There was no question in her mind that she was undergoing kidney transplantation. Dialysis was only temporary. Five months of thrice-a-week sessions were enough. She was fortunate that a younger sibling readily volunteered to donate his kidney and that they were a match. No doubts. No hesitation.
Having a strong support system (her mother, siblings and boyfriend) was encouragement enough to just “go with the flow,” says Vivian Lamosa Alpis. The then 25-year-old overseas worker wanted to get it over and done with. Her mother and sibling took care of all the arrangements, including the crucial money matters.
She simply followed what they told her to do – go in for dialysis, go for check-ups, take her medications. Her mindset was to get better and go back to leading a normal life, which her nephrologist, Dr Antonio Paraiso, assured her was possible after transplantation.
Marriage and babies
“I prayed that if I got well, even if I never got married, it was okay,” she tells MIMS. But get married she did, just several months after the successful transplant. She was grateful that her boyfriend, 7 years older, was committed to the relationship.
Not long after came another surprise – Vivian became pregnant. Yes, she worried that children may not be in her future. But after the eldest daughter, the couple was later blessed with twin boys. No complicated pregnancies, and both normal deliveries.
Her only fear while pregnant was having babies with developmental problems because of the medications she was taking. Doctors said this would not affect the baby. Dosage, however, was adjusted during pregnancy. Her markers while pregnant were, in fact, the best – “my crea (0.5) was at its lowest then.”
Recovery after transplant
Physical recovery after the transplantation was likewise a breeze. It was finances that proved more difficult. Vivian is grateful to family and relatives who extended assistance.
After being discharged, her weekly follow-up consults were very encouraging. Creatine levels were always good, urinalysis and other lab tests were okay.
Vivian would occasionally suffer from UTI, if she gave in to temptation and ate anything salty or lacked fluid intake. “I regret those times,” she laughs.
Eventually, the transplant survivor realized she needed to discipline herself to get better. That meant self-control of the highest order.
“I gave up food that was not good for me. However much I wanted cold water, I passed it up to prevent losing my voice.” She avoided parties and get-togethers, even going to malls. For the most part, she stayed at home to build her strength.
Away from temptation
A critical factor in her remarkable recovery was the decision to relocate to the countryside. Her husband gave up his job in sales and became a farmer. They took up residence outside of town to be farther away from temptation – from shops selling sweetened beverages or processed foods and other unnecessary expenses. No dust. Minimal pollution.
“We were on a forced diet there,” she shares. “We eat when it’s time to eat, not whenever we wanted to eat.”
When the kids were growing up, the couple put up a small store to augment their income. It was primarily for their children’s education. That meant waking up at dawn to accommodate early buyers. “Early morning sales were for the kids’ allowance,” she explains. Minding the store also meant foregoing rest, which she had been used to, and was something she needed.
Ready to slow down
With her daughter, now 23, already working, and the twins nearly finished with their engineering course, Vivian is looking forward to slowing down and taking it easy, like taking 2-hour naps in the afternoon.
Rest is a must for transplant survivors, as is not taking on heavy tasks like lifting. She believes she had ‘charged’ herself enough when the children were young which enabled her to take on more hectic days once they put up the store.
After 25 years, Vivian can now indulge in small pleasures, like accepting an invitation to a party and sampling food she likes in small portions. Still, it’s a challenge to socialize given certain limitations. It can be tedious to explain her health situation to every neighbor or friend so it is Vivian who adjusts to have a semblance of a normal life.
She continues to encourage patients diagnosed with severe chronic kidney disease to go for transplantation.
The better option
“While still young, go for it,” Vivian declares. “There is something good waiting for you.” Contrary to perception, recovery is easy but will require strict self-discipline.
Compared to a lifetime of needles and watching blood slowly being removed from your body and going through a dialyzer, transplantation is a better option, she says. Don’t worry about the money, she adds. It can be earned. The opportunity – getting a qualified donor to match – is something that should not be passed up.
The cost of maintenance medications, too, is not as crippling as many believe. Vivian’s monthly expense for medications is just around two thousand pesos. She does need lab work quarterly and must always be mindful of any illness or infection.
Today, when she lines up for her regular check-up, the health staff are almost always surprised to learn the 50-year-old is the patient. Unless you knew she underwent kidney transplantation, there is no tell-tale sign she suffered from CKD.
Vivian is the best testament why kidney transplantation not only addresses kidney disease, but also safely allows a return to a normal life.