleasant. The treatment is harsh and the diet is strict. We learned how diet can influence one’s overall health — which is priceless information. Life on dialysis was as good as we could make it, but a transplant would offer a totally different quality of life. And a living donor was the key to keep him from having to wait years on the transplant list. Continue reading

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