Written by Carlos Quiroz
Nine years ago, Rachel began dialysis as she had battled chronic kidney disease from the time of her birth as she was born with Spinabifida. The moment Rachel went on dialysis she was also enlisted on the organ transplant list. The outlook and average wait time for her blood type to find a matching kidney was 4.5 to 6 years back in 2006. When 4.5 years came around and the 6th was approaching, the transplant coordinators informed Rachel that her wait time had been extended to nearly 9 years for a matching kidney. Through it all, the highs and lows, the countless surgeries and trips to the ER, my Wife persevered. It helped knowing we had the prayers and support offered by Tom and Deborah Berg, who always afforded me the time off when it was necessary. We believe only God can repay that debt and we reciprocate the prayers for them and everyone we work with who have always cared and shown support for Rachel.... And that includes the entire BergCM staff, I can't think of anyone I don't know, haven't worked with or somehow didn't hear about Rachel's condition throughout the years and genuinely cared and shown support. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Rachel began having "close calls" about 2 years ago when the transplant unit would call and put her on standby for a possible kidney, and every time, Rachel would pack a small bag, get ready and wait by the phone, several hours later she would get the call that they gave it to another patient higher on the list or a better match. Finally in June 2014, Rachel got the call and this time, the kidney was hers. There is limited information a transplant nurse/coordinator can share with a patient over the phone when they call and ask if they would like to accept a kidney; that being, gender, age range, and limited medical history. So when the transplant surgeon himself called Rachel back within 10 minutes as we were getting ready to leave, and said he didn't recommend Rachel accept the kidney as she might only get 2 or 3 years out of it due to its condition, she took his advice and declined after all. The surgeon explained and provided more details about the kidney and how Rachel should wait for a healthier kidney given her age and since he would be the transplant surgeon on duty for the next 3 weeks in the region, he would keep her in mind the moment a better kidney was available.
From that point on, a couple weeks turned into several months and 4 more surgeries as Rachel's graft/access kept failing and her dialysis doctors were pushing her to have another graft placed in her right arm, Rachel struggled but was adamant she didn't want to have another graft and ended up with catheter in her neck for 3 weeks as they repaired her graft yet again. Due to the previous close calls and taking the surgeons advice to pass on the kidney, Rachel clearly had her mind set on accepting the next kidney offered no matter what, she would take the risks in an attempt to end dialysis if only for a while. So on the night of January 16, 2015, around 8 PM as we were returning home from dinner, she got the call and was informed she was #3 on the list that night and when asked if she would accept the kidney if the other patients passed on it, Rachel said "yes" calmly and then asked a series of questions about the donor and that's when she was told by the coordinator the donor had been incarcerated and could only give a range of a few days to 1 year max of incarceration. Preliminary tests on the kidney were negative, but anything the donor could have contracted within the past ten days would not show up until 6 to 8 weeks later, and that's the risk taken. All things considered, Rachel didn't pass on the kidney and they told her they would call by 1 AM to inform her if she got the kidney or not. She did her usual preparation but had her doubts with a 'here we go again' gest. Watching the clock and phone, 11 PM came, then midnight, and ultimately 1 AM, and no call. Rachel shrugged it off and said 'oh well' thinking yet again she was passed up for a transplant so we went to sleep.
Then a couple hours later at 3 AM, Rachel awoke to the phone call telling her to get ready and come to Loma Linda hospital for a transplant, the kidney was hers!!! But the nurse warned that Rachel would have blood test done to ensure she wasn't currently sick. We got the hospital, Rachel walked up to the transplant unit and found a team of nurses waiting for and they were surprised by her demeanor as if she wasn't impressed and had a 'let's get on with it' look. All the while thinking that there would be something negative in her blood tests and when they said they would test for phosphorus levels, that was the deal breaker. Rachel still didn't have her hopes up high as in the past week her dialysis doctor had scolded her for having high phosphorus levels, so she figured that would be the deal breaker and we'd be going home without a kidney. The phosphorus test was last test we were waiting results for and when they said her level was a 4.6, she got a bewildered look as all she needed was to have a 5.1 or lower on the potassium level, and now it became real, it was actually happening!
The transplant was on schedule for 9 AM as it turns out the donor was on life support and would be taken off support and have his organs removed at that time. The surgeon informed Rachel that the kidney she would be receiving looked very healthy and was in good shape. Turns out the donor was never incarcerated, the mid-20's male was involved in a car accident and had he made it out of the hospital, would have gone to jail as he was technically arrested for the incident. In a symbiotic turn of events, Rachel benefited by receiving a kidney, as they also harvested his other kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, and tissue. Many will be blessed and benefit from his tragedy. Rachel is doing very well, still recovering, enjoying foods she couldn't have or was limited to and has many hopes to travel and see many things as she is no longer tied to a dialysis machine, thank God.