Written by Zach Becker, Dysfunctional Kidney Owner
Today was a good leg day.
That sounds like something I'd say after walking out of the gym high fiving my bros, but today I didn't go to the gym, and no high fives were had. Today, I was able to walk up and down stairs. It was a good leg day.
My name is Zach and in April of this year I was diagnosed with a form of IGA Nephropathy (Berger’s Disease) and since it has aggressively attacked my kidneys and left me with only one option: To find a living kidney donor.
When people talk about “The List”, they’re talking about a what is commonly referred to as a list of people waiting on cadaveric (deceased folks) organs, or kidneys, in this case. I am currently on the list. The wait, in St. Louis, at current, is three and a half years. Living donors allow people like me a chance at both a quicker turn around for transplantation, as well as the fact that kidneys from living donors last much longer than cadaveric kidneys (on average five to seven years longer).
I’ve always seen people on TV cry when they get bad news from a doctor. I didn’t cry. Was I broken? Did my eyes stop working too? No. I was motivated, immediately, to get well. My gears started turning…
I got up from my hospital bed, went to a domain site, discovered that zachskidney.com was available, and so I bought it. And so began my journey to find a living kidney donor.
I imagined my kidney quitting his job, packing his bags and moving on to a better job. This got my mind going on a story I wanted to tell but didn’t really know how. A children’s story was my first thought, but the more I thought about it a webcomic would be a better, more episodic format. After some brain dumps with my friends, Cal the Kidney was born.
I didn’t tell anyone I had gone to the hospital. It’s like I was afraid to admit, at first, that I was broken in some way. I had always been proud of my ability to ward off sickness. “I have the immune system of ten men”, I’d say. Turns out I was kinda right… only that immune system is attacking me. I shouldn’t have been ashamed but I felt like I was burdening them by telling them. This may be a common experience but at this point in my adult life I had never been a patient in a hospital. You never think you’re the one whothat will get sick. I thought that and I was wrong. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world, no matter how bad.
My kidneys are stable at 18% thanks to drugs and diet. My energy is low but my attitude is positive. People tell me my approach is inspiring. I am beyond touched to be an inspiration. All said and done I’ve only done what was natural to me. Turning the worst lemons I’ve ever gotten into lemonade was easy. Keeping the lemonade cold is the challenge. Spreading the word about my site and getting folks to download my donor packet is the only way I’m going to find that living kidney donor. Help me keep that lemonade cold. (My friend Sara recently shared her experience as a living kidney donor if it's something you're unsure of.)
I fight edema in my legs and feet every day from the moment I wake up to the moment to the moment I go to bed. Some days it is hard to walk and even harder to get up from a chair. In an ideal situation I’d have my legs elevated all the time but that isn’t feasible. Today, I was able to get up and down stairs.
It was a good leg day.
Editors Note: Since writing this post, Zach's kidney function has declined. Please stay tuned for updates on how you can help.
Zach lives and works in St. Louis city, when he's not campaigning for a living donor he enjoys thinking about riding his bike, making pasta from scratch, and reading copies of Tiger Beat from 1998.
Learn more about Zach and Cal, the kidney comic, at zachskidney.com.