Michigan is nearly dead last in the U.S. for registered organ donors. Right now, 2,899 people are awaiting a kidney in the Mitten State…the wait can be 5-8 years. One of those people waiting is my mother-in-love, Cheryl (Neil’s step-mom).
On July 18, 2016, I will donating my kidney to Cheryl.
Cheryl has been on the kidney transplant list for nearly 3 years. She’s spent hundreds of hours hooked up to a dialysis machine, and many more hours praying for God to bring her a donor. I have never once heard her complain, and she has remained steadfast in her faith. Cheryl never asked anyone in the family to get tested, so for some reason, I never really thought that I could or would be her donor.
Around Christmas time last year (2015), I was asking her questions about the waiting process. The plan was for her to go to Cleveland and Madison to get on the lists there to increase her chances of getting a donor. Cheryl and Terry (Cheryl’s husband) were going to make every effort to ensure that Cheryl will not die on dialysis. A light bulb went off… why couldn’t I get tested?
I remembered past inspirational stories I had covered on organ donation, and thought to myself that the least I could do was get tested. The odds were definitely low… not being a blood relative and all, but I had heard of something called a “paired donation.” I figured if I wasn’t a match for Cheryl, I could offer up my kidney to a stranger, then she would get pushed up to the top of the list to receive a donor and when a match came about for me, the stranger would receive my kidney.
What are the odds?
First… we needed to have the same blood type. I went to the lab and got a call a few days later. I remember the call so vividly. The social worker, Andrea, said “you are a blood match (Type A).” I was speechless. She said “we can move forward if you would like” and I said “absolutely! This is amazing news”! She was a little surprised and said “Most people find out they are a match and then have second thoughts.” For me, it was absolute confirmation from God that this was meant to be.
The blood type test was the first of about 5 months of tests. I’ll share those experiences in another post… but let’s talk about the odds of a match.
Step 1: Matching Blood. (Passed with an A+)
Cheryl is blood type A. She can receive from blood type A or O. (I’m A)
Step 2: Panel Reactive Antibodies (PRA) Test. (Passed with an A+)
This is where the lab tests the level of antibodies in Cheryl’s blood to see if her blood would attack my kidney when it’s in her body. We were very concerned that we might not pass this test because of Cheryl’s Goodpasture Syndrome diagnosis which is an autoimmune disease that develops antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys.
Step 3: HLA/Tissue Typing (Passed with an A)
The results of this test blew my mind. To try and explain simply… we each have 6 antigens in our bodies that can be compatible. Except in cases of identical twins and some siblings, it is rare to get a six-antigen match between two people, especially if they are unrelated. The chance of a perfect or six-antigen match between two unrelated people is about one in 100,000. Many times in kidney transplants there are half matches or less and the transplants are still successful. Cheryl and I are a 5 out of 6 antigen match. The lab and the nephrologist thought that we were biological mother and daughter. WOW. #GodThing
Siblings have a 25% chance of being an “exact match” for a living donor and a 50% chance of being a “half-match.” (columbiasurgery.org)
Step 4: Cross Matching. (Passed)
This is a very sensitive test which involves several different phases and, as many as 10 to 15 different tests that involves mixing cells and serums to see if my kidney would be rejected. It comes down to a fairly simple final result. Either the cross match is positive or negative… and we wanted the test to be negative, because that means Cheryl’s body would not reject my kidney.
Living Donor vs. Deceased Donor
Cheryl had been on the waiting list for a deceased donor, but by me being a match, the odds of viability of the living donor kidney increases, and therefore her life expectancy increases.
- Immediately upon transplantation, 97% of live donor kidneys are fully functional, versus 50-60% of deceased donor kidneys.
- Live donor recipients face less risk of organ rejection.
God defies all odds.
So, what are the odds that Cheryl and I would be nearly a perfect match for a kidney transplant? The only explanation is that God made it happen. He brought us into each other’s lives for a purpose. For Cheryl to teach us all about steadfast faith in spite of dismal scientific possibilities, and for me to “share my spare”…my extra healthy kidney with her. Stick with us. We have so much more to the story to share in the coming weeks!
If this post has moved you, please consider being a living donor or become an organ donor when you’ve left this life. More information here: http://www.giftoflifemichigan.org/become-donor?tag=mhsmgr