So, the date is January 25, 2016. I’m sitting at an outdoor bar in Miami, FL with a bunch of friends. I can see palm trees, blue skies, and sailboats in front of me. I’ve already been on dialysis for 5 months, so I was feeling pretty good and relaxed. My days of feeling fatigued and sick ended months ago. I’m super excited because I’m in Miami for The Rock Boat, my annual concert cruise I’d attended since 2004.
I’d just been put on the kidney transplant “list”, which basically means you are waiting for people to die so yours can be saved. Sounds pretty morbid and ironic huh? But that’s the way it works. Unless you can find a living donor, which is the preferred route anyway.
That’s when I got the best text ever… my cousin Dennis Angel texted me and said something like “I got the call, it’s my turn for further testing, I’m in 100%”. Talk about making a great day even better. I spread the news to my friends, we had a big toast and cheer, and I went on vacation in the best of moods!
A little background on Dennis. He’s about 4 years older than me. I didn’t know him very well growing up, he’s on my father’s side of the family which is huge. He lived in a different town and we honestly never crossed paths growing up except random funerals. We knew each other but just not well at all. I know Dennis was in the military when he was younger, and I knew he moonlighted as a high school and college referee for various sports, but I didn’t know him very well at all up until year 2008 or so.
Back in 2008-2009 timeframe (when Facebook was starting to become popular), we became “friends” online. I remember the day we met for a beer at Old Point Tavern, downtown Indy. We had a good reunion and became acquainted again, as it had been many many years and we didn’t really know each other, besides obvious family connections.
Ever since then, we made it a point to grab a beer here and there, keep in touch. Dennis is a winemaking enthusiast, in fact he does it for a living. He owns a wine making shop in Knightstown, and is head winemaker at Belgian Horse Winery in Middletown (near Anderson). So needless to say, we both have a love for good beer and good wine, so we hit it off there, and made it a point to keep in touch and hang out more often, which we have in the past 8 or 9 years.
When it first became known I needed a transplant, Dennis stepped up to the plate immediately. He called me, I still remember where I was – walking on Mass Ave, he said he doesn’t know if we’d be a match but he’s going to check. After his initial tests, he found out we are as good a match as you can possible be. However he was told that someone else was “ahead of him” in line to donate. Good news for me right? Having 2 people that match and willing to give me a kidney? So anyway, Dennis tucked this info in his back pocket and started waiting.
A month or two later (January 2016), Dennis got the call that the person ahead of him was no longer a candidate, and it was his “turn”. That’s when he texted me while I was in Miami.
You’re probably wondering – ok, this was in January 2016. That was over a year ago. Why haven’t we had surgery yet? Well, we’re all finding out it’s not as easy as it sounds. Dennis went through months and months of physical examinations. Blood tests, heart tests, being tested for any and every kind condition known to mankind. There are mental examinations, interviews, social counselors, etc. All this takes time.
To be a kidney donor, they don’t accept just anybody. Even if you’re a perfect match for someone, they will only take an organ out of your body if you are the healthiest of the healthy. They consider the donor’s post surgery life just as much as the recipient. They want no risks taken at all.
As it turns out, Dennis was diagnosed with perfect health. They couldn’t find anything wrong with him, at all. Nothing even borderline bad. All organ functions, all body systems, all checked out perfect. The only problem was, Dennis was overweight. Despite all his “perfect” body readings, they won’t remove a kidney until he’s down to a lower weight.
As we all know, losing a lot of weight takes time. Dennis was a very athletic guy when he was younger, so he has the solid base, and it’s where his great health numbers come from. It’s just a matter of focusing back on those days and getting himself back there weight wise. He’s been focusing hard on that in the past year, and I have to tell you, he’s done an amazing job. He’s lost a LOT of weight, and is almost to the point now where he can donate.
There’s no real timetable yet, he’s probably still a month or two away from his “go” weight, but the good news is he’s almost there. The hardest parts are over, it’s a matter of finishing it off now. I had dinner with Dennis and his wife Caryn yesterday, I hadn’t seen him in a few months, I can tell he’s really focused on this and is looking outstanding.
It’s such a blessing to know that someone is sacrificing so much to help you. Not only help you, but save you. The cool part about the whole thing is, he’s helping himself too. He admittedly let himself go for several years, but this thing he’s doing for me, he’s also doing for himself. We both win here. He’s going to be a lot healthier even without one of his kidneys – and I’m going to relish having that sucker in my body.
I’ll give you all updates as Dennis gets closer and is approved for surgery. Like I said before we don’t have a real date yet but we are guessing in the next couple of months things should start happening. I’ve been on dialysis for 1.5 years, so a couple months seems like a sprint to the finish. Almost there!
Lastly, thank you to Dennis and Caryn. I’m truly indebted to you both for your sacrifice and good will.
— Terry (March 2017)