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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kidney Transplant...Donate Life

Today my daughter will be a guest blogger, and because of her (giving one of her kidneys to someone waiting on the list to receive a kidney) I was able to receive a kidney from a "Good Samaritan" donor and am alive today because of it. Being a recipient of a kidney it's hard to
find the words to express my gratitude to both my daughter and my donor.

We wish to spread the word about organ donation and the "Paired Exchange" program at the University of Utah Medical Center. So, she will tell you some of the things she has been involved with since her recovery.

Hello! I am honored to be guest blogging today on the Santa's Gift Shoppe blog. As many of you know, my mom and founder of Santa's Gift Shoppe had a kidney transplant earlier this year. As you also know, I donated a kidney on her behalf (since our kidneys didn't match closely enough) through a miraculous program called the "Paired Exchange Program". This enabled not only my mom to receive a kidney, but another person from the kidney waiting list to also receive one. Paired exchange "chains" can be small or very large, but no matter the chain size, lives are saved and changed forever. It's not just a program, but a gift of life. However, I'll save that post for another day.

First, I wanted to thank all of the Santa's Gift Shoppe readers that have not only supported us through the shoppe, but also through your support and kindness as our family has been moving forward during these life-changing events. Your words of encouragement, prayers, and well wishes have been rays of sunshine as the transplant and recovery process has continued. Thank you so much! The world is a better place because of people like you!

It's easy to get caught up in our day-to-day activities running and dashing about, but I wanted to take a few minutes and recognize a different kind of dash...Dash for Donation. I participated in the 5K event this past August. It was inspiring to see people from all kinds of situations and circumstances come together for organ donation awareness and support. There were organ recipients, donors, family members "dashing" in honor and tribute of loved ones that had passed on, transplant staff from multiple hospitals, small teams, large teams, and individuals unite for a common cause-everyone there understood the importance of organ donation.

Everyone 'dashed' for the cause and many 'dashed' in tribute of a transplant recipient or donor. I dashed in honor of my mom and best friend as well as her Good Samaritan donor (a living donor that donates a kidney to help someone else) who is now a dear family friend.
Here are some memories from the day:

The park animals even seemed to get the message and were "dashing" right along with us.

I talked with many people that shared their stories of receiving a kidney, lung, or liver (or part of one) and how their lives had been saved and significantly improved by the kindness of a donor. I learned of people that passed away and had selflessly chosen to donate their organs before their passing to help someone else they didn't know. I was able to share our own story of hope because of a Good Samaritan donor and a dedicated and knowledgeable transplant staff to whom we will always be grateful.

The spirit of the day was hope, encouragement, love, and compassion-something I believe the world could use more of and from which many of us could benefit. So, thank you family, friends, and blog readers for helping to spread and share your support and encouragement. Let's keep passing it forward in honor of the gift of life.

To learn more about organ donation. click here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kidney Transplant...It Wasn't About Me

After being at my daughter's home for some time
improvement came slowly. I had blood tests two days a week
for the first two months, and I saw the doctors every other
week. The 50 to 60 pills I was on slowly decreased to 40 to
50. Now I am taking 31 pills.

I still could not do much and was extremely tired. I
had two iron infusions and waited for weeks for the iron
to kick in. Waiting for increased strength and energy seemed
to take forever.

Since there was little I could do about any of this, I
had a lot of time to think. I knew months before that this
experience was not necessarily about me. Sure, I needed
a kidney transplant, but there was a much bigger picture.
What was truly wonderful was realizing that my daughter
and I had the opportunity to help many more people
because of our experience.

We found out about different community activities
we could participate in (such as a 5K fundraiser) that was
coming up in Aug. of this year. We realized that we could
send articles into publications interested in human experience
stories. My doctor in California requested that I become a
kidney transplant ambassador and share my experience at
educational events helping people learn more about transplants
and organ donation. (My daughter has also been asked to
be an ambassador of sorts for organ donation from the
donor side; stay tuned in the next blog post for ways you
can help in this important effort.) We realized that we could
also help more people just by seeing the needs around us.

I think we have more empathy and can be of greater
service to our fellow human beings because of what we have
experienced. I know for myself and my daughter, we have
such a passion to spread the word about organ donation and
all the many ways people can help save lives.

This started out as a trail, it then became a journey,
and  now an eye opening adventure. I have learned many
things about myself, my life's mission, and the goodness
that is still in people (despite the chaos out in the world),
and especially the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the
eternal love of a Heavenly Father.

