Name: Shari Weber
City/Town: Cincinnati, Ohio
Current Age: 47
Occupation: Director of Billing Services; Group Exercise Instructor
Date of Donation: February 11, 2014
Hospital and Location: The Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio
Did you know your recipient?
Yes, he is my husband. ☺
What made you decide to donate?
No brainer—my husband needed a kidney transplant. His family is very small (only one sibling, not many cousins, etc.) and many of them also had the genetic kidney disease. His brother was not eligible to donate. His mother, who was also suffering the same disease, was also looking for a donation.
Was it a tough decision?
Not for me. My husband didn’t want me to get tested. He was too scared something would happen to one of us during the surgery, and we have three children. Also, our daughter has the same disease and he worried that she may need my kidney one day. We argued for a bit about me getting tested. Then I called the hospital to set up testing (thinking I would do it behind his back just to see if I matched) and they told me that he needed to come within a short time of my tests. So much for being sneaky! I convinced him that we should at least see if I match. So we went together and got tested! Once I found out I was a match, I was all in. I took that as a sign from God that I was meant to do this.
What were your biggest concerns about donating?
That something would happen to one of us during the surgery, or that it wouldn’t work once in his body. We also had some other issues—during testing I was diagnosed with a blood disorder (Factor 11 deficiency), which meant I could have trouble clotting. The team at Christ wasn’t sure about proceeding, but I went to a hematologist and he came up with a plan that they ultimately approved. I would have a blood transfusion before the surgery and also after to be sure all was OK.
How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to donate?
They were all very supportive. I did have one friend that didn’t want me to do it. She was afraid something could happen to me and then my kids would be without a mother.
How did your surgery go?
It went well—just as planned, thank God. They told us that my kidney started working in him immediately! The surgery took about four hours.
What was your recovery like while you were in the hospital?
Recovery was tough. I won’t sugarcoat it. I remember waking up in ICU in tremendous pain—it felt like my ab muscles were having major spasms, kind of like a charlie horse on lots of steroids. They gave me medication and I remember it getting better pretty quickly.
My parents were there and told me Jeff was already sitting up and asking for a popsicle. Not me. I didn’t want to move, or even talk about eating or drinking. I had a few prior surgeries and every time I get anesthesia, I get nauseous. They knew this and were prepared to treat me. But it still happened. I remember the ICU nurse being pretty assertive with me, trying to get me to sit up and even to get up and go to the bathroom. I wasn’t having any of that. My ab muscles were just so sore. I did not like that nurse.
Finally, I was able to get out of bed and use the bathroom. They brought Jeff in to see me and he looked so great. He was doing awesome! Then we were moved to the kidney floor. We were in rooms next to each other. I slept a lot for the first day or so. I didn’t really have much appetite and had a hard time getting up and going to the bathroom. But slowly I did it. We would walk the halls together—Jeff a bit faster and a bit happier. We celebrated Valentine’s Day with Jeff pulling his IV pole into my room and we had our wonderful hospital dinners together! Because I had to have a blood transfusion after the surgery, I ended up staying four days. Jeff and I actually went home together on Saturday (Tuesday was surgery).
What was your recovery like at home?
Home wasn’t too bad. We were so blessed that my parents stayed at our house with us for two weeks to help with the kids and household chores. We had awesome friends and neighbors who supplied us with weeks of dinners! We rested a lot. The Olympics were on so we spent a lot of time watching TV. I only took pain meds the first night. I just relied on Tylenol. I remember walking around my house a few times a day. I did suffer from the gas pains and the constipation. The main thing I remember is it hurting to move from laying to sitting up and to laugh, cough or sneeze.
What was the most difficult part of recovery?
I would say just moving around—from laying to sitting, or from sitting to standing—using those ab muscles.
When did you return to work?
I work at home at a desk, so after two full weeks off, I started doing a little bit of work here and there. A few hours a day for a week or so. I tired easily. After about three weeks, I went back to work full-time. I also teach group exercise classes part-time. I took three full weeks off and then went back but only cued the classes. I wasn’t able to participate yet. I didn’t go back to that until about six weeks and it was slow going. After a few weeks though, I was back at it all!
How long was the process from making the first contact about donating until your surgery?
A little over a year. We had some unique circumstances. For one, my husband had non-Hodgkins lymphoma twice before. The transplant team didn’t originally agree to the transplant because of that. His oncologist fought hard and went through a process of engaging the National Tumor Registry and other organizations to convince the team at Christ Hospital. His main argument was that if my husband had a healthy kidney and his cancer came back, he could actually fight it, as opposed to his previous bouts. He was not able to do chemotherapy because of his bad kidneys. He only did radiation, which thankfully worked.
In addition, during my testing, my mammogram wasn’t clear and because it was my first they weren’t sure if it was scar tissue from a previous surgery or something else. I had to wait six months and have another one so they could tell. Thankfully, the second one was exactly the same and I was cleared. Lastly, with my blood testing, they discovered the Factor 11 deficiency. Once again, the team at Christ Hospital wasn’t sure about approving me. Once I saw the hematologist and he worked up a plan and presented it to them, we were finally setting a date!
Is there anything about being a kidney donor that's surprised you?
Not really. I had a friend of a friend reach out to me prior to the surgery, as she had donated to her mother a few years back. She told me everything and I felt like the team at Christ Hospital fully prepared me.
Would you do it again?
Yes, definitely! We have two kidneys and only need one. Why not?! I’ve personally known a few people that needed a kidney since and only wished I had more to give to help them too.