On March 7, 1994, my youngest sister Glorianne, then a 37-year-old single mother of three-year-old twins, was wheeled into an operating room at Toronto General Hospital, where urologist Dr. Michael Robinette began the two-hour surgical procedure to harvest one of her kidneys, which he then transplanted into my right groin ~ kickstarting my life again.
“IT’S ONE OF THE MOST AWESOME EVENTS OF MY LIFE.”
Glorianne and I celebrate that anniversary every year. She often says, “It’s one of the two most awesome events of my life.” The other was the birth of her glorious, now 21-year-old twins.
It’s mine, too. The gift of her kidney ended three and a half of the most torturous years of my life ~ two were spent on dialysis. Hemodialysis, then when I ran out of accessible veins, Peritoneal Dialysis. Neither worked well for me.
My kidney had failed due to iatrogenic end stage kidney failure caused by Lithium Toxicity. Doctor-caused. This particular doctor, my psychiatrist at the time, neglected to monitor my lithium levels carefully enough. It’s rare, but it can happen. No one knew I was born with only one kidney, though that wouldn’t have made any difference. That’s ancient history.
But it’s also important to keep in mind – have your lithium levels checked regularly, if you take that drug.
SOME PEOPLE NEVER STOP WAITING… THEY DIE WAITING
I managed while waiting for a kidney. Some people never stop waiting. They die waiting.
When I went to see my psychiatrist Dr. Bob the other day. I wanted to talk to him about resilience. In the lobby of TGH, there was a big white and green display table surrounded by people. One recognized me. She was one of my transplant nurses 16 years ago. “You never forget your transplant patients,” she said.
An ebullient fellow was sitting behind the table handing out pens and green lapel ribbons and pamphlets.
“I’m an organ recipient, too,” he announced, beaming. “Two and a half years ago. Kidney and pancreas.”
It’s amazing the instant connection that springs up the minute two organ recipients meet. We’re all siblings under the skin. He told me his story. I shared mine. All in the space of two minutes. He’s doing well, two and a half years after his transplant. Me, the old-timer, at more than 16 years, I’m doing fine, too.
What we share is the genuine thrill it is to wake up feeling good every morning and for us, feeling good is simply waking up. That’s all it takes. Because we’ve known days of uncertainty and in my case, endless nausea, when waking up wasn’t a given.
This changes your perspective on life forever. You never forget that feeling.
Glen was handing out all kinds of information about the Trillium Gift of Life Network. He was also selling pretty little orange butterfly pins for $3 each. I’ve always loved butterflies because they’re such exquisite and fragile creatures. What they symbolize is freedom and transformation. I bought two. One for Glorianne. Another for me.
TURN YOURSELF INTO A BUTTERFLY
That’s exactly what the gift of life can mean for an organ transplant recipient and the donor, too. Glorianne and I have a bond unlike any other in my life. It’s miraculous. One day, I’ll post about our unique and profound intimacy and trust.
Before I sign off – and I could write a book about this and maybe I will one day – please consider Registering Your Consent to save lives. It’s so easy. Just click here. You cannot imagine how exquisitely beautiful you’ll feel. It’s like emerging from a chrysalis and turning yourself into a butterfly.
It’s positively transformative.