The holidays are a time for miracles, and the Conard family is desperately in need of one.
Linda Conard has been on the kidney transplant list for more than two years, and is still waiting. What gives her hope, however, is the Christmas miracle her husband, Michael, experienced in 2012 when he learned a donor for a kidney and pancreas transplant became available.
This year, Linda is hoping for a similar miracle.
Linda, 69, never had kidney problems in her life until she had back surgery on Oct. 10, 2016. That same week, she learned she had acute kidney failure and her life was in grave danger.
The next months are a fog for her. Dealing with her kidney problems kept her hospitalized 24 days and later on, she was in and out of the hospital dealing with an stubborn infection called C-Diff.
When she was finally discharged, she learned she would need to go on a type of dialysis called hemodialysis where every drop of blood in her body would be drained, cleansed and returned, a process that took three to four hours daily.
“It removes the toxins, but causes people to be very, very sick,” said Linda.
After six months of hemodialysis, her numbers had improved enough that she could switch to an alternate form of dialysis where sugar water would be used to flush out the toxins, a process that had to happen three times a day, but could be done at home.
A new kidney
The only way Linda’s quality of life will improve is when she finds a new kidney, either through an organ donor or a live donor.
“You go on the transplant list the first time you require dialysis,” she said, which is her case, started two years ago. Lately, her name has been cropping up more often as others who were on there earlier have had surgeries — or died, which often happens as patients wait for suitable donors.
Luckily, she is an ideal candidate for the transplant. She follows the strict diet prescribed, avoiding sodium, potassium and starchy foods and focusing on protein.
Another plus is that she is A positive, a universal blood type.
“We’re hoping we might have one by the end of the year,” she said or a donor match.
Once an organ becomes available, the Conards have no longer than three hours to get to Wake Forest Baptist Health where her team of transplant doctors will do the surgery.
A proactive stance
The Conards haven’t just say by idly and waited for a match to appear.
Linda’s car has, in bold letters, “I Need A Kidney,” emblazoned across the back window along with her phone number. Michael’s vehicle states “Give Live, Be and Organ Donor,” and has a bumper sticker stating “I had a kidney transplant, now my wife needs one.”
The mobile advertising has been wildly successful.
“We’ve had so many phone calls and lots of people send in papers,” said Linda. “But they’re turned down if they have diabetes, are obese or have mental health issues. I’ve had people actually cry when they found out they could’t donate me a kidney.”
Others, she suspects, become scared when they read over the paperwork describing the organ donation.
One person wondered how much the Conards would pay them for a kidney, something that is absolutely against the law, Michael explained, adding the person was hoping to get $15,000.
While live donors get no reward other than knowing they have helped extend the life of another, they have no expenses, either.
The cost of an organ donation and surgery is covered completely by the recipient’s insurance, Michael said. Part of the coverage includes covering loss of work time for the several weeks it takes to recover from the laparoscopic surgery.
“This has been a journey and is one I would have never expected to go through,” Linda said. “Without my faith in God, I couldn’t have had the strength to get through this. Romans 8:28 is my favorite scripture, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’"
Linda said she has had awesome support from her church, Crestview Baptist in Bethel where her husband is the worship minister and she sings in the choir, as well as her daughter’s church. She calls her family members — her husband, children and grandchildren, her "rocks."
"One of them is with me around the clock and they keep telling me I can’t give up," she said. "There is a kidney out there and I know God has one for me. It is in his timing I will get it."