“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ … If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
March 14th was World Kidney Day and the entire month is designated National Kidney Month.
I’ll admit that if you had said this sentiment to me five years ago, I may have smiled, given a quick “Yay!” and continued with my tightly planned day. However, life has a way of altering perspective and drastically switching things up; case in point, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the extreme care and practice that doctors have put into kidney research and healing.
In case you’re a bit behind on the latest in kidney exploration, here are a few facts for you directly from the National Kidney Foundation:
– Kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the country.
– More than 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD), and most don’t know it.
– Of the 123,000 Americans currently on the organ transplant list, 101,000 of them are in need of a kidney.
– The average wait-time for a kidney transplant is 3.6 years.
– In 2014, about one-third of the 17,000 kidney transplants that took place came from living donors.
– Every day, 12 people die waiting for a kidney.
Now that you’re caught up, let’s bring this to a personal level.
On March 1, 2014 I was hit as a pedestrian by a semi-truck moving 65 miles per hour. The devastation is hard to comprehend. My first hospital stay was three and a half months long with seven weeks of that in critical condition in an ICU. If I had died, my organs would have been donated to someone in need. I’ve always believed in the value of organ donation. My husband and three kids however are so very grateful that I survived. Unfortunately, my kidney function didn’t survive. Doctors kept saying that they ‘should’ come back, but by the end of the year we were talking about transplant eligibility. I was devastated and sick with kidney function hovering around 13%. Because of additional surgeries it was June 2015 before I was put “on the list.”
I was blessed to find out that my 36-year-old baby brother, Matt, was a perfect match and he stepped up as a living donor. However, we quickly found out that Matt is 1% of the population that has multiple renal arteries connecting to his kidneys instead of the usual 1. Combine that with my extensive scar tissue and we’ve got a case that no doctor wanted to touch… or so we thought.
Enter the University of Maryland Medical Center and Dr. Stephen Bartlett.
According to Dr. Bartlett, “Kidney transplants using live donors with multiple renal arteries, an otherwise harmless anatomical irregularity affecting small numbers of people, comprise only about a dozen of the many hundreds of total kidney transplants done at UMMC each year.”
This is where courage takes the spotlight in leadership.
One cannot be a genuine leader if they do not make it a priority to put others before themselves. Whether it means placing your team’s priorities above your own, putting aside your personal happiness for the greater good or literally sacrificing a part of your body to save another, a true leader cannot act without a great amount of courage.
I was honored to witness acts of courage from leaders of all levels during this dangerous kidney transplant. My brother showed leadership by offering himself as a living donor, a surgery that is almost, if not equal to, that of the receiver of the organ. The team at UMMC showed courage in trusting the leadership of Dr. Bartlett who exercised true valor in taking on an unstable and perceivably hopeless case.
I encourage you to be courageous and consider being an organ donor. Whether it is a wish you have for after death or if you want to take a step further and become a living donor, I dare you to be brave and help save a life. Below are plenty of resources about organ donation and transplant. I’ve also included ways to get involved in National Kidney Month.
Have a great day and remember to love your kidneys!