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The amazing kidney

Just a little bit about what the kidney’s do and how they work….. THEY ARE AMAZING!

Kidneys don’t always get the respect they deserve. Maybe, it’s because they’re relatively small. Maybe, it’s because when they’re functioning normally, we simply take them for granted. But, kidneys are truly impressive and the more you learn, the more you’ll understand why you want to help keep them healthy.

Another word for kidney is renal. You may hear your doctor talk about renal function or read materials that mention renal failure. Whenever you see or hear the word renal, you will know the subject is about kidneys.

Location and description

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs about five-inches long, three-inches wide and one-inch thick located in your back on each side of your spine. Each kidney is about the size of a fist and weighs from four to six ounces. They are situated above your waist, with the left kidney a little higher and a little larger. The right kidney is a little lower and smaller to make room for the liver. The lower ribs protect your kidneys.

Inside the kidneys are nephrons. These are tiny units where the filtering of excess fluids and dissolved particles occurs. There are between 1.0 and 1.3 million nephrons in each kidney.

What kidneys do

Most people think their kidneys are just responsible for producing urine, but there’s a lot more to it. In addition to removing extra fluid and water from your body, kidneys:
■Filter the blood
■Balance fluid content in the body
■Produce the enzyme renin that helps control blood pressure
■Produce the hormone erythropoietin to help make red blood cells
■Activate vitamin D to maintain healthy bones
■Adjust levels of minerals and other chemicals to keep the body working properly

How kidneys do their jobs

The basic function of kidneys begins when you eat and drink. After the body takes the nutrients it needs, the extras become wastes. Some of the waste winds up in the blood and needs to be filtered out. The blood gets circulated through the body with every beat of the heart. It’s the job of the kidneys—with their millions of nephrons—to filter and clean out the blood and remove the extra fluids. The extra fluid and waste becomes urine and travels from the kidneys down the ureters to the bladder until eliminated through the urethra.

Removing waste is only one job of the kidneys. In addition to filtering, the kidneys monitor the levels of chemicals, salts and acids in the blood. Inside the nephrons are sensors that keep track of sodium, phosphorus, calcium and potassium. When levels are high, the kidneys signal to remove the excess from your blood for elimination.

Another important job of the kidneys is to monitor and regulate certain body functions. An enzyme called renin is secreted by the kidneys to control blood pressure. A hormone called erythropoietin tells the bone marrow to make red blood cells, and one called calcitriol helps to keep bones strong.

Inside the kidneys

Inside each kidney is approximately one million tiny filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron has a glomerulus and tubules. The glomerulus is a series of specialized capillary loops where water and small particles are filtered from the blood. The waste and extra fluids then travel through the tube-like structure of the tubules where several processes take place to turn those fluids into urine. The tubules lead to the collecting duct where the urine is drained into a funnel-shaped sac called the renal pelvis. Each kidney has a ureter that connects the renal pelvis to the bladder. The urine from the kidneys flows down the ureters into the bladder and is then passed out of the body through the urethra.

Summary

It is amazing when you think of everything the kidneys do for the body. It’s even more amazing that some people are born with only one kidney and it does a fine job of filtering blood, producing urine and regulating certain functions all by itself. There are situations when kidneys can no longer perform their job, which leads to kidney failure. We are fortunate, however, to live in a time when treatments such as dialysis and kidney transplant will keep the body alive after kidneys stop functioning.

Save Mitchell

If you would like to consider making the ultimate gift to Mitchell, the gift of life, please click here for information on how to get tested.

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Little miracles

Taking showers. Going for a run. Enjoying my favorite meal with an abundant appetite. Sleeping in my bed, in any position I choose. Going to work/school/social activities as I please. Having a comfortable full night’s rest. Hitting the gym. Fending for myself without thinking twice.

I can’t help but appreciate all of these ‘luxuries’ — also known as everyday activities — that are at my disposal. Yet, Mitchell’s current reality is far from mine.

