This is a continuation of the story of Sally who received a kidney transplant in September, 2009. The story is told by her husband, Greg. [The couple’s first names have been changed at their request.]
“Last night Sally received a call at about 9:20 pm to report to Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Some of you have known from past conversations that she is a kidney dialysis patient. She had to go back on dialysis in August, 2003, after her first transplant failed from chronic organ rejection after 11-1/2 years.
“There have been many emotional roller-coasters for us these past 4+ years, as she has been called in on several prior occasions (I think 8 times), admitted to the hospital, had a dozen tubes of blood taken each time for testing, only to be told after a 10 to 12 hour wait, ‘we’re sorry, but the cross-match test results did not work in your favor.’ This time the results were negative. A negative cross match test is a great result, because it means that her immune system will not respond too vigorously to antigens present in the donor kidney. This was her major hurdle to get past. They still needed to harvest the kidney from the donor and physically inspect it to make sure that it was in good condition.
“I am very happy to report that she went into surgery a few hours ago to receive this donated kidney. The operation is expected to last another couple of hours. I think she will be out of surgery sometime between 6:00 to 7:00 pm this evening. It is now 4:20 pm. I’m not sure how long it will be before she is alert enough to hold a conversation. I’m in the waiting room right now. My request to anyone who feels so inclined is to please say a prayer for Sally that there will not be an acute rejection and that she will fully recover. Despite the very sensitive screening tests that they perform, there is still a risk of rejection either immediately, or within a few days or weeks. Once one gets past a month or so, the chances of an acute rejection go way down.”
Greg continues the story a few hours later.
“Sally’s surgeon is William Marks, MD, PhD, the medical director at Swedish’s organ transplant program. He finished the operation at about 7:50 pm and then came up to the room to talk with me. He says that it may take up to a month for her new kidney to ‘wake-up’ and start fully functioning. The donor was not yet brain-dead when his/her family decided to donate the organs. Protocol requires that the transplant team wait until the heart stops beating before they can start recovering organs for transplantation. There is some period of time–I’m not sure how long–when the kidneys have no blood circulation and begin to shut down. However, Dr. Marks is confident that the kidney will recover now that it is getting adequate blood flow from Sally’s circulatory system. Sally will need to remain on dialysis until her new kidney starts functioning with enough output.
A tired but smiling Dr. William Marks after the successful surgery. Photo by Greg
“Sally and I don’t know anything about the donor at this point in time, due to privacy rules, other than the person was local to the Seattle area. It is our hope to be able to thank the donor’s surviving family members in person, sometime in the future, for their gracious actions during a time that must be very stressful for them.”
The third and final part of the story describes Sally’s post-surgery recovery process.