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The Gift of Life

When I donated a kidney to my sister-in-law, our bond was forever sealed.

In July, I flew to Seattle for my final physical exam. I was in my early 60s and everything checked out. We settled on Aug. 31 as D-Day. The transplant team was so inspiring that I really wasn't scared — except maybe just a tiny bit right before anesthesia. As my kidney was being removed, Phylis would be prepped and waiting in the next-door operating room with her own surgical team.

"I owe you my life. I couldn't love you more if you were my own sister."

The five-hour surgery went smoothly, and the next thing I knew, I was looking at Puget Sound shimmering in the sunlight outside my window. Twenty-four hours after my surgery, feeling like I'd been kicked by a draft horse, I hobbled into Phylis' room. She motioned me over to her bed and gave me the biggest hug the welter of IVs, tubes and monitors would permit.

"I owe you my life," she said, with tears in her eyes. "I couldn't love you more if you were my own sister."

Suddenly, my tummy didn't hurt quite so much.

Three days later, I checked into a nearby hotel (hospital staffers want you close by for the first 10 days). Phylis joined me a day later, and we were in movie heaven for the next week. Recovery was faster than I imagined. After the first couple of weeks post-op, I was comfortable with an occasional Tylenol. Six weeks after the surgery, I enrolled in class to learn gatka, Indian martial arts. Now, after six months, I'm back to doing everything I used to do. Phylis was back working part time at her job as travel agent after six weeks. Her doctor recently pronounced that her post-transplant constitution is that of a 50-year-old, not the 70-year-old she really is.

I won't lie to you: The post-op pain was a thing to be reckoned with for the first week or two, but it was nothing that couldn't be handled with medication. Besides, that part was so brief. What I really remember, and always will, is that I participated in a miracle. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

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