I am so grateful for all that has happened to me, to
help me understand better where I need to go with my life
and better serve the needs of family, friends, and people
around me. It has been a wonderful learning opportunity
for all of us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kidney Transplant...The Test After The Test

         We got home and got settled in. My daughter was
comfortable lying on the couch, and I was comfortable
in my recliner. My husband had been here in Utah for
a week and needed to get back to work in California, so
he had to leave...that was hard. My other daughter and
my brother were here for a few weeks to help both of
us during recovery. We were very blessed to have them
sacrifice their time and energy to help us.

           It was very difficult to even walk at all. The pain
was much more than I ever thought. Thank goodness for
the pain pills; that helped some. I thought that once I
received the kidney I would have a lot more energy and
feel great. I forgot I was in my early sixties, and my body
would need a lot longer to heal then my daughter who is
twenty-five years my junior.

          Unfortunately, my right leg was bothering me.
While I was in the hospital, I complained of pain and
numbness from my right hip to my knee. The doctors told
me not to worry, and it was likely from the surgery. It
would eventually go away. I also had pain in my foot, but
they did not seem too worried about that either. To ease
the leg pain, even a little bit, the only place I could stay
was in the recliner chair. I slept there, too. Little did I
know I would be sleeping in that chair for a month, only
sleeping about two–three hours each night. I knew that
I needed more sleep for my body to heal properly, but that
was the only place I could be comfortable at all. My
daughter was able to sleep in her own bed, which was a
blessing for her and her recovery.

          Early the next morning I had an appt. with the
surgeon. That was extremely difficult to go and do all
that moving around. The pain was terrible! The doctors
said that the pain in my right hip, thigh, and leg were
from the nerve. It was likely stretched during surgery
and would take a long time to heal. It felt like the numbness
of Novocaine that you might get at the dentist's office, but
with hot needles stabbing continually at the same time.
The staples and stitches from the kidney transplant
were painful as well. However, one bright note...the kidney
was functioning great! There are blessings even in the worst
of circumstances...we just have to look for them.

          Weeks went by, and I still couldn't do anything but
stay in my recliner. (Thank goodness it was comfortable.)
I was very surprised by how tired and weak I felt. I had
to take between 50-60 pills (result of the transplant) which
were giving me terrible side effects: tremors, hot flashes,
weakness, feeling tired, insomnia, and un-steadiness, to
name a few symptoms plus, we found out the pain in the
bottom of my left foot was actually gout. It felt like I was
stepping on shards of glass each time I put pressure on my
left foot. So, the pain was excruciating! I stayed on pain
pills longer than expected because of it, although, even the
pain pills didn't seem to help.

         I kept wondering why I had to go through so much
pain and suffering after the transplant when I had felt so
much better before the transplant even with my kidney
function as low as least I had energy. During this
journey of pain and suffering (with so much time to ponder
life), I learned a few things.

         I had a few epiphanies that have impacted my life.
I found that all sadness, pain, suffering (physical and
mental) connect with the atonement (that Jesus Christ
suffered on our behalf.) During the first part of my journey,
I learned to listen to Him and let Him “drive the bus” so
to speak. Stop trying to take the steering wheel away from
Him. He knows so much better what is best for each of us.
I learned to depend on Him more and have patience.
You cannot force a tulip to come up in need
to let nature take its course and be patient until the Spring
when it has had the time needed to grow, and then blossom.

         During the second part of my journey, I found the
principle of acceptance was key in my learning process.
It's amazing to me that when we accept what the Lord has
in our path, it is much easier to follow Him than resist or
try to force a 'square peg into a round hole'. He always
knows what will help us learn and grow the most. Through
this journey, I have learned so much about empathy and
want to help others more.

         I thought that getting the transplant would be the
end of the waiting and the physical and mental roller-
coaster but that was not to be the case. As my daughter
has said, “This is the test after the test.” There were
more important tests yet to come during this journey

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kidney Transplant...Transplant Day Finally Arrives

    The   twenty-four hours before my transplant
were more than a roller coaster ride. My daughter's paired-exchange kidney donation was yesterday March 11th (a day before my kidney transplant). My husband and I waited in the waiting room to hear news of how she was doing. She went in the morning to have a benign  tumor and kidney removed (the kidney was going to be given to a person who had been waiting on the National Kidney Waiting List).

