Many factors can influence how long your relief pitcher will stay in the game, such as your age and overall health, whether the kidney came from a live donor or a cadaver, how long you've been on dialysis, and the number of voodoo curses that have been placed on you recently. But beyond that, you're essentially rolling the dice as far as how long you've got until your new kidney shrivels out of existence like a High School Musical star.
After the surgery, the doctors immediately begin monitoring your kidney function to make sure it's actually working, because even with the anti-rejection drugs, your body can still reject the kidney. You can also suffer from a disease called graft versus host, wherein immune cells from the donor stow away in the kidney like plague rats and then start attacking your body once the organ is dropped inside. Even if you manage to dodge all of those complications, sometimes the damn kidney just refuses to work, and nobody knows why.
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"What do we want?"
"When do we want it?"
"After an increase in plasma osmotic pressure!"
It's been a few years since my transplant, and my kidney is still working like a champ. Another guy I met during this whole process had gotten a kidney from his stepsister only four or five years prior and was already showing early signs of kidney failure, so it really boils down to the luck of the draw.
Otherwise, all you can do is watch and wait. Six months ago, I got to feeling bad enough that I went back to the hospital. When I got there, the doctors diagnosed me with sepsis, which is the final stage of an infection before your organs begin to shut down. I had gotten a minor kidney infection that was exacerbated by the anti-rejection drugs and had spiraled out of control. It would have been easy to treat if it had been caught early, so why didn't I go to the doctor as soon as I started feeling like shit? Simple: I had forgotten that feeling awful wasn't a normal way of life.
"Wait, you guys don't feel like absolute shit all the time?"
By the time of my transplant, I had been living with declining kidney function for a decade. I was used to being swollen and puffy from all the fluid my body was retaining, I was accustomed to the general malaise that comes from your blood having dangerous levels of toxins, and excruciating kidney pain from ruptured cysts was just another day of the week to me. I had lived in agony for so long that I'd forgotten that feeling terrible is your body's way of telling you something is very wrong.
But, over time, you gradually start to remember what it means to be healthy. I was out to lunch with some friends, and I suddenly realized that I didn't hurt anymore. My medications were no longer making me sick, I had a healthy kidney doing its job and keeping my body clean (no need for robo-vampires, thank you), and I was able to enjoy the sun on my skin and the company of my friends, free from distracting pain or sickness. I actually felt good, which was a nice change of pace for me. All it took was a chunk of living meat carved out of my mother's body and an impossible amount of luck.
Now if only she would stop holding a knife and rubbing my side while I'm sleeping.
This article was constructed from an interview conducted by Chris Radomile. Chris writes for his website and tweets. He also hosts a podcast that is still legal in most states. You can find Angela's musings at The Amusing Ingenue.
Related Reading: Kidneys aren't the only organ that come with a warning sign, apparently disembodied brains are extremely dangerous. Or that your nurse might be stealing your pain medication? And did you know that near-death experiences are pretty overrated and painful? Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
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