Monthly Archives: March 2011

what a long, strange trip it’s been

D-Day (D for donation, of course) has finally arrived. With less than 24 hours until my surgery, I can’t help but reflect on this past year and all the places this journey has taken me. This last week in particular has been an emotional roller coaster, and unfortunately with the unexpected turn of events regarding my job, I never took the time to talk about what’s been happening donation-wise during this, the most important week of them all:

Monday was the day that completely turned my life upside down – the day I was unexpectedly let go from my job. The motivation is still anybody’s guess, though I have my suspicions, but I do know that it was a direct result of my need for time off for this surgery (for more on that, please see this post). While I know that I was wronged in so many ways and completely undeserving of the treatment I received, I would be lying if I said I still wasn’t upset by it. To fire a loyal, hardworking, devoted employee is one thing, but in my opinion, it takes a certain kind of boss and a certain type of company to let someone go one week before a major surgery, and that is most definitely not the kind of company or boss I want to invest my time and energy into. Being fired added a whole new level of stress to an already stressful week, and threatened to taint an event I had been so excitedly anticipating for a year. Not to mention, it’s pretty difficult to actively seek out a job, make calls, and attend interviews when you’re in recovery. I’d like to give my ex-bosses the benefit of the doubt and have faith that there must have been some force beyond their control that led them to believe firing me last Monday was the best course of action. I can’t say I’m quite there yet, but I’m trying. And although I will never forget what they did to me, I can work my hardest to forgive. I’m not there yet either, but I can honestly say that though the timing was far from perfect (does perfect timing exist in this situation?), firing me was the best thing they could have ever done. Already, doors have opened to me that I never would have had the opportunity to explore under their employment, and though I’m still nervous about what will happen, I’m confident that I will quickly move on to bigger and better things.

Tuesday was a welcomed distraction from Monday’s events – pre-op testing at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. Basically, these tests provide an opportunity for the hospital to definitively confirm that my intended recipient and I are still, indeed, a perfect match, as well as make sure that my body is still physically ready for and capable of handling the surgery. I was at the hospital for about 5 hours, during which time I had about 7 more vials of blood taken and underwent several more blood tests, another chest x-ray and EKG, met with my coordinator, a few nurses, and my social worker, and finally had a sit-down with my surgeon, Dr. Joseph Del Pizzo. Dr. Del Pizzo is hands down one of the best surgeons in his field. He’s completed more nephrectomies than almost any other surgeon in the world, and was even a part of the first ever laparoscopic nephrectomy (which is what I’ll be having). When he’s not performing kidney transplants, he’s traveling the globe teaching other surgeons how to perform them. I could not be in better hands – literally. Dr. Del Pizzo explained the whole process and also talked to me about a 100-person study (of which I agreed to take part). There are two ways to have this surgery done laparoscopically – the more traditional, 4-incision procedure, or the newer, single-incision procedure. By agreeing to be part of this study, a computer randomly decides which method I will undergo and for the next 5 years I will answer a series of questions about my recovery, scarring, pain, etc. The goal is to determine which method, if either, results in a quicker recovery (so far, beyond the cosmetics, they see little difference between the two). There’s no direct benefit to me for being part of the study, but it will help future donors as well as the entire living donation program and that’s reason enough for me.

The rest of the week and weekend were fairly uneventful in terms of the surgery. Dr. Del Pizzo called me on Wednesday to let me know that the computer selected the single-incision (via the belly button) surgery for me, and noted that in my physical condition, either method would work equally well as the other. The single-incision procedure perhaps looks a bit prettier, but since I have no plans of being a swimsuit model in the near future, that was of very little concern. Other than that, I spent most of the remainder of the week talking to some mentors in the kidney community, applying to jobs, reaching into my network of wonderful and supportive family, friends, and former colleagues, and prepping my apartment and my body for surgery.

