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Living Kidney Donor | Living Donor Awareness and Art

The special green piece, what is it? December is when I became a Living Donor. As a Living Kidney Donor, I paint a piece special to my heart bringing awareness to organ donation.

Living Kidney Donor | Living Donor Awareness and Art

It has been 4 months since I gave one of the most important gifts I will ever give to another human being. My kidney. Kim is one of my good friends who I met through our military journey. I met Kim 2 years ago when we moved to Cheyenne, WY. All of us knew Kim was sick and that she was on the waiting list for a kidney, jokingly I told her she could have my kidney. We laughed it off, but if you know me you know I never offer things or promise things I don’t mean.

When Things Got Serious

Fast forward a year and a half and Kim’s condition was getting worse and worse. Kim’s transplant wait had extended to 5 years. Doctors gave Kim un December 2017 to find a kidney. As of last summer, Kim could no longer kayak or take part in karate and kickboxing with her family. She was exhausted and out of breath most of time. Without a new kidney, she could die.

To truly understand what was happening I need to tell you about Kim, she was dealt a bad hand genetically. Kim was born with IgA nephropathy. On top of the kidney disease, Kim was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was a child, she also suffers from Lupus. 10 years ago Kim’s situation became very dire, so much so that she had a double transplant, a kidney from her mother and a pancreas from a deceased donor. Within about 7-8 years she started having trouble again. She had a stroke two years ago, due to the high blood pressure caused by her kidney disease. At this point Kim couldn’t wait for a kidney on the transplant list any longer.

Though Kim was struggling, few people knew about her condition. Fewer still knew how serious it was. Kim is quiet and reserved. Her focus extends outward, on caring for others, naturally as a cardiac nurse, others always come before her along with her family, friends and co-workers. One pattern I have noticed with anyone I have met that is truly truly sick, they never tell you how bad it really is.

In an interview with a local magazine Kim stated “I was doing my best to keep on with life, but it was getting harder and harder.”

The Ask

Normally “the ask” is that of someone who NEEDS the organ, not the other way around. This time it was the other way around, I asked the questions. Knowing Kim and knowing she was sick but never really told us how bad it was, I said “don’t bullshit me Kim, tell me how bad it is”, she said “I have until December”.

Kim has two boys 6 and 16; I just thought I couldn’t let these boys lose their mom. When I found out that Kim was told by her doctors that she could no longer wait for a kidney from the list but needed to actively find a donor I was heartbroken. Could you imagine asking ANYONE for that sacrifice? Something drove me to feel like I was meant to do this, so without even thinking I wrote Kim and “I ASKED” what I needed to do. I am sure she thought I was just one of those well meaning people that offer help but never really means it. NOT ME!

I wish I had this magical reasoning that so many people want as to WHY I made this decision, but I just DID. Now I am not a religious person and Kim is so, I let her pray and believe as she wanted to, I just chalked it up to the fact that we were meant to be where we were, together at this moment in time.

Living Kidney Donor Journey

Immediately I knew that I was a high candidate to be a living kidney donor. Donating blood is something I have always done because I am O- blood type which is a universal donor. I don’t smoke, drink, do drugs. As a runner I was rather healthy. So after the initial screening questions, I was given the go ahead and it was time to get down and dirty.

The first step was to go through a battery of tests, to determine my health status and to see if one of my kidneys would be a good match. I went down to Aurora, Colorado’s UCHealth. They took 17 vials of blood from me. I was tested for everything and I mean everything! Even finding out at some point in my life I had Mono, yup never knew that. In the end the results showed that I was in picture perfect health.

The results also showed that Kim and I had three genetic markers in common, that is really unheard of for two non-related individuals. It is very important as to the rejection or acceptance of the new organ.

Before we celebrate I need to tell you about the “hiccup”

The Hiccup

Further tests showed that my donor kidney had three renal arteries. Surgeons were concerned that third artery might disqualify me from donating to Kim, whose kidney only had two renal arteries. It was unclear if that extra artery might cause problems. The transplant team asked if me would consider donating her kidney to someone else. At this point I really felt like I was supposed to do this for Kim. I asked them if there was any way they could make this work. There was one way,  Kim could undergo a procedure that could potentially put her already failing kidney into total failure. The Nephrologist who cared for Kim was not willing to put her at risk. Kim felt the same way I did, she begged him to please allow her. Kim KNEW she would be fine. She was. After that they were able to do something called “mapping” where they take my images and Kim’s images and overlap them to literally “map out” the arteries.

The Call

I remember the day I got the call, I was sitting on the floor painting a piece of furniture. They told me that they had good news for me. That I could donate my kidney to Kim.

I called Kim at work and I think my exact words were “Hey girl, you want my kidney? It’s yours!” Kim was given until Dec 2017 to find a kidney and we went in for surgery on the 5th of Dec. Giving Kim my kidney was one of the most amazing decisions I have EVER made, we didn’t see each other for a month after the surgery to minimize her exposure to germs and the like. The minute I saw her I could not believe how beautiful and full of life she looked, to me that was all I needed to know she will be okay. Kim is a cardiac nurse and just as stubborn and strong-willed as I am so I believe we were put into each other’s lives by no accident. She is doing amazingly as am I and it was the best experience I could ever ask for. I am proud to say I am a living kidney donor.

Living Kidney Donor Piece

Kidney Disease is identified with a green ribbon. So for the month of my donation I will be doing a special piece in green and auctioning it off to the highest bidder, ALL of the proceeds will be donated to The National Kidney Foundation.  I chose to do a piece of furniture that is green. Here is my piece completed.

One of the first steps of this piece was to remove the original hardware, I always remove the hardware on my pieces before I start prepping them or working on them. After removing the hardware I sand down the piece, if there are parts of the piece that need to be wood filled or reinforced or repaired I do that at this point as well. This piece was almost perfect and need very little prep or repair.

In order to achieve the subtle ombre look on this piece I mixed the following colors and in this order from bottom to top.

Dixie Belle Mineral Chalk Paint

  1.  Caviar and Evergreen 1:1 Mix

  2. Evergreen

  3. Kudzu and Evergreen 1:1 Mix

  4. Kudzu (These are affiliate links)

After painting and letting the paint dry thoroughly I applied Artisan Enhancements  Leaf and Foil Sizing, after that became tacky I applied the copper leaf. I replaced the original hardware with real copper piping to add a special uniqueness and to ensure the piece would be a one of a kind on top of all of the other special elements. I also had my little helpers hanging out with me while I worked.

The last part of this piece was to add shading with wax, I used Sweet Pickins Dark Wax.

This piece has found it’s forever home already and I could not be more thrilled but it was a tough descison to actually put it up for sale. It means a lot to me and well it’s just a unique piece that was made with a lot of love.

Here is Kim and I in April 2018. (Four months after surgery)