Apr 192013
 

reflector

Arlette Whitaker talks about her experiences after receiving a new kidney in January at her home on April 17, 2013.   (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily  Reflector)

Arlette Whitaker talks about her experiences after receiving a new kidney in January at her home on April 17, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)

By Ginger Livingston

Friday, April 19, 2013

“Thank you” and “I love you” are powerful words, but they still are not enough.

They do not capture the gratitude Arlette Whitaker feels toward the unknown family that agreed to donate the organs of a 36-year-old man who was fatally injured after being struck by a vehicle.

Whitaker, a 40-year-old nurse, received his kidney on Jan. 3 and with it she received a new life.

“There is nothing I can say that would truly express my gratitude,” Whitaker said. “ Thank you, I love you. They aren’t strong enough. If I ever met them I would probably just cry and hug them. Nothing is strong enough that I could say.”

What Whitaker plans to do is to participate in today’s Linking Hands for Life event that begins at noon at Lake Laupus on the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine Health Sciences Campus.

The event commemorates National Donate Life Month. It celebrates the generosity of organ, eye and tissue donors and their families.

Organizers also want to send a message of hope to the 3,500 North Carolina residents waiting for organ transplants, Dwain Cooper, Carolina Donor Services community relations coordinator, said

Whitaker said she wants to attend the event to support the families who donated their loved ones organs.

“I may not have been the one who got their family member’s organ but I want them to see the life and joy I feel so they’ll know they made the right decision,” she said.

Whitaker had been undergoing dialysis since 2007. Her kidney failure was the result of chemotherapy she underwent for bone cancer when she was a child and breast cancer when she was in her late 20s.

She opted for peritoneal dialysis, which uses the lining of the abdominal cavity to filter toxins using a fluid that is pumped in and later drained.

It allowed her to graduate from nursing school and work full-time at a local dialysis clinic along with raising two children with her husband, Terry.

However, it limited her ability to travel and enjoy family reunions.

No one in Whitaker’s family was a suitable match so Whitaker always knew she would have to rely on a stranger donation.

The transplant center called her once and said an organ was ready, only to call back and say there had been a mistake. She turned down another kidney because the person had been a drug user in his or her teens.

She was at work when the transplant center called on Jan. 3. Given her previous experience, she said she would go to the hospital after her shift was over.

They said, ‘No, you need to come now,’” she said.

“I remember hanging up the phone and saying ‘Thank you Jesus,’” Whitaker said. She then called her husband and told him to meet her at the hospital.

By the end of the night the surgery was over and Whitaker’s new kidney was working.

She has spent the last three months recovering. The doctors are adjusting her immunosuppressive medication to keep her body from rejecting the kidney. She takes 28 pills daily along with drinking three liters of water daily. It is a big change since she had to limit her fluid intake while on dialysis.

“I didn’t leave my bedroom the first three weeks because I was having to go to the bathroom so much because I was drinking so much water,” she said.

Her body’s adjusted and earlier this month she returned to work in an administrative position. It will be another three months before she can work with patients.

For now, Whitaker is enjoying simple pleasures she had to avoid when she had her abdominal catheter for dialysis.

She can take a bath and go swimming. She can get up in the middle of the night because she is no longer tied to the dialysis machine.

She plans to travel to the mountains this summer and go ziplining and take a cruise this fall and go parasailing. In between, she is excited about attending several family reunions that are planned.

“I want to have adventures,” she said.

Whitaker also plans to support Carolina Donor Services and speak about the importance of organ donation. Already several of her family members, who once feared the process, are now donors.

“I believe everybody has a heart to make a difference in the world,” Whitaker said.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

via The Daily Reflector.

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