  • He can’t hop under hot water for a full body cleanse — the catheter healing for dialysis treatments to begin soon doesn’t permit a traditional shower for one whole month.
  • Devouring a delicious dinner to his heart’s desire isn’t necessarily possible. The countless medications, procedure side effects, and unpredictability in appetite on any given day — make the basic function of eating an indefinite: TBD.
  • Slipping into an eight-hour sleep, in the comfort of his bed, is a distance memory. Instead, the sofa chair is his place of rest; usually his Mother is within arm’s reach.

Every single morning I start my prayers by thanking God for blessings — the simple ones — my five senses, my working limbs, my mental, emotional & physical health, my education and employment. Access to clean, running water.

These days, Mitchell inevitably pops into my mind at some point during the dialogue of gratitude, and I think how lucky I am to have it pretty darn easy.

As I’m slowly starting to understand the daily grind of Mitchell’s life, it forces me to reflect on how effortless it is to take common, expected ‘luxuries’ for granted.

The people closest to him never speak his name without commenting on Mitchell’s resiliency and quiet strength. “He never complains, ever” — which makes me think he isn’t human. How could someone in his condition not peep a problem? But the thing is, he is human, a very special human who accepts his uphill road with a grandiose amount of grace.

Because my Monday through Friday appears vastly easier than his, the moment his Mother mentioned how much Mitchell enjoys watching VCU {the local university} basketball games, I knew he had to attend one, stat. For one, the last game of the season was only a few days away. Additionally…he hasn’t been able to snag tickets because every single home game is sold out, due to the rise in popularity from last season’s Final Four run. Now all we needed was a little magic.

With a few strokes of the keyboard & putting a call out to the masses, a kind soul named Cindy offered to secure two tickets for the fan and a guest {by default, Mitchell’s Mom selflessly selected his Dad} — courtesy of the Associate Coach Mike Rhoades who is a friend of a friend. Then another kind soul who came across my call-for-action, Tom, stepped up to the plate with the equivalent of a big black and yellow bow.

He said, “My Mom works at the hospital transplant unit, I think she knows Mitchell. She’d like to help do something special.” Twenty-four hours later he rang my phone to announce, “She made some phone calls and arranged to have Mitchell meet the VCU basketball team before the game. We’re also getting a ball signed with the players’ signatures.” To top it off, VCU managed to get his Mom a ticket too, so now the whole family can be together.

My wish is that tonight, if even for a few minutes or a few hours, Mitchell is able to enjoy himself and not focus on his body’s fight over the last decade. He can act his age, have fun cheering on a live sports game, and make memories that he actually wants to remember.

Life is stuffed with light & love. And if you pay close enough attention, little miracles.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Going the extra mile

Mitchell had it pretty rough the last week & a half. “When it rains, it pours” was evidently the theme.

First, the surgery to have a dialysis port inserted into his abdomen was painful, as expected. But then he suffered from severe pain in his shoulder (air got in during surgery)…and the heating pad to help alleviate the discomfort ultimately caused 2nd degree burns!

Thankfully he received some medication to help heal burn inflamation, and the port wound is getting better too.

He is slated to begin receiving dialysis treatments on March 12. In the meantime, the family karts back and forth to the dialysis center every week. Once 3/12 rolls around, the Lyne’s will be trained at the center for one week… to eventually give the treatments at home.

Today was particularly hard because a relentless headache, which started yesterday, wouldn’t budge. He asked for over-the-counter medication for some relief. To give you some context, he has had about 6 Tylenol pills in his entire life. In other words, he is naturally tough and never complains. Hopefully Mitchell will feel better soon!

It didn’t even occur to me until talking to his Mom that the rising gas prices must put a huge dent on their wallets. It is 50 miles roundtrip to the dialysis center, and over 20 miles to the hospital for check-ups. Add that all together and we’re talking hundreds of dollars.

