How I Donated A Kidney

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In early November, Verona Strong disclosed that Sue Hedden Miranda, a lifelong resident of Verona, needs a kidney transplant. While that could come from a deceased donor, the wait for one is five to seven years. An alternative is a living donor. Sarah Ford became a living donor in 2018, and wrote this piece about her experience:

The idea that we have the power to give someone a second chance at life is incredible to me. There are things that we can do for others that have minimal impact on us in the long run, but are literally life changing to someone else. I was given that opportunity on March 27, 2018 and it was one of the best days of my life.

In the fall of 2016, Alan, the man who would eventually receive my left kidney in a life-saving transplant, was a stranger to me. We had one mutual friend; a guy I went to high school with, whom he happened to previously work with at the National Kidney Foundation. Alan posted on Facebook about his search for a kidney donor. Some of his friends shared that post, including that same guy from high school. I was immediately drawn to his picture and to his story. He was born with PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease), the same disease that took his father. I thought about it long and hard because I didn’t want to match with him and then back out, and then went in for the blood tests. I obviously already knew we shared a blood type, but it turns out I was a nearly perfect match. I can’t say it was the end of the testing. They had to make sure I was medically cleared, of good mental health and wasn’t being coerced and that I had two well-functioning kidneys. Turns out, it was a yes to all of it!

Waiting a year and half before surgery is not the norm. Alan had some minor unforeseen medical issues unrelated to his kidney that had to be worked out first. It did give us a chance to get to know each other. By the time I was wheeled into the operating room on that Tuesday morning, we were friends! The surgery was about five hours and I stayed two nights in the hospital. The kindness and care you get in the hospital as an organ donor is truly unmatched. I could’ve gone home one day sooner, but I didn’t want to. It was like a resort and I felt like a rock star! There was no worry about medical bills for anything relating to the process; everything was covered by Alan’s insurance.

I spent a lot of time on message boards for living kidney donors and was very reassured by what seemed to be a fairly easy recovery and stories of people getting right back to their normal lives. While it took me slightly longer than I thought it would, the recovery certainly wasn’t hard. I took a lot of naps, was able to collect disability for four weeks and went back to work when I was ready–close to one month after the transplant. And boy did the community rally around me. Verona is an amazing town, filled with so many people ready to lift-up and assist their own when it is needed. I had my friends and family, but I also had people I barely knew sending me support, gift cards, flowers and food donations.

And now? In the 5 1/2 years since I’ve donated, I ran three marathons (that’s me above finishing the Philadelphia Marathon with my daughter), became a certified spin instructor, coached Girls on the Run for eight seasons, gotten two new jobs and have continued my active and busy lifestyle with my children. I am even a field ambassador for the American Association of Kidney Patients and got to speak to Congress this past October to help advocate for change. I am part of such a cool club! My kidney function is nearly just as good as it was with two kidneys. I followed up with my kidney coordinator after one year and then at the two-year mark, but now I am free to see my own physician for regular physicals, like I would have done anyway. I am healthy and strong.

But truly the best part is visiting with Alan and his wife and seeing a different man than when we first met. I love to hear about the adventures they are now free to take. In the end, I am the same Sarah and he is a man with a healthy and bright future. I feel so blessed.

To become a living kidney donor for Sue Hedden Miranda contact Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center’s Kidney Transplant Center at [email protected] or 973-322-5346.

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