Squirming Toward My New Normal – 2nd Place Winner (Tie) 15th annual essay contest

By Sandra Kisselback

why get a kidney transplant

A chance meeting in a random hallway led to changes. Echoes of conversations filled my mind.

“You should opt to get yourself back on the transplant list.”

I fidgeted in my seat.

“Take a chance Sandra. It will be worth it.”

I’m doing reasonably well. Treatments are working. I’m handling the regimen.

“It’ll be better for you. Trust me,” Dr. Schumacher, nephrologist extraordinaire chimed. He encouraged me to try for a second transplant every office visit. Assuring me benefits would abound.

Everybody was pressing me to do it. I’m aware a bounty of positives flock along-side successful transplantation. The first transplant, donated by my brother Brian, was wonderful. “Bartholomew” worked for 11 years, 11 months and 11 days.

“Sign up. Get the tests. What’s holding you back?”

Squeamishly replying to the concerted efforts of health care professionals and friends, I always voiced the same concerns:

“Ok. Suppose I try for a new kidney and a match is miraculously found. Three years post-transplant, Medicare ends. I would need to find and fund a complete fresh health plan. Plus the cost of the drugs can be huge.”

Well, maybe you could get a full time job with health benefits.”

Hahahahahahahahahaha! My insides were busting up with laughter. Whooping it up with a mixture of held back tears and silent resistance to change. I officially qualify for senior citizen discounts. Who’s gonna hire me full time and give me health insurance? Maybe I could become the next runway model with a million-dollar contract. Or, how about the new Commander of the Navy Seals elite squad. That would be outstanding. I’d enjoy that one!

I know you care. But…will you pay for my transplant drugs or health insurance? I didn’t think so. Thanks anyway. It’s all working just fine the way it is.

This was clearly the right decision. Stay on dialysis ‘til the end. It’s manageable. I held faithfully to this truth like a lifeline. Even as surprise bumps rose up on the seemingly smooth ride, I fought through challenges to get back to my “normal”- home hemo-dialysis five hours a day, five days a week. Two needles poked in my arm, blood filling the IV lines, scrunching under the multiple blankets as the machine scrubbed away the toxins.

Riding one particular storm of hospitalization, I roamed the hallways between treatments. Popping out a side door, I came face to face with my future.

“Hi, Dr. Conti.”

“Hey, you. What are you doing here?”

“I’m looking for a new kidney,” I blurted out.

Dr. Conti volleyed back, “Call my secretary Alice and set up an appointment.” He gave me the number.

Later that day, I timidly dialed the number and set a date for orientation. Dragging my heels over the next few months, Still resisting changes to my routine, I slowly completed the testing for placement on the transplant list.

A bit over a year later, I received a call from Albany Medical Center. I was setting up to do a treatment, so I let the answering machine pick up. Right before plugging, in I figured I should check the message and was directed to call Jennifer.

“Hello, this is Sandra Kisselback returning your call.”

“Hi, this is Jennifer. We have a kidney for you. How long will it take you to get to the hospital?”

Twenty-one hours later I was being wheeled to surgery. I successfully celebrated my third anniversary on April 8, 2017.

I had been protecting myself in a box of comfort. Making excuses for playing it safe. Sticking to what was working and leaving the risk taking to experts. I now realize, life will improve by having confidence enough to question your standard operating procedure. In the potato chip caper I was told I could do anything I set my mind to. But that’s another story.

Deciding to go forward with a second transplant and living dialysis free is my new normal. They were right. It was well worth it!

why get a kidney transplantSandra Kisselback has a passion for wood, unicorns, writing and learning new things. There is a magic fairy door, a unicorn in a Little Miss Sunshine mug and soccer playing dogs picture in her vision corner. Kidney transplant in 1994 and 2014. Birthdays should be celebrated with gusto!

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