Hoping to Qualify: Getting Tested

The transplant center wants another urine sample.  An earlier one might have had microscopic amounts of blood in it.  I’ve worried at times about whether I would qualify as a donor, and this is a new excuse to do so.  This same urine issue came up three years ago as part of a routine exam, so I was tested, and it was of no significance.  That is what the nurse on the phone suggested this would be.  I’m spoiled.  Surely my worries are nothing compared to the anxieties of those awaiting a kidney.

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After registering online with the National Kidney Registry last May, I scheduled my annual physical with my doctor.  Fortunately, all but one of the tests that NKR required as a first step could be done as part of this regular exam, right in his office.

It was very encouraging to hear my doctor say that he thought I’d be eligible to donate, as he reminded me that my physicals are always pretty dull – because of my good health.  I have indeed been blessed with that all my life.  In fact, the only time I’ve ever had to stay overnight in a hospital was at the time of my birth.  My gratitude for this is one of my motivations for donating.

The special test was usually for those with suspected kidney problems.  I had to collect, refrigerate and turn in 24 hours of my urine!  When I started to tell Mary Beth about this test, she cut in, “That’s all I want to know.”  So I hid the bright orange jug in the back of the fridge.  If she or the kids ever noticed it, they never said anything.

My test results were sent on to the NKR medical board for review.  Meanwhile, I made the mistake of trying to figure them out myself.  I had a slightly high BUN ratio (whatever that was)!  This might be due to decreased blood flow to the kidneys (according to something online)!  My worries increased.  A month went by.  But I remembered that Diane’s email said to be patient.

Diane, the donor relations director at NKR and a donor herself, has been both knowledgeable and supportive throughout.  On July 14 I was about to call her when the email arrived from her that I had been eagerly waiting for.  I was approved to go on to the next step.  I felt relieved, a lot more confident that I would eventually qualify.  I checked the NKR online list of participating transplant centers and chose one for what was next:  a new round of tests.

These tests were more extensive, so I appreciated that the transplant center I chose allowed many of the tests to be done at my nearby local hospital:  a chest x-ray, an EKG, and a treadmill stress test.  While waiting for the latter, I looked at a golf magazine.  Waiting rooms gave me a chance to read things I’d never otherwise read.  I recalled a golf class taken in college.  Never very athletic, it was an easy way to fulfill part of my college phys ed requirement.  Once a golf instructor asked if he could play along with me at the municipal course.  He shot four over par.  I shot four times par – and that was before I realized I was supposed to count the times I swung and missed.  He was a good sport about it.

A renal CT scan confirmed that I do indeed have two kidneys (not everyone does).  Numerous blood tests followed over the next few months.

More than four times out of five, the medical staff (and all people, for that matter) had the same two questions.  The wording varied but basically they asked who I was donating to and why.  These were natural questions, and I had my short answers handy.

One nurse’s response especially stood out. After three or four “Wonderful!” exclamations, she told her story.  She had married a patient of hers who was on dialysis -five hours a day, three days a week.  He then received a live kidney from his father.  Unfortunately, the transplant, which took place more than thirty years ago, didn’t succeed, and her husband died of kidney failure at the age of thirty.

When leaving, at the point I’d normally give the medical person a quick thank you, instead she thanked me in a very heartfelt way.  Driving home, with moist eyes I thought of her loss – so vivid after all these years – and her appreciation.  I sensed that this journey I was on could be a very emotional one.

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About Ray Mueller

Husband, father, Christian, pro-life, kidney donor, video producer & editor
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