Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Be The Match

Did you know that minority groups have a much harder time acquiring organ and/or bone marrow donations? Usually (and thankfully not in the case with Rene and me), potential donors have a better chance of being a match with the intended recipient if the two are of the same ethnicity. Add that to the fact that, for instance, only 7% of the 9 million people registered to be donors on Be the Match are African American, being a part of a minority population can greatly lessen a person's chance for transplant.

Nordstrom is partnering with Be the Match throughout the month of February and covering the costs of joining the site--one that matches bone marrow donors and recipients.

Consider signing up here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

NYTimes article

It's amazing how often I now notice stories about living donor transplants. Here's a particularly cool one from today's New York Times.

By the way, update from my doctor visit in December: I'm as healthy as can be. All my numbers looked great--including my creatinine, which came down from a 1.2 after surgery to a 1.0 (normal levels range from 0.5-1.2). Next checkup in June! Rene and I were actually able to together celebrate our health on Christmas Eve, as she and Nancy stopped in to my dad's house on their trip to visit family in North Carolina. I'll post pictures soon.

Hope the new year is treating everyone beautifully.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Six Months!

Happy six month anniversary, Team RenJen!

You read that right: today marks the six month anniversary of our transplant surgery. It still seems like only yesterday I was hobbling down to Rene's room to see her for the first time after surgery!

Rene and I both wanted to write updates today to let you know how we're feeling. Rene had her six month checkup yesterday and her doctor said her kidney is "well seated" and a "strong" one. I'll let her give you more details about how she's been feeling over the last six months in her own post.

I have my six month checkup tomorrow; I'll let you know how it goes, but I'm anticipating the doctor telling me I'm completely healthy...if not healthier even than before surgery. I'd say that it took about six weeks out from transplant to experience no tenderness at all, but, after that, the only physical reminders of surgery I've had are a few scars and a bit of numbness around my main incision site.

I can't say that nothing has changed for me, however. Rene remains a constant presence in my life--something I'm very grateful for. Whether it's her checking in to tell me she's off to LA or me filling her in on a date I've just had, we have remained connected...beyond the fact that she's now the owner of one of my former body parts. Between Rene and Nancy and the rest of Team RenJen, I've really been blessed by being able to incorporate some amazing people into my life. This experience and all of the people involved definitely reestablish my belief that at its heart, life is good.

The other thing that has really changed for me is that I am much more aware of and outspoken about organ donation. I want people to be aware of the need that exists, as well as the different opportunities there are to fulfill that need, whether by becoming a donor once deceased, by becoming a living donor for someone you know, or by becoming a living donor through a site like Furthermore, I find it necessary to speak to how easy this really was for me. I think fear often holds us back from venturing into many situations in life that, while scary at first, could turn out to be absolutely beautiful in the end. While I can't say that I wasn't scared at all in the few days before surgery, my fears proved to be unfounded. I am healthy. I am happy. And if I had another kidney to give, I'd do it all over again.

Thank you all again for your continued support. It has been so nice to hear from some of you via the blog, Facebook, and email. And thank you for continuing to spread our story.

Happy Holidays, all.

More to come. . .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MGH was so great, I thought it was a hotel!

Okay, so I just watched this video again that my brother filmed almost right after I got to my room from recovery. It's too funny not to post. I'm obviously still feeling a bit out of it. Check out around the :50 marker when I inquire about "the hotel's" TV guide services. :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rene's Transplant Tales

I was granted an exclusive interview with Rene, during which she shared with me her transplant experience:

Jen: What was the night before surgery like for you?
Rene: I couldn't sleep, mainly because I was excited. I really wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be. I kept thinking "Is this really happening?!" I had talked about it, dreamt of it, hoped for it...and I couldn't sleep because I was so excited.

J: So what happened the morning of surgery?
R: I was up at 4 that morning because I had to take a round of anti-rejection meds, and I hadn't been sleeping anyway, so I just stayed up. I got to the hospital just before 6:15 with Nancy, Russell, and Phillip. I was still excited and not quite nervous. They took me directly to my room on Blake [the transplant floor] and gave me my gown and stockings to put on. The nurse told me she would give me a ten minute warning before they took me to the OR. I was so tired that I just closed my eyes until about 8:45 when the nurse gave me the ten minute "warning" and then wheeled me to the OR.

The trip to the OR is still so vivid to me. They wheeled me out of my room, and Phillip, Russell, and Nancy followed me down the hallway up to a point. The person wheeling me to the OR introduced herself as "Jennifer." I immediately told her, "My donor's name is Jennifer!" That was another one of those "meant to be" moments.

