One Year with One Kidney
Victoria Threadgould, Director of Grants at The Seton Fund, shares her second installment of her kidney donation journey. In short, nothing has changed, yet everything has changed! Read more about this past year in the post below. Also, be sure to check out her first post, which covers pre-donation and surgery.
February 14th is Valentine’s day. It is also National Donor Day. It was established in 1998 and is an observance dedicated to spreading awareness and education about organ, eye and tissue donation. I’ll be celebrating National Donor Day, as February marks one year with one kidney! So much has happened over the past year, but as I think about life with one kidney, it’s pretty much the same as life with two kidneys.
The recovery was a process, but thankfully it passed quite quickly. Recovering from kidney surgery was much easier than when I broke my jaw 10 years ago and had to have it wired shut for six weeks! Six weeks after donating a kidney, I was back to my usual exercise routine: running, cycling, and Pilates.
What I never expected after donating was the amazing love and support I received from everyone who heard about my story! My Ascension colleagues, Seton Fund supporters, friends and family, and the Abdominal Transplant Center were always keen to hear how I was doing.
Donating a kidney has opened up a whole new community of people in my life. I’m amazed at the living donor community and how everyone is a selfless advocate for organ donation. I’m now a proud member of the Kidney Donor Athlete group, as well as the One Kidney Club! These groups are places where all living donors can share experiences, ask questions, and celebrate achievements. This September, I will take part in an open water relay swim in Florida with a team of living kidney donors. I signed up for the event to embark on a new challenge and meet other living donors.
The most meaningful connection I’ve made since donating is with my recipient, Alana! As a non-directed donor, I started the donation process fully acknowledging and accepting that I may never know who got my kidney. All I hoped for was that the surgery went well and my kidney was transplanted into someone who needed it more than me.
After connecting with my recipient’s mother, who was also recovering from surgery after donating her kidney, I started emailing with Alana. Just like the penpal I used to have as a child, we wrote regularly to get to know each other. We shared stories about our families, jobs, pets, food, travels, buying homes, not having kids, and of course kidneys! As a result of my kidney now becoming Alana’s kidney, she doesn’t have the instinct to run at 6am (yet), but she has developed my sweet tooth! Through Alana, I learned a lot from her experiences as a transplant recipient, her recovery, and the difference in her quality of life pre- and post-surgery.
I also enjoyed communicating with Alana’s mother, Pam, who was kind enough to reach out via the Abdominal Transplant Center and who graciously calls me the “Angel in Austin!” Pam’s kindness transcends generations as Alana sent me beautiful roses to celebrate our 6-month kidney anniversary!
At the beginning of February, my husband and I traveled to New York City where we met Alana, Pam, and Alana’s husband in-person. We shared hugs, laughs and stories about our respective surgeries. I know it won’t be the last time we meet!
I continue to stay in touch with the Abdominal Transplant Center – whether emailing as a patient with the latest race I’ve just run, or as a grant professional asking about their funding needs.
At the end of 2022, the Abdominal Transplant Center completed 8 donor surgeries and 8 transplant surgeries. Grant funding has helped transplant recipients with medication co-pays and other financial needs.
The center was also able to use grant funds to purchase iPads for transplant and living donor education, and to create a series of patient education videos. At the end of the year, Project Bell generously gifted transplant bells to celebrate new beginnings. In 2023, the center plans to double the number of surgeries. They also want to install a living donor recognition wall in their clinic. I look forward to helping the whole transplant team meet their goals. I am their number one fan!