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Being a Kidney Donor

“We could participate in a paired exchange. I was able to donate my kidney to someone else and he, in turn, received a kidney from another donor.”

Cara Ventresca


John had an amazing nephrologist here in his care leading up to the transplant, and the one thing that the nephrologist said that really stuck in our minds was he said my goal for you is to be able to have you have a transplant before you need to go on dialysis, and there’s a fairly small window of time in kidney function when that can happen.

As soon as John’s kidney function reached a particular level, we were sent to the transplant clinic, and we went through the process of him being evaluated and getting on the transplant list.  At the time, the transplant wait was many years at our particular transplant center.

We knew that I wasn’t the same blood type as him.  So, I would not be eligible as a direct donor, but they brought up the concept that we could participate in a paired exchange. I was able to donate my kidney to someone else and he, in turn, received a kidney from another donor.

I didn’t have a single doubt about donating a kidney to John.  There wasn’t a question in my mind that this was the best thing to do for our family, for his health, for our children.

I thought about the risk involved in donating a kidney, but it was completely outweighed by seeing how healthy John is now compared to what he was.  And if I ever were – if my one remaining kidney were to fail, I would go to the – I would receive priority in receiving a kidney.

As a donor, the work up that I have to go through is unbelievable.  It’s a two day process, meeting with psychiatrists, I have to get stress tests, CAT scans, it’s a very thorough two day process.  And they want to make sure that the donor feels very comfortable with what they’re getting into.

I was followed for two years after donating my kidney.  I was followed closely for the first year and then six months after and then I graduated at the two year mark and now I follow up with my PCP yearly for blood pressure and labs marking my kidney function.

Now that I only have one kidney, basically I have to drink a lot of water, keep my weight down, try to keep up a healthy lifestyle and keep my blood pressure down just to keep the strain off of that one kidney, which now has to do the job of two.

When John and I were both in the hospital together recovering from surgery, we had a great time. Being in the hospital with John afterwards was the best time.  It was like a vacation.  It was really fun.  We weren’t allowed to be in the same room because John was so severely immunocompromised, but it was amazing.  We would walk across the hall to each other’s rooms and just hang out there and it was the best time. 

It was the best four days ever, it was like a little vacation if you could believe it or not.  A vacation with IVs and catheters. We both had three months off so we had the summer off together.  So it was great.  We had friends and family coming and they brought us meals, it was awesome.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  If I had a third kidney, I’d donate it as well.

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