On January 13, 2006, Ana George and Sergio Alexander Figueroa underwent a living donor kidney transplant operation at the University of Maryland Medical Center, as seen on this surgical Webcast. Read their stories below.
Ana George – Kidney Recipient
I was first diagnosed with renal failure in 2004, when I was 20 weeks pregnant with my daughter. I learned I had kidney disease and I was told I was losing my kidney function. She was born two months premature due to eclampsia (seizures) brought on by the kidney failure. After she was born I was told that I would need a kidney transplant within two years. Prior to that, I was always healthy, with no history of diabetes or high blood pressure. I'm not sure what triggered this.
In September 2005 I was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease and I had to go on dialysis. In October I went on Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) and it was a good experience -- I felt much better than before. Before the dialysis, I felt incredibly sick and unable to keep up with my toddler. It became very hard to be a mom, wife and teacher without having the physical stamina. My symptoms included exhaustion, nausea, pain, leg cramps, dizziness and increased blood pressure.
When my nephrologist said I'd need a transplant, the nurses in his office told me to go to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Maryland was more personable and that meant a lot to me to have these warm people around. The doctors and nurses were so kind. They prepared me ahead of time, answered all of my questions, and were very friendly. I felt like I could talk to them. It was a very positive experience.
In the summer of 2005 my brother was thinking about giving me a kidney so that I could return to being a full-time mother. I can't tell you how much those words meant to me. In October he was tested and it turned out he was a perfect match. We underwent a living donor transplant on January 13, 2006. When I went in for my operation, the OR nurse was so kind to me. She held my hand. Every doctor or nurse was always willing to hold my hand whenever I asked.
After the transplant operation, I was in the hospital for a week. It's been a wonderful recovery since then and I'm returning to a normal life, thanks to my brother. My daughter is fine and I'm fine. Now I'm 98 percent back to normal. People are amazed at the way I look now. I have more energy and stamina. I can focus and do my job, and be a good mom and wife.
Since the transplant, I've been trying to volunteer my time with the National Kidney Foundation. Recently I participated in the walk for the Baltimore area and raised over $400 for kidney research.
I really liked Dr. Bartlett [transplant surgeon Stephen Bartlett, M.D., is a professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine]. He was so nice. I found him to be extremely knowledgeable and I'm grateful to him. After the surgery, he took the time to see my family in the waiting room. He gave my mom a big hug. He was extremely kind. It makes a difference. At the University of Maryland, you're not just a number. When you're sick, they're here to help.
Sergio Alexander Figueroa (Ana's brother) – Kidney donor
The day Ana told me she was diagnosed with kidney failure I knew I would be the one donating because of the lack of available kidneys. I knew she was going to try to find a living donor; otherwise she'd have a very long wait. It was difficult news for me. I knew I would be the most likely match since I'm her only (biological) brother.
My parents are older and have health issues. When she asked if I'd be willing to test for compatibility I had already decided to do it. The only other person who was tested was her husband, and he was not a match. Then I was tested and was a perfect match, as good a match as you can get. When the results came back we talked about scheduling surgery. It was a short time between the testing and scheduling the surgery.
I was involved with the Kidney Foundation for a couple of years before my sister was diagnosed because a friend of mine was on the board. That's why I know about the living donor kidney transplant (a minimally invasive procedure called laparoscopic nephrectomy used to remove a kidney from a donor.)
After the surgery (on January 13, 2006) I was in the hospital for three days. With some help, I was walking the next day and for the few days following the surgery. By the end of the first week I was sufficiently mobile without any assistance but I was still moving a bit slowly. Gradually, by the end of the first week, I was able to begin doing normal activities. I also went off all medications at the end of first week. At the end of the second week I was back to normal -- I was driving, and back to all other normal activities.
I was fortunate to have the laparoscopic procedure because the smaller incision meant a shorter recovery and a quicker return to normal flying status (I'm a pilot). I only had to wait two months after the surgery to get my medical certification from the Medical Center. Normally the wait time for medical certification would have taken four months with the traditional surgery, but with the laparoscopic surgery, the wait time was cut in half. Two months after surgery I went back to work. I got my FAA certification, so now I'm back on normal flying status.
Three months after the surgery I went back to the gym. There have been no side effects. It's as if it never happened to me, and the benefit is I get to see my sister in great shape.
I had a great experience at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Going to a hospital with that tremendous amount of experience [with transplant operations] is reassuring. This is what they do all the time. The doctors are a first-class group, with their level of experience.
It's been four months since the surgery and it's almost as if it didn't happen. I don't think about it. But when I see my sister with her child and see that she doesn't have to worry about her health, I feel good. I had the opportunity to dramatically improve her quality of life and save it. I have no regrets. It's probably the greatest thing I've ever done or will ever do in my life.