Looking at the news today, it feels like there are a lot of terrible things happening in the world. And there are. War, famine, pestilence, death (the four horsemen of the apocalypse … uh-oh). Climate change. Poverty. Greed. Hate. Fear.

When the bad things in the world seem too big (which is a lot of the time for me), I try to focus on the small good things that are closer to home. And I do have a good thing to report. Regular readers may remember my friend Ted, who was in need of a kidney transplant and who was going to be difficult to find a match for. And I don’t use the word “miracle” lightly, but for once, the universe cut us a break. A few weeks ago, Ted got a kidney.

The gift came from a deceased donor in (of all places!) South Carolina. That’s all we know. As far as I am concerned, this person is a hero and they will have a fan club in Maine for the rest of the century. This kidney may be one of the best things to come out of South Carolina since pecan pie. But the flavor is bittersweet. A community in Maine is celebrating while halfway down the Eastern Seaboard, a family is grieving. I’m all too familiar with the feeling, and so I pray for them. I pray they are granted comfort and healing. And if any of my readers have been in that position, I pray for your comfort and healing as well. May your loved one be as honored as Ted’s donor.

As for me, I am continuing my quest to be a living kidney donor. And if you’re thinking, “Gee, hasn’t she been going at this for a while,” the answer is: Yes, yes, I sure have. The Maine Transplant Program is going over me with the finest-toothed comb. Any possible health issue must be thoroughly followed up on.

I went in recently for my second-round draft interview, where I met with the nephrologist and the surgeon and got some imaging done. The chest X-ray (to check my respiratory system) was fine. The EKG (to check my heart) came out abnormal until the nurse realized my age had not been entered into the machine, and so the EKG unit decided I was 50 years old. My numbers would have been abnormal for a 50-year-old, but once the computer was told my real age, it declared me cardiologically fine. I also had a CT scan done, which revealed a few minor issues. My kidneys look fine, but apparently my left renal vein is “retroaortic”: It weaves behind my aorta, instead of in front of it. This is a random anatomical variation found in approximately 2 percent of the population, and it hasn’t caused me any problems yet, but it does complicate the standard surgery plan a bit.

The CT scan also revealed a 3-centimeter cyst on one of my ovaries. Given my age and family history, it is most likely benign. Most likely. I’ll be getting an ultrasound done in a few weeks to investigate further. As a woman approaching 30 who is really starting to feel the ol’ biological clock’s alarm go off, I’m trying not to think about it too much, or I’m liable to go full “chicken with its head cut off” panic mode. On the bright side, my liver is in great shape, which is a big relief, since I spent a few years beating the crap out of it with boxed wine.

When I started this process, my primary goal was to get Ted a kidney. That has been accomplished (with no help from me). My goal is now to use my extra kidney to assist as many people as possible, as best as I can. If I pass all the imaging tests, and if I’m accepted as a donor by the transplant committee, then I will proceed to be matched through the National Kidney Registry. My kidney will go to the person who is the best physical match for it – that is, the person in whose body the kidney is likely to live and function the longest. The “life span” of a kidney that came from a living donor is, on average, 15 to 20 years. Depending on the age of the recipient, a kidney from me could very well last the rest of their life.

Also, donating through the National Kidney Registry gives me, as a donor, access to certain protections and benefits that smaller programs don’t have the resources to offer. And in return, a patient here in Maine will be guaranteed a kidney. (I wanted to make sure of that. After all, I am The MAINE Millennial, and I am committed to staying on-brand in all circumstances.) I already know who they are; the paperwork is in. It’s swapsies – one kidney leaves Maine, one kidney comes to Maine. And if all goes according to plan (and I know, that’s a big “if”), then two families will get to feel the joy and relief that Ted’s family has felt.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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