by Amy Waterman, PhD
The first thing I say after I tell people that I work in the field of transplantation is that it is a true honor and a privilege. I feel this in my bones. I feel this so strongly because I get to see the best of humanity and healthcare, every day.
I know so many generous donors who offer a part of their body to help someone else. Some of these people died and, as their last act on earth, did something generous. Other people donate a kidney while they are alive when they see someone without functioning kidneys because they thought, “I wonder how I could help.” There are even living donors who give a kidney to someone they don’t know because this is their way to make the world better. These donors make me feel so happy to be alive.
Then I get to watch someone who doesn’t feel very well hear the news that they are getting a new kidney. They are usually shocked and overwhelmingly grateful. I see them when they are recovering after surgery and they tell me about the smallest things that make them happy after transplant. Being able to drink a lot of water or eat a pizza. Going back to work and providing for their family again. Taking an out-of-town trip to be there when their daughter’s new baby was born. These recipients make me feel so grateful for the small moments of joy in my own life.
And then there are all the healthcare professionals who take care of kidney recipients and donors. There are a lot of us! The surgeons who get called in the middle of the night to do a transplant who have figured out how to sew a part of one person’s body into another person. The nephrologists and transplant team who order and review all the medical tests to make sure that the transplant or donation will be successful and safe. The collaborative group of doctors, coordinators, social workers, financial experts, and psychologists who answer questions, educate, encourage, and handle hundreds of details before and after the transplant so that it all goes smoothly. What we do results in people gaining years of life – and the memories that come with them – that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Being part of this team makes me feel so proud.
However, when talking to others, I have learned that some people don’t know a lot about transplant or living donation. There is a lot of misinformation out there and surgery is scary for anyone. I have also learned that some kidney patients may rule out the possibility of transplantation without all the facts. And that other people don’t know that they can donate kidneys when they are alive.
Since I design education for kidney patients, living donors, and their communities, I founded Explore Transplant to ensure that everyone can make an informed transplant and living donation decision. I hope this information is also helpful to my fellow healthcare professionals when educating their own patients. I welcome all of you to this learning community – feel free to look around!
My best to you all.