Once I got to the holding bay, I decided to wait until I got into the OR to receive some Versed [anti-anxiety medication] because your mom [Jen's mom] had said the night before that she likes to go into the OR and check everything and everyone out before she gets any drugs. While I was still in the holding bay, I asked "Do you know where Jennifer Denis, my donor, is?" They replied that you were across the hall, two doors down. I still wasn't nervous at this point because all my friends and family had kept telling me that they would be saying prayers. I really felt this cloak of their energy surrounding me.

I went into the OR around 9:15 and it was very cold. When they asked me to move onto the operating table, I said "This table is so tiny! How can you operate on it?" The doctor gave me an injection of Versed, I felt relaxed, and then started to notice all the tools they would be using. Then I was given oxygen and was gone.

J: What's the next thing you remember?
R: I remember waking up and looking at the clock and saying "It's 3:15; I can't believe it's 3:15 already!"

J: Were you in any pain when you woke up?
R: I was in a lot of pain around the incision. My whole body wasn't painful, though, it felt like it was aching more than it was painful. The incision was really hurting like the dickens. Nancy, Rene's partner, commented at this point that Rene was hitting her pain pump "like she was having a bad day on Jeopardy."

The nurse came in and asked if I wanted to see my family. I didn't answer because I was still in so much pain. The nurse asked me if I wanted ten more minutes first, and I said I did. When Phillip came in, I remember seeing him try to fight back tears and Nancy kissing his head and saying "It's okay; she's going to start feeling better and better." Someone told me he hadn't eaten all day and I right away said "Phillip, I will be fine. Go and get something to eat."

The other thing I remember doing right away was asking if you were okay. Your mom came in right after I got out of surgery and said "You look so good, Rene!" I started crying and your mom told me you were doing fine and then left to go back to you.

The rest of the night I was just pretty out of it between the pain and the pain pump. Russell started joking around with me because I told him I had seen Nurse Jackie. The pain got better with meds near the end of that first night.

J: What's one really vivid memory you have from your stay in the hospital?
R: I remember I started coming to after surgery and then stopped and realized "Oh wait, I have a kidney!" I raised my gown and got really happy. Then I looked down [at the bag attached to my catheter] and I was peeing!

J: How did it feel to go home with a new kidney?
R: I felt different right away. I felt like I had so much energy even though I had just had surgery. The nurses in the hospital had a lot to tell me about the things I would need to do to stay healthy with the transplant and I kept saying "I'll do anything and everything I have to do. Nothing is too much."

J: If you had to pick a color to symbolically represent the transplant, what would it be?
R: Probably an earth-tone color because I felt so warm and nurtured by everyone. I'd also pick a periwinkle blue because people were all so happy and upbeat. I had such warm, bright, attentive, nurturing people who took care of me.

J: What was your favorite thing to eat in the hospital?
R: On the second day, I got to eat toast and it tasted like the best toast in the world! They even gave me a menu for dinner later that night and that menu was like gold. I pretty much circled everything: grilled salmon, zucchini, broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes, apple-pie, and ginger-ale. It was all really good!

J: What would you like to say to the readers of the blog?
R: First and foremost, thank you for all the support. I hope by reading the blog, you will think about becoming a living donor. I hope by listening to our story you will consider it or share our story with others. It really needs to be heard because there are so many people like me who need kidneys. The longer we languish on that list, the worse it gets for us. I'm also very happy and grateful to you, Jen. You look at the people who come back to dialysis to visit after they've had a transplant and you think "Oh my gosh, you look SO different!" You do feel different. I feel different.

J: Any special shout-outs?
R: To my partner, Nancy. She took care of me in such a loving and sweet way day and night. I love her.
Phillip truly inspires me to be strong. I look in his eyes and I want to be better and healthy for him. I love being his mom.
Team RenJen stepped up to the plate and really took care of us. Everyone needs a Team RenJen.
To Jen's family: dad, adorable Ryan, and mom. Your mom really is like the quintessential mother. I admire how she cared for you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


These posted in reverse order...but here they are, nonetheless:

Me with Rene right before I was released from the hospital on Thursday
Yay, I get to go home! (a repeat pose from right after I got out of surgery--see below)
My best nurse (my mom)
Little Ry and me
Ryan snapped this almost as soon as I was transferred to my room on the transplant floor. I think I'm still waking up from anesthesia. :)