Kidney Transplant Evaluation Day

A couple of days after Snowpocalypse 2010, we took Mom to UPMC to be evaluated to see if she was a good candidate for a kidney transplant. This, as you may imagine, was fraught with much stress. I went into the situation doubtful that anyone in their right mind would give a brand-new kidney to anyone as unhealthy as my mom. The other two options were two different types of dialysis.

My sister came into town, and the three of us stayed at Family House that Thursday night so we’d be close by for our 7:30 am report time. We tried to take Mom out to dinner, but after it took us 2 hours to make it in from the suburbs (usually 45 minutes), I was feeling frazzled. My sister offered to drive. We located a restaurant a few blocks away, and headed over. However the side streets in Pittsburgh weren’t cleared; as a matter of fact, they were clearing several blocks nearby with heavy machinery as we drove by. However, we got stuck in an uncleared side street, and by the grace of God got free somehow. We hightailed it back to Family House and ordered in.

The next morning, after scraping Mom out of bed so we could be out of the street parking spot by 7:00 am, we hit Panera for breakfast and headed to UPMC. Once we got there, we got checked in, and sat down with our breakfasts.

We sat near a lovely young woman in a wheel chair. She was a yoga-instructor/mom in her 30s who had just received a kidney transplant a month before. She certainly looked more tired and weak than we would have expected one month out. She explained that because of the drains and her surgery, she was unable to sleep lying down, and hadn’t slept more than a two-hour stretch since the procedure.

Meeting her definitely gave us pause. If a healthy young woman in her 30s, with no significant health issues (other than her kidneys) was taking this long to recover, would would it be like for Mom, who has a myriad of other health issues?

They called us back for our kidney transplant education class. We were in an exam room with one other woman, who had no other family with her. She explained to the instructor that she was getting her second kidney transplant, so she had been through all this once before. After the class, which explained the basics of a kidney transplant, she was moved to another room, and we stayed.

We met with several other members of the transplant team: transplant surgeon, kidney doc, financial person…honestly, it became a blur after a while, so I’m really glad my sister was there to be a second pair of ears.

While we were there, my sister got typed and crossmatched to see if she’d be a suitable donor.

I was hanging in there, doing okay, until we talked with the social worker. She told me that after the surgery, mom would need 24/7 care for at least two, possibly up to four weeks after the surgery. And my sister, being the donor, was NOT allowed to help. How was I going to arrange to be with Mom 24/7 for all those WEEKS?? Mom has no family left, other than my sister and me. My sister was out, leaving me. Just me. Mom has no real friends who would be in a position to help, either. I felt close to heyperventilating and my brain shut down. I couldn’t take any more in.

Plus, to even get to the point where she could be presented for approval to the transplant team, she’d need dozens of tests and doctors’ appointments to complete her file. She’d need to get all of her medical conditions under control (which seems unlikely, since we’ve spent the last 10 years working on that). And she’d need to do it all within 90 days.

Add that to the fact that one of the docs told us that for someone young & healthy, a new kidney could get them about 15 years of life. For someone like mom, older (71) and with other medical conditions, she’d get maybe 2-3 years, 6 months of which would be a slow and painful recovery from the transplant itself.

Right before we left, they took Mom to the lab for blood tests. That’s when I lost it. I sat in the waiting room blubbering like a child to my sister. I managed to pull myself together before Mom got back. Thank goodness they needed a lot of blood!

I pulled the car up, and we headed out to lunch. Mom is such a foodie, and since we had failed at providing Mom with a high-quality meal the night before, we took her to Mad Mex. By the time I had parked the car, the waiter was bringing a round of margaritas to the table.

I don’t think I’ve ever needed a margarita so much in my LIFE.


About Kathleen

Kathleen Heuer is a serial arts advocate and volunteer. She is the mom of two beautiful girls, wife to a brilliant nuclear engineer, and referee between her golden retriever and her hissy 18-year-old cat. For more, go to
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3 Responses to Kidney Transplant Evaluation Day

  1. ellebee says:

    Ohmygranny…I’ll be praying for your fam, but you especially. Hang in there Kath. Hugs…and breathe!

  2. Pingback: …Aaaand it’s lung cancer. « Sandwiched

  3. Pingback: Out from under the bus | Sandwiched

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