I needed a new kidney, but I found more than a match when I let go

This journey began long before I was fortunate enough to join Al‑Anon. I was diagnosed with a kidney disease in 1997, a disease for which there really was no known successful treatment for adults. I was told to expect to be on dialysis in five to seven years, as I would gradually lose the functioning of both my kidneys.

The doctors and I tried several different treatments, including high dose steroids and chemotherapy. Some would work for some time, then everything would suddenly stop working, and I would decline a little further.

During the fifth year after my diagnosis, I was asked to apply for a job out of town, which I did. Two weeks later, I found myself moving. It just so happens that the alcoholic in my life lost his job at the same time, because of his addictions.

In the first three months in our new location, he drank even more and struggled to find a job. I found a new doctor who was a bit more aggressive than my previous one, and we were able to slow the progression of my disease a bit. After three months, my partner also started working, but the drinking continued and his disease was progressing quickly.

My life was certainly unmanageable by now. Though I knew of Al‑Anon, and had for several years, it was not until a year later when I found myself in the cardiac care unit, and my partner headed for yet another treatment center (by the grace of God and “One Day at a Time,” the last one), that I finally surrendered and walked into my first meeting. That was August 1, 2003, the day my life suddenly began to change.

I got a Sponsor right away, and began listening and learning. One of the first things I was told was to start doing service work. I knew my life was totally out of control. I had no answers anymore.

I began working the Steps. I got to Step Three, where I heard that I was not alone, and I needed to turn my life and my will over to my Higher Power. I figured I had nothing else to lose, so I did just that. I also turned over my kidney disease, and told my Higher Power I really did not want to go on dialysis.

I worked closely with my doctors and my Sponsor, and managed to keep my kidneys functioning much longer than expected. I continued to grow in service work. Having started with making coffee for my group, a little over a year later, I stepped up as Group Representative, and the next year I helped found a new group as well. After that cycle, I stepped up to be our District Representative at the beginning of 2009.

At the same time, I was told my kidneys were nearing their end, and it was time to start considering a transplant, so the evaluation process began. On March 5, 2009, I was cleared and placed on the transplant waiting list, and told it generally takes about two years to get a kidney. I knew from what my doctor was telling me that my kidneys would not last that long and, unless a miracle happened, I would be on dialysis within several months.

I went back to my Higher Power and said, “I know You will provide what is needed, and my will and life are in Your hands, but You also know I do not want to go on dialysis.” I left it there. My body continued to decline and I found myself very calmly diving more into my service work and working harder than ever to live my program every moment of everyday. A couple of people were evaluated for potential donors, but were not matches.

I continued to know that it was all in the loving arms of my Higher Power, and my belief in that fact grew daily. I was strong and determined, well past what the doctor thought was possible. She told me there was no reason I should not be very ill by then and feeling horrible each day. The only explanation I could arrive at was that my will was too strong. But I knew I was not the one who had control of my will, because I had turned that over.

In June, I attended a conference with a colleague from work who became very interested in what was happening with my health. He asked many questions, and I shared freely and openly about my condition. We returned home and I thought no more of it.

In September, he and I had a work meeting over lunch. At the end of that meeting, he looked at me and said, “I need to know how to contact your transplant coordinator.” I know I looked puzzled, so he went on to say that he wanted to be evaluated as a donor. He talked it over with his family, and knew it was the right thing to do.

Somehow, I knew that day it was going to happen. I knew he would be a match. Over the next couple of months, he went through several tests. At the end of October, we were told that our kidneys were a perfect match, and that we would need to get the transplant scheduled.

When I talked with my coordinator about the date, she told me that due to holidays, planned vacations of the surgeons, and transplants already scheduled, it would likely be mid-January before we could get in the rotation. My doctor was concerned that we may have to go ahead with dialysis for at least a month or two prior to the transplant because my kidneys were about gone.

Then at the beginning of November, we received a call that one of the surgeons involved had changed his plans and December 16, 2009 was now available to us. We scheduled the surgery immediately, and I again knew it was the work of my Higher Power.

On the morning of the transplant, we had to report to pre-op at 6 a.m. I was so calm and assured that the nurses were amazed. They kept asking if I needed something to calm my nerves, and I asked if I acted fearful or anxious. They shook their head, took my blood pressure, then looked at me and said they were amazed by my calmness, and clearly, I needed nothing.

I rolled into the surgical suite at 9:30 that morning, still calm and assured. I had a sense of being held, which of course I knew it to be in the arms of my Higher Power. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery, with a new and already functioning kidney. In fact, it started working even before being fully connected. I had three doses of pain medication that evening, and have not had a dose since.

The following morning, I took my first walk, and have not slowed down since. I was out of the hospital in five days, and my recovery has continued without a hitch. I was overwhelmed by the cards, e-mails, and phone calls from my Al‑Anon family. Meals were brought to me from many friends from church, and Al‑Anon as well. I was home for Christmas, and celebrated the greatest gift I could have ever been given.

It was the Third Step that made all of this happen for me. I turned my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power, and never looked back. Today, I know this
is the way I must live the rest of my life.

I am grateful to my Sponsors who have helped me work the Steps, and who have insisted I do service work. It is through the Steps and service work that I have learned that all that I have to do is do my best to live my program day in and day out, while turning my will and my life over and leaving it there.

By Phil G., Kansas
The Forum, April 2014