Life...My Life Goes On

by Marta Wiedle

When I was diagnosed with kidney disease in November of 1991, I did not know what to make of it. I was prescribed iron pills, but besides being tired all the time, I thought everything else was normal. I worked a strenuous and stressful job, six days a week, and did all my housework, but was not peppy like in the years before.

The iron pills did not do anything for me, nothing showed in the bloodwork--on the contrary, it was worse than before. Then, in November 1991, an ultrasound told us everything: I knew, the day will come, that I will have to start dialysis.

Not much changed in my family. We did not talk about kidneys or dialysis. But it was on my mind constantly. I could not believe...I was this sick.

In September, 1994, I retired from my job, not a bit too early. Those last couple of months, my feet and ankles were so swollen I had trouble wearing normal shoes.

My doctor referred me to a good kidney specialist, Dr. B. He did a biopsy, and the results were not something to look forward to. He told me that he would do everything to keep me from going on dialysis for as long as possible. I was put on weekly epogen injections, given to me by my daughter Christel. On my monthly visits to Dr. B, I was always afraid that it was the time for the bad news. Every time I had bloodwork, the results showed less and less kidney function. Then, on April 11, 1996, my daughter Kay was with me on my visit to Dr. B. He told us--"It is time to start dialysis, and put you on the waiting list for a transplant."

That evening, the whole family was together. We talked, and we cried together, and everyone knew there was something big ahead of us.

For months, I could not eat normally anymore. No matter what little food I put on my plate, I could not keep it down.

On April 29th, the necessary operation was done on my left arm for a graft to be put in to start dialysis.

We have five grown up, healthy children. They decided that they would do anything to help me, that one of their 10 kidneys should be a match, so I could have a transplant as soon as possible!

In the beginning of May, we had a family conference with the transplant team. Bloodwork was done on all the children and myself, and from that day on, we hoped and knew that somehow everything would be fine.

From the five kids, two good matches turned out. It was my oldest and second youngest daughters. Immediately, all necessary tests were scheduled for Dorothe. After three weeks, the final result showed that she had kidney stones, and would not be able to donate a kidney. That same day, my oldest daughter Birgit scheduled her tests. The results were the same. She also had kidney stones and would not be able to donate. The family was devastated.

In the meantime, I started dialysis, but after only one hour hooked up to the machine, the graft in my arm clotted, and I was immediately admitted to the hospital. A second graft was put in the following day. After two weeks, this graft clotted also.

In the following weeks, I was admitted to the hospital four more times. One time I arrived by Fire Department ambulance, when my access line fell out, and the blood was just pouring out. Nothing seemed to be working out the way we had all hoped and planned.

Our big hopes for a transplant were gone, when our youngest daughter Kay's husband said--"What about me? I have the same blood type as Mom, can I get tested?"

The two of them got in touch with Lisa, the transplant coordinator, telling me nothing about this until the day Kevin had to go in for his initial bloodwork.

From that day on, I had many sleepless nights, thinking there was new hope. But most of all, thinking that Kevin, my son-in-law, could be so kind to give me one of his kidneys, if there should be a match. Still, I could not believe there would be another chance for me, coming from this wonderful man.

I cannot describe the joy when, on September 12th, I found out that Kevin was a match, he could be a donor!! The match was so good, the team thought he was a blood relative!

There was one important thing to do before we could schedule the transplant. I needed to have my gallbladder removed. So on September 24th, the surgery was done. Shortly after that, we scheduled the transplant for November 12th.

In those days and nights, I hoped and prayed, and talked to Kevin about what he was going to do for me, but his mind was made up for the big day.

All of a sudden, that big day was here. Kevin's surgery was scheduled for 7am, mine at 9am. We all went to the hospital at 5:30am, so we could see Kevin before he went in for the Big Event. He went in smiling, and I knew then, by the time we saw each other again, the operations would be over, and everything would be OK.

When I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit, my first concern was Kevin--how is he doing? is he all right??? They told me he was O.K., and was awake watching TV. The next thing I noticed were my hands. They were warm! This was so overwhelming for me, because for the last few years, my hands were always ice cold due to my anemia.

Kevin's stay in the hospital was only three days. He was very happy to be going home.

My last night in the hospital, I was just sitting by the window, thinking about what happened to me, seeing the stars and talking to them, telling them about Kevin, who made it possible for me to receive new life.

The stars slowly faded away. The streetlights went out, the night was over, a new day was awakening, and in a few hours, I was going home... life goes on.