Live Organ Donation, A Narrative
By Charlie Deitz
Berkshire County – In the second of a two part series on live organ donation, WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz has a story about how a woman got to save her big brother's life, and eventually produced a comic blog about the experience.
Jana Christy is an artist, illustrator, wife and mother living in North Adams. A year ago she was just a few weeks away from helping her big brother Jeff, by making a massive sacrifice, but as we'll hear, it wasn't an easy process for either of them. Jana came into the Berkshire Bureau to speak with Jeff who lives in Rochester, New York, on tape about the undertaking. The background here is that Jeff had been diagnosed with diabetes years ago, and in 2009 put on almost 100 pounds of water weight, he came to find out his kidneys were starting to fail, we pick up where he was regularly going in for dialysis, and he and Jana started to talk more often than they ever had in their adult lives.
"And we pretty much talked from my dialysis chair at least 2 or three days a week, I remember when you first went on dialysis."
It was a few weeks later that Jana got it in her head to encourage Jeff to get on an organ transplant list.
"My turning point was hearing that majority of people on waiting list die waiting for an organ, you needed to get one. That really had no effect on the fact that I wanted to do this, I could wait."
Well Jana couldn't, and wanted to find out if she herself was a match for Jeff. She approached her big brother about the idea, and he refused flat out, not wanting to impose on her like that. She corralled her family to lean on him and still he refused, until one day after a dialysis session.
"And it got to a point where I hung up the phone and nurse came over and saw me crying she asked if I was on the phone with my sister again, she says and I understand you, if the roles were reversed there's no way you would offer your kidney."
That was enough to get Jeff on board, they went through the arduous process of testing and more testing to find out that Jana was basically a perfect match. On May 6th of 2010 they both went into the OR at Rochester Medical, went under, and came out Jana one kidney less and Jeff one more. Jeff wants to make sure that it goes on record that his little sister was the only donor in the hospital's history to be released less than 24 hours after the surgery, he says almost a year later he's doing great.
"Close to phenomenal, I lost apetite now I got my appetite back."
Jeff also admits that the experience helped him to see his sister as an amazing person, one whom previously he thought was a bit daffy in her ways. Jana, who's also doing quite well, turned the whole thing into a blog.
"I sort of journalled the process, I get emails from people who are in some part of the process, having to go through some testing is pretty small for an amazing experience, I have nothing negative to say about it. If they have someone in their life who needs an organ to look into it."
Jana's been contacted numerous times by individuals looking into live donation, and has become somewhat of a spokesperson for the Kidney Foundation. We'll have a link to the blog which she titles "The Kidney Thing" .