Today we’re proud to bring you the latest chapter of our Illinois Donor Diaries. Thank you Pam!
My name is Pam. My story begins when I was only 19-years-old.
I dealt with extreme fatigue and at times joints that hurt so bad, I could not move without pain. One morning, I woke up and instantly new something was wrong. My thighs had ballooned three times their normal size and I could not see my feet. I immediately went to the emergency room, where a series of tests revealed that I had kidney failure. My kidneys were working at less than 17% at that time!
I was diagnosed with Lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies that essentially attack the body itself. This causes inflammation, pain and damage to various organs. There was no cure for the damage already done to my kidneys, but the doctors were able to “control” the progress of the disease temporarily. At that point, my doctor my told me I would need a kidney transplant within a couple of years.
A kidney transplant was about the furthest thing from my mind. I was 20-years-old and my life was just beginning. I lived on my own, had a job and attended college. This did not fit into my “plan”. I felt I would be fine if I just kept positive thoughts and watched my health closely. I didn’t even look sick!
Nearly ten years later, I became anemic, had little energy and my kidney function was rapidly decreasing. At that point, I had two kids and was running my own small business. I just could not keep up.
I did as much research as I could about transplantation. As a recipient, a huge commitment is made when you accept an organ. You want the transplant to be successful and you do everything you can to make it so. I decided to go through the process and was listed on the transplant waiting list.
The next year I started dialysis. My kidney function had decreased to such a dangerous level that I risked death without dialysis. I went to sessions three times a week for three and a half hours each session while the machines cleaned my blood. I had opted for in center dialysis because I did not want my kids to see their mom hooked up to a machine. After a year and a half of this routine, I received the call that changed my life.
At 2 a.m. on May 22, 2007, I received a call from the transplant hospital. There had been a family who, in a time of great loss, decided their loved ones organs would be donated to someone in need. I was one of those lucky ones that day!
I have been in contact with that family, now my donor family. We have exchanged letters. In my letter, I expressed my deepest gratitude and let them know how well I am doing. In their letter, I was told that my donor, Mark, was an outstanding member of the community and a police officer. Mark’s wife wrote, “We miss him dearly but it gives us great comfort that he was able to give life to others. To hear how it has changed your life and that you are doing well helps to ease the pain.”
Organ donation gave comfort to a grieving family. Organ donation gave me a second chance at life. Be an organ donor.