Today, however, has been interesting. For starters, I’m incredibly anxious and excited for tomorrow morning. I have to report to the hospital at 5:45 am and I just know I will not be getting any sleep prior to that. I’ve found it so hard to focus on anything all day, so I’ve been passing my time cleaning, running errands, and catching up on emails and phone calls. Oddly enough, though, I’m not nervous in the least. In fact, I’m surprisingly calm and peaceful (in spite of my excitement), and I honestly feel like tomorrow is something I was meant to do – that everything that has happened in my life so far has been leading me to this very moment.

My inability to focus aside, the hardest part about today has got to be the fact that I can no longer eat solid foods. I had a good breakfast, followed by a light lunch of yogurt with fruit and granola at 11:45 am, and as of noon, was banned from all solid foods until after surgery – my next meal will likely be at some point on Wednesday. I can drink all the clear liquids I want until midnight, which helps a bit, but for a ‘grazer’ like me, who eats several small meals every few hours, eating nothing for nearly 8 hours at this point is killing me. And on top of that, I had to drink half of a 10 oz. bottle of magnesium citrate at 3 pm to cleanse my bowels before surgery. Let’s just say my stomach is doing a lot of talking, making me exceptionally nervous for when it gets to walking…

I plan to spend the rest of tonight relaxing, reading, packing some things for my hospital stay (which will be 1-2 nights long), and maybe even writing a letter to my recipient. I still don’t know if she wants to meet me – we wouldn’t be allowed to meet until after the surgery anyway – but I wanted to let her know that even if she doesn’t want to, I’m so glad that I’m able to do this for her and her family. I haven’t yet decided if I will give her this letter – I worry that it will make her feel obligated to reach out to me, which I certainly wouldn’t want to do – but I’m sure the right choice for me will become evident as the night goes on.

I still can’t believe that tomorrow is ‘the’ day. Like so many things in life, while I was in the midst of it all, I felt like it was taking forever, but now that the day has arrived, I feel as though it all happened so quickly. I did my very best to try to enjoy each and every step, and I think I did a good job of doing so. I’ve been through a lot since I decided to donate my kidney – I was hired and fired, adopted a new puppy who is the love of my life (well, ok, after my boyfriend and right up there with my two cats), went skydiving for the first time, enjoyed my very first tropical island vacation, met so many incredibly inspiring people, and most importantly, I learned so much about my support system, my family and loved ones, and myself. I’ve encountered many, many obstacles along this journey – some that would have, rightfully so, knocked many people off course. But I am, for better or for worse, a very determined, headstrong (some might say ‘stubborn’) person, and when I make a decision and set a goal, there is simply no deterring me.

However, no matter how strong-willed I believe I am, I know there will be moments in my life when it will be easier to quit. Easier to change course and take the well-traveled road. Easier to come up with excuses for why I can’t rather than reasons for why I can. And when that time comes, I can look back on this experience – the people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard – and find the inspiration and the strength to pull through. Because like I’ve said so many times before, there is always someone fighting a tougher battle. Kidney patients are living, breathing proof that mental fortitude and the will to power on is stronger than almost any adversary. They have shown me that there is no greater force than a positive attitude, and that even when there is simply no more fight left to fight, the brave face that day with courage and grace. And sometimes, that’s all we can ask for.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’  [Mary Anne Radmacher]

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if yesterday hadn’t happened

If yesterday hadn’t happened, I’d be sitting down tonight to write about all the wonderful things that have happened in my life lately, all the positive news I’ve received and new information I’ve learned.

If yesterday hadn’t happened, I’d be excitedly sharing the recently confirmed date of my surgery – March 8th – exactly one week from today. I’d tell you that I learned a little bit of information about my recipient – that she is a 56-year-old woman from New Jersey, just like my mom, which makes this whole thing hit a bit closer to home. I’d write all about the ‘cluster’ that I’ve set off, the four surgeries including mine that will all occur next Tuesday, saving two lives in the process; how several more ‘clusters’ will occur throughout the chain I’ve started to save a still undetermined, but potentially infinite, number of lives, spanning months, even years.

