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What I’ve Done Over the Past 11 Years With My Gift

On this date in 2003 I had my second kidney transplant.  The first one failed earlier that year.  Unlike the first time, the second one came from a living donor not related to me.  The date was set and I focused on it with anticipation.  There was no waiting for the phone to ring, no mad dash to the hospital.  It’s one aspect of my donor’s generosity that is often overlooked–the fact that I didn’t have to live with so much uncertainty leading up to the big event.

Me and my donor, Connie, summer 2003

After six months of hemodialysis, which made my vision worse (long story) and having to stay with family because I was too sick to be on my own, my life in suspended animation was about to end.  It was as if someone had hit the Pause button and on September 4, 2003 someone hit that button again to restart my life. 

Soon after being released from the hospital I fell into a deep depression.  Now I know that it sometimes happens to people after a major surgery.  That may have been part of it, but for me it had more to do with losing a significant part of my vision while on dialysis.  I’d lost vison before and I’d had kidney failure before, but never at the same time.
I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to do much with my life, even with a kidney transplant.  Take a look at the list below and you’ll see just how wrong I was.  Since 2003 I have:

Learned to live with less vision than I had when the latest round of kidney failure/dialysis/transplant began in early 2003.

Moved back to Fayetteville, where I worked at a full-time job for the first time since my vision loss began in the early 90s.

Joined a critique group and started my writing career.

Published my story of life with Type 1 diabetes and how I adjusted to the challenges it caused.

Published a book of humor about Northwest Arkansas—a place I know and love so well.

Survived cancer.

Traveled to Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Portland.

Reconnected with dozens of old friends from both high schools I attended, as well as friends I knew in the various places I’ve lived since then, via Facebook.

Found success in public speaking.

Recovered from a few hernia surgeries and gall bladder removal.

Learned to live with Type 1 diabetes again after my transplanted pancreas failed.  It gave me 14 years of freedom and I still miss it.

Experienced the mental and emotional advantages/intensity of sorting through all my possessions and letting go of a lot of them.

Moved 2,000 miles and 2 time zones away, to Portland, Oregon just in time for my 50th birthday.

Purchased my first smart phone and learned how to use it.  No simple thing for someone with my eyesight and lack of patience with technology.

Learned how to navigate an unfamiliar but extensive transit system.
Those are all things I couldn’t have (or at least wouldn’t have) done without a working kidney.  It hits the highlights but omits all the little things I have been able to do because of the generosity of another.  I don’t know what the next 11 years will bring, but I know it won’t be dull.

Me August 20, 2014