Once upon a time. Nope. In a galaxy far, far away. Not it. You won’t believe this. Not quite. Adapted for TV. Not a chance. God’s timing is perfect …YES, that’s how this all started!
Only God knew how our kidney transplant story would go. Only God could have authored this story. Who knew? God did. When I married her brother in 1983, God knew.
When we divorced 10 years later? God knew and all these years later, God was still writing our story together. Want to really freak out your new husband? Invite your ex’s family to your wedding. They were all so happy for us!
Ten years into our marriage, MyFishGuy’s kidneys were on the watch list. His doctors were preparing us for the inevitable. In 2015, MyFishGuy got so sick we weren’t sure he’d live. He started dialysis to replace the work his kidneys were no longer providing.
We had hoped that it would be short-lived as we had a living donor come forward. And then another one. And another. None could get through all the testing and cross that finish line to receive the approval of our Transplant Team. Two years later, we received a phone call that surprised us and made us laugh.
Could my ex-husband’s sister be a living donor for my new husband? That had to be the craziest and funniest thing we had ever heard. Who would ever believe it? As with anyone who asked, we gave her the phone number for our Living Donor Coordinator and said it’s up to you to call. We’ll be praying for you and your decision. Keep us in the loop or not, it’s up to you. That was October. Little did we know that the conversation later that night in Tennessee would have a similar tone.
OMA PALMER’s words: I cannot really explain it, but one day when I was driving home from work, it dawned on me: why couldn’t I be the donor for Bill? Shawn was floored. She was concerned and worried. I told her more as we talked about it. She asked me what made me decide to do this? I told her it just hit me on the way home that I could be the one to give Bill a kidney. She asked if I was sure about this. “What if something happens to your kidney or what if someone in your family needs a kidney?” Good questions but I said we can “what if” it to death. I really want to try to do this. Shawn said she would support whatever I wanted to do.
Fast forward to March. All Oma’s pre-approval tests have been completed and it was time for her to travel to Pittsburgh from Chattanooga for a stress test and personal interview with our AHN Transplant Team. But the catch was, she didn’t want either of our families to know yet. She would have been fine with them knowing the day AFTER the transplant happened! So, late in March, we flew her into Pittsburgh and hid her for 3 days while she and I ventured to AHN to meet with the Doctors and Team. This wouldn’t have been hard normally, but it was my Mom’s birthday weekend and we were gathering to celebrate.
One of the things offered to us from our friend at the National Kidney Foundation was a conversation with a couple that had been donor/recipient of a kidney donation. The wife donated her kidney to her husband. We met them at Applebee’s after our luncheon for the matriarch of our family. Lots of questions, lots of information, lots of laughs, lots of relief.
Monday was spent at the hospital completing the plethora of tests and appointments. Then back to Chattanooga she went! None of our families knew anything about this clandestine trip.
Test results, more tests, more results, more tests filled the weeks of April and early May. We were close. So close we could taste it over Mother’s Day weekend.
OMA: I found out in all the testing that I’m in pretty good health, but maybe I shouldn’t drink so much. I consider this a wakeup call. We all need to stay healthy to live long and make the best of our lives. I haven’t always taken the best care of myself. This is a second chance at life for Bill, but it’s also another chance for me to take better care of myself.
We sponsored a Blood Drive and Food Truck Event on Tuesday, May 15 that brought in enough blood donors to impact over 100 patients! We were blown away by the positive response. Later that evening as we unloaded the car, we received a message from Oma that she was approved and would be presented on Monday, May 21, to the Committee that gives final approval! Hallelujah! Our prayers were being answered. Not when we thought it was time, but when God said it would happen. Oma hoped to do the surgery in May and since the living donor surgeries are scheduled on Fridays, we were left with one Friday – May 25. As the Team already had a surgery scheduled for that day, they chose to schedule us on Thursday May 31. The Transplant Team makes every possible accommodation for the living donor so that the recipient doesn’t lose the chance at a gift of life.
The only thing left to do was tell our families. She went first phoning her siblings. Since most of our family lives close by, we had them over for dessert Friday evening. We had told them we “had news.” The atmosphere was thick and somewhat scary. But, we blew them away with the info that we had a Living Donor! Everyone was so excited! Do you know her? Will you get to meet her before the surgery? All good questions and I wish we could have taken a picture of all their faces when we gave the facts. Yes, we know her and so do you! Aunt Oma would be arriving in five days, in time to start the pre-op testing obligations. Let the whirlwind begin! Both of our families were shocked and thrilled!
OMA: Would I do this again? Absolutely yes. I feel like this was God’s will all the way. As far as suggestions for others who may want to donate life, it is just something you know. I never had second thoughts, I was never nervous. Everything just felt right and that this was truly God leading everything.
We are now at Day 48. Oma and Shawn have returned to Tennessee long ago. Slow and steady. Rest and patience. That was the prescription for Oma and her recovery. Normalcy returns as her healing progresses.
MyFishGuy? He just had his peritoneal dialysis catheter removed as outpatient surgery. The method of survival for over two and a half years has been removed. The side effects of the transplant medications are a balancing act for which there are no hard and fast rules. Adjust, change, add, subtract. Time is our ally.
His body is making Oma’s kidney feel right at home. He tells everyone that he’s still deciding whether to sit or stand when he goes. He also told the surgeon that he put it in upside down because he was up all night going. His laughter has returned. God knew. His timing was perfect. None of the other five potential donors could have given him this exact and perfect gift. You can’t help but hear the love and appreciation in his voice as he tells the recipient side of this story.
In true fashion, we had to come up with a name for this sweet gift. It took weeks to settle on a name. One that fit her perfectly and reflected her goal in life. Did you know that when you get a new kidney, the surgeons leave the other two in you? Yes, indeed. MyFishGuy now has three kidneys. The two Freeloaders remain in place and Flo sits happily above his right leg. Flo and the Freeloaders. Not a band, but a beautiful sound in our lives and our home. We are forever grateful, thankful and amazed at the story God has written with our lives. He knew.