Fifteen years ago (Actually started on 8/15 and ending on 8/16) I was notified while hooked up to a dialysis machine in Omaha, Nebraska, that I was a possible match for a cadaver kidney for transplantation. I remember I was feeling so worn out and tired. I was 135 pounds, at 5’9″, more skeletal than anything. The ride to the University of Nebraska Medical Center was a short one from the Dialysis Clinic I was at in North Omaha. The past year I had been through all the testing (and wow, do they test!). There were lung scans, lung capacity tests, endless blood tests, treadmill tests, tissue biopsies and so on.
When I met the transplant team, they were all excited, saying that I was actually 7th in line for the transplant. Out of all the patients, I was ‘the closest match possible’ and that I matched the blood and tissue types almost perfectly, an astronomical percentage. I was so dazed that I could barely keep up with what was going on around me.
About 12 hours later, I woke up in some ICU ward, with a catheter coming out my penis to a bag. It would be the first time my body produced urine in over two years. I describe how I felt coming out of anesthesia and surgery in my short biography, Silver Linings on Dark Clouds, links found on my website, brickoneil.com.
Fifteen years later, my kidney, which I named Oswald Cobblepot (after Danny Devito brilliant performance as the Penguin). I just loved the name and his portrayal. Oswald and I have been through many moves from state to state, city to city. We’ve been through two serious boyfriends and two husbands. Oswald is pockmarked, striated and has tumors, but still going strong. I’ve been on body harming immunosuppressants to keep my body from attacking the foreign object, which led to other, harmful medications with other side effects, just to stay alive.
Has life been easy the past 15 years? No. Has life been worth it the past 15 years? Depending on the day, to be honest. Life after transplantation isn’t easy nor is it for everyone. Would I do it all over again? Probably not. I had the choice whether to live or not when my native kidneys failed in 2001 and I chose to live.
So Happy Birthday to little Oswald Cobblepot!