In 1993 I began my career as a HipHop DJ. My brother was my partner and we started off by performing at college campuses and touring the country. In 1998, we began broadcasting our own pirate radio show from the living room of a one bedroom apartment in Queens, New York. After 4 years we advanced to the big time and became part of the starting line-up of on-air personalities for Sirius satellite radio. If somebody had told me back then that I would become a registered nurse someday I probably would have not believed them.
In August 2008 I learned that a childhood friend of mine was suffering from end-stage renal failure. After hearing the news, I decided to get tested to see if I would be a qualifying candidate for kidney donation. So I picked up the phone and made a call to Stony Brook University Hospital, on Long Island. I spoke with the donor coordinator and learned about the steps that were involved. Becoming a donor is not as simple as just deciding to do it; there are qualifications that must be met. The first step was to see if our blood and tissue types were a match, and they were! Once that was determined, it was time to prepare for the next step: the surgery. After months of testing and preparation, our surgery was scheduled for April 21st, 2009.
At 4 a.m. that morning, I arrived at Stony Brook University Hospital prepared to give away my kidney. Up until that moment, my time inside a hospital was very limited. This was the first time that I was going to be admitted as an in-patient. I was not nervous at all. Instead, I was very anxious and excited about being able to help my friend live a better life than he was living at the time. Within the hour, I began to receive some attention from the transplant team involved with my surgery. Every member of the team greeted me in a warm and friendly manner. The team began to prepare me for the surgery. Shortly after the warm greetings concluded, I was introduced to the epidural needle. After the anesthesia was administered, my pre-surgery memories faded rapidly. Roughly 6 hours later, I awoke from the surgery, lying in my hospital bed. My brother was there to film that moment. There is still always a good laugh to be had by watching that video and trying to figure out what I was saying. The medication had my speech extremely slow and difficult to comprehend.
The following morning, I woke up with a feeling of great accomplishment along with some pain. The biggest obstacle that I faced was the extreme gas pain caused by the carbon dioxide that was administered during surgery. The gas pain was truly unbearable at times. The nurses were very sympathetic to my pain, yet they explained that ambulation was the best method to get rid of the pain caused by the carbon dioxide. However, convincing somebody who is in pain that walking around is more beneficial to them than lying in their bed, is not as easy as it sounds. After I decided to listen to their advice, the pain started to subside due to the amount of walking I conducted in the hallway.
My time in the hospital allowed me to see the role of the nurse in a new way. I was amazed by the display of strength, courage and compassion! It was that experience that inspired me to return to school to become a registered nurse. After a few years of contemplating on whether or not I was too old or too busy to go back to school, I enrolled at Suffolk County Community College in October 2012.
Becoming a college student again at the age of thirty-nine was exciting! While I attended school I became involved with various clubs and student affairs and I was elected president of the nursing club. I also earned two scholarships for academic achievement. My campus was a great venue for spreading awareness of kidney disease and the importance of organ donation. I organized several on-campus workshops about Kidney Transplant, including a live presentation from a renal surgeon, as well as a guest speaker from the National Kidney Foundation.
I graduated from my nursing program in May 2016 and received an A.A.S. degree. As a nursing school graduate, I was now qualified to take the board exam. In September 2016 I passed the exam and received my license as a registered nurse. I am now enrolled in an online RN-to- BSN program at SUNY Delhi.
In April of 2017, I started working as a donor coordinator at LiveOnNY in New York City. It is a non-profit organ and tissue procurement organization. As a member of the donor center, I assess patients to determine their viability for donation. I also speak with donor families to discuss and fulfill the donation process of eligible tissue from the patients.
Life is a wonderful journey filled with many twists and turns. Often the biggest obstacles we face are the ones that we personally put in front of ourselves. It is hard to believe that it has almost been nine years since my surgery. I am very pleased to announce that my recipient is still healthy and living his life without dialysis! Knowing that he is able to do that is my reward.
By: Christopher H. Melz, RN