My son Steve was almost shouting into the phone, he was so excited. “They’ve got a kidney for me Mum!” My heart missed a beat as I realised the enormity of his statement. This was the phone call we had all been waiting for. It had finally arrived, but what now?
“I am on my way Steve.” I replaced the phone in its receiver and grabbed the car keys in one movement. Then it happened! I started shaking and tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew I could not ‘let go’ now. Time was short. We had to get to the hospital as soon as possible. I managed to control my fears as I got myself ready and within minutes we were on our way.
I could not help thinking about all the years I’d spent watching my son’s health slowly deteriorate. The fatigue, the depression and the hopelessness of kidney failure. The awful dialysis that kept him alive, but also became a monster ruling his life. The restrictions which meant he could not even play his beloved guitar. There were so many times he’d said, “I can’t go on, Mum”.
How many times had the family rallied around and ‘been there’ for him? Helping to keep Steve ‘fighting’. Well, he did! Now here it was! Steve was on his way to receive the kidney transplant we had almost given up on, because of Steve’s very rare blood group. He had been told it could be a long wait, with no guarantee that his time would ever come.
I had taken all the tests for him to have one of my kidneys but was found to be incompatible. I was heartbroken. Steve had refused to let his young sister donate one of hers, because she’d been recently widowed and had two young children. Even though it was life or death for him, Steve could not let her take the risk. I had prayed that finally my son would be able to live and enjoy his life as others did. I prayed that he would no longer be dependent on dialysis. I prayed for the kidney donor and the wonderful family who were enabling my son to have the chance of a new life.
When we arrived at the hospital Steve was rushed away for more tests and a lecture as to the side effects and how he would rely on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life. Then he was taken to the operating theatre. It was late evening when we finally made our way home. Only then did I let the floodgates open, I sobbed for my son and for the family of the kidney donor. A life lost! A life saved! What wonderful people they are, that in the midst of their own grief they can think of saving another. God bless them all.
At 1am Steve was taken to recovery. The new kidney was functioning, all was working well. As soon as I was able to, I visited him. Fear surfaced again as Steve was prepared for the operation. I dared to let the hope surface now that the operation was over. My son smiled as he came around from the anaesthetic.
Steve was smiling as he lifted his foot up for me to see. “My toenails are pink again Mum, look.” Sure enough they were. We laughed like a couple of children. It was certain proof the new kidney was functioning well, but I laughed even more when he said, “And guess what? I had a wee today and it felt so good”.
My big adult son had not told me he had urinated for a good many years. It was one aspect of the kidney failure and dialysis we had never discussed. Until that moment I had not realised the full extent of the problem. Now, here he was as pleased as punch that he had achieved what we all take so much for granted. Healthy pink toenails and the ability to wee whenever he wanted to go (and to actually want to!) was a cause for celebration for Steve now.
Unless anyone has lived through this experience, I doubt they could possibly understand the emotion involved. There are thoughts that terrify you, there are words you dare not speak. The hopelessness and helplessness that pervade your every waking moment. As his mother, I felt I was supposed to be able to ‘kiss it better’ for my child. My own kidney was not compatible! What sort of mother am I? I could do nothing to help my son.
The doctor told us that everything went well. The words ‘thank you’ seemed so inadequate, but they were all I had.
Within a few days Steve was looking so much better and soon after he came home from the hospital. He was back driving his car and playing his beloved guitar. Making music and singing. Telling jokes and laughing. I had my boy back!
I will be forever grateful to the donor of Steve’s new kidney and to that family. I knew the family of the kidney donor would never know my son, but I like to think that they could maybe read this little story and know that because of their truly unselfish action, despite their own grief, they gave the gift of life – and not just to my son. I wish I could bless every one of them them every day.
Steve got back into his music and became quite a well known and loved musician. However, in 2015 – 12 years after his kidney transplant – his kidney started to fail and we were back on the journey of dialysis and waiting for another transplant. We prayed and hoped that all would be okay. We tried to employ Steve’s great attitude. He said to me, “I’ve had 12 years I would not have had, Mum. I am so grateful for that.”
Unfortunately, Steve didn’t live long enough to receive his second transplant. He died in September 2015. Until his last breath he remained truly grateful to his original donor and that family. If only they’d known how special giving the gift of life could be.