If you’d like to contribute any amount of money to help offset the expenses of commuting trip gas (rising 20 more cents per gallon by this weekend), please click here for an easy PayPal Donation. If you don’t already have a PayPal account, it’s free and simple to create one.

The Lyne family have not asked for anything other than prayers, but sometimes… going the extra mile involves giving in more ways than one. In this case ~ gasoline.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Thank my lucky stars

I’m Alive, by Kenny Chesney & Dave Matthews

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard

Everybody’s got their share of battle scars

As for me, I’d like to thank my lucky stars that I’m alive and well

It’d be easy to add up all the pain

And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames

Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain

But not me, I’m alive

And today you know that’s good enough for me

Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing can’t you see

Today’s the first day of the rest of my life

And I’m alive and well, I’m alive and well

Stars are dancin’ on the water here tonight

It’s good for the soul when there’s not a soul in sight

This boat has caught its wind and brought me back to life

Now I’m alive and well

And today you know that’s good enough for me

Breathin’  in and out’s a blessing can’t you see

Today’s the first day of the rest of my life

Now I’m alive and well, yeah I’m alive and well.

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Paying it forward

Mitchell had an operation on Monday to have a port inserted into his abdomen. He will begin dialysis in the next 2-4 weeks, depending on how quickly the wound heals.

If that alone isn’t tough enough, he inadvertently had even more complications to endure — air got trapped during surgery which caused severe pain in his shoulder. Then… a heating pad to help with the pain ended up burning him.

His guardian angel on earth, also known as his Mother, took Mitchell to the ER and we’re thrilled to share that he is finally feeling better today. It should take 2-3 weeks, with wound care, for the burns to heal.

 ∞

Meanwhile, there is an incredible story of selfless donor heros in this Sunday’s New York Times newspaper. Sixty people and 30 kidneys are all linked through the gift of life.

“It is considered a quirk of evolution that humans have two kidneys when they need only one to filter waste and remove excess fluid from the body. Yet when kidneys fail, whether from diabetes or high blood pressure or genetic disorders, they tend to fail in tandem.

Death can arrive in a matter of weeks for many renal patients if they do not have their blood cleansed through dialysis. The process takes almost four hours, three times a week, and leaves many too drained to work. Only half of dialysis patients survive more than three years.”

This isn’t Mitchell’s first rodeo; he has experienced dialysis before. If there could be a silver lining uncovered in this difficult circumstance, it would be that his family will be trained to give treatments at home. The ability to stay in and not have to travel back & forth to the hospital several times a week is an invaluable gift of time.

He didn’t respond well to hemodialysis in the past.

So this time he will receive PD {peritoneal dialysis}.

In the spirit of paying it forward, if you would like to do so for the Lyne family, there are several options:

  • Contact the MCV organ swap coordinator and get tested as a kidney donor for Mitchell. Click here for more information.
  • Make a monetary donation to help offset the extraordinary amount of medications, many of which are not covered by insurance. Click here for more information.
  • Volunteer to make homemade dinners or have takeout meals delivered to the Lyne residence. Email marybeththomsen@hotmail.com for more information on coordinating & scheduling dates.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Prayer request

My heart breaks this morning as Mitchell heads BACK to MCV.

He’s going to the ER to have a few things assessed; he’s in a lot of pain.  Mitchell has many underlying conditions and one is osteoporosis.  This can cause joint and muscle pain, and makes him susceptible to other orthopedic injuries.

During his surgery on Monday, they had his body in many awkward positions in order to perform the procedure [a port was placed in his abdomen so he can begin dialysis].  Since his surgery, he’s had severe shoulder pain.  The doctors think that he may have sustained an injury from his surgery.

To help with some of the his post-operative pain, Mitchell used a heating pad on his back.  Unfortunately, his skin is extremely sensitive, so the heating pad caused burns and blisters–maybe as severe as 2nd degree burns!  So this morning, Mitchell makes the painful trip to the VCU Health Center’s emergency room to endure more testing!

