March 13, 2016

My Sister’s 7 Year Kidney Transplant Anniversary

Last night my family got together to celebrate the seven year anniversary of my sister’s kidney transplant. We were lucky to be able to enjoy a beautiful dinner at the gorgeous restaurant L’Escale in Greenwich, Connecticut (http://lescalerestaurant.com/), and engage in uplifting and hopeful conversation with the persons we hold most dear.

On March 12th, 2009, my father donated one of his kidneys to my sister. People often refer to diabetes as a silent disease, and I believe that is very true. It is easy to feel empathy for someone who is losing their hair due to chemo treatments or someone where the physical side effects of their disease are obvious. Diabetes is an everyday all consuming disease where the person afflicted by it can never forget that it is there, yet if they do, the disease will offer terrible consequences. I believe that is what happened to my sister. She had periods of time where she did not want to acknowledge that something about her was different; she did not want to seem weak. Then diabetes showed its ugly side and her organs began to break down and she no longer had a choice but to face the problem head on. Regardless, she remained beautiful and people kept asking if she was really sick.

On March 12, 2009, two of the strongest people I knew (and still know) went under the knife. My father who has always been stoic yet gentle gave his kidney to my big sister who was my hero growing up, and still fills those shoes to this day. I honestly believe that every person realizes they are an adult at some point in their lives, and for me it did not happen until that day. I realized that I could be there for my family in a way that they had been there for me. I also realized that although I was the little sister and the youngest daughter, I was useful and a source of strength and energy during a stressful situation. I could speak to doctors on my mother’s behalf, I could reach out to friends and colleagues to update them regarding the situation, and as long as I kept it together I could be a source of strength to my father, my sister, and the rest of my family.

When Karin went to a boarding school made for persons on the national Swedish tennis team I cried every night, wrote her letters, and nagged my parents until I was allowed to go visit as a five year old bratty sister. When my father traveled extensively during the first gulf war and we lived in Paris, I would sleep next to his pajamas and pretend that he was safe at home. My father and my sister have always been very important to me, but they have also always been an “unknown.” My mother has always been my best friend and my rock; I know she will always be there for me in any capacity I need, and I will always be there for her. My other sister helped raise me, was my roommate, and we have unconditional love for each other, but I know she will always be there and that she is safe and healthy. This backstory may be irrelevant, but when I reflect on that day, March 12, all of those memories come back to me and I see myself and my family very clearly at different times during the past thirty+ years.

On March 12, 2009, my father donated his kidney to my sister. The procedure took longer than expected and my mother was in tears because she thought something had happened to my father. Apparently it was difficult to properly place him on the operating table, but removing the kidney was a smooth operation. The kidney was then transplanted into my sister’s small body, and both were brought out of anesthesia. We were elated that my father and my sister were ok. What happened next was complicated. While my father recovered rather quickly, my sister’s body did not accept the kidney immediately and she swelled to (almost) my weight due to water retention. But after that incredible procedure and long struggle, both are healthy and happy today.

I reflect back on the anniversary of my father’s kidney donation to my sister with hope and pride. I am proud that my family banded together and provided the kind of support that is so often lacking in enabling someone who is chronically ill to push through and fight a disease that can be so debilitating. I am hopeful that since this is the seventh anniversary of the kidney transplant surgery, that things will continue to move forward. Both of my heroes continue to remain healthy, and our family remains strong and united. But most importantly, I am both proud and hopeful, that since the surgery, my sister has founded Lyfebulb, an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of those living with chronic disease, now. I am also proud to say that due to my experience with my sister’s diabetes, including her kidney transplant seven years ago, I am inspired and excited to join her at Lyfebulb to support her and the organization achieve its mission. I cannot wait to see what we achieve.

I do hope that less kidney transplants will need to take place in the future, that fewer families will need to wait outside the operating room, and that medical advances will continue to be made. I am certain that we as a team and as a company can aid in achieving those goals. Until then, and despite of that, I celebrate the exchange of (or gift of) organs that two of my heroes made on March 12, 2009.