a gift from many

It’s been about two months since my surgery and I’m feeling great. For a while, my energy levels were extremely low, but I was getting antsy and bored from not doing all that much with my days compared to how my life had been prior to donation. As a fellow kidney donor so perfectly put it, I felt ‘too good to do nothing, but not good enough to do anything.’ And though I still do need the occasional midday nap, and I definitely find myself crashing much earlier in the evening, I have to say that all in all, I feel like myself again. Sometimes I’ll get a sudden pang of discomfort in various places in my abdomen – typically near the incision – but I know that’s simply my body still hard at work healing itself. I’m back to working out and running (though a bit slower than before and not covering quite the same distances I once did, but I’m working on it!) and a day full of errands no longer seems like a daunting task. My incision looks great and I even dare to say that if you didn’t know I had this operation, you might not even notice the scar. Not too shabby!

Though for the most part I’m back to life as normal, not a day goes by that I don’t think about my surgery. I haven’t heard from my recipient, but I do know from my transplant coordinator that she’s doing well, healing wonderfully, and on the track to a better quality of life than she’s known in quite some time. Despite this knowledge, I do still think about her all the time. I wonder if she’s returning to her life as she knew it before dialysis. I think about how much my life has changed since donating my kidney and can only marvel at the drastic shift I’m sure her life has taken since her transplant. Almost everyone I encounter asks me if I’ve heard from her, and then apologizes when I tell them that I haven’t. But I’m not sorry, and I never will be even if I never hear from her for as long as I live. I know that if she’s choosing not to reach out to me, there’s a reason that none of us could understand without having walked in her shoes. And I respect her decision. This was a gift, and gifts should not be given with thanks in mind. I didn’t go through with this donation with the intention of making a friend out of my recipient, I did it to save people’s lives. And if I gain a friend in the process, well then that’s just an added bonus.

But this donation was not a gift given only by me, but by all the countless people who helped me along the way. When I think about this journey, I can’t help but be humbled by the support, love, and appreciation I was shown by everyone from family, friends, former colleagues, medical professionals, the donor/kidney community, and even complete strangers. Prayers, well wishes, messages, phone calls, cards, letters, flowers, gifts, home cooked meals and freshly baked goods, hugs, kisses, time devoted, advice shared, support given unconditionally – without all of this, the gift of my kidney to my recipient simply would not have been possible. I could never thank you all enough for everything you’ve done – though God knows I will try my best. Please know that because of you, just as much as because of me, three people’s lives have been forever changed, improved, and renewed. It took my decision to begin this process, but it took the unwavering love and support of my friends and family to see it through to the end. So on behalf of myself, my recipient, and every patient out there whose lives have been saved by organ donation, THANK YOU. This was truly a gift not from one, but from many, and it is by far the most beautiful gift of them all: the gift of life.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  [Leo Buscaglia]


14 responses to “a gift from many

  • Karol

    Great story – living donors truly improve the lives on kidney patients!
    Best wishes to you~

  • Barb

    I received a kidney in Feb 2010 from a lady who never met me. My life is so much better now. I thank you for your selflessness and inspiration to others. I have a sister who was a perfect match and refused to donate to me. You are a wonderful person. I don’t know what else to say.

    • melissaarlio

      Hi Barb,

      So glad to hear you’re doing so well – that’s all donors like myself want to do! Living donation is not for everyone, and I completely understand that, but if we can all help spread the word, we just might reach the people who are up for and change some lives in the process!!! All the best to you!!!

  • MFWG

    How does it feel to have saved someone’s life? Anyone who is healthy enough to donate a kidney could save someone’s life, could be a hero. I hope that your life is filled with blessings as a reward for what you have done for someone who needed a new start in life.

    I will need dialysis soon, and I am already on the transplant list. It is soul-destroying to know that one day soon, I will need to spend hours and hours on a machine just to stay alive. I have no one who will be a donor for me, so I will have to wait for at least 6 years for someone to die so that I can perhaps get a cadaveric kidney. If I could get a living donor, my life would be transformed, not only from better health but also from the release from despair and terror. I have fought this random kidney disease for so many years, but the disease is winning, and I have little time left. So I just wanted to let you know that even if you never hear from your recipient, there are many of us who are grateful to you. I hope that our gratitude will make you feel the pride that you deserve.

    PS…I had a hysterectomy 2 years ago, and the very worst part of it all BY FAR was the gas pains. For most abdominal surgeries, they pump your abdomen full of gas so that your internal organs will be more visible. It sucks bigtime. I had a stonking great incision, but the discomfort from that was a tea party compared to those damned gas pains!

    • melissaarlio

      Hi there,

      First of all, thank you for reaching out and expressing your gratitude. I always love hearing from the kidney community, and comments like yours really make it all worthwhile. I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I will absolutely keep you in my thoughts and prayers that you receive the kidney you so desperately need. I have so much admiration for people like you – I can’t imagine what it must feel like to go through what you’re going through – if there is anything I can do to help at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Please continue to be strong and have faith, and know that there are people like me who are pulling for you. God bless!

      All the very best,

  • Jill

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!! I was all set to enter the paired donation program with my friend Lonnie when a kidney came up on the deceased donor list for him. Now I am contemplating being a non-directed donor — likely in a chain since that is how they are trying to steer donors now. Your blog came along at the perfect time for me! I wish you well!!

    • melissaarlio

      Hi Jill! What an amazing friend you are! Many people wouldn’t go through with donation – even for a loved one – and it just shows how strong and courageous you are! I’m so glad to hear that Lonnie received a kidney – amazing news!!! If you still decide to go through with the chain, please please please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have a wealth of resources and information and I can walk you through the process step-by-step. I had a great support system of not only family and friends, but also other kidney donors that I met and without them to answer all of my embarrassing questions, I may not have made it haha! So please feel free to ask me anything and everything – I’ve heard (and wondered) it all before!! Best wishes!!

  • Jill

    I just read your ENTIRE blog and see that you were the start of a chain too! Thank you again for your encouraging words! So glad I read your whole blog as I have been through so many of the same emotions!

  • Ardee

    A friend posted details of your donation on Facebook and I found your blog which I will take time to read.
    I am a kidney recipient donated by my son almost 11 years ago. The good news is that he still works out regularly and hasn’t had any side effects after his keyhole surgery. I am sure that you will return to full fitness.
    As for me I am overwhelmed by the generosity of your donation.
    Best wishes and my sincere admiration.

    • melissaarlio

      Hi Ardee – what an amazing, brave son you have! I’m so glad you were able to get your life back through this wonderful gift he so courageously gave you. I’m also glad to hear that he has recovered well! I feel great, honestly, and the only thing that’s hard is the fatigue, but that will pass. I’m slowly getting back into my regular running and working out, and the incision has healed almost flawlessly. A very small price to pay to change a life!! Wishing you and your son all the best, and thank you for reaching out and for the amazing support!

      • Ardee

        Best wishes in your job hunt.
        Based on your blog I am confident you will find a company worthy of your talented writings.
        As for your previous bosses, they have failed miserably as human beings.

  • Carol Dziuba

    Wow, imagine my shock when I learned of this via the Huffington Post! Awesome to read about, all of the best to you, Melissa. Brave, altruistic, strong, focused. That describes you, Melissa. Your parents are probably so proud…and relieved you’re OK. I’m proud of you too.

    • melissaarlio

      Thank you so much, Mrs. Dziuba! It means so much to me to have the support and encouragement from all my family and friends, and I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read my story and reach out!! Hope all is well with you!!! xox

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