Please pray for my brother, and for our heart-broken mother who stays helplessly by his side!

In His name,

Stacey

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Beautiful, beautiful

This piece of music is single-handedly the most inspiring, humbling, and influential I’ve heard in my entire life. Every single time it plays on stereo speakers, I literally stop what I’m doing at the moment, and be still. I close my eyes, soak in the beauty of this heartsong, and feel sunshine…even on a cloudy day.

The lyrics speak to my soul.

The instrumentals make my eyes water.

The meaning resonates with my faith.

I first heard the term heartsong from a sick little boy named Mattie. He shared his story on the Oprah show. I’ll never, ever forget him. His courage, his strength, his peace, his poems. I pray that even on Mitchell’s darkest, hardest, most challenging day, he feels sunshine on his face from the love and support that showers him.

Please enjoy my favorite heartsong. Click here to listen: Beautiful, beautiful by Francesca Battistelli

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Unanswered prayers

After almost 3 weeks of chasing my tail in circles, because no lab would take my blood and let me ship it myself, I finally had blood drawn today to see if the recipient matches with me. Now the vials are in an overnight package and will be crossmatched tomorrow in Richmond, VA. As I sealed the boxes, I also sealed my faith.

It’s in Your hands now, God. Ok well technically they’re in a FedEx delivery personnel’s hands, but you know what I mean.”

In case you missed the first post in this blog, I’m referring to kidney swaps and exchanges, where donor/recipient pairs will trade organs. For example, Donor 1 is unable to donate to Recipient 1, so he can donate to Recipient 2 (which in this case is Mitchell). Recipient 2’s donor (which in this case could potentially be me) would then donate to Recipient 1 (unfortunately I don’t know her name, but have an image in my head of what she looks like ~ similar to when reading a book and visualizing the character’s face). This criss cross exchange is a very effective way of managing incompatible donors and recipients.

I went through the same testing process with Mitchell’s blood last spring, but apparently our antigens wouldn’t get along — how rude, right? Which is really ashame since the doctors initially thought our cells would play well together in the sandbox operating room.

His Mother was also tested recently.

I have a deformed kidney and have never been tested for Mitchell because of that reason. Dr King decided last week to test anyway. My Dad said that it may be God’s plan for me to be the donor and that my kidney may be fine!”

The thought of this becoming a reality really touched my heart, and I wished that her father would be spot on in his prediction. Unfortunately though, they were not a match afterall.

I’m not a scientist, far from it actually — calculators are needed for simple math equations. I also know very little about the technical compatibility requirements of organ transplants, but it’s hard to understand why someone’s own Mother — the person who helped conceive him, the person who welcomed him into this world through labor, the person who literally shares his DNA — couldn’t save her son.

But instead of trying to comprehend or make sense of something that ‘is what it is’ — I accept it and believe in the depths of my soul that there is a bigger reason behind it all. Perhaps his Mother needs the energy and focus to care for Mitchell, and undergoing major surgery would put her own health at risk. Perhaps there is another candidate who can withstand the transplant, allowing her to be a superhero to her son with time, attention, and uninterrupted TLC.

This makes me think of the song by Garth Brooks:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs

That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

I’m not a Mother and can only imagine what it must be like for her to watch Mitchell suffer for over a decade. Despite the long road travelled and tears shed along the way, we hold onto hope. We hold onto faith. We hold onto miracles. We hold onto each other.

And, we even believe in unanswered prayers.

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Come to me

♥ From Stacey, Mitchell’s sister & original kidney donor. ♥

Click to watch: Come to Me by Jamie Grace.

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Mitchell’s story

I’ve been a distant passenger alongside Mitchell’s journey since 2001, when he first showed symptoms of kidney failure. However after reading Mitchell’s first person essay, I got a greater glimpse into his symptoms, surgeries, and complications.

| Friends, this is what resiliency looks like |

Much love,

Mary Beth

written by Mitchell Lyne, June 2011

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