A doctor came out and told us that everything
had gone very well, and she was doing fine. We were
very relieved to hear that. He did say, however, that
they had taken her appendix as well. It was actually
a blessing because evidently, it could have burst at
any time. He also said that he wanted permission to
take her gall bladder out because they found small
gall stones that would eventually give her trouble in
the future. What started out to be a wonderful gesture
of giving someone a kidney (so that I would be able to
receive one) turned into the doctors taking four major
things being removed. She is one strong young woman.

      After waiting fifteen months March 12th came, and
it was my day to receive a kidney transplant early in
the morning. The surgery went very well, and the
kidney functions worked immediately (a great blessing)
was wonderful. They are so thorough with everything
they do. I have always felt that I have been in good hands
with my transplant team.

      As the days went on, I had no idea of the pain that
would commence. It was pretty tough physically.
I was very blessed that my daughter was in the room next
door. She gave me wonderful support and encouragement.
We walked around the hospital floor everyday for our
exercise and to accelerate recovery, but it was very painful.
It made it easier having my daughter to walk by my side.

      We did so well that we only stayed in the hospital for
four days. We had been ready to go home for a few hours
when they told me I needed an infusion that would take
an additional two hours before leaving the hospital. The
rollercoaster ride continued. I had the infusion, and finally
went home an hour later.

     Speaking of home, my daughter at the end of 2011
told me she had a very strong feeling she needed to buy
a house during the year. She had no idea why, but knew
she needed to follow through with the feeling that wouldn't
go away. A month later, I found out that I had 11%
kidney function and would need a kidney transplant.
I am so grateful that my daughter listened to the
impression because I have had such a wonderful
and relaxed time staying in her comfortable home
for all of these months. She has been such an angel.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Kidney Transplant...Waiting with Patience

       Still waiting in the wings was my wonderful Good
Samaritan Donor. She was being patient waiting eight
months to see when she would donate her kidney.
That in itself was a miracle. Most Good Samaritan
Donor's are matched pretty quickly with a person needing
a kidney.

       My percentage rate of kidney function was still 
at 7% for both kidneys (normal being 60-100%). I
knew the Lord was carrying me because I still wasn't
on dialysis, that was a miracle. Also, I felt pretty well
most of the time - another blessing (with the exception
of being extremely tired most of the time).
     The doctors stopped testing the third donor, and
continued with my daughter's testing. It took some time
but finally we got a date for the transplant – news that
we had been waiting to hear for so long. The date was
planned for March 12, 2014. This meant we would be

at the University of Utah. My daughter's kidney would
be given to someone else (in this case someone from the
waiting for a kidney). This exchange would make it
possible for me to receive the Good Samaritan's kidney.
We were finally on our way to a kidney transplant!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kidney Transplant...A Roller Coaster Ride

  After going back to Utah in Oct. 2014, I thought
things would move fast. We had donors ready to go, and
the hospital was ready as well. What I did not know was
that each donor took about two months to complete all the
necessary tests ensuring the best match for me. The waiting
game and roller coaster ride was about to begin. I waited
for someone to call me from the hospital and tell me
what was happening. It took two weeks to receive a call,
however, I was ready to move forward immediately..
          I felt extremely humbled by family and friends that
had signed up months before to donate a kidney on my
behalf. I had five donors to be tested, and I felt blessed.

            The first donor was my daughter. I had always felt
she would be the match or play a very important part in all
of this. It took a few months of testing to find out she was
about a 51% match...the hospital felt we could get a closer
            Although this appeared be a setback, we found out
about the “Paired Exchange Program”. A wonderful
opportunity where more people can be helped by receiving
a kidney. Anyone (family member, friend) can donate a
kidney on behalf of the person who needs a transplant. The
person who needs a transplant can then receive one from a
“Good Samaritan Donor” (a person who voluntarily donates
a kidney) all dependant upon sharing a good match.

           My daughter decided to start the Paired-Exchange
Program process. She had gone through just about all of the
tests needed when we found out that there was a Good Samaritan
Donor that was a perfect match for me. We were very excited
to find this out! But in order to receive the kidney, one of my
donors needed to donate their kidney to someone else. So, my
daughter stepped forward.
          It was the week before Thanksgiving when my daughter
had one of the last tests needed (a CT scan) showing a mass.
That was quite a shock to all of us! I just wanted my daughter
to be okay. We were all concerned about the possibility of
cancer. Her chances of being a donor had stopped. As she went
for additional tests to find out what should be done, it took a
number of weeks before we found out it was most likely not
cancer. We were extremely thankful!

