Kidney Donor Beach VacationBeaches, HEALTH, Philanthropy, USA MAINLAND, VIDEOS — By Milli Thornton on August 1, 2010 at 21:04
By Milli Thornton with George & Lisa White
Photos Courtesy George & Lisa White
MOST OF US typically don’t associate surgery with vacations. As for donating a kidney? Yikes! Who wants to go first? And yet, in this incredible story, there were definitely some classic post card moments.
When my friend George needed a kidney to save his life, his sister Lisa (my childhood best friend from Great Falls, Montana) stepped up to donate.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, and this story will be highly compressed. Suffice to say I’m writing this article during the happy aftermath.
Reading the amazingly chipper updates, and looking at the family-reunion-style photos on Facebook, I couldn’t help but give this story a vacation slant.
Take for instance, our feature photo. Kidney donor Lisa, her daughter, sister-in-law and niece on Melbourne Beach (Florida) the day before the transplant.
Lisa, her husband, Dan, and daughter Annie had flown from their home in Tennessee for the surgery. Kidney recipient George, his wife Rosemary and daughter Elizabeth had traveled from a city on the Florida coast to Florida Hospital in Orlando. After the transplant, “a large variety” of family members gathered in a big house in Orlando in order to be together during the initial recovery time.
Walks were taken, great meals were shared, two birthdays were celebrated. Famous gardens were strolled in. Lisa got her wish to ride in a swan boat. Sounds like vacation stuff to me! Plus, I’m positive the convivial atmosphere (not to mention being surrounded by all that love) aided in both George and Lisa’s swift recovery.
“Unlike the days of yore when everyone said the donor had the more difficult time, more pain, etc., this is (so far) easy street!”
—Lisa, kidney donor, one week after surgery
SURGERY: FRIDAY JULY 17, 2009, 8 AM EST
George was in the recovery room by 2 PM and the ICU room by 8 PM. Feeling a little sore but in good spirits. Kidney function: good.
In CaringBridge.org updates given by her daughter Annie, Lisa was reputed to be singing this song almost as soon as she got out of surgery:
“I feel good, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. I knew that I would, now I feel good, I knew that I would, now. So good, so good. . . . ”
SATURDAY, JULY 18
By the next day, George was on the regular recovery floor of the hospital, able to walk from one hospital bed to the other.
“His new kidney is working GREAT and he is already feeling much better.” —Annie
Lisa was already busy walking all over the place; doing a fourth lap around the floor as Annie typed her update. She was also off all tubes and eating real food.
SUNDAY, JULY 19
Lisa, writing in George’s CaringBridge online journal:
“In case anyone wonders, now that it is over, would I do it again? Absolutely. In this process, my own health has been checked completely. Although I assumed I was healthy, it is really nice to have all of the tests done (at no cost to me) to prove it.
“I am thrilled with the transplant team we had—Drs. Angeles, Chin, and Nikitin are incredible and very progressive. With the work they are doing, it seems like living donation will become much more common and accepted. I was extremely scared beforehand, but after meeting Dr. Chin and my nephrologist, Dr. Metzger, at Florida Hospital, my fears were calmed.
“I was released from the hospital this afternoon, Sunday, after our surgeries on Friday morning. Quite honestly, I was chomping to leave earlier in the morning.”
MONDAY, JULY 20
Lisa’s birthday! Her Facebook page was flooded with Happy Birthday wishes. This one was the best:
“Happy Birthday Mom! You are my role model and my best friend. I love you more than anything else.” —Annie
With family members, Lisa took a long walk through the neighborhood. “I am not sure how far we went, but we think it was about a mile. Walking feels good and seems to help any fleeting aches and pains.”
Facebook update from Lisa:
“Long but wonderful birthday recuperating, walking, sitting by the pool, reading, and visiting George at the hospital. He’ll be released tomorrow and join me, Dan, Rosemary, and Elizabeth at the Orlando house for further recuperating. Thanks for all of the nice birthday and recovery wishes!”
JULY 21: FB update from Lisa
“Lisa and George are both out of the hospital . . . fairly quiet day: reading, relaxing, and Dan, Lisa, and Elizabeth went for a little jaunt in a swan boat on Lake Eola. Maybe we need a swan boat for our pond?”
Elizabeth’s 11th birthday. So wonderful to know that George was out of hospital in time to be with his daughter on her birthday. Elizabeth enjoyed a birthday party with her friends featuring a Roaring 20’s theme.
JULY 23: Facebook update from Lisa
“Lisa, Dan and Elizabeth are headed out to Leu Gardens (Orlando, Florida) for a stroll. Nice place to recuperate. All is well with me and George . . . healing times!”
JULY 24: Facebook update from Lisa
“All is well with the post-op check-up . . . I am a free woman with a very slightly modified belly button! Let’s roll. . . .”
Special note: After being scared to begin with, Lisa’s now enthusiastic about helping others to consider being a kidney donor. If you’re currently facing such a decision, please leave your thoughts and feelings below (use the Comment box) and Lisa will do her best to respond.
JULY 25: CaringBridge Update by George
“After many days of having my sister and nieces update my journal, I’m back with a new kidney and a future. This has been an amazing experience all made possible by the generosity of my sister, Lisa, who is an amazing person in so many ways. As the doctors told her after her speedy recovery, she is an overachiever, which of course is no surprise to me.”
“It’s really been an incredible metamorphisis and I’m feeling more and more like the old George. To think I almost got off this ride at 48. It’s funny, I used to be bummed about getting older and now it’s something I aspire to.”
JULY 19, 2010: Caringbridge update by George
“Hi again friends,
“I just wanted to update that it’s now been a year (July 17) since the kidney transplant and I’m doing quite well. I went to my nephrologist on the 15th and he said my creatinine is stable at 1.6, my weight and blood pressure are good, and that I’m doing fantastic for someone who had been so sick. He gave me a high five.
“I can never say enough for the kindness shown to me by my sister Lisa, but I promise to live each day in thanks to her, and modern medicine, for giving me another chance. I’m a very different person because of the challenges I faced and overcame.”
From Milli’s Fear of Writing blog, July 17, 2009:
The song “Light That Bucket” has become my symbol of success for George and Lisa’s surgery. The Bucketeers are Tom Lash on guitar and vocals, Gary “Mr. Z” Zajac on washtub bass, and George on banjo. Yep, this is George’s very own band!
“Light That Bucket” was written by Tom Lash. Performed at River Roost on Merritt Island by the Bucketeers:
Flair button from Pieces of Flair
Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.