Name: Brian Baiocchi
City/Town: San Clemente, California
Current Age: 27
Date of Donation: August 6, 2013
Hospital and Location: University of Chicago
Did you know your recipient?
I didn't know my recipient at the time of donation. I donated altruistically as part of a kidney swap. My recipient's daughter wasn't a match for her mom, so she donated to someone she didn't know, and I donated to her mom. I talked with my donor a few months after surgery and met her and her family three years later.
What made you decide to donate?
I thought about donating when I was fairly young after seeing a sports celebrity who passed away while waiting for a liver donation. My parents told me to wait until I was older to think about donating (any organ).
In 2012 my father got very ill, and at the time we thought he might need a liver transplant. When that potential idea came up, family and friends came forward saying they were willing to get tested to see if they would be a match for a transplant. Unfortunately, he passed away from cancer soon after being admitted to the hospital.
Because of that willingness of others to help my father, I wanted to fulfill my earlier idea of being able to donate. I first looked into liver donation, but many hospitals will not take living liver donors, especially altruistically. The hospitals redirected me to donate a kidney. I looked into the process and how many people are needing a kidney and pursued that route.
Was it a tough decision?
After doing some research and talking with the doctors, it seemed like a pretty easy process and felt like it was an easy decision to go forward with donating.
What were your biggest concerns about donating?
I wasn't super concerned for myself during this process but did think of the impact it would have on my family. I know they were nervous for me and I could understand where they were coming from. I felt at ease during the process, as it felt like it was the right thing to do all along.
How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to donate?
My family was very supportive of this decision I made. They asked me what motivated me to want to do this and understood my motives.
How did your surgery go?
I remember the toughest part was to wake up early for surgery day. We needed to be at the hospital at 5:45 am, and it was a little over an hour drive. Besides that, everything went pretty smooth. I had surgery on a Tuesday morning and left the hospital Thursday afternoon.
What was your recovery like while you were in the hospital?
The recovery in the hospital was not too bad overall. There were a few times I had some discomfort during the first night. They did stress that I should move around the next day, which I wanted no part of. The lethargy set in, and all I wanted was to sit in bed all day. I would highly recommend getting up and moving around as much as possible because that gas (from being put under) will just sit there if you don’t get moving!
What was your recovery like at home?
Make sure you have your house set up for a few days before you start to get moving around a little better. The first night or two your stomach muscles are very weak, and your bladder can fill up fast. That, with the combination of not being able to move quickly, can lead to a few close calls in the middle of the night!
I did not take any of the prescribed pain medications at home and only took over-the-counter pain medication a few times. I had a shoulder surgery a few years prior and had issues with pain medication then, so wanted to steer clear of that. The shoulder surgery I felt was more painful, for a longer period than the kidney donation was.
What was the most difficult part of recovery?
The most difficult part was having to slow down and take it easy for a while. I was pretty active before this and had to learn when not to push it. I did have some phases of getting dizzy when I would get up too quickly from laying down or sitting. The doctors said that this was normal. It was something that I obviously wasn’t used to but had to learn to deal with it for some time.
When did you return to work?
I had to fly across the country to start another semester of college less than three weeks after the surgery. I flew a little over two weeks after surgery and started classes a few days after that. The doctors would have preferred I had more time before going, but understood the circumstances, and fit in two follow-ups before leaving.
How long was the process from making the first contact about donating until your surgery?
The process was about 10 months from first looking into donating to surgery day. This process was also prolonged because I was out of state at school during half of this time period. It started in October, and over winter break I went in for some initial testing, then again when summer break started. During the summer they were trying to coordinate a donation chain and find a match, so that took a bit of time too, to set everything up.
Is there anything about being a kidney donor that's surprised you?
I think people would be surprised how easy it is. I was fortunate to have awesome doctors, nurses and hospital staff to help me with the process. When you put in perspective the amount of time that you put in and the small amount of pain/discomfort you endure for changing someone’s life forever, it is a no-brainer. Most people don’t realize the number of people who are waiting for a donation. They also don’t realize how difficult the lives’ are of people that are on dialysis.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely. It is always great to hear how the recipient is doing and how the donation changed her life.