“So, you’re all good now?” I have heard this comment countless times from individuals after they hear that I received a kidney transplant. When hearing this, I envision myself leaning back in a chair with my arms behind my head and not a care in the world. I hit the jackpot by receiving a kidney transplant; however my jackpot winnings include countless blessings rather than green dollar bills. When looking at me it may appear that everything is good now. However, even a good thing takes work and I do not take this gift of life lightly.
Nothing lasts forever. I am not blind to the fact that the odds of needing another kidney transplant or two in my lifetime are very real, because I received my transplant at age 19. The days following my transplant were eye opening and quite real as well. My transplant coordinator’s tough love following my transplant, while not well received at the time, was very necessary. I recall lying in my hospital bed surrounded by pills. These magic capsules were needed to allow my body to accept the new foreign object it had just received. I stared at the pile of pills that looked like a meal. I was overwhelmed. I was frustrated. I was relying on my mom to handle the stress of organizing and figuring everything out. That didn’t last long. My transplant coordinator came into my room and firmly told me that it was my responsibility to learn what the pills were, when I needed to take them, and to not rely on others. I thought to myself, ‘How dare she say this to me?’ I’m so glad she did. A valuable lesson was learned.
I have learned to become a pro at being active and proactive. For me being active is twofold, I am physically active and actively involved in my care. While I think it would be fun to be a strong athlete, I understand that hiking and toning my body is great exercise. We are all advised to eat healthy, exercise a few times a week and do everything in moderation. I like to follow this simple advice. I am actively involved in my care by taking my medicine on time every day, getting monthly blood work done, understanding my lab results, seeing my nephrologist every four months, always asking tons of questions, and being very aware of my body and how I feel.
It is important to me to be proactive. I don’t want to be that person who ignored a symptom or disregarded how they felt and then wind up dealing with a bigger issue. Besides, “So you’re all good now,” the next runner up of a comment I receive countless times is, “You look like the picture of health.” My initial thought is, ‘You should see what my body looks like on the inside.’ While this is a nice comment, it can pose a big issue. Although I look healthy, I have a suppressed immune system and it is VERY important for transplant recipients to not get ill. If I have a fever, I must immediately go to the hospital. If I am vomiting, I can’t keep my medicine down, which is very scary. If I get a cold, it can progress into something worse a lot quicker than a healthy person. I have had issues with others understanding and respecting this. My biggest proactive advice is to not take this lightly and make sure that if you are going to be around others–like at an event or family dinner–make sure that everyone is healthy.
There are limitless ways to be active and proactive. When you see me, I am always carrying my turquoise Camelbak bottle filled with water and my purse that contains my hand sanitizer, Zicam (cold remedy) and Halo (protects against airborne germs). Any little thing we do is helping us in the long run. My transplant does not limit me but rather has given me a life full of wonderful limitless options. I look at my kidney as my child. I unconditionally love it; I put the needs of my kidney first, and wouldn’t trade it for the world!
How do you stay active and proactive?