After becoming free of daily dialysis treatments my mind flipped into a mode of , "I should tell every dialysis patient about my recovery." My thinking was along the lines that I should not be the only person to have this good fortune of returning kidney function. Not knowing where to start an ambitious project like that, I started at the most logical place I knew - The National Kidney Foundation. I became a volunteer.
There are stories in the newspaper now just about every month how some angel donates one of their healthy kidneys to a relative with kidney failure or ESRD. It has also become something of a miracle for someone to offer their kidney to a non-relative. A few years ago, non-relative transplants were very rare. While I was on dialysis, and now even after I ended dialysis, it makes me happy when I read those stories about anyone giving one of their healthy kidneys for a kidney patient to recover. I personally remember my attention being directed to an article about just such a gift of life in an article by Margie Boule in the Oregonian newspaper on September 8, 2002. In that article, Margie Boule was telling the story about how Susan Baumgardner was inspired by the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Towers and when they collapsed she became compelled to try to connect with James DePriest, who at the time was the enigmatic conductor of the Oregon Symphony who was seriously ill and in need of a kidney. Susan wanted to donate one of her kidneys. Connection was accomplished, and James DePriest received Susan's left kidney on December 3, 2001. The timing for Susan had been good, or bad, depending on your perspective of the situation. The day Susan learned she was a perfect match, Providence St. Vincent Hospital, where Susan worked, laid off 52 employees in a post-September 11 cutback. Susan was one of them. That did not stop her from the kidney donation and it was accomplished under assumed names while she and James DePriest were in the hospital. After they both recovered from the kidney surgery and James DePriest was off dialysis, Susan Baumgardner went to work for the National Kidney Foundation of Oregon and Washington. Because of her new job as CEO of the NKF, Susan decided to forgo the withholding of her identity. In that particular case, I think another angel was born.
That article appeared about two weeks after I was taken off dialysis and my nephrologist told me my kidneys did the unexpected, or medical miracle if you prefer, they started operating normally for no apparent reason. They had reversed their kidney disease and were getting better by themselves. Well -- not quite -- that is not the way my nephrologist, Dr. Elzinga, explained it to me.