My aunt received a new(ish) kidney today, courtesy of a very dear friend of the family. (We’ve always said that Jeanne was part of the family – and now she really and truly is!) My aunt was the third family member to receive a kidney transplant. The first was my uncle, who received a kidney from another uncle in March 2002. The second was my mom, who received a kidney from a ‘cadaver donor’ in September 2006. In all three cases, the new kidney means a new lease on life – a chance to live free of dialysis.
But why all the transplants? Because my family has been affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease – one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases. It affects approximately 1 in every 500 people. It does not skip a generation and parents with the disease have a 50 percent chance of passing the disease on to each of their children.
Over time, the number and size of the cysts will increase, along with the size of the kidneys. Whilst a normal, healthy kidney is the size of a fist, a PKD-riddled kidney can grow to the size of a football, weighing several pounds.
There is no cure. But with proper diet, exercise, and care (including the ever-important issue of keeping blood pressure low) the progression of the disease can be slowed. Ultimately, someone with PKD will need dialysis and/or a transplant at some point.
Four of my parents’ six daughters have the condition – including me. And the next generation of my family is also affected by it. And the odds are that the one after that will be affected, too.
I won’t get on my soapbox about organ donation, because if you know me, you already know my views. But I encourage you to learn as much about organ, tissue, and blood donation as you can and make an informed decision as to if it is right for you. And be certain to let your next-of-kin know your wishes, because they will ultimately make the decision for you should you die.
But, back to my aunt and the amazing Jeanne. The entire family is so pleased that such a wonderful woman has done such a wonderful thing. I know that my teenaged cousins are pleased to know that their mom will be up and running around with the vigor and excitement she once had. I know my mom will be pleased to have her sister around for years to come. And I know that everyone will always know that a woman who didn’t have to sacrifice so much did – with nothing to gain other than the knowledge that she’s given the gift of life.
Thank you, Jeanne. We all love you more than you may ever know!