A kidney for Christmas
How organ donation has impacted our family’s lives.
By Elizabeth Myers
Nov. 13, 2012. To most, this was just another inconsequential November day. It is a day that positively transformed our future and gave me a gift that I can never repay. Nov. 13, 2012 is the day I received a live donor kidney transplant from my sister Michele. My name is Elizabeth Myers and this is my story on why my sisters are my heroes.
You must first understand my family and our history with the nation’s leading hereditary disease, polycystic kidney disease, or PKD for short. PKD causes cysts to grow on your kidneys. The kidney then becomes enlarged which, over time, leads to reduced kidney function and eventually kidney failure. There is no cure and most patients will require a form of dialysis or kidney transplantation as the disease progresses.
Growing up, my siblings (I have one brother, Terry, and two sisters, Marie and Michele) and I knew we had a chance to become diagnosed with this disease. We saw what it could do and how it affected quality of life.
As teenagers in the 70s, we watched our mother do battle with the pain and sickness associated with this disease which included running on a home dialysis machine six hours a day three days a week. We knew then what fate had planned for our future. Even before watching our mother go through this, we had seen our share of what this life changing disease could do. Our great-grandmother passed away at 40 and our grandmother at 46; both due to the complications associated with PKD. One of our uncles was diagnosed but able to receive a transplant; his son also has PKD. Sadly, our mother lost her battle and passed away March 16, 1976 at the early age of 40. We were heartbroken to lose our mother before we had yet to even become adults.
As adults, three out of the four of us were diagnosed with PKD. Medicine has advanced in the 36 years since our mother’s death but there is still no cure. There are still only two options for PKD patients: dialysis and transplantation. My sister Michele was the only one who did not inherit PKD and as a result her children didn’t either. Terry, Marie and I weren’t as fortunate and as a result my two sons and Marie’s two daughters also have PKD. Terry’s son does not have it as there is a 50/50 chance of passing on the gene to your children.
While our mother was sick Marie stepped into her shoes and assumed all the responsibilities that come with that title. She cooked, cleaned, ironed, did all the grocery shopping and basically cared for us while our mother couldn’t. This was just the start of showing how strong of a woman she was and still is to this day. Marie was the first to experience complications from PKD. Marie was blessed with her first