Imagine being barely 30 years old, a mother of three, and told that you need a new kidney in order to see your kids grow up.
That’s what happened to C’Aira, a Michigan mother of three young children, who was told that she was looking at dialysis and would eventually need a new kidney to live.
“I was terrified,” says C’Aira, who had just turned 30 and whose youngest child was only 5 years old. “I thought that I would die, and my children would be motherless just like that.”
C’Aira prepared her children for life without her. “I talked about a lot of things, like, ‘If I'm not here, you'll be OK.’ We had hard conversations.”
As a teen, C’Aira was diagnosed with a kidney disease called IgA nephropathy. For some, the disease doesn’t cause significant problems. But for C’Aira and many others, the buildup of a certain antibody in the kidneys can lead to advanced kidney disease.
For several years, her disease was in check and simply a minor irritant. But after her youngest child was born, C’Aira developed high blood pressure and her kidney health declined.
By age 30, C’Aira’s kidney disease advanced to the point that her doctor recommended that she get on the National Transplant Waiting List. Then, she started kidney dialysis.
C’Aira hoped to avoid a long wait for a suitable match—85% of people on the National Transplant Waiting List need a kidney—by seeking out a possible living organ donor. Word went out to her family, friends and strangers, asking if they would be willing to donate a kidney to C’Aira, as living donation can reduce the wait time for finding a match from a deceased donor.
“[Because] I had extra antibodies, it made it very hard for me to be matched to a living donor,” she says. Meanwhile, her body was shutting down, forcing her to take a break from her job and increasingly miss out on the rhythms of daily life.
“I was drained and had no energy. I had very low hemoglobin. I was very shaky and out of breath.” Her boyfriend had to take over everything from cooking and cleaning to caring for the kids and taking her boys to travel baseball games.
Her at-home dialysis was required every four hours. C’Aira’s life revolved around dialysis, doctor’s appointments, and getting blood work done. She had to avoid being around people to prevent getting sick. “It was very draining. I was nauseous. I couldn’t eat. I was losing weight.”
Then two years after being told she may not see her kids grow up, C’Aira got a life-changing call. A matching kidney was available from a deceased donor. She went to the hospital that day and received her new kidney.
“I woke up and I was just like, ‘Thank God, I’m alive!’” she says. While her doctors said she may still need dialysis and time for the kidney to function, she was pleasantly surprised that it started working right away. “Almost instantly, I felt better!” she recalls.
And how does she feel weeks after the organ transplant? “I feel great,” C’Aira says. “I'm back to cleaning my house and silly stuff, which people take for granted, like cooking for my children and taking them to school and practices. I'm not quite able to go to games yet because my immune system is still low. But I'm back to my other tasks.”
“It’s like I’ve been given my life back literally,” says C’Aira. “My children are grateful. My family is grateful. I’m grateful.”
By signing up as an organ donor, you could help young mothers or others live a full life. Register today as an organ, eye, and tissue donor.