         While we waited, the hospital started testing the second
donor, my brother. He did the required testing and found
out that he was a good match. We were all thinking I might
receive a kidney by the end of 2013. To my surprise we
found out the hospital had reserved the operating room
for Dec. 31st New Year's Eve. We were extremely happy
until we heard the news that my brother had high blood
pressure and needed a month of monitoring. After the
monitoring, it was decided that it would not be in his best
interest to proceed as a donor. Thankfully, my brother could
now take care of a previously unidentified health issue.
Another blessing in disguise. Again we were extremely

          Then donor #3, a dear family friend began the donor
testing. But, before she got too far, a miracle happened, the
doctors agreed to not only remove the kidney from my daughter,
but the benign mass as well. The Paired-Exchange program
looked to be the hope for which we were looking.

         Again, the rollercoaster of highs and lows continued.
Patience was needed, that has been a life lesson I have
learned through this process.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Kidney Transplant...Footprints in the Sand

Once I realized that Heaven's answer to my prayer
was a transplant, it became a lot easier to go along for the
ride. Even though there were many tests and pain through
2013, I consider myself very fortunate not to be on dialysis.
I know so many more people who were far worse off than
I am.

The waiting was the hardest (being extremely tired
much of the time). As time went on, I saw that I had
enough energy to get up, get dressed, go to my many
doctors appointments and sit in a recliner most of the
day. I know that does not sound like much, but being
at 10% kidney function and not on dialysis was highly
unusual for someone in my position. I was so fortunate
to also have a daughter that took time off work each week
to take me to and from appointments.

I also missed my friends at church and doing the
many things I once did, but I realized I needed to put
my health first or I would not be here very long. I needed
to slow my life down. Listening to my body more I found
out a lot about what it needed from me. As I listened I felt
a strength that was not my own. I also never had a specific
feeling that I was in jeopardy of losing my life.

I felt like someone else was taking care of me, like
in the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. The narrator in the
poem wonder's why the Lord had not helped them in their
time of need. The Lord replied “During your times of
trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I Carried You.” I feel that I have been living
that poem since I was first diagnosed w/renal (kidney) failure
in Jan. 2013. I feel the Lord carrying me daily. I don't
believe I could feel as good as I do with now only 7%
kidney function without His help. It is the best kind of
strength I have ever felt.

After much prayer, I decided to go to Utah to get
the transplant. They were on top of everything, rated
highly in the medical community, and I felt confirmation
that the University of Utah was the right place for me to
go. I left California in Oct. 2013 for Salt Lake City to
beat the snow. I found being in Utah a wonderful experience
and noticed an improvement in how I felt. All the while
acknowledging that the “Footprints in the Sand” poem
was playing out in my life on a daily basis.

I have grown and learned so many things of
significance through this experience. Do I wish this
experience had not happened? Surprisingly the
answer would be “No”. I feel like I have received
a college degree worth of knowledge and growth
through this journey. There are so many benefits
from what has happened for myself, my family,
friends (both new and old) and even strangers with
whom I have shared my story.

I feel a more intense desire to help people. I feel
more empathy for them than ever before. If I
can get through something like this, then maybe I
can give someone encouragement or help them get
through a struggle, or share the universal message
of hope.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Waiting for a Kidney Transplant...Faith precedes the miracle

            It was March 2013 (three months since I found
out my kidneys had only 10% function; kidney function
for a healthy person is 60-100%). I had been praying for
a miracle which wasn't going to happen in the way I had
hoped. I had to come to grips with that. I felt my prayers
were not being heard. My daughter suggested that I pray
for the Spirit to guide me (validation #1). I agreed, and
that night was a turning point in this life changing journey.
Finally, the answers started coming one after the other.

        The next evening a friend of my husband's visited
unexpectedly and when he left, my husband told me
of the informative discussion they had. His wife previously
had a kidney transplant a few years ago and was doing
fantastic (validation #2). I told my husband that I was
happy for her, but I really did not want a kidney transplant.
I was adamant about it.

          The next day I received a call at lunch from my
husband telling me he bumped into another close friend.
She is a nurse who works at many schools. It had been
months since he had seen her last. I asked if he had
told her about the kidney that time he said
he had not. He called me again later that day, and said that 
he bumped into her again. He told her about my 10% kidney
function. She said she had a very strong feeling that I
needed to get a kidney transplant before the end of the
year (validation #3). When my husband mentioned that, I
knew in my heart that the Lord was answering my prayers...
I needed a kidney transplant. Up to that point I had thought
a kidney transplant was the closest thing to death...not the
answer to my prayers.

