A difficult time in my family's life has finally improved with an operation made possible by a generous brother-in-law.
On Jan. 31 my wife, Barbara, received a kidney at Allegheny General Hospital from her brother Randy Miller.
Thirty-two years of fighting the impact of type 1 diabetes had finally taken its toll on her renal system. Last fall she started home dialysis. Randy, who is known as a guy willing to help anyone in need, has been thinking about this possibility for a long time. Over the years when he knew she was having problems, he told her he was willing to give her a kidney if he was able.
After about five months of tests and retesting to make sure the procedure was safe for him, the hospital gave the green light for the operation to proceed. The hospital just started a new procedure using thin robotic arms to harvest kidneys from live donors. Randy was able to go home Friday morning from a surgery that happened Tuesday afternoon. Barb made it home a day later.
When the word about the operation started to get around, the family was overwhelmed at the support, prayers and offers of assistance that were made from family, friends, co-workers and prayer support groups. I always knew Somerset County had a lot of caring people, but you don't really know what that means until you personally have a difficult time in your life.
Our family has received many letters, phone calls, email messages, cards and gifts of food from so many people that we don't have a real way of thanking everyone who did something to get us through this procedure.
Barb still has challenges ahead of her with managing diabetes and preventing infection and rejection of her new organ. With a suppressed immune system, she has to be extra diligent to avoid germs and colds.
The staff at the hospital, combined with the support of church members, co-workers, family and friends, greatly improved her health. It's wonderful to see her not being tired all the time or feeling like she can't make it through the day. Yes, dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment, but it can't compare to an organ God made for our bodies.
The living kidney is known for filtering toxins, but it also balances hormones and blood pressure. Having all those functions back in the normal range has been a true blessing for her. The bond between Barb and Randy has always been strong and there's no real way to thank him for the gift he gave to his sister.
The transplant center's literature regarding organ donation says it best about those who are willing to donate: "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." Randy's precious gift is allowing her to fully enjoy the world once again.
(Brian Whipkey is the Daily American's editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)