March 2011, UK
Nearly nine years after she donated a kidney to her brother, Pearl Howie's personal guide to being a living kidney donor was finally published in late 2010. "The Wee, The Wound And The Worries: My Experience Of Being A Kidney Donor" is written as if speaking to a good friend, openly discussing the most embarrassing, painful and often ridiculous situations that she found herself in.
Sadly the kidney failed after seven years and her brother is now on dialysis, but she hopes that this honest and sometimes challenging account will help other people on their journey; whether they are in the process of donating or just want to know what it's all about.
Last year, after writing in to a London paper to correct a comment about pregnancy after donation, she was inundated with emails from potential donors asking for advice and felt compelled to finally finish the book she started writing just a few weeks after the surgery.
With live kidney donation on the rise and becoming an ever more complex issue, this book is an invaluable support for people considering becoming donors.
With so many people on transplant waiting lists and so few organs available, the fact that it is possible for a person to donate one of their two kidneys, or even a portion of their liver to another person in need offers an incredible and life changing opportunity.
In 2002, when Pearl donated her kidney, the only option was open surgery, but in recent years more and more kidney donations are being carried out through keyhole surgery. This is designed to reduce the trauma and recovery time and so has opened up the option to donate for many more.
Yet however simple and straightforward the surgery may seem, it is still a highly unusual situation that presents difficult questions for donors, recipients and even medical staff, as it is essentially taking someone in good health and carrying out highly invasive, unnecessary surgery on them for the good of another. In fact it directly contravenes one of medicine's most basic tenets "First do no harm."
Although serious problems for the donor are statistically rare, they do occur. Even if everything goes according to plan the surgery may well be the first time that the donor has had to spend time in hospital, or deal with the medical profession, and they may well feel as if they have been thrown in at the deep end.
Although the long term prognosis for kidney donors is excellent; they are statistically likely to live longer than non-donors, and it is entirely possible for female donors to become pregnant afterwards (with only a very slightly elevated chance of developing complications), removing a kidney can be a traumatic operation with serious musculoskeletal effects, with both short and long term impact on general health.
In her book Pearl guides readers through her kidney donation journey; the decision to be tested as a donor, the pre-surgery tests, the surgery itself, her different attempts to manage pain after the operation, the common maladies she suffered afterwards (which she wished someone had warned her about) and her long term fitness.
She hopes that, by being aware of the potential problems, donors can avoid the pitfalls and have a happier experience. She is also happy to report that, despite the complications she has had, she is now enjoying her health and fitness more than ever before.
Pearl also talks about the emotional side of the journey; how difficult it was for her family to support her when they were also looking after her brother, and how donating changed her life for the better.
Since donating the kidney Pearl has become more interested in health and fitness and now runs the website www.pearlescapes.co.uk. The website is dedicated to showcasing the best ways she has found of healing physical injury, mental stress and emotional damage, and includes all kinds of therapies. Most importantly she tries all the treatments, spas, hotels and experiences herself so that readers know exactly what to expect from them all.
Unfortunately there were complications with the kidney she donated, and in 2009 her brother had to start dialysis. In the book she talks about accepting the outcome, as well as handling the episodes of rejection (or suspected rejection) both immediately after the transplant and in the years afterward.
Already the book is having an impact as potential donors discover it online:
“I just wanted to thank you for your article! I will be donating my kidney to my brother and I really appreciated the info and humor of your article! It made me laugh!”
“Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you. I have just read your book on being a kidney donor to your brother - found it very informative (they don't tell you all that in the hospital!) and funny too - couldn’t help sniggering at some bits!”
“Having read your book this morning online, you have given me so much hope and the reason to keep going now. I cried loads reading your book and then I laughed out loud at some of the expressions you used. You are an inspiration to me already.”
“I knew nothing about this process until I read this unique book... a definite must read to anyone who has an interest in this subject. ”
The book is now available to purchase online from Lulu.com http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-wee-the-wound-and-the-worries-my-experience-of-being-a-kidney-donor/13568017
It is also available as a free downloadable eBook or on her website at http://www.pearlescapes.co.uk/Personal_Experience_Of_Being_A_Kidney_Donor
About the author:
Pearl Howie (firstname.lastname@example.org) runs Pearl Escapes http://www.pearlescapes.co.uk.
Dedicated to helping people find their perfect escape, whether it's a spa hotel weekend or relaxation technique, Pearl Escapes reviews every escape personally.
Email me at email@example.com
(c) Pearl Howie 2015. All rights reserved.