So, I missed the memo that last week on March 14th, it was World Kidney Day. If you are new to my blog, my husband Chris, received a kidney from his brother, Justin, on September 22, 2017. You can read more about their journey here:
Obviously the issue of kidney health is very important to us and our family, so today’s blog post is in honor of World Kidney Day. I haven’t updated recently on Chris and how he’s doing after the kidney transplant, so today I will be sharing what life looks like after a kidney transplant. Better later than never!
I think there’s a misconception that after a kidney transplant, life returns to normal (for both the donor and the recipient) and you just go about your day like nothing ever happened. And that is just not the case. Receiving a kidney from his brother was an absolutely amazing, life-giving gift for Chris and we are SO thankful. But life will never return to “normal” or as it was before Chris went into kidney failure. Life has a new normal now, for both Chris and Justin.
Justin was discharged from the hospital 3 days after donating his kidney, but it took several weeks for him to start feeling more like himself and for his body to adjust to the giant change of having one kidney. He has to have yearly kidney checkups and he is not allowed to participate in extreme sports.
Chris was discharged from the hospital 5 days after receiving a kidney from Justin. He had 3-4 doctor’s appointments a week for the first month to keep a close eye on his kidney levels. He was on a lot of medication and it is normal for the doses to need to be adjusted. All of the doctor’s appointments were necessary to make sure he was on the correct dose of medication and there were no signs of kidney rejection. A few weeks after the transplant, Chris’ body was in the early stages of rejecting his new kidney, but it was caught early due to the close monitoring and through high doses of steroids the rejection was stopped.
From there, the doctor’s appointments got more spread out as time went on and the medication doses decreased as his kidney levels continued to be stable. Chris went back to work on light duty after 2 months and he went back to full duty about 6 months after that. It took almost a full year for him to feel like himself. Even something as simple as working out and doing crunches took time to adjust to because he can feel his new kidney, which sits in his pelvis.
Chris still goes to the doctor fairly often and right now he is going every 3 months. He has to take his anti-rejection medicine every 12 hours like clockwork, no exceptions. The medications are very important and the goal is for them to keep his body from rejecting his new kidney. As helpful and necessary as they are, they all come with their own side effects too. Even though the doses have decreased, this is still a very important part of the daily routine. Chris has an alarm set to remind him to take his medicine and if we are going out to dinner or traveling, we have to plan ahead and make sure we bring his medicine.
I think one of the big things to keep in mind that people easily forget is that a kidney transplant is a treatment, not a cure. This was stressed to us during the transplant evaluation process so we would have realistic expectations after surgery, but I think the general public tends to forget this one, if they even knew in the first place. People are usually shocked when we tell them the life of a transplanted kidney ranges from 10-15 years. It is not a cure, it’s a treatment. There is always a risk of rejection and the chance that Chris’ original disease could attack the new kidney. We don’t live our lives in fear of these possibilities, but it should explain why there are so many necessary doctor’s appointments and medication monitoring appointments. We want to get as much life out of his new kidney as possible! I know Justin wants that too.
The point of a kidney transplant is to give the recipient another chance at life and for them to live life to the fullest. Chris has definitely done that and we don’t ever take for granted what Justin did for him. A year and a half later, both men are doing great!
Life has a new normal but we have all adjusted pretty well if you ask me. And in honor of World Kidney Day I wanted to share an update on Chris and Justin and how things look these days. Life is good and the future is very bright!