Gayla

“I’m committed to spreading the word about the benefits of live organ donation now that I’ve experienced it first-hand.”

Beyond raising my children, the greatest thing I’ve done with my life was donating a kidney to my friend James last year. James is a 65-year-old diabetic who was in renal failure. He had been on kidney dialysis for about a year, spending three to four hours a day, three days a week, hooked up to the dialysis machine. I knew he was considering a kidney transplant, so I got tested to see if I was a match. Luckily, I was a near-perfect match for James.

James lives in Wisconsin, so the transplant surgery was done at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. We were in next-door surgical suites and as soon as my kidney was positioned in James’ body, it started functioning—creating urine and returning healthy color to his face.

After a few days in the hospital, I returned home feeling tired and sore. By Wednesday morning, my situation rapidly declined. I could hardly get out of bed and felt deathly ill. An ambulance rushed me to the Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital Emergency Department. By the time I arrived in the ER, I was in a life and death situation. My blood pressure was down to 50/40 and I was in shock from blood loss.

Dr. Bob Andrews, the surgeon, and Dr. Dennis Pessis, a urologist, quickly determined a course of action as I was prepped for emergency surgery. They assumed, given my history, that I was suffering kidney-related problems. What they found surprised them—a torn spleen that was causing extensive internal bleeding. Dr. Andrews removed the spleen and double-checked all the connections related to my kidney removal before closing me up for good.

Now that I’m fully healed, I work at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital as a patient care technician. My career change was especially important to me after I received such compassionate care when I was ill. I’m also an advocate for live kidney donation for the National Kidney Foundation. People don’t realize that they can live effectively with one kidney (the remaining kidney grows in size to compensate) and that live organ transplants have higher success rates than transplants from non-living donors. In addition, both the donor and recipient get to schedule surgery at a time convenient for both, and the recipient also has peace of mind from knowing the donor’s personal health history. My mantra now is that you can’t change the world all at once, but you can make a profound difference one person at a time.

Surgery

The highly trained surgeons at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital utilize the latest surgical technology as well as minimally invasive techniques. Surgical specialties include ENT, general, gynecological, neurosurgery, orthopedics, plastics, thoracic and urology. Plastic and reconstructive surgeons at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital perform a full array of cosmetic and reconstructive procedures, including both surgical and non-surgical techniques to improve appearance. Both outpatient and inpatient surgeries are performed to meet the medical needs of our patients.