Life is good with Lucinda, my new kidney

To the Editor:

“There is no cure for end-stage renal disease. There are some very good treatment options though”: This was my first lesson upon being diagnosed in November of 1992.

My kidneys failed in 1994 with my first treatment option being peritoneal dialysis. My second treatment option was getting a transplanted kidney —an incredible gift from my brother Brian.

Life continued with Bartholomew, as Brian’s kidney fondly became known. It was 11 years, 11 months, and 11 days later that Bartholomew retired from working for me. I returned a second time to peritoneal dialysis.

After sustaining a rip in my peritoneal cavity while sledding, I needed a third option. This time it was home hemo dialysis, five days a week encompassing a five-hour time block.

Visiting my sister Catherine the first weekend in April of this year, I shared a memoir-writing exercise about my diagnosis of end-stage renal disease. I signed up for the class, which was offered by the Berne Library. The class drew about 10 people and we all had stories to share.

Catherine read the last line of my story: “Sandra, we have a kidney for you. You need to be at the hospital within an hour.”

“So, that means you shouldn’t really travel very far from home?”

“Oh, that. I doubt very much I’ll be getting a call for at least a year.”

Returning home, I fell back into my regular East Berne routine. Check on and visit my Mom. Walk Puddles, our 125-pound chocolate lab. Check with my brother Brian on the status of happenings at our family sawmill business.

Monday morning, April 7, I started to set up for treatment. My husband, Jim, took the car for an errand. My machine was singing and ready for plug in. The phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, AMC blah blah blah. I let the device handle it.

I got my bowl of Cheerios and blueberries set in my treatment area. The last move was to wash my arm and blood cleansing would commence. But the phone was beeping from that message. My mind chatter started: “I better listen to that. It might be important.”

Click. “You have one message: This is Jennifer from the transplant office. Could you please call me when you get this message?”

Beep. “End of messages.”

Mind chatter again: “Oh, they must be calling to make sure I send in my monthly blood sample.”

I dialed the number. “Hello. This is Sandra Kisselback, returning your call.”

“Hi, Sandra. This is Jennifer from the transplant office. We may have a kidney for you. How long will it take you to get to the hospital?”

They did, indeed, have a kidney for me and I was transplanted for a second time on April 8, 2014 at 6:30 a.m.

I am so grateful for all the many supporters who have been a part of this 22-year history of kidney failure. My husband, Jim; my Mom and Dad, Sheila and Rudy Stempel; brother Brian; sister Catherine; and my other three siblings; all the health-care teams as I lived with each new treatment option; cousins, nieces and nephews; friends, neighbors, and medical technology. Much gratitude to you all.

And Valerie, my neighbor, you answered my call when I realized my wheels were missing — she drove me to Brian who transported me to Albany Med. Thank you.

Most of all, thank you to that anonymous donor, whoever you are. Your life recently ended, but a piece of you lives on in me. The new kidney’s name is Lucinda.

I hope we will have a long and healthy life together. One day at a time.

“There is no cure for kidney disease, but there are treatment options.” Life is good.

Sandra L. Stempel-Kisselback

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