Name: Nicole Harris
City/Town: Cincinnati, Ohio
Current Age: 33
Occupation: Registered Nurse
Date of Donation: May 15, 2012
Hospital and Location: The Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio
Did you know your recipient?
Yes, the recipient was my mom.
What made you decide to donate?
I knew from the very beginning that I was a match for my mom. Everyone in my family got tested, and either was not a match or got excluded for medical reasons. However, she was against taking a kidney from one of her children and was very adamant about that. My mom’s journey with dialysis though was not easy, and the waiting list for a deceased donor kidney was 5-7 years (which we knew she did not have in her current state of health).
Many people know that dialysis keeps someone alive, however, they don’t know that it often is the very thing that begins to kill them as well—both physically and mentally. My mom had to retire from her job as a teacher, which she loved, in order to be able to attend dialysis three days a week. Traveling was difficult for her. The graft in her arm for dialysis access was difficult for the dialysis staff to access and the idea of having other people in charge of her lifeline other than the regular staff was less than appealing.
She loved to travel. Trips to Florida every year were what she worked for, but those became very difficult and unenjoyable. Her vasculature system quickly crumbled under the difficult pressure of dialysis and she had several lower intestinal bleeds. All of these issues and others not mentioned could be traced back to dialysis.
Finally, after my mother was in the ICU for the countless time, being given her last rights, I had had enough. I called up the transplant coordinator at Christ Hospital and began moving forward with the testing to be able to donate. While I originally knew I was a match, there was still a plethora of medical tests to undergo to ensure safe and successful transplantation for my mother and donation for me. She also had to heal and recover from her most recent setback. Once she was home and I was officially approved, I basically told my parents, this is what we were going to do and that was that!
Was it a tough decision?
This was by far the easiest decision I have ever made. The doctors on her case were pretty clear that if she did not receive a kidney soon, she would most likely never be able to due to her continued declining health. My mother was a wonderful woman, and it was terrible to see her suffer. She put everyone else first always, and it was my turn to do something for her.
What were your biggest concerns about donating?
I was 27 years old when I donated and a single mother. The only time I was a little concerned was when my dad told me I needed to have a will made in case something terrible happened during surgery. I had to plan for what would happen to my son. While this is something that really everyone should have, it was a daunting task.
How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to donate?
They were supportive and happy for my mom to have a normal life again.
How did your surgery go?
My surgery went as planned.
What was your recovery like while you were in the hospital?
I was in the hospital for a very minimal time. I had a lot of pain immediately after surgery, but after the first night, it was under control.
What was your recovery like at home?
It was not bad—I just took it easy for a while and tried to lay low as best as possible.
What was the most difficult part of recovery?
Letting someone else help me with things. Since my mom was still in the hospital and I needed help with my son, my friend came to stay with me. I’m very independent, so it was tough to rely on someone else for transportation, meals for myself and my son, etc.
My mom had some complications after the transplant and required additional surgeries not related to the function of the kidney. It was very difficult to not be at the hospital for those times.
When did you return to work?
Due to the nature of my job at the time I was off for a full six weeks.
How long was the process from making the first contact about donating until your surgery?
Not very long—about four weeks
Is there anything about being a kidney donor that's surprised you?
This is one of those topics that unless it directly effects you or someone you know, you don’t really think about it. The overwhelming need for donors, in general, is what surprised me once I really became aware of the need for organ donors.
Would you do it again?
In a heartbeat.