            The following day I got up and turned on the
television. I was so surprised to hear the word donor
coming from it. It intrigued me because I usually never
watched that station. The show was about three different
people waiting for a kidney transplant (validation #4).  
I was glued to the set. I felt it was another answer to
prayer...for me to learn about kidney disease and
transplants... and I did.

          My mind and heart were making a complete 180
degree turn-around. Then, the next day our friend, the
school nurse (mentioned above) stopped by our house
with flowers and dinner. We had a great discussion. She
helped educate me about kidney transplants and their
benefits. She shared with me some things in her life
which connected to what she was telling me about
kidney transplants. (validation #5) Consequently, she
felt she was being helped by our discussion as well.

           I thought my prayers were not being heard. 
However, I realized that they were indeed being heard; 
the answers were coming through other people to me, 
one right after another. There were five validations that
the Lord was letting me know His will for me to receive
a transplant.

           Now that I knew what He wanted for me, I
researched the Internet and talked with doctors. My
nephrologist (kidney doctor) could hardly believe it.
When she asked what happened, I pointed to the
heavens and said I finally found out what He wanted.
I have been at peace with my decision ever since.

The next phase of growing and understanding was
about to begin.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kidney Disease...The Power of Prayer

          Looking back to January 2013 I could hardly
believe the words out of the doctor's mouth. “You have
stage five renal failure with 10% of your kidneys
functioning.” He said it was not “life-threatening,” but
that was not true. After researching it on the internet I
found that it was indeed life threatening, and if I did
not go on dialysis the disease would be fatal. Something
needed to be done immediately.

          I was sent to a kidney specialist. A true God-send
for me. She is one of the best in her field, and I was truly
blessed the day she came into my life. She did a lot of
tests from head to toe to rule out causes. She immediately
had me get an iron infusion and a Procrit shot to help do
what my kidneys could no longer do.

         During this time I prayed for a miracle and expected
one. I believed I had faith to have one, since I had
previously experienced major health scares. Maybe
I was praying for the wrong thing.

         My prayers for a miracle were ongoing. I had
Priesthood blessings which gave me much peace and
comfort. I had many people praying for me which filled
me with gratitude for such love, support, and being

          However, I did not feel my prayers were being
heard. That was one of the hardest times through this
experience. I had previously received fast answers to
my prayers that I was shocked when I felt I wasn't
receiving any answers. That went on for three months
with no answers. It felt dark, and I hated that void in
my life...not feeling that my Heavenly Father was right
there with me. During that time I had some depressed
days; Let's call them “pity party” days. Thank goodness
they were few and far between, but I learned and grew
through them all.

           One thing I discovered was that I needed to
mourn the loss of my kidneys like the death of a loved
one. I was going through the emotions without realizing
it, essentially experiencing the five stages of grief.

            I was lucky. I went through the denial, some
depression, and then acceptance. Most of the time, I
just wanted to know what Heavenly Father wanted me
to learn from this so that I could move on. However,
I quickly learned that my time was different than His,
things were on His timetable, he had numerous things
for me to experience. It was going to be an interesting

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Kidney Transplant: A Journey of Hope


It has been a long time (approximately 1 year) since I
have updated or written on my blog. The reason being, I found
out January 2013 that my total kidney function was at 10%;
normal is between 60-100%. When your kidney function goes
down to 15% or less you usually need dialysis to function on a
more normal level. My kidney function is currently at 7%, and
miraculously I am still not receiving dialysis. I consider it a
             Most people know little about kidney disease...I was
one of those people. However I changed that! I researched and
educated myself, and am now in the process of preparing to
receive a kidney transplant in the near future.
               That's the good news! The bad news is knowing that
the majority of people do not know that high blood pressure,
diabetes, and Ibuprofen contribute greatly to the chances of
kidney (or renal) failure, that more than a 100,000 people are
on a waiting list for a deceased donor's kidney or that you only
need one kidney to function and live a normal life.
                I am one of the lucky ones with five living donors
(family and friends) offering me one of their kidneys so that
I can live. This is one of the most humbling and wonderful 
blessings that has come into my life. I will continue writing
on my blog about the high and lows of the journey and what
I have learned from this challenge in my life.
                 It is my hope that by writing about this experience, 
people everywhere will become well informed about this disease...
to help you, your family, friends and maybe even inspire some
changes in thinking about and considering organ donation that
saves lives.
                I invite you to come and join me in this journey of hope and enlightenment...