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Kidney Update

July 9, 2014 - Chris Masse
My apologies. I do not update my blog often, doing a lot of the updating on Twitter and Facebook. However, I saw 2 comments related to the kidney donation I took part in last July. Here is the article that follows that up for an update. My apologies for not posting an update earlier.

By CHRIS MASSE ( , Williamsport Sun-Gazette Save |

As the doctors wheeled me toward the operating room, I turned around and looked toward my wife, Missy.

Moments away from surgery, my heart racing, I had to let her know how I felt. This was my last chance to express myself.

"This is the best thing I have ever done," I said. I then told Missy I loved her, said good-bye, and grew excited the way an athlete does moments before playing in a big game.

Seconds later, the surgeons were prepping me; minutes later I was asleep, my kidney being removed and sent to Philadelphia.

Since I woke up, there have been some mountains to climb. Nothing, though, ever can change the thought I shared with my wife moments before surgery: Donating a kidney is easily the best thing I have ever done.

Long journey begins

The bad news came early last September. Missy's kidneys were failing and something big was needed. Dialysis was the first option, but we were hoping that was a last resort. Because of Missy's age, doctors suggested trying for a kidney transplant first.

Our long journey began.

Tests and lots of trips to the Hershey Medical Center needed to be taken; conclusions needed to be drawn. About a month later, Missy was put on the kidney transplant list. We began hoping that donors would come forward. I was happy to be the first.

Honestly, the thought of losing a kidney scared me a lot. I wince when I receive a shot, and losing a body part was a whole new level of potential discomfort. Still, I never hesitated. Missy needed help, our family needed a wife and a mother to be here thriving for a long time. There really was no decision to make. I was doing this, no questions asked.

Soaring hopes dashed

Our hopes soared, too, when Missy and I matched in so many vital categories. By late January, we discussed potential surgery dates as it appeared I would be able to donate.

A few days later, though, everything changed.

Missy had developed antibodies to my antigens during pregnancy, and that meant her body would attack any kidney that came from me. I could not donate

What some might have looked at as a free "get out of jail" card, I looked at as a prison sentence. An ending had been in sight, but now we were back at the start.

Personally, I felt like I let Missy down. I wanted to give that kidney to her as much as I ever wanted anything in my life. Not being able to do so hurt bad.

Some other potential donors stepped forward, but they, too, were rejected. It killed me to watch Missy not feel well and not be able to do the things she loved most. I felt helpless.

Collectively, we were praying for a miracle.

A little while later, we received one.

Swapping donors

Following those initial rejections, the Hershey Medical Center informed us of a paired donor exchange program in which they participate. In this program, two kidney recipients basically swap willing donors. The donors agree to exchange recipients, giving their kidneys to unknown but compatible individuals. This way the donors can provide two patients with healthy kidneys.

The program was a true blessing. Without it, both recipients would still be waiting to receive kidneys.

As a sportswriter, the way I described it to friends and family was by saying it was like a blockbuster baseball or basketball trade. Initially, I really did not understand how it worked. I did not care either. I just knew it ended with Missy receiving a kidney. That was all that mattered. Sign us up.

A few obstacles had to be overcome to be placed on the paired list and we waited a few months. But just a day after being put on the list we received the news we had waited a year to hear: There were matches.

Finish line in sight

We had our miracle. The finish line suddenly was in sight.

We had three weeks upon receiving the good news to prepare for surgery. I had not had many surgeries in the past but whenever I had, I approached each one with a sense of dread, like I was on an extended death march.

This time, the surgery could not come fast enough. I literally was praying for July 23 to arrive. My biggest concern during those three weeks was that something would happen to postpone the surgery.

Pain, discomfort and life disruptions were a small price to pay. The thought of Missy being healthy again was enough. That was my inspiration.

Wife a warrior

So was she. I don't know too many people who could have handled the rocky road Missy traveled better than she did. Missy stayed positive, faithful and was a warrior through the whole process. She truly was grace under pressure and a superb role model for our young daughter Katie.

Finally, the day arrived. Fittingly, it was Missy's birthday. My surgery was scheduled first and I approached it as excited as a young child on Christmas morning. I always had dreamed of playing center field for the Baltimore Orioles but at that moment, I knew that I would choose the operating table over roaming Camden Yards any day. This was my destiny.

A few hours later, my kidney was headed toward Philadelphia, bound to be placed inside the body of a man who, like Missy, desperately needed one. Hours later, Missy had a new kidney. Prior to Missy receiving it, her surgeon held up the kidney as all the doctors sang happy birthday. Talk about a surreal moment.

Immediately, the kidney started working. Missy has since thrived, exceeding the odds and doing better than doctors thought she would to this point. That does not surprise me. She is toughness and resiliency personified. Give her a challenge and watch her knock it down.

Missy's donor

All we know about the person who donated the kidney to Missy is that he is a 37-year-old third-grade teacher. Hopefully, his students realize how blessed they are to have that man teaching them. They might not know it, but he is a hero.

And when it comes to our family, he is our guardian angel.

All I know about the man I donated to was that he had waited seven years for a kidney. Our family went through a struggle but ultimately, not being able to get a single donor was a blessing. Not only was I able to help the woman I love most, but I also could help someone else. Someone who has family and friends who love him just as much as ours do can now live a fuller life. That fills me with indescribable joy.

That is a joy I hope others out there can experience, too. If one person reads this story and is motivated to donate an organ, I will consider it a success. A pay it forward theme would be even better.

Life is a beautiful thing. Donating it is even better.

Missy is feeling better than she has in years. Our daughter knows her hero is not going anywhere for a long time. Our lives are complete again.

Donating that kidney truly is the best thing I ever have done.

I may have one less kidney, but I have a whole lot more heart.

(Masse is a sports writer for the Sun-Gazette.)


Article Comments

Jul-10-14 7:57 PM

That was one heck of wonderful story! You're a great man, Chris. God bless you, and thank you for sharing with us and Missy. You're a hero!!


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