This is my family, The Merrill family. This is how I decided to be a living organ donor. This is our story of miracles.
When I was four years old my Dad, Vance Merrill, went through his first living donor kidney transplant! A few years prior to needing a kidney transplant he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called IgA Nephropathy. IgA Nephropathy attacks the nephrons(the filtering system) in the kidneys when the nephrons become damaged they can not filter blood correctly. This results in your body becoming toxic.
My Dad received his first donor kidney from his little sister Leslie and I will forever be grateful for her sacrifice on August 6, 1999. Fast forward to 18 years later, Leslie has lived a healthy and full life post donation, and has given birth to 4 beautiful children. Leslie’s life has not been hindered at all by donating a kidney to my Dad! I love her and can not thank her enough for being so selfless in donating one of her kidneys so I could have my Dad around.
At the time of the transplant in 1999 our family consisted of my Dad Vance, my Mom Tina, Kessa(me) I was four years old and my brother Ridge who was just barely 1 years old! I have lots of memories at that time in my life even though I was only four. I remember my Dad having to go to dialysis, I remember being babysat a lot so my Mom could be with my Dad, I remember my Dad having an IV at home, and I remember asking lots of questions like a four year old usually does.
I am now 22 years old, and for the last two years, I have been preparing to donate a kidney to my Dad! We found out he was possibly going to need a transplant again in June of 2015. I always knew this was a possibility because of the nature of his autoimmune disorder, it’s not one you can really control and it eventually attacked the nephrons over time. At the time I was living in Utah going to school at Utah Valley University, that summer I decided to move home to be near my family and prepare to possibly be a living donor for my Dad. My Dad’s health has gotten progressively worse over the last couple of years and this last month he officially went on dialysis. I pray for those that have to be on dialysis longer because it is incredibly taxing on the body.
Now fast forward two years after me deciding to move home to potentially donate I have OFFICIALLY been approved to be my Dads living donor. We are scheduled for surgery on August 9, 2017!
For anyone wondering if you should become a living donor for someone you love or even for someone you do not know I want to share a bit about my experience that I have had! Although it has been a long experience it has been the MOST rewarding experience of my life. The testing process of becoming a living donor is extensive but necessary.
Firstly the person you are wishing to donate to HAS to be approved by a transplant committee first! They go through their own testing to do this.
After that you will do blood work for a cross match test. This is to make sure your organ will be compatible with the recipient. If you are not compatible you will not be able to donate!
I did my cross match test in April, and received my results a few days later! I was a compatible match with my Dad!! YAY!!
The next step was to do more blood work to ensure that I didn’t carry any crazy infectious diseases and they did a glucose test as well. This day of testing was long but worth it!
After that I went and spent a whole day at the transplant center where I met with my transplant coordinator, Winnie. A social worker, a nutritionist, and a financial specialist! The whole purpose of this day is to educate you on what you are volunteering to do and to make sure that you have a support system in place.
The next steps can vary for each person but personally I had to go meet with a psychiatrist because of my family’s history of depression, and I met with a hematologist because I had a very slight elevated white blood cell count. The process of becoming a donor is thorough! They want to make sure that there will not be any risks for the donor after surgery. I’m grateful even though the process is long that I have been through countless checkups to ensure my health and I can say that I am as healthy as I can be!
After you do any appointments you may or may not have to do you will do a chest x-ray, a CT Scan of your kidneys and an EKG. This day was amazing, long but amazing! Because my Dad had a transplant 18 years ago I was able to meet so many wonderful people who had worked there at the time my Dad had his first transplant! People who each told me inspiring stories of donors they had know throughout the years, and each one of them complimented me on my willingness to do this.
The last real appointment I had was to meet with the surgeon. My surgeon said that my kidneys are the highest functioning kidneys he has EVER seen, which was encouraging to me!!
The best part about being tested to be a living organ donor is EVERYONE treats you like royalty. You are giving someone the gift of life, don’t forget that! I am SO incredibly grateful for the wonderful people who helped me through all of the testing and will help me through surgery.
I had a few more interviews after those tests and then came the day for my case to be presented to the transplant committee!! This is the deciding day. The day that you are either told yes or no to being a donor!
I received a YES on July 20, 2017!!! We are scheduled now for August 9, 2017!!! My Dad will have the same surgeon as he did 18 years ago. We will recover in the hospital for a few days, and then we will continue to recover at home together!
My Dad is one of my best friends and I can’t think of any one more deserving. I love my family and I’m grateful my body is capable of doing this. We do currently have a Go Fund Me set up to help with the medical costs. If you have the means to donate my family would be so grateful! You can find it at www.gofundme.com/vancemerrill
The one thing I recommend to any possible donors is that you have a good support system in place, I couldn’t have done this alone. My Mom or my brother was always by my side at appointments and I cannot thank them enough for the time they have given to me. It was not always the easiest road but I would go through it again if I had to!
If you have had thoughts of being an organ donor, DO IT. DONATE LIFE!
Thank you for joining in this miracle,