Hello my name is Donald Troxclair, Jr. I am a LOPA volunteer, a registered organ donor, and a double organ transplant recipient. This is my story.
At the age of 3, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, so I grew up taking 4 insulin shots a day for 30+ years. My life as a diabetic went on with few complications, until I reached my mid-20’s,when I began to have some diabetic complications. Type I Diabetes brings complications that can include an impact to the eyes, heart, and kidneys, as well as some of the body extremities. This occurs because, when blood sugar is high, blood becomes thick, almost like syrup, and the organs of the body have to work harder to get the blood to the body through veins and tiny capillaries. This stresses the organs of the body, especially the heart and kidneys, and the eyes. Growing up, my diabetic doctor told me it wasn’t a matter of IF I would have complications from diabetes – it was more a matter of WHEN I would have complications from diabetes.
During my mid-to late-20’s, I started to develop problems with my eyesight, as well as neuropathy in my feet, and problems with my kidney function. I was able to take medications to address the kidney function and to help them perform as well as they could. And this seemed to work for a while.
But on March 6, 2005, I had a life-changing event, which really set the ball rolling as far as my kidney functioning beginning to decline. On that day, I was in a vehicle accident, and was ejected from the vehicle. I ended up in the hospital in ICU for a month, and then spent another month in the hospital learning how to walk again, and healing from all of my injuries. While in ICU, I became sick enough that the doctors told my family that they should prepare for funeral arrangements, because the outcome was extremely bleak from all the damage to my body. But I pulled through, and one day all my organs began to work again as they should. But the trauma to my organs impacted overall function in a big way, especially for my kidneys. Over the next couple of years, my kidney function continued to get worse. In 2009, my kidney function declined to the point that my doctor finally informed me that I would need a kidney transplant.
In Louisiana, there are currently 1800+ people waiting on a life-saving organ transplant, and of that number, 1500+ are waiting on a kidney. The average wait time for a kidney is 3-5 years, which is not guaranteed. During this time you’re waiting for a possible transplant, you’re usually on dialysis for the kidneys, which doesn’t improve your situation, but hopefully maintains kidney function and buys the person some time while waiting.
My time on the waiting list was actually only about 9 weeks. The reason for this is because I also qualified for a pancreas transplant, which isn’t in as high of a demand. The average wait time for a pancreas is about a year, or less. The doctors considered my age and health, and felt I should also list for a pancreas. By virtue of my need for a pancreas, I would also receive a kidney from the same potential future donor. By getting both organs from the same donor, the risk of rejection is less than getting organs from two different donors. For once, my diabetes proved to be beneficial to my future health.
While waiting for a donation, my case worker told me that I should not be surprised to get more than one call before I actually received a transplant. When the hospital receives an organ, they call in two other alternative matches so that a gift of life is not wasted. If the first match has a health issue or some other issue that prevents them from receiving an organ, there are another two potential matches who might receive the gift. While I was waiting, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay off of dialysis and control my kidney function through medication.
Then on June 21, 2009, also, coincidentally, Father’s Day, I was called at 3am to come in for a possible match. I was the Number Two potential match. I couldn’t believe what I heard over the phone. So I woke my parents to tell them the news, called my sisters, and started getting things together to head to Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans. I was so nervous that my hands were shaking non-stop. As I was heading out, my hand on the doorknob, my phone rang again. It was Tulane. I thought to myself "Oh no, something happened and the transplant might not be possible.” To my surprise, my case worker explained that the Number One match on the waiting list got bumped and I was moved from Number Two to Number One to receive a kidney and pancreas. So off to the hospital I went.
When I arrived at Tulane, the doctors started drawing blood and running tests to make sure that my body would accept the organs. This took about 4-6 hours to complete. They found that my body was a good match. With the transplant of kidney, from the time of organ recovery to transplant, there is about a 12-hour window to do the transplant. They try to match as many antigens as possible. Out of 6 antigens they looked at, I matched up with all 6.
So quickly – very quickly – I went in for surgery, only having a few minutes to speak to my daughter on the phone to tell her I loved her. Six hours later, I awoke from surgery and was informed that everything went well with the transplant, and that I had two new healthy organs. And the journey of my new life with the gift from my hero began.
Four days after the surgery, I left the hospital,and instead of taking 4 shots a day for my diabetes, I didn’t take even one. I no longer needed insulin. I traded that for 42 pills a day to ensure that my body did not reject this gift. As the months went on, the number of pills decreased, and today I take 12 pills a day, one being a baby aspirin and another a multivitamin.
My life has truly been blessed since my transplant. I’ve had no complications or problems at all. It is hard to put into words how thankful I am that my angel – my hero – said yes to become an organ donor. I have not been able to meet the family of my hero, but hopefully I will one day. I want to learn more about my hero and to let this family know how much I appreciate the generosity of their angel.
That Father’s Day was the second best Father’s Day I’ve ever had – the first being when my daughter was born. This transplant has allowed me to watch my daughter grow into the beautiful young lady she is today – both inside and out. Six months after my transplant surgery, I was able to dance with my daughter at my sister’s wedding. I’ve been able to cheer her on at dance recitals and volleyball and softball games,and watch her go on her first date, putting the fear of God in the young man that asked her out by giving him a hard time. I continue to share in her joys and academic accomplishments. I have been able to be the father I’ve always wanted to be for her, which may not have happened without this gift of life from my hero. I’ve also been able to be there for my father as he passed from this earth, taking care of him before he passed, and I continue to care for my mother and be there for my other family members, including my niece. This is very important to me because we’ve always been a close-knit family.
My transplant has also affected people besides my immediate family. I’ve been able to make many memories and share many laughs with family and friends. I’ve been able to volunteer my time with LOPA to share my story about organ donation. I’ve been able to educate others to be able to make an educated decision about whether they want to also be a potential organ donor, and to know more facts about organ donation. Knowing that-if I get one person to sign up to be a donor-that person may possibly save 9 lives, give sight to 2 people, or enhance the lives of up to 50-60 other people through tissue donation.
I signed up to be an organ donor when I first got my license, not realizing that I would one day be the one in need of a transplant; because of my diabetes, I could not donate blood or join the military. When I learned some of my organs could possibly help another, I felt like I could finally do something to help another life if needed.
I try to live every day the best I can, realizing that life is a gift, not a given. And I enjoy the simple things that I may have taken for granted before my transplant. Each day, when I say my prayers, I thank God for my hero, and ask him to bless my hero’s family, and I also thank God that I’m here to share my story and hopefully make a difference.
So I urge anyone reading or hearing my story to think about becoming an organ donor, because you never know – you may be someone’s hero one day, too.
Donald J Troxclair Jr.