“My mother called me and said, ‘We’re on our way to the University of Maryland, they called with a liver, don’t get too excited you know how sick he is.’ It was December 27th, 2011 my father was at an appointment at Georgetown where they were discussing the final days. The doctors there did not think there was anything else they could do for him and to them the best option was to take him off all medication and make him comfortable for another day or so. The doctors said to my mother, ‘It’s time for you to say your goodbyes, there is really nothing else we could do.’ I remember my mother telling me in a desperate attempt she emailed one of the coordinators at Maryland, saying, ‘They are admitting my husband into Georgetown, it’s noon and I do not know what is going to happen.’ Up until this point my mother had always been on top of the plans, making sure things were done on time and perfectly but now in the chaos she was disorganized and unsure of everything. Then a miracle happened, my mother got a call from their coordinator at the time from University of Maryland that they had a liver for him and he needed to get there immediately.
I was 10-years-old at the time and before any of this happened we were a happy normal family. I and my father are so much alike, we are both charismatic and always trying to make people laugh. We both loved computers and video games and our family was always laughing. My brother and my mom seemed to always get on each other’s nerves and we were always the peacemakers. Being as young as I was I did not understand the severity of his sickness, my mother said he had autoimmune hepatitis and would probably need a new liver. At the time I wasn’t worried, as a kid I saw him going to a huge hospital with doctors that seemed to know what they were doing, I thought he would just get better. However I saw my mom upset about it constantly, she would cry sometimes and other times she would find it hard to focus on anything. We worked hard to get him double listed at Georgetown University Hospital and the University of Maryland and there were many ups and downs and the listing process is extremely hard. At one point we had actually gotten a call for a liver at Georgetown, but they denied him the transplant because he was too sick, they told my mother ‘We don’t want something catastrophic to happen to his liver, he is just too sick for a liver transplant.’ My mom just kept telling them she didn’t understand and It did not make any sense as to why someone could be too sick for a transplant. She asked to speak to the transplant surgeon and the surgeon refused to speak to them. So again we were stuck waiting for a liver, while my dad was getting more sick and closer to death.
‘You remember what happened at Georgetown, I don’t want you to get that excited for nothing, I’ll let you know what’s going on’, my mother told me over the phone on December 27th, 2011. That night at the University of Maryland a transplant surgeon by the name of Dr. Rolf Barth met my mother and father in their hospital room saying, ‘Rest up because I’m going to do all of the work tomorrow and the next day after that you need to do the work to keep yourself healthy.’ The surgery was set for the next day at 9 A.M. and my mother still did not think it was going to happen, until they actually started the surgery. 12 hours later. Dr. Barth came to my mom and said, ‘The old liver is out and the new liver is in, he is resting in the ICU and doing very well.’ After this my mother had called me and my brother telling us, ‘I think your dad is going to be okay.’ I was so happy and relieved, finally my dad was going to come back home.
After the liver transplant our lives had gone back to normal. My father had taken up acting and improv as a hobby and I did plays and shows with him as well. Our family had begun to do things together again, my dad was constantly doing his part to keep himself healthy by doing everything he was supposed to do, just like Dr. Barth told him to. He was going to the doctor, eating healthy, keeping his diabetes under control. We were grateful to the donor and even would volunteer for transplant organization to help spread the word about how wonderful organ donation can be.
Unfortunately one of the side effects of the anti-rejection medications my father is on is toxicity to the kidneys. His kidneys had taken such a beating when his liver was failing they never recovered. It was certain that in the future he would either need dialysis or a kidney transplant. My dad, not wanting to have dialysis, was trying to push it off as far as he could however, finally in 2018 it was time for him to really need a kidney transplant. He had begun dialysis and was going there three times a week, and I had just started college and would drop him off and pick him up most of the time from dialysis. It was difficult to see him go to dialysis, he hated sitting there and waiting for those treatments to be done. It was sad for all of us when he would come home on the days he had dialysis, tired and worn from the treatment, he would often sleep the rest of the day. Not wanting to see him go through this anymore we were all ready to see if we could donate a kidney to him. He had stopped his regular hobbies like acting and improv which we all knew made him very happy.
