KidFam!

An AMAZING night with my kidney family! Many converged on Palm Desert for Coachella, so Emory flew down and we drove out this morning. Our first time meeting the spectacular Bree, the altruistic donor who.started the chain that saved my life and Heather’s. Very fun and emotional time with these lovely folks who truly are family.

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deepBreath

Biopsy report: The kidney is VERY happy. (Thanks Glenn for such a great one!) No signs of rejection. No abnormal scarring.  One year is a big milestone that I am thankful for. (Last biopsy will be at the 2-year mark.)

SO thankful to God for His grace and sustenance; to Stacy for her undying love and advocacy; my family for helping me feel normal (well, Atkinson normal) through this; my other kidney chain family members; and to our church, my work, and all our friends for your massive support and prayers.

Now, excuse me while I fully embrace this wonderful life I’ve been gifted.

ONE-YEAR KIDNEYVERSARY!

That’s right, one year ago today I received my new kidney that saved my life. How can it feel like 10 years ago AND yesterday?? I’m much more emotional than I thought I’d be – have been for a few days. It’s been a long 3-year journey – autoimmune disease diagnosis, treatment, kidney failure, dialysis, transplant, rejection, treatment, recovery. But those are just steps along the way.

Here are two much more important elements of my journey:

People – my Angel Wife, Stacy (without whom I would not be alive), my children, extended family, friends, church, work, medical professionals, fellow patients – and, of course, my partners in our amazing Kidney Chain: Amy, who’s death from cystic fibrosis inspired cousin Breelynn Horn to be an altruistic kidney donor; Heather Kantor who received Breelyn’s kidney; Emory Fuqua who donated her kidney on my behalf to Laurie Dietrichson Troxell in Colorado; and my brother-from-another-mother, Glenn Croc Millar, who donated on behalf of Heather, and gave me his kidney. (I know that’s confusing – here’s a better explanation)

Impact – people have been asking me a legitimate question: Am I glad 2016 is almost over? First, I’m typically not one to regret. What happens happens – it’s our response to it that matters. Second, every step along this journey has become part of my DNA. It has imprinted the experiences on my spirit. It has fundamentally changed me in so many ways. My perspective on life and the future has been transformed. God has worked each step for my good, who is more concerned with my inside (WHO I am) rather than all the outside parts working right.

All signs point to my new kidney doing great. I’ll have my one-year biopsy next week to confirm. Recovery from the rejection treatments and my body just getting used to this new normal has been a sloooow process. I’ve only started to feel significant improvements in my strength and stability over the last 5 weeks, which made for a much happier Christmas.

We are so thankful to God for His grace and mercy through this, and to all our friends around the world for their support and prayers.

I said YES!

BLOWN away!! Got a package tonight, opened it, and see this beautiful invitation to perform the wedding for Greg & Emory! Emory is the amazing person who donated her kidney so I could get the kidney I needed. I am so honored and overwhelmed. They got me good!! (And check out the PERFECT cuff links they gave me for the wedding – last pic.)

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Greg & Emory with a pic of her donated kidney

Surprise!

What a special surprise today…got this amazing, handmade pillow from Carol Tummarello in Texas. Now understand that I have never met Carol. She is my daughter-in-law Sarah’s Grandma sister. What an angel, and an inspiring message. Hugz Carol…someday in person!

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Job help

My angel kidney donor, Emmoree KF, was just laid off from her job – one of 50 people. She is not just a sacrificial, amazing person, but sharp as a tack and great at what she does: Events and event marketing. She lives in the Bay Area, so if anyone up there knows of any opportunities, please pass it on to her or me and I’ll get it to her. Thanks!

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The Spoon Theory

No other resource was more helpful in assisting my friends and family to understand what it was like to be me while battling chronic kidney disease.

If you deal with chronic illness, please read this, then forward it to those closest to you. They will be enlightened and you will be relieved when they don’t pressure you as much. Many times my folks or kids would ask how my spoons were doing.

This is from the website But You Don’t Look Sick. You can also download this article in PDF format or get it translated in Spanish, Hebrew, and French.

Read it in English:

The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino

Prison Break, Part 2

Got some wonderful moments at the beach today. (Second half of Crystal Pier closed due to high surf.) Added bonus! Time with our dear friends Fred & Nancy Gale, who stopped here to visit on their way home to Boston. Nancy took on breast cancer last year and won! So we had much to talk about, including so many shared experiences on our own journeys.

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Reflecting…

Since yesterday was our one-month anniversary, it got us all reflecting.

Our wonderful family friend Emory donated a kidney to someone else so I could get the kidney I need. That kidney came from Glenn. I had to share their posts from yesterday:

EMORY:

It amazes me how strangers connected by a “simple” thing can come together and provide so much support and laughter, and a shoulder to lean on when in need. It’s only been a month but already so happy to have added these people to my life. ‪#‎kiidneydonor‬ ‪#‎livingdonor‬ ‪#‎changinglives‬

GLENN:

Human connections are a funny thing. As my kidney recipient goes through his ups and downs of healing and adapting, my emotions go up and down with him. This is a guy I’ve known for all of 4 weeks. We’ve talked for no more than 5 or 6 hours. And yet there’s something that connects us that seems to be far greater than people I’ve known for years. Why? A kidney is nothing more than some human cells formed into an organ, an organ that I can’t even tell is missing and that I don’t need. So it’s something much bigger than that. Is that what bonds us as human beings? Is that what makes us an advanced species, the power to connect with others quickly. Is it evolutionary? Is it based on survival instincts? Where is it in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? I don’t know, but it’s a very strange feeling and I feel more human for having it.

Transplant Buddy

Meet Heather Kantor, my transplant buddy. She was the first recipient in the kidney chain I was honored to be part of. Her donor, Glenn, wasn’t a match with her (like Emory wasn’t for me), so I got his kidney. And, of course, neither of us would have a new kidney if not for Breelynn, the altruistic donor who kicked off this amazing story. Heather’s final check up with Scripps coincided with my appointment today so we met for lunch to catch up before she moves back east. Feeling blest that I not only gained a new kidney but dear new friends as well…

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One More Squeeze

One last squeeze with my angel donor Emory yesterday before she headed home to San Jose. After her post-op appointment, she and her mom Karen came over for lunch. So how do you say thanks to someone who saved your life? It is quite the challenge. Not sure if I can ever fully accomplish that. So, for now, I love you.

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