Part 6: The Cell Match
The Cell Match Makes Me A Donor
Of course there would be no surgery if our cells did not match. So I tried to relax. I told myself that I had done everything I could and now it was up to the science. While I was in Washington I went to some meetings. When I removed my jacket in front of friends who knew about the donation the sight of my inner arm covered in bruises from blood tests produced sober looks. Then I returned to London to wait for the results. I did not wait long. In a few days Trish contacted me. Our cells matched. The doctors were very pleased with the results and we could now discuss dates in December.
Before I did so I had one last obligation to make to George. I wanted him to have the opportunity to back out of his agreement to the transplant. After all, I had that chance. I called Taro and told him that although I had no second thoughts at all that I owed it to George to allow him express any doubts that he had. Taro was in total agreement and promised to call George to tell him that he would more than understand if George wanted to rethink his decision and discuss it with me again. Taro and I agreed that George’s decision would be final. When Taro made the phone call to George I confess I left the kitchen door ajar. What I heard surprised even me. George told him in a firm voice that he had no second thoughts about it and that I had his ‘full support.’
The next few months rolled by quickly. I needed to make a decision about the surgery so I asked Trish for the contact details of a recent patient who had lived overseas. I wanted to know how long it would be before I could travel home to London for Christmas. I also spoke to my wonderful GP Dr Ince who put me in touch with a nurse who looked after donors after the surgery. Dr Pinto the lead surgeon had now been assigned to my case along with Dr Elster (the one who told me I needed to decide the type of surgery). I spoke to Dr Pinto about the risks of each one. These three contacts were very useful. The former patient told me in detail how he fared on his long flight home after donating to his son and was very encouraging about the recovery. Based on these contacts I decided to go with the laparoscopic. I wanted a speedy recovery and despite the risks Dr Pinto’s experience was reassuring. When I asked how many transplants he had conducted he told me he stopped counting when he reached 200.
I needed to be as healthy as possible before the operation so I walked everyday with my friend Cecilia. By this point she knew George would be commuting from another city during the week so when I told her about the transplant, she offered to look after me. She was one of the few people I told. I did not worry about not surviving the operation. To me the greater danger was that the kidney would be rejected or itself become a victim of whatever it was that affected Taro. His particular illness had never been identified. I thought this would a tragedy that only I could relate to or deal with. So in the end even some close friends were not aware of what I was doing. I told my colleagues and our vicar as well so that George would not have to in the event that things went badly wrong. In mid November I told my mother and older sister.
Then in late November we decided it was time to tell the children as well. We sat them down one evening with the model of the human body and asked if they could point to the kidney and tell us some things about it. I then explained that Taro was ill and that I could help him get well by donating one of mine. They were very concerned about Taro who had been making them origami animals for years. Our older son asked an interesting question. ‘What would happen to Taro’s kidney that was being replaced?’ This had never occurred to me so I said I would ask the doctors. (I did and found out that the old kidney stays in and then shrinks sometimes to the size of a pea). Our younger son said nothing for a while. Then after he had digested all this information he spoke quite slowly and deliberately as if thinking this through. ‘If we have two kidneys and we only need one, then the second kidney is a kind of – bonus!’ He said ‘bonus’ with a big smile on his face. Who could have asked for more?
On Sunday the 12 December, the day after the school term ended for the Christmas holidays I hugged my children goodbye and left for Washington. George was to drop the children off with his father and then fly out on Monday. The operation was to take place on Tuesday. I needed to go early because I had to be in the transplant unit on Monday morning for retesting of the cell match. It was a precautionary measure.