"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Organ donor gives husband the gift of life

By on October 29, 2018 in Articles with 0 Comments

Connie and David Morris, just before the surgery that gave one of her kidneys to him.

By Connie Morris

It is an unusual love story. We met by happenstance.

But first, we were divorced from our first spouses on the same day — Good Friday 1989. In those days, there was a column in the newspaper titled ”Dissolution of Marriage.” There we were, listed one after the other, our failed marriages on display for all to see.

However, a mutual friend saw the announcement and thought we might be good together. She called each of us and asked if we might be interested in meeting someone new and she would arrange a dinner for us to meet. We both said yes.

Three weeks after our divorces were final, a dinner was arranged at the home of this very special friend. I arrived first — a little nervous, but excited to move into my future. He walked in, carrying the fish he had prepared.

If bringing food HE had prepared wasn’t enough, he looked at me with his beautiful green eyes and said “Hello.” Yes, he had me at hello.

A year and a half later we were married. We were to become a blended family. Two adolescent daughters, accustomed to being the center of attention, now had to share everything. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. Then another daughter arrived and she became the glue that bound us all.

In our 28 years married, we have had our ups and downs; like all couples who strive to build a life together. The fabric of life is woven with the threads of shared experience: proms, graduations, weddings, retirements and the deaths of family members near and dear.

None of that and all of that prepared us for the journey that began on Sept.17, 2017.

It was my brother’s birthday celebration at my mother’s home. Dinner was almost over and my husband received a call. He listened, he nodded and said “uh huh.”

He abruptly rose from his seat and left the house. Shocked at his behavior, I excused myself and followed him home.

When we arrived home, I asked him what had happened, what had caused him to leave so abruptly.

The call David had received was from Confluence Health. He had a routine blood exam earlier in the day and the results showed that his kidneys were close to failing and that he needed to be prepped for dialysis immediately.

What? This can’t be! He knew he had high blood pressure that had done some damage to his kidneys, but his doctors assured him, given his overall good health, he would most likely never need dialysis or transplant.

We were forced to face reality. We feared the active life we shared would be halted.

Through research and consultation, we prepared for the immediate change in our lifestyle. However, lo and behold, his deterioration stabilized. With the support of his doctors, here and at Virginia Mason in Seattle, we delayed dialysis prep and moved forward with the process to get him listed on the regional deceased donor list.

By New Year’s 2018 he was listed and knowing it takes two to five years to receive, we began the process to find a live donor. This is where my special journey begins.

I decided to be tested for a match so that I might tell his potential family donors how the process worked.

It turned out to be quite simple. First, you must be of a compatible blood type. I was. Next, I had blood drawn in Wenatchee and that was sent to Virginia Mason to analyze potential for rejection. After a couple of weeks, they called with the results. Miracle of miracles I was a match.

Wow, how could it be so easy? Next I went to Virginia Mason for a full health evaluation and the team determined I was healthy enough to give one of my kidneys to my husband. Boy, did he make a good choice when he married me!

Three months later, we had our surgery and now three months post surgery we are doing great.

I now have a new mission — advocating for potential kidney donors. Like many people, I am listed as an “organ donor” on my driver’s license. It never occurred to me to be a living donor.

As I worked through the donation process I became better informed of the facts surrounding kidney donation.

n Why donate? You are giving someone the gift of years of a better and healthier life.

n Who can donate? You must be 18 or older, healthy (not at risk for kidney disease) and a match to someone (could be someone you know or you could become part of a donor chain or paired donation).

n Will donating affect my health? Research shows that donors have a normal life expectancy and lead normal lives without restriction.

n How invasive is the surgery? The kidney is usually removed laparoscopically, hospital stay of a day or two and back to normal activity in four to six weeks.

n How is it paid for? Your recipient’s insurance covers all costs for evaluation, surgery and post-op care.

Kidney transplants have been done for over 50 years, with a 93 percent success rate after three years for the recipient.

I have had a unique view, having been a donor and married to my recipient. I see first hand the change it has made in his life.

Many say it was a “gift of life” for him, but it has been a gift to me, too. I have had the satisfaction of knowing my donation has made a huge difference in the quality of someone’s life.

If you are interested in kidney donation or want more information about the process you can visit the United Network for Organ Sharing at www.unos.org or contact NW Kidney Centers at (206) 720-3737.

You will not regret it.

David Morris is 13 years retired from Chelan County P.U.D. He spends his time hiking, doing home repairs and coaching pole vault for the Wenatchee High School track team. Connie is a Wenatchee native and in her 36th year in the dental field. She is part of the Wenatchee Valley Follies Guild and involved with Wenatchee School District and community theater.

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