Four Months Post Kidney Donation – My Experience

Four months after kidney donation. Wow, have times changed in my life.

A couple days ago I reached my 4 months post kidney donation. Back on August 11th, I donated a kidney to my daughter in a surgery that was pretty exciting for our family and all of those around us.

Back in May by daughter Taylor had her kidneys pulled out in the first step towards doing a kidney transplant. Usually, when a person is getting prepared for a kidney transplant the recipient will not have to have their kidneys taken out but, in this case, her kidneys were not retaining any water at all and we were going to run into a lot of problems post-transplant because of that.

Taylor with swollen Parotid GlandsSo, Taylor had her kidneys pulled, and we held our breath knowing that she would have to rely on dialysis every night to clean her blood and get super healthy enough to have a successful kidney transplant using one of my kidneys.

Prepping for Kidney Donation Surgery

I originally had a lot of testing to get the ok to be a kidney transplant donor back late in 2012 and since it had been so long since that testing I had to go through a bunch of the testing again. Not a big deal. The hospital had to check my general health again as well as my kidney function in particular. A few hours in the hospital and we had all of the testing taken care of.

Then strange as it may seem we needed to do a crossmatch test. The basics of a crossmatch are to see if we shared the same O negative blood type (we do). There is an extra blood test that Taylor and I did at the same time to see if we had both been exposed to the same viruses growing up. They compare the antigens.

We did this crossmatch just a few days before the transplant was scheduled and it turned out great.

Then our countdown was just making sure that we were staying healthy. I did not have any diet restrictions or anything special and neither did Taylor but the day before surgery everything got ready and prepped.

Day of Surgery

Taylor was first. She went into hospital a couple days early and instead of the regular dialysis 10 hours a day they did very aggressive dialysis for 32 hours until just an hour or two before surgery started.

As for me, I showed up the day before surgery. Fasted overnight and had an enema before bed and then I was all ready for surgery.

Yay, Surgery day. Taylor and I were both very excited. My wife Michelle and son Jaiden were nervous.Our surgery was scheduled for first thing in the morning. Taylor and I each had a separate operating room and everything went smoothly for our laparoscopic surgery:

Our surgery was scheduled for first thing in the morning. Taylor and I each had a separate operating room and everything went smoothly for our laparoscopic surgery:

  • We were each put to sleep
  • My surgeon pulled out my kidney and brought it a few feet away to Taylors operating room
  • Taylors surgeon put my old kidney into Taylor and connected up the plumbing while my surgeon closed me up

I am sure this process is a lot more difficult then I just described :) But I was back in my room before lunch and Taylor not long after that either. These transplant surgeries are quite quick and much more common than most people know.

My Kidney Donation Recovery

After Laproscopic Kidney Donation stitches and bloated

After Laproscopic Kidney Donation stitches and bloated

My immediate recovery was a bit messy for me. I had a catheter inserted during surgery to make sure they could watch to make sure I was passing enough fluids and not much blood.

As for pain medication, I found that I react terribly to any narcotics but this took us a couple days of nausea and experimenting to figure out.

Regular Tylenol was my friend for the next couple weeks

Before I was allowed to leave the hospital I had to be able to eat, have the strength to walk, have control over post op pain, and be able to poo.

Really the biggest problem for me before I left the hospital was getting my energy back to walk and getting my oxygen level good.

The funniest part of this whole process was my discovering on the third day that I was supposed to be breathing through my nose for the oxygen tube in my nose to work correctly. I certainly had some consciousness problems :)

Finally, I left the Alberta Childrens Hospital four days after surgery. My daughter felt like she was ready to leave before me, but they kept her another three days after me.

Finally Home For Real Recovery

Once I got home from the hospital I was tired and not allowed to do much. I laid down on the couch a lot and slept on and off but was quite tired for at least a week and probably two weeks really after I got home.

I tend to be a big eater and the lack of real exercise seemed to drop my appetite for at least a couple months after the surgery. I am back to my regular eating now but I think my regular exercise routine has a lot to do with that.

Considering I had lots of stitches both internally and out on my stomach I did not have a lot of pain in my gut but instead I had a lot of pain in my shoulder.

There is a nerve in your diaphragm that leads to your shoulder. During laparoscopic surgery, my stomach was pumped up with CO2 and this led to an irritation of the diaphragm nerve that pushed pain into my shoulder nerve. I found that this condition is actually really common although not as common a week after surgery.

I found that this condition is actually really common although not as common a week after surgery. My shoulder was in pain and throbbing, but the Tylenol seemed to help as long as I kept the dose up.

I had another problem with my shoulder that I am actually still fighting with and that is a weakness in my rotator cuff. During surgery since your muscles do not have any control apparently my arm was laying too far over my head and it hurt my shoulder. One of my shoulder muscles on my left side is still quite weak, but I am working on that.

Other than these little aches and pains I have recovered well. I was starting to take long walks a week after surgery, but would be pretty tired for the rest of the day for another week or two. Really my overall tiredness took probably 5 weeks to really go away. I was back working part time three weeks after surgery and full time 5 weeks post-op.

Really my overall tiredness took probably 5 weeks to really go away. I was back working part time three weeks after surgery and full time 5 weeks post-op.

I wasn’t allowed to lift anything over 20 pounds for 6 weeks after surgery and really I didn’t start training at all until about 9 weeks after surgery. I am now 16 weeks or so after my kidney donation and I think I am fine physically.

The two of us in the hospital the day after kidney transplant

The two of us in the hospital the day after kidney transplant

One last thing that I have to watch is my remaining kidney and how well it works. Research seems to show that the remaining kidney will experience hypertrophy, this means it will grow and have a greater working ability.

I am getting monthly tests for my GFR and Creatinine levels and right now my creatinine is getting better. Normal is under 100 and in the last month I went from 162 to 151 so my kidney is basically doing its job and is still month by month getting better.

I am getting monthly tests for my GFR and Creatinine levels and right now my creatinine is getting better. Normal is under 100 and in the last month I went from 162 to 151 so my kidney is basically doing its job and is still month by month getting better.

In my situation, I was of course very motivated to help my very own daughter with her kidney disease. Really though, if given this opportunity to help even a stranger this is something that anyone can do. This is a surgery with very little long term effects to the donor but for the recipient, it is truly life changing. I wish I could do it again, but with only one remaining kidney that would be a very bad idea.

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