My entire family had known about living kidney donation for quite some time and so we were all eager to begin the process of testing with the University of Maryland. Our coordinators called me and my mother when they finished the first round of testing and told us both of us were a match. It was such good news and all of us were ecstatic at the opportunity. They only work on one candidate at a time so they began testing my mother first, all seemed well until a CT scan was done that revealed she had kidney stones in both of her kidneys, and since they want to leave the donor with one perfectly healthy kidney, they decided to not go with her for the donation. She was so very upset by this, not only was she unable to donate to her husband of almost twenty years but now the burden was have to be passed to me and she didn’t want to see her husband and son go through a tough surgery.
I was the next candidate for the surgery, they ran a multitude of blood tests on me at first, and soon I was ready for donor day, where I go and have more tests done, a CT scan and meet my social workers, case workers and the surgeon. On December 26th nearly 7 years to the day that he got a call for his liver from Maryland, me, my mother, my father and my girlfriend of 2 years were sitting in our kitchen when my coordinator called me. He said, ‘Your surgery had been approved, and Dr. Barth will be your surgeon so congratulations we are all really happy for you guys!’ The date of the surgery was set for January 7th and I was so moved to be able to donate to my father that it had brought me to tears, we all hugged each other and even started a countdown of how many dialysis treatments he had left. Two days before the surgery my dad sat me down and told me, ‘Hey, I am so grateful you are doing this for me, not a lot of other people would do something like this for their parents.’ Now my dad confesses to me he was telling my mother, ‘I’m worried about Robert getting this surgery, it’s something he doesn’t need to do.’ I was ready to donate my kidney to my dad, his liver donor allowed him to see me graduate high school, go on vacations with us, and share in more family experiences. I wanted to give my kidney to my dad so he could see all of the things that haven’t happened yet, his children getting married, having grandchildren and more happy years with my mother.
The day of the surgery came and we were all up bright and early at 3am to drive to Baltimore to the University Of Maryland Medical Center. We arrived there just before 5am, we checked in and soon were shown to the pre surgery waiting room that had two beds set up for me and my dad, we had to put on hospital gowns and wait for the team of doctors and surgeons to begin the procedure. We were all waiting with intense nervous excitement, the words, ‘I need coffee’ were said several times by my mother and girlfriend. I was the first one to be wheeled back to the operating room, I said goodbye to my dad, my mother and girlfriend followed me back until they couldn’t anymore, I kissed them both goodbye they were both so scared I had to tell them, ‘I’m going to be fine don’t worry about it’ over and over again. I was then wheeled into the operating room, I had never been through surgery before and seeing all of the technology was very cool to me, I remember telling the nurse ‘All of this stuff is amazing!’ to which she laughed. I was then greeted by all of the staff who would be taking care of me. The surgeon Dr. Barth came into the room, and finally the anesthesiologist when it was time for me to be put to sleep, I remember them constantly telling me, ‘Just focus on your breathing’ as they put an oxygen mask on me and I was slowly put to sleep.
I awoke in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, as soon as I woke up I asked the nurse, ‘can I please have some pain medicine?’ My abdomen was aching so badly and I was so groggy from the anesthesia. Within a few minutes my mother and girlfriend were by my side. The first night in the hospital was very rough, I had been vomiting from some of the pain medication but Dr. Barth came in to visit me and instructed the nurses to give a good dose of medication that would let me rest for quite some time. After waking up on the second day I felt so much better. The next two days were a step by step in recovery, and thankfully my father was right down the hall from my room, so during the day I could slowly walk to his room and see him. The first time I saw him I was so happy to see he was doing well and recovering with me. On the third day I was finally able to be sent home, where my girlfriend took amazing care of me, making sure I had everything I needed.
Now, I am nearly three weeks post operation and I could not be happier with the progress we have made. My father is doing extremely well and is feeling great, he doesn’t sleep most of the days as he used to, he is up and about ready to do everything. He has been taken off of certain medications because he does not need them anymore as the kidney has been working very well. Even now my dad has said, ‘He hasn’t felt this good in years.’ We are all very happy and making the most of what life has given us, we are trying to make every day count and come closer as a family. Organ donation is, to me, one of the best things someone can do for others. For my life and the life of my family, organ donation has given my father more time with us and we are all so grateful for that.”
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