save mitchell

donate a kidney, a dollar, or a prayer for hope & healing

Hope floats.

This week has been quite a whirlwind. Mitchell came home on Tuesday, exactly one week after transplant surgery, which was wonderful! His blood pressure was coming down, which meant two of his six blood pressure medications could be discontinued. Things were looking up and we were doing the backstroke in a bath of good news.

I finally heard a sense of calmness in Mrs. Lyne’s voice over the phone on Thursday after spending the entire day in the transplant clinic, and she even admitted with an exacerbated tone, “I’ve been surviving on adrenaline. Now that we’re home, I’m crashing and incredibly tired.” You may remember that she had a terrible car accident a few months ago and has been suffering from pain in her arm and neck. Mrs. Lyne’s physical therapy came to a complete halt two weeks ago when Mitchell went into surgery mode — so between that stopping, plus sleeping on hospital sofas and now on her own couch next to her sick son…her body has taken a beating.

She went on to talk about the kitchen floors needing to be cleaned and I stopped her, “The floors can wait. Get some rest.” She reported that things seemed to be moving along in the right direction, besides creatinine levels being a bit high, to which they’d adjust his anti-rejection meds to help fix that. He wouldn’t need to report back to clinic until another four days on Monday.

We hung up the phone and not even a few hours went by before she rang again. The news wasn’t good. It turns out his blood pressure going down wasn’t necessarily a good thing, per se. You see, it could actually be a sign of the kidney being in distress. He’d need to return to clinic the very next day, Friday.

Friday comes and goes and the takeaway isn’t what we wanted to hear. His high levels of creatinine and low blood pressure…adds up to a biopsy appointment scheduled for Monday afternoon. Unless, in the meantime, the levels normalize.

That means he’ll be admitted back into the hospital for at least 24 hours while they keep an eye on him and the procedure’s wound, that nothing goes awry from sticking a needle in his recycled kidney.

I went by their home today to say hello & drop off a few goodies, including a check for $750 thanks to the third batch of SAVE MITCHELL t-shirts being sold. I also had a set of coffee table books made for him & Jessica as a keepsake; Facebook and blogs stock full of digital photos are lovely but there is something to be said for tangible memories.

When I arrived he was asleep on the recliner chair, faithfully wearing his SAVE MITCHELL t-shirt; evidently the blood pressure meds make you extremely tired. The Yankees were on TV, of course, his favorite baseball team. Beside him was a gigantic organizer of pills. I couldn’t exactly count how many were in each slot, but I eyeballed at least 15 or even 20.

He currently has SEVEN battle wounds that are healing — from his transplant surgery, dialysis cath removal, nephrectomy, central line in his neck, and on and on. I imagine his torso looks like he was attacked in a back alley from criminals. Without fail, Mitchell’s quirky sense of humor managed to make me laugh out loud and I almost fell off the couch. His Mom explained, “In the past, when we’ve been at the beach and people ask, ‘Wow what are those scars from?!?’ Mitchell tells them they’re from a shark attack.”

The poor guy has been through more than many of us will experience in our entire lifetime by the age of nineteen years old. All he wants to do is live. Just breathe, and live, and laugh. I wish that for him.

But for now, he’ll continue to fight for his life, defy odds, keep doctors, surgeons and nurses on their toes to figure out why and the heck his body rejects kidneys time and time again. And we’ll continue to rally around him and his unbreakable family.

Thank you so much for the continued support and for always believing. Right now it’s time to  swim, not sink. It’s time for a miracle. Let’s keep Mitchell and his family afloat by wrapping them up in a life vest of hope.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Post-op Day 3.


I was lucky enough to spend all-day Tuesday at the hospital to support Mitchell, his family, and his donor Jessica during their transplants. The experience was surreal; I wasn’t watching Grey’s Anatomy in a flat screen TV, life was being saved in real time. Even when I worked at Johns Hopkins and walked down the hospital halls daily, I didn’t get to see behind-the-scenes happenings or truly understand what it’s like to wait, and wait, and wait for updates as the surgery took place. It was hands down one of the most moving, profound and best days of my entire life.

Since I started this blog 8 months ago, got tested twice to be a kidney donor (once to Mitchell directly & once for a kidney swap situation), launched the Save Mitchell t-shirts fundraiser, fostered a relationship with Mitchell’s mother and have been left speechless by her living Sainthood status, raising thousands of dollars due to selfless community members opening their wallets, updating his Facebook fan page on a daily basis, and hearing about the up & down roller coaster ride of his health status…to say that Tuesday was a gigantic, collective sigh of relief is putting it lightly.

The goal of being physically present was to keep his parents occupied in the morning before the immediate and extended family arrived, to personally stay updated on the surgeries progress, and to keep the social media circle informed as the day unfolded. All three were accomplished and I left 9 hours later feeling more mentally/emotionally tired than if I had been sitting at my day job desk for the exact same amount of time.

