Kidney Transplant Transplant Services

How Christine Hilliard help saved Kim's life as her Living Donor

Christine and Kim

I would not be writing this if I hadn’t had an incredibly positive experience with the Stanford Hospital & Clinics’ Kidney Transplant Team.

In December 2007, I was tested to see if I could be a kidney donor. I had accompanied my partner to a training session for those who were facing the daunting process of organ transplantation and decided I was willing to get tested.

My partner chose Stanford because she got her undergraduate degree there, and she had confidence in the medical center having undergone treatment there as part of the women’s basketball team.

Communicating Comfort

From the earliest communications, such as letters, documents and voicemail messages from the Stanford team, I was treated with respect and kindness. I was discreetly notified by a phone call that I was a match. Even though being a match is an odds-defying result, at no time did anyone on the staff put any pressure on me to donate. In fact, I was respectfully reminded that I had the choice to change my mind at any time.

This dedicated staff sees many cases of disappointment in the testing process (as well as success stories), and yet our situation felt as though it was unique and valued. At all times, transplant coordinators made themselves available to me for questions and concerns. I was also assigned a social worker who provided support and resources.

The team also helped in preparing documentation to present to my employer and disability claims as a result of missing work for donation. I was even offered support and techniques for telling family members and friends about my intent to donate.

The process was clearly explained to me, and I felt as though I had been thoroughly evaluated psychologically as well as physically. I remarked to a friend that I had been more thoroughly worked up and evaluated than I had been in my entire life combined.

Every patient’s process, anatomy and healing time is different, but I felt as though I had been prepared for the many varied possibilities. I was clear about the likely healing time, impact on daily life and my normally very pain free, strong and active body. I had no concerns whatsoever as we approached the transplant date. I felt as through the team had my best interests in mind as a patient and as a person, not just a “donor.”

Thankfully, my surgery came off without a hitch – laparoscopically as I preferred. I felt comfortable in the hospital and was visited by members of my team. In the days and weeks that followed, I had a few regular follow-up visits with the surgical team to address my comfort, healing and to evaluate my kidney function post-operatively.

I have said many times to friends and audiences that I know there is a healthcare crisis in the United States. But I didn’t feel it one bit while under the care of the Stanford team. My team always greeted me as an individual, and I still share hugs with the social worker when our paths cross at the clinic.

I would definitely recommend Stanford Hospital & Clinics to anyone facing transplantation, or considering being a live donor. I have lived process as a donor and as a support person for a recipient, and Stanford made a daunting and life-changing experience as calm, clear and comfortable as possible.

It is nearly two years later and I feel great. I have a normal life, including a very busy veterinary practice management job, a horse I ride and compete with, and a great relationship with my partner, the recipient. We hike, travel, ride and live a full and happy life. We stay in touch with Stanford and speak and participate locally and nationally with the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation.

Knowing everything I know from the waiting, surgery, healing and the future with one kidney, I would do it again.

Kidney transplantation is a challenging and exacting science. I am thankful to the surgeons, doctors and staff for their advanced training, state-of-the-art facilities and adept hands. Beyond the science, for the donors, it’s also about love and the survival of a loved one – the team never lost sight of that in the process.

- Christine Hilliard

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