Verna Needs Some Verve — My Kidney Donation, Part 7

March 14, 2021 | My Jottings

In late January I went down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to have my six month post-nephrectomy checkup. We needed to see how Verna was handling things on her own.

I donated my left kidney Justine to an unknown person in Madison, WI on August 5, 2020, and now I will be checked at six months, one year, and two years at Mayo, then yearly after that with my own doctor. 

If you would like to see my last kidney donation post, click here. I still cringe when I think of nice nurse Steve and what the day started with. I thought I had prepared myself mentally for each upcoming procedure in every way possible, but no one told me part of the prep was what Steve had to do.

I had a full day of appointments beginning at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m. Blood tests, urine tests, appointments with social workers, transplant team coordinators, a nephrology nurse, and a three hour kidney function test where they injected dye into my vein, gave me so many ounces to drink at certain times, then checked my urine multiple times to see how well my remaining kidney Verna functions.

One appointment was to have a continuous blood pressure monitor put on my arm and a small attached machine put in my pocket. This was to take my BP every ten minutes for five hours, so at the end of the day they could tell whether or not Verna had stepped up in Justine’s absence. That “stepping up” is called Hypertrophic Compensation, and I just knew Verna would hypertrophically compensate just fine. Usually after a living donation, the remaining kidney begins to enlarge and do more work. Sometimes the kidney actually doubles in size. I figured once Verna got over the shock of her twin leaving, she’d do what I needed her to do, which is keep my blood pressure in a normal range, make some Vitamin D and some red blood cells, filter out toxins and make urine, plus about seventy three other miraculous things I never knew kidneys did.

I was told to stop walking when the blood pressure monitor went on. There are miles to walk at a Mayo visit (I put on five miles that day) from one building to another and back again, then again and again. It was probably not convenient to any one of the people walking directly behind me when I felt the cuff inflate and I stopped where I was to try to get a quieter reading. I did step away from the walking masses as best I could, but it’s still an odd thing to manage.

At the end of the day all my tests came back and most were normal, but some were not. Hmmm. I was not expecting that. I guess I falsely presumed that since my kidney health had been so unusually good for a woman my age (or for a woman any age, apparently), I would bounce back to where I needed to be. My kidney function before donation was >90. The day after my nephrectomy it was 54, which is normal in that situation. I was told that my kidney function would never be above 60-70 again, and that people live with those numbers to old ripe ages, so 54 didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was seeing that number fall from 54 to 51 after six months of recovery. I thought that Verna was going to enlarge and start stepping up her game, not go to sleep at the wheel.

The team assured me this was nothing to worry about at this point, which helped a bit. Then I learned that my blood pressure was a bit high. I have had very low blood pressure my whole life — usually around 115/65 or so. Now my blood pressure was in the 135-140/80-90 range. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. So I had to buy a blood pressure cuff and I’m supposed to take my pressure a few times a week to see if it goes down. I have never taken any medication other than vitamin supplements, so the thought of having to take something to lower my BP is disappointing.

Would I donate to a stranger in Madison, WI all over again, knowing what I know today? Yes I would. What they suffered before finally getting my healthy kidney Justine is nothing compared to my slightly skewed test results now. And my son-in-law Chris’s kidney is doing so well too. I gave so he could receive, in the Mayo Clinic’s Paired Donation Program, and I’m awed at the science that allowed this to happen for us.

I would like to have a word with Verna now, however.

Dearest Verna,

I was slightly vexed when I learned that you have put me in a bit of a vulnerable position now that Justine has vacated the premises.

I would like to politely ask you to cease vacillating immediately, and valiantly set to putting things right in my veins and at the various bodily vocations for which you were created. Vanquish the elevated blood pressure, Verna! Dispense with the vagary of a lowered GFR number! Renew yourself with vigor and vim, and be a renal visionary, I adjure you! Relieve me of this vague unease I have, kind Verna, and valuably assist me in voiding all unwelcome toxins in an efficient and timely manner.

Verna, you simply must grow, and generate some verve, my dear girl. I’m sure you will have news of Justine very soon.

In closing, may I remind you that your work will be verified in another six months. Take no vengeance, Verna. Do not vainly languish.

Yours very sincerely,

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