By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
A Journey Through Kidney Donation: Part 1, Blame it on Facebook
0801kidney---Lisa-Hetzel-and-her-cousin-Denise-Team-Kidney-Jan-2015 Rockdale News
Denise and Lisa

A Journey Through Kidney Donation: Part 2, Testing... 1, 2, 3

I hit send and gulped. What would she think?  My cousin, Denise, and I hadn’t spoken in over 35 years and I just offered her my kidney. I wondered if I should delete my post.   Who was I to even try to help? I’m a 53 year old single mom with a dog named Dipstick.    Never mind the fact that my cousin and I live 900 miles apart.

A private message from Denise appeared on the screen, “Thanks for contacting me.  I would be so grateful if you phoned my transplant coordinator to learn more.”

Within days, we exchanged phone numbers and started catching up.  A lot had happened since my trip to her house in ’78.   Denise stayed in Massachusetts, married and raised three wonderful kids.  I moved several times, married, had a son, and divorced.  I’m still learning how to juggle parenting a teen, maintaining a home and working full time.

Denise’s mom, Georgette, was my godmother and my mom was hers. Our moms were close.  We lived near each other and spent a lot of time together.  When I was seven, we moved away. My godparents, Georgette and Ray, maintained a close relationship through letters.  Over the next ten years, we spent several family vacations together.  After high school, we kept in touch through our parents. 

I remember hearing the news that my aunt was in kidney failure and had to begin dialysis.  She had been diagnosed with PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease).  The incurable genetic disease usually doesn’t appear until adulthood.  Dialysis was hard on Aunt Georgette.  She was miserable and eventually didn’t travel at all.  Fifteen years later, she passed away. 

No one wanted anyone else to go through that.  Before my mother passed away in 2011, she made us promise to take care of all of Georgette and Ray’s kids, especially Denise.  

When my dad told me that Denise was in the early stages of PKD, I was shocked.  I told myself that she would be okay.  Shortly after that, I was reassured that the disease was moving slowly.

A few years ago, I started following Denise’s Facebook page.  I really didn’t notice anything until she posted that her husband, Peter, started testing to see if he could donate to her.  There wasn’t any news for quite a while. Then, Denise gave an update.  The doctors had determined that although Peter was a match, he couldn’t donate.  They determined that there might be a risk to his health if he donated. The process to be approved is much more complicated than most people know.  By now, Denise’s health was getting worse and she would be facing renal failure within the year.

My brother, Dan, called and told me that he had looked into testing.  Even if he was a match, he wouldn’t be able to take time off to donate.  He had just started to work for a company that delivered home dialysis equipment.  Not being in a position to help Denise was breaking his heart.  

“Did you hear? Dan said, “Dad called to see if he could be tested.” My dad is one of the most active men I know.  He’s 81, travels, has a girlfriend and can bench press his own weight.  He was quite disappointed that they wouldn’t even consider him because of his age.

That’s when Dan asked me about my blood type.  That’s the nudge that I needed.

 So, I sent my message, “Denise, I’m type 0. What do you need?” 

I believe that God works in mysterious ways. Watch for next week’s episode, “Testing 1, 2, 3.”