Between the Lines

With columnist Anna Marie Lux.

A daughter's love: Woman prepares to give mother a kidney

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Anna Marie Lux
Saturday, September 17, 2016

Karen Woodland always knew she would donate a kidney to her mom.

For 35 years, her mother, Janice Smith, has had polycystic kidney disease, which slowly caused her kidneys to fail.

“My mom was first diagnosed when I was 10,” Woodland said. “My grandfather also had the hereditary disease.”

Fortunately, Woodland does not have the illness. She also passed the compatibility tests and will donate a kidney to her mother, who depends on dialysis to stay alive.

On Oct. 17, Woodland will travel to Oregon, where 67-year-old Smith lives.

Woodland will be in a Portland hospital two days for the surgery and will stay in the area nine days after surgery so doctors can monitor her healing.

The life-giving event will be over quickly, but Woodland has been preparing for it much of her adult life.

During her training as a clinical dietician, she paid close attention to transplant and kidney patients so she could advise her mom.

Today, Woodland specializes in nutrition therapy in private practice at Full Circle Nutrition, Janesville, where she also tests for food sensitivities.

She has a second job working with dialysis patients.

“I took the job two years ago because I wanted to put myself in a position to learn more,” Woodland said. “I wanted to be in a better place to help Mom make decisions.”

Unfortunately, few who need kidneys have someone like Woodland to help them.

As of early September, more than 1,800 people are waiting for kidneys in Wisconsin, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

People waiting for kidneys make up almost 82 percent of the 2,249 people on the Wisconsin waiting list for organs.

Nationally, 99,440 are waiting for kidneys—or almost 83 percent of the 120,008 people on the organ-waiting list.

Sadly, on average, 22 people die daily while waiting for transplants.

“I've always said that I am blessed to be Karen's mother,” Smith said, weeping. “I can't talk about my journey without crying.”

Over the years, Woodland helped her mother eat a healthy diet, which Smith said prolonged the function of her kidneys.

Smith retired in 2012 after being a dorm parent at the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Janesville.

“I loved what I did, but I had a lifelong dream to be involved in mission work,” Smith said.

She transformed her life by going to work as a seamstress at a Mexican mission. Even after returning home, she continued to sew and has made 260 sets of curtains for homes in Baja.

After the transplant, Smith said she should feel more energetic right away, but it will take about three months to recover.

Eventually, she hopes to resume short trips to Mexico. She also wants to advocate for organ donation.

“There is such a need in this country,” Smith said. “I want people to know that being an organ donor is a wonderful thing.”

Woodland said she is optimistic about the surgery, but her children are concerned.

“They are nervous for me,” Woodland said. “We've had many conversations about what I am doing and the risk I am accepting. The chances of anything going wrong are small.”

Woodland knows her mother's body could reject the kidney. But she is determined.

“My mom needs the kidney,” Woodland said. “So we have to try. There's never been a time in my life when I thought I would not do this.”

Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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