When I was 5 years old (1987), I was incorrectly diagnosed with flu instead of bladder inflammation, which eventually became acute pyelonephritis. This was a matter of a long time but it resulted in an operation in 1988, which actually saved my life in the nick of time.
After that, I didn’t have any serious health problems for many years. When I was studying at the university (around 2002), my blood pressure started to increase and so the doctors started to look for the reason. I was studying hard university (Czech Technical University, the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering), eating traditional unhealthy student food and not doing any sports, so it looked like the result of my stressful life.
But it wasn’t. My creatinine (Creatinine is a waste product in your blood that comes from muscle activity. It is normally removed from your blood by your kidneys, but when kidney function slows down, the creatinine level rises) was rising, my blood pressure was rising and my energy was lowering. It took several months but in the end, I had creatinine around 1200 mmol/l (normal is up to 100) and usually slept around 18 hours per day.
The doctors started to talk about transplantation. At that time I had no idea what it actually meant. My parents stared to visit public speeches from doctors or people who already had transplanted kidneys, their families and friends, etc. I was too weak for it and I was barely realizing what was going on.
Basically, I had two options – to undergo kidney transplantation or to start going to dialysis. My family decided that they would do anything to prevent me from going for dialysis. At that time I did not realize what this huge decision my family did actually meant as I was not strong enough to learn anything about dialysis, operation, consequences, about anything. I just wanted to sleep. But today I am indefinitely grateful to them.
And actually to my boyfriend at that time, later my husband, currently my ex-husband, as well. All this what I was going through was not easy for anyone close to me as I was really exhausted and they had to take care of me.
Well, my parents went to tests to find out if any of them would be a suitable donor. They found out that my mom would be, so she decided to donate me one of her kidneys. Both of us had to go through many additional tests so the doctors were sure her kidney would be suitable for me. Luckily all went well.
Today, I can still remember the day before the transplantation. It was April 28th, 2005 and I was sitting on a bed in IKEM in Prague. It is one of the hospitals where most of the kidney transplantations happen in the Czech republic.
I was in another room, actually in a totally different department than my mom. At one moment the nurse brought me a pretty big light pink pill and told me it was the immunosuppressive pill (pills that lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ). I remember the feeling – from now on for the rest of my life I will have to take these pills to be actually able to keep the transplanted kidney alive and working inside my body, in other words, to prevent it from the rejection (the body treats the kidney as a foreign matter, it is the same like if you had a wooden spill in your finger).
So I was holding that pill and was feeling very weird – on one side I felt sad and scared on the other side I felt hopeful and happy. At that moment I called my mom and told her how I felt. She wanted to be strong on the phone but I could feel on her voice that she was as scared as I was. We tried to support each other but it was too hard. At that time I saw from the window herd of mouflons, who actually happen to live in the area near the hospital, and I told my mom: “Look, they came to wish us luck!” and mom said: “You see, all will be just fine.”
And it was. For some time. I don’t remember much from the time directly after the operation but I know everyone was saying that all went well and all should be fine. Even my mom came to visit me. In a wheelchair. She looked terrible and I felt bad because I felt great. But she kept saying that she was fine and that she was happy that all went well etc. And doctors told me that actually, the operation was always worse for the donor than for the receiver but that she would be fine soon.
I was happy that the doctors were right, after a few days, don’t remember exactly, she was able to go home and she felt pretty good. Unlike me. Suddenly, I started to have unbearable pain in the area where my transplanted kidney was (if you didn’t know, it is being placed to the belly side, near the hip bone). So I had to go through some tests and all I wanted was just the pain to be over. And then they gave me some painkillers and I fell asleep…