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On birthdays, marriage and grit

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 34.

I still don't really feel like a grown-up, although I have met most of the markers that American society deems to be grown-up. I guess this is a good thing, really, because it means that I am still goofy, and I would really not want to lose the goofiness. I'll try not to spend too much time navel-gazing.


One of my 6th grade students sent me a note saying that she admires my grit. That has stuck with me all year, too. What a compliment... If our own lives have themes, perseverance seems to be one of mine (and I am pretty sure that many of you GTers (if not all) can relate. It's absolutely incredible how much shit life can throw at you, and it is absolutely incredible to me that we (the collective we) can face it every day.

I married a man with a chronic genetic kidney disease that may kill him. Any biological offspring we might have has a 50% chance of being born with this disease (PKD). It's a stupidly unpredictable disease, and many people live well into their 60's with no symptoms or complications. Of course, my husband is not one of the lucky ones. He stared developing symptoms in his mid-thirties. He was diagnosed with PKD at 37 (two years before we got married) and two weeks before our wedding, his nephrologist told us it was time to go on the transplant waiting list. That was 20 months ago.


Living in the Bay Area, with blood type O, means that the average wait for a cadaver donor is 7-10 years. Any nephrologist will tell you that a living donor is much preferred, so we sent out a letter to our nearest and dearest last year, asking for a donor. I was the first to get tested, and despite the fact that I am an "excellent candidate for donation," I am not the correct subtype of A to do a non-matching ABO transplant. (SCIENCE!) We had a few potential donors get eliminated or simply drop out of the proceedings. Then, my husband's aunt (non-blood relative) stepped up. Every test she passed, it seemed more and more likely that she was the winner. And then, 5 days before Christmas, we got crushing news. Although she was making plans to fly to SF to have the last test to clear for donation, the nephrologists decided she had a slightly elevated risk for diabetes later in life, and would not be a donor.

Needless to say, we were all crushed. Merry Christmas.

And then, a spring miracle occurred. Unbeknownst to either of us, my husband's aunt continued to work with her own doctors to get a clean bill of health and then wrote a letter to the head of nephrology at UCSF, asking to be reconsidered. And the doctor changed his mind. She resumes testing next month.


That is grit. I have no idea what will happen next. But we keep going, every day.

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