If yesterday hadn’t happened, I’d gush about the exciting news that I was contacted by Marina Khidekel, articles editor at Glamour magazine, and Lexi Petronis, health blogger on Glamour.com, who reached out to me to conduct an interview before, and possibly after, my surgery to talk about my blog and, more importantly, the concept of living donor chains. I’d express how incredibly grateful I am to these two women for caring about my story and my blog, and for taking the time to shed light on such an amazing, but little-known cause. I’d also smile as I typed out the link for you to read this wonderful piece by Lexi at http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/blogs/vitamin-g/2011/03/i-started-a-kidney-donation-ch.html.

But yesterday did happen. And yesterday rocked my world as I knew it. Yesterday, I was fired.

Though I’m still in shock and cannot yet entirely grasp what happened, I do know that the chain of events that transpired leading up to the termination of my employment did so because of my need for time off to go through with, and recover from, this kidney transplant surgery. Although, to my coworkers’ and one of my bosses’ testimonials, I had kept my entire office up to date along every step of this journey (beginning last March) and had, on several occasions, discussed and agreed upon the logistical details with my bosses months ahead of time, all of a sudden as the surgery date approached, one of my superiors decided that he felt my week-long absence for the surgery would pose a problem in the office. Just 8 days before my scheduled surgery, my boss sat me down and told me that despite my aptitude, despite my very recent promotion to Editorial Lead, and despite my exceptional feedback from coworkers and clients, this relationship was ‘no longer working out.’ Shock and confusion, a deep sense of betrayal, and a wave of panic flooded over me as I walked back to my desk, packed my belongings and, humiliated, left the midtown Manhattan office for the very last time. I cried the entire way home and didn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning.

I still don’t understand what happened yesterday. I can confidently say that in all my years of employment, in every job I’ve ever held, I’ve never had a boss who wasn’t thrilled with my work, my work ethic, and my passion for, and dedication to, my job. But I’ve learned that life isn’t fair; that sometimes even your best isn’t good enough for some people; that job security is a great idea, but a lousy thing to depend on; that being a good person doesn’t mean only good things will happen to you; and that sometimes even things done with the best intentions will go misunderstood by some.

As upset as I was, and still am, I know I will be ok. I know I’ll find another job, that my career will continue to blossom, and that I’ll end up in a place where my work and my values are respected and appreciated. I’m not the first, nor the last, person to be fired from their job – I’ve been through worse in my life and am better for it. And though my whole world was changed in the blink of an eye yesterday, one thing remained as unshakable as ever – my desire to go through with this surgery.

While I know things will be rough – financially, emotionally, mentally – until I find a new job, I’m confident that this, too, is only a temporary setback in my journey. And I will not let this deter me from doing what makes me happy, from what I feel is right. Because at the end of the day, no matter how devastating the loss of a job can be, it pales in comparison to what thousands are going through every day as they wait for the gift of life. I won’t lie and say that at no point did I feel bad for myself or that I was being targeted – I did. I won’t say that I never thought of myself and only myself over the last 24 hours – I did that too. And I won’t tell you that I wasn’t devastated, bewildered, and utterly indignant – I was. I still am. But my situation will improve. My life will get back on track. I have the power to change things. Dialysis patients do not. They cannot simply will themselves to health. They cannot wish their kidney function back to normal. They cannot send out applications and emails, set up interviews, and pound the pavement for a new kidney. Yet it is those very same people – those who are the most powerless over their situation – who have shown the most grace, the most bravery and determination, the most resilience. If they can courageously rise up after being so brutally knocked down, I can certainly recover from a small stumble. And I can lend them a hand on my way back up.

And in the meantime… if anyone needs a writer, editor, or project manager, you know where to look.

 

It helps, I think, to consider ourselves on a very long journey: the main thing is to keep the faith, to endure, to help each other when we stumble or tire, to weep and press on.  [Mary Richards]