Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Welcome to 2007

Good morning everyone, and welcome to 2007. I realize that it has now been 2007 for at least 48 hours in most time zones, but I am still here to wish you welcome. Thank you for coming by (from all over the world) to read my little blog. Allow me to introduce myself, for the new readers.

My name is Nathan. I am 28 years old and live in Texas. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease in 1998, at the age of 20, while in college. According to http://www.pkdcure.org/, polycystic kidney disease is: "the most common genetic, life threatening disease affecting more than 600,000 Americans and an estimated 12.5 million people worldwide - regardless of sex, age, race or ethnic origin. In fact, PKD affects more people than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, Down syndrome and sickle cell anemia — combined."

My kidney disease, which is supposed to be genetic, was not discovered until I went to the hospital with a kidney stone. In making sure that I was healthy, the doctors discovered that I had multiple cysts growing on my kidneys. I was told that my kidneys would eventually fail due to this disease, and that I should watch my blood pressure and get regular check-ups with a nephrologist (which is a fancy word for kidney doctor).

I followed up with a nephrologist and a cardiologist on a regular basis. My blood pressure was kept mostly under control. The cardiologist found that I have mitral valve prolapse, and that was monitored closely as well. My kidney function was tested after I moved to Texas, and it was around 25 or 30% of normal (which is not good). I was told that in several years, after my function had decreased under 10%, that I would have to start dialysis.

In February of 2005, I had a minor stroke. The cause was undetermined, though I tend to blame my kidneys. I fully recovered, and the neurologist put me on a blood thinner as a precaution to prevent further strokes. I was sick quite a bit after that, just not feeling 100%. At the end of May, I got some kind of infection in my left kidney. The cysts were bleeding into each other. I went to the hospital and got several blood transfusions, but the blood was all getting trapped in my left kidney. After about a week, the kidney had grown to a gigantic size. (See this post for details: http://nmccart.blogspot.com/2005/08/photos-of-kidney.html). Basically, they had to cut out my kidney, and it weighed 15 pounds when removed.

So, needless to say, my kidney function declined rapidly. By the next time it was checked, I was under 10% function. I had an AV Fistula placed in my lower left arm, and I was scheduled to begin dialysis. I started my treatments in the hospital at the end of July in 2005. That fistula never quite worked as well as it should have, and it eventually stopped functioning at all. So, after several minor surgeries on my arm, I finally got a new fistula in my upper left arm (above the elbow). It is quite twisty, which isn't so great for sticking giant needles into, but it has an excellent flow rate and helps me get a great dialysis treatment.

So, from a health standpoint, I am maintained by dialysis and watched carefully by a hand-picked team of doctors (all of whom I have acquired in the past five years). Once I had a fully failed kidney, I started looking in to the possibility of a transplant. Every doctor that I saw said that I was an excellent candidate, since I was only 28 and was relatively healthy, minus the horrible kidney disease. They recommended that I look in to transplantation as an option. I completed the paperwork and had my transplant orientation in December of 2005.

I had several people immediately volunteer as a possible donor. My father volunteered to be tested for me first. Unfortunately, he was not a good match. After he was denied, a friend of mine named Josh stepped into the volunteer booth. He, too, was denied the opportunity to have a vital organ removed and given away. Next, a lady in our church, Kala, asked if she could be tested. She had heard of my plight through my mother-in-law and wanted to see if she could donate a kidney to help me out. So far, all of her tests have been positive. The transplant committee has conditionally approved her, and she has one final test on January 18. Once we get the results of that test, she should be fully approved to be my kidney donor.

I am hoping that we will be ready to have the transplant in February of 2007 (this year!). It has been a long, difficult journey so far, but I am ready for the next turn.

You may be asking yourself, "Self, what can I do to help Nathan? It seems like he is a wonderful person with a great sense of humor. In fact, I would probably be his friend if I met him in person. He seems, oh wait, I was asking myself a question. Self, how can I help Nathan out?"

I am glad you asked that (and thanks for saying all of those nice things about me). As a Christian, I think that the most help that anyone can give is prayer. Pray for my health, and pray that Kala's tests will continue to go well so that she can donate her kidney. You can also send me e-mail or leave comments on my blog. The comments route is the more public choice, and works well, depending on what you want to say. If you have questions for me, or want to know more, then you can always e-mail me. I try to read and reply to all of my e-mail, it just takes a while to do so.

Well, now you have an idea of who I am and where I am going. I hope that this post will be a good start to 2007. Keep reading, and come back to find out when I get my transplant and what all wonderful things that they will then get to do to me to help me keep the new kidney!

(For those of you that are not new, thank you for reading this year-end recap. You may have also noticed that I updated the format on the blog page. Blogger recently upgraded their system, so I got a new look to the blog. I hope you like it.)
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