Guest Post by Jason Garcia, Week 8

Yes, I know Week 8 doesn’t come after Week 5, but it took a few extra weeks to get those lab results from my last blood draw to determine if Niem and I match antigens to move on to one of the final tests, the Crossmatch test. It’s been a challenging waiting period because we had picked up so much momentum early on with each passing week. In between, however, Melanie and I celebrated Lily’s fifth birthday and Amelia’s seventh as well as seeing Kylie perform a song in front of the whole school. Ironically, Melanie is also playing the waiting game after interviewing for UCSF’s nurse practitioner master’s degree program.

Recently, I’ve researched and run multiple scenarios in my head on all the possibilities that being a kidney donor would bring. The information is out there with things like the 1% risk of mild bleeding as a result of the surgery, adhesion build up sensitivity, high blood pressure, protein in my urine, hernias, organ impairment and stitches coming apart. All are possible outcomes that I don’t think anyone would willingly volunteer to put themselves at risk if they had the choice.

I know the others in our close group of friends wouldn’t want to put themselves at risk either but a couple have already been ruled out as candidates for one of the many, many reasons you can be and one is in the middle of testing now. We’re just like that with each other. When I asked Niem to help me with some artwork I needed done some months back, he didn’t quote me a price. He asked what I needed, when I needed it and how it is he could best help and he did. Our group of friends wants to know the What, When and How on ways to be there for each other, not the Why.

On Tuesday, I noticed I missed a voicemail from a nurse I hadn’t talked to before in the process of transferring over to a new phone. I called her back the next morning while I was at work and she tells me we’re a good antigen match! If that wasn’t good news enough, she also says they conducted the crossmatch test which is a stronger determining factor on whether we’re actually a match or not. It’s negative! That’s a good thing in medical crossmatching lingo. It turns out my kidney can go directly into NIem because his cells didn’t reject mine under the microscope.

I was at a loss for words and the reality of what she was telling me took a second to sink in. Maybe I shouldn’t have called in the middle of my workday while I’m waiting for a client was my next immediate thought. Tears began welling up and I didn’t know what to say. “So, what’s the next step” I ask, but inside I’m also thinking they just saved me from having to have my blood drawn one last time by doing the crossmatch test at the same time as the antigen test. Yay!

She then tells me about the next step, which includes meeting with the surgeon, transplant coordinator, nurse and social worker. Also, a few more tests like an EKG, chest x-ray, a quite unique sounding test that I pee into a cup at some interval time for a whole day. Fortunately, my client walked in as she was explaining that last test to me. Only one big news a day is my general rule.

I did manage to schedule that appointment for March 8th before we ended the call. I agreed to call her in the next few days to find out more details about what’s involved for that half day of testing and any preparatory steps I need to take as is occasionally the case. I squeeze in a text to Niem that I’ll be calling him at 9:50 and go greet my client. I call him at 9:48 and relay the news. We’re both speechless, but still attempt to form sentences yet, inside, we know what the other is feeling.

What can you say? The chances of my kidney being able to go into Niem’s body was in the low single digits but to me it was signed, sealed and delivered. We agree to call each other later because it’s the middle of the workday and blessings like this should only be conversed about after work hours. I call my wife and close friends and give them the good news. Collectively, we all breath a sigh of relief knowing there are still a few hurdles to get through.

Hours after all of this, Melanie tells me the amazing news that she got into UCSF’s nurse practitioner program! Blessings all around and reasons to celebrate which for our family means ice cream parlor visits. An NP specializing in geriatric care is what she’ll be going to study. Looks like I’m building my own post-op health team from the ground up here.

The next day, I ask Niem if I can call his mom and dad which I’ve known for twenty-five years and have a high respect and love for. He texts me their number and I call them. His mom picks up and knows the news of course. We share a few tears and connect the way parents do. I learned a lot from the little things I saw her do and the big sacrifices they made for Niem and his siblings. Not many words are exchanged but our feelings are expressed well.

There are many steps and hurdles that we still have to get through to make this happen but for now NIem and I will be going through this together with our friends and family. I mean, isn’t that the way things are suppose to be?