January 03, 2017
By Brian Whepley
|Kristin Jones, KDNYGVR|
Kristin Jones, director of the psychiatric outpatient clinic at KU School of Medicine-Wichita, has a new personalized license plate - KDNYGVR - and she hopes everyone following her around will think or ask about it.
Jones, an advanced practice registered nurse who primarily sees children and adolescents at the clinic, became a "kidney giver" this summer when she donated one to her father. She's advocated organ donation for years, and her family had far too personal of an experience with the issue when a brother-in-law, niece and nephew died in a car accident a dozen years ago.
Now, though, after a very personal organ donation, she advocates even more energetically. She wanted patients to know exactly why she was out of the office, hoping that through a personal connection they might be swayed to put "organ donor" on their driver's licenses. She hopes to help serve as a bridge with donor programs at KU, and wants to talk with potential donors. And she would like to campaign for opt-out vs. opt-in for organ donation programs, where when you get a driver's license you'd have to say, "No, I don't want to donate" instead of the current, "Yes, I want to donate." The change would go far to trim waiting lists.
To Kristin, the decision to give her father a kidney was simple, particularly since his kidney troubles came not from disease but as a side effect of surgery. There was security in the fact that kidney problems didn't run in the family.
Kristin's parents live in Salem, Illinois, about 90 minutes due east of St. Louis, home to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the kidney transplant program. Six years ago, Don Jones had knee replacement surgery, and a perforated bowel was a complication, which led to renal failure and dialysis. A new kidney was his only option for getting off dialysis. And for his eldest daughter, the only option was donating one of hers.
"It wasn't a family decision," Kristin said. "It was, 'I'm doing it.' If I am a match and can get through the whole process, that was it. There was no rock-paper-scissors between my brother and my sister."
"Both mom and dad asked a bazillion times, 'Are you sure?' I was just never more sure of anything," she said.
Being related made her an ideal donor, but the vetting was extensive. Blood tests, more blood tests, X-rays, CT scans and, of course, plenty of urine samples. She didn't find the physical part onerous, with much of it done in Wichita, but a May visit to St. Louis drove her stress up quite a bit.
There, after months of screening, Kristin would find out if it was a go. The hardest part of that visit was her "concern that I had gone that far and they were going to find out I couldn't do it." A small cyst found on a scan disrupted her calm, but eventually was deemed harmless. They got the thumbs-up.
For the operation, her husband, Jack, and daughter, Emily, traveled to St. Louis with her, while her son, Max, held down the fort in Wichita with his other grandmother.
On July 19, her kidney was laparascopically removed, and transferred to her father. Something she learned rather late, but which she thinks is cool, is that her kidney didn't exactly replace her father's but instead went into a specially created pocket and was connected to his renal vein, renal artery and ureter. She describes the surgical creation as a nest, even a marsupial pouch, and - showing the health care provider she is - wonders at the fact that while later changing her father's dressings, she could "palpate my own kidney."
The surgery went smoothly, though it took the right mix of pain relievers and muscle relaxants to properly knock back the hurt that came during recovery. Three days after the operation, Kristin and her father and mother went home to Salem. About 10 days out, Kristin had a checkup and was cleared to return home, which she did several days later. Her father's recovery went well, too, and in the months since there have been no signs of organ rejection.
Kristin says that, other than having to limit use of ibuprofen and similar kidney-risking painkillers, she's had no ill effects.
"I have had two C-sections and a total hysterectomy; this was the smallest thing ever removed from me," she said. "I'm older, but it really was not bad."KU School of Medicine-Wichita