Polycystic kidneys run in my family. My father was diagnosed when I was in grade school and by the time I got to college he needed to start dialysis. I grew up in Montana and there were no dialysis facilities at that time. Patients had to travel to Spokane with a partner to learn how to do home dialysis and how to maintain the instruments. He did his first dialysis runs there in Spokane during the 3 week training class, then a dialysis machine was delivered to our home and set up on a spare bedroom. My mom was his dialysis partner, but I also went through some training to be able to take care of him when she needed to be somewhere else. Dad was on dialysis for over 20 years before his health deteriorated and he passed away. He had many good years because of that life-giving treatment!I was diagnosed with the same disease when I was in college.
Luckily the disease was slow to progress and I did not need to start dialysis until my early 50’s. During those years before I had to start dialysis I watched both my older brother and sister go on dialysis and eventually receive transplants – my brother’s was donated by a cousin and my sister received a cadaver transplant. Both did very well with their new kidneys. I finally had to start dialysis myself and was lucky enough to find a wonderful facility like the Puget Sound Kidney Center.
The staff there was so friendly and helpful, the other patients all had so much to share, and the facility was close to work, so I was able to continue working full-time during the years on dialysis.
But then in the late fall of 2008, I got a call from the UW transplant department, where I was registered – they had an anonymous live donor that was a match for me and they wanted to know if I wanted that kidney! What a fantastic gift for a person to give! The transplant took place in January of 2009 and I was out of the hospital 2 days later – with a fully functional kidney. Several months later I was able to meet Mike, that wonderful man who gave me that special gift, and he and his wife have remained good friends since then. Shortly before I received my transplant my nephew had to start dialysis in Montana. He is now on the transplant list and waiting for his miracle, but he’s doing well with treatment. I feel so lucky and blessed that even though my family has had to deal with so much because of this disease, we’ve all managed to come through it well – and probably stronger because of it.