Friday, May 7, 2010

When They Say "Head to Toe", They Mean It!

On Wednesday, May 5th Mike and I traveled to Milwaukee for the day of testing that would determine if indeed I could donate my kidney(the "extra piece of my puzzle" I have decided to call it).  The Froedtert medical complex is ENORMOUS -- they even have their own water tower! In the end they told me I am "fit as a fiddle"! Whatever that means! I have definitely never seen a fiddle exercising -- but whatever! When we got there we met the Assistant Donor Coordinator(Dina). She was this awesome African-American woman with a HUGE amount of energy. She took us into an exam room and told us we would be in there all morning and everyone we needed to see would come to us. She took some info from me and then explained how the day would go -- told us who all would come to see us. Then she took some initial blood from me -- the first of 18 tubes they took from me throughout the day! I then had to drink a really sugary orange drink for my glucose tolerance test. Next we met Elise -- the Living Donor Coordinator. Between Dina and Elise they explained the whole donor procedure to us and gave us TONS of information. They were so incredibly nice to us. Then a nephrology fellow(doctor in her fellowship) came in and did a physical on me. She was really funny and a nice girl.  At one point she couldn't get the footrest on the exam table to go back in.  I jokingly said, "Oh look -- we broke the table".  She replied, "YOU broke the table!  Not me!"  I suppose she figured they would be less likely to get upset with me -- plus her pay as a fellow is probably not enough to cover that table! Then a nephrologist came in and did ANOTHER physical! Two women doctors in a row -- I loved this place!! :-) Next an EKG technician came in and did an EKG on me to be sure my heart was functioning properly(it was). Then they had us watch a video that followed a case of a man who was donating to his brother. It was a little cheesy, so Mike and I got a good laugh out of it! At one point the cameraman actually dropped the camera and we got a good view of his suit pocket, along with a shot of the wall. When Dina came back in we assured her that we would be happy to star in a video for them if Froedtert wanted to produce their own. She said they have considered that and now I believe Mike and I may just be on our way to stardom! Then the social worker came in to talk to us and make sure I am not crazy -- Mike said they should have done that first -- would've saved us all a lot of time. Funny guy! She talked to both of us for awhile and then asked Mike to leave the room and just talked to me. She wanted to be sure Mike and the rest of my family was on board with all of this. Then she talked to me about a bunch of other things about donation, feelings afterwards, etc. She determined I did not need to see a psychologist. Again, Mike begs to differ!! We did have some concerns about the social worker herself however as she has a phobia about sitting on warm seats -- she fears butt heat!! What a strange phobia that is. Never heard of that before.  She refused to sit in the chair Dina had just occupied until it was completely cooled down.  It was really an odd thing! Everyone that came in to see us though was so nice. Lots of times they repeated what the others had said, but I think they just wanted to be sure we understood it all. Then Dina took MORE blood from me. She poked me a total of three times to fill 18 tubes of blood! By this time it was 1:15 p.m. and I had not eaten since the night before at 6:30. So they sent us to the deli, but told me I could only have a cup of soup! They did let me have a diet Coke though(bless their hearts!) and they paid for our lunch with "Froedtert bucks", which is a very valuable currency within the Froedtert walls. We were scheduled to report to radiology at 3:45 for a chest x-ray and a CT scan. We had some time to kill so we walked around for awhile and then sat in the lobby and people-watched for a bit.A lady fell down outside while we were there so we watched security respond to that.  I suppose we should've gone out to offer assistance, but since they had thousands of medical personnel on the campus I figured they probably didn't really need us. I finally told Mike we should go over to radiology and see if they could get us in early. It was only 2:45 when we checked in -- an hour early. They said they would do what they could and had me change into a gown and a lovely robe. A nice guy with a WWJD lanyard around his neck brought me a Froedtert Hospital water bottle and had me drink a large amount of water(I got to keep the water bottle as a souvenir of my day!). Then he informed me that I needed to have yet another needle stuck in me to run the contrast dye into my arm. He was so apologetic for that, but I didn't really care about the needles -- a small price! Then a soft-spoken pretty little Indian gal came and got me for my chest x-ray. When she got me in the room she exclaimed, "You are a beautiful girl!" (Did I mention that I LOVE this place?)  Apparently she didn't notice the fact that my gown, robe, black socks, and black loafers were not exactly a fashion statement. She had the x-rays done in just minutes and I headed back to the waiting area.  While I was there this poor woman came out of the dressing room with her gown on backwards andwithout one very important robe!  Luckily they came to get her quickly and the gal who came said, "Oh sweetheart let me get you a robe!  You have your gown on backwards!"  Fortunately Mike was reading and missed this whole event. At 3:45 the CT tech came and got me for my CT scan. An hour early! The scan took about 45 minutes during which time they shot me up with contrast dye that gives you the warm fuzzies -- but makes you feel like you are about to pee your pants.  Then we were finally free to go! It was a long day, but the warmth and welcoming of everyone there was just incredible! By the time we left I had eaten exactly one cup of soup and one diet Coke in a 23 hour period. I was starving! So we headed to Madison and stopped at the Texas Roadhouse(my very favorite restaurant) as our celebration of the day.

What happens now? Well, all of the tests they did up until the chest x-ray and CT came back great. They will need to have the radiologist read the x-ray and CT but it didn't sound like there were any concerns. Oh, and it sounds like I do indeed have two kidneys -- apparently they occasionally scan a potential donor only to find out that they only had one kidney in the first place! Guess you would never know that without being tested. So, twelve of the 18 tubes of blood they sucked out of me are on their way to a lab where they will have a "midnight rendevous" with my friend's blood to see if our blood samples get along with each other. That will be the true test. The interesting thing is that we do not have to be an exact match -- they can give him medications after the transplant that can combat some of the troubles he might have if we are not an exact match. But they do need us to be close. Those results will be back in 1-2 weeks. When they get those back the organ transplant team will review the results and decide if we are compatible. If we hold up to the committee's standards then it will be a "go".
Some interesting things they told us when we were at Froedtert:

-- Studies have shown that kidney donors are healthier than the general population after kidney donation.  They believe this is because once people donate they have a renewed incentive to take extra good care of themselves.  Of course they also start out with a very healthy population to begin with.

-- If you join Wisconsin's online donor registry it is more legally binding than just signing the back of your driver's license. That means that if you wish to donate your organs after you die and you just sign your license your family can technically override your decision. If you join the online registry they cannot -- at least not without a legal fight. This weekend Froedtert had their very first organ come from a man who signed up on the online registry when it started in March. They were pretty excited about it!  Please go to to learn more about how you can sign up to be a donor.

--If you donate a kidney and then something happens to your remaining kidney, you will immediately go to the top of the kidney transplant list because you were a donor. Sort of like a Disney FastPass -- right to the front of the line! Isaiah asked us what would happen if two donors were at the top of the list waiting to get a kidney of their own. Josh assured him that they would simply play Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who gets the kidney :-)  It's good to learn from your older brother!

--All of my medical expenses are covered by the recipient's insurance. However, any expenses that we incur at any point in this process(including our mileage to and from Froedtert for the testing) are tax-deductible in the state of Wisconsin up to $10,000. Wisconsin is at the forefront of states providing this tax deduction!

So it was a day of learning and a day of testing -- but a great day indeed! I am so blessed to have such great health. I just hope I can share that health!

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