As I feel asleep Monday night, during my morning drive into VCU Medical Center on Tuesday, and the evening drive home — I wept. The tears were made from 100% natural joy. Since the day I learned of Mitchell having his transplant surgery day set in stone, gratitude keeps oozing from my pores. Mitchell receiving a transplant, all because of Jessica being impossibly humble and selfless…it all feels magical. A divine intervention if I’ve ever seen one.

I returned to the hospital today to see our brave hero on an extended lunch break. He was in much better shape than when I left him Tuesday night {which was basically incoherent & not awake, squinting in pain every few seconds}. Today he was sitting in recliner chair with bright blue lips from a hospital popsicle. Mitchell is a quiet guy and has an aura about him that feels old and wise, but those Cookie Monster blue lips immediately reminded me that he’s still a teenager with a young heart and spirit.

When I first entered the room, a lady who handles all of his medications was telling him, “This is a test. You can have *ONE* cracker and then we’ll see how it goes.” He slowly savored his very first piece of solid food, a graham cracker, and 30 minutes later asked, “So what’s next?” He’s starving after not eating for 3 days, and finally has an appetite. Next he munched on pretzels while watching a movie and dozing off every so often during my two hour visit.

What I love about the Lyne family is how absolutely hilarious they are. At one point Mitchell’s monitor was making a beeping noise and his Dad got annoyed that it kept going off {the nurse attempted to fix the problem 3 times to no avail}. Mrs. Lyne turned to him and said, “Sorry if his life support is bothering you…” and we all broke out into a deep belly laugh. Those two are quite a pair and I can tell they’ve been married for a very long time between their banter and playful interactions. Raising five kids, three of whom have suffered from tremendous health issues over the last decade — they know that when life gets rough, you have to laugh for survival.

Mitchell has had a harder time post-op this 3rd transplant than the last one. So far he’s had a few blood transfusions, a bad reaction to pain meds that caused him to be severely itchy {can you imagine having your entire abdomen sliced open and to make matters worse, you are uncontrollably itchy??}, he has air trapped in his intestines/stomach which is causing horrible nausea and vomiting, and wasn’t allowed to move for the first few days.

Fortunately today he’s feeling a little better and took a brief stroll down the floor. And the BEST news of all… is his new kidney is doing beautifully!! The organ is functioning properly, working hard to keep Mitchell alive & kickin’, and producing urine like nobody’s business.

Balloons, baskets full of candy, and well wishes are everywhere. Meals are being prepared for the family to help them next week once discharged. The love is palpable.

Meanwhile, I also got to visit with Jessica for about 15 minutes down the hall, when she was preparing paperwork to be discharged in a few short hours. I’ve only known her for a brief time now, but could definitely tell a big difference in her demeanor. In our past texts, emails, and in-person convos, she was pretty positive and energetic — whereas today she was very subdued. However despite her physical appearance being dialed back, I can tell that her spirit is stronger than ever. Also I got to see her eat solid food {her second time, first being a few pieces of cornflakes last night} — her preferred food was peanut butter crackers, yum.

We discussed how her post-op experience has been, and despite it not being pretty {including side effects from pain meds, a severe allergic reaction to Benadryl which also caused severe itching that left marks on her back, a bloody nose, nausea causing her not to eat for all 3 days in the hospital, and an increased heart rate episode}, overall her mental attitude is phenomenal. She barely even took pain medication since the operation; frankly, I think that’s insane. I’ve heard accounts of donors comparing their pain levels *higher* than giving natural birth. But Jessica? Nah. She said, “I’m not a wussy.” No, no she is not. She’s a soldier.

In fact, I watched her peer out the 9th floor transplant unit window, and smiled when she said, “If I was not on drugs right now, I wouldn’t be looking out the window. I don’t like being up high.”

Here are some more photos from today. Thanks for everyone’s continued support and encouragement.

Much love,

Mary Beth

Mitchell’s armor

Jessica’s armor

Mitchell’s life support {loved ones not pictured}

Virginia Commonwealth University Men’s Baseball Team 

Posted above Mitchell’s bed 

Jessica’s virtually untouched tray of lunch, “I tried the roll. Eh, not so much.”

Mitchell’s Mom wearing her Save Mitchell dot com shirt along with a kidney necklace pendant.

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Transplant Day!

The big day is finally here!! Mitchell’s transplant surgery is underway, and our hero Jessica is finishing up having her kidney removed. TWO lives are being saved today.

Love wins.

Mitchell shining bright before surgery.

Jessica is ready to get the show on the road!

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Pre-transplant dinner.

Five days before T-Day (transplant day), Mitchell Lyne met his kidney donor, Jessica. The Lyne family, more than a dozen people deep, showed up to meet this living angel. Jessica’s husband came too, who is a silent hero in the situation…supporting his wife when many partners might not be able to handle or accept such a courageous and selfless act.

I sat next to Mrs. Lyne at dinner and could see the look of shock in her eyes ~ not quite wrapping her head around how a stranger came forward to save her young son’s life. But what was even stronger behind Mrs. Lyne’s glasses was a reflection of hope, she’s never lost hope.

Mitchell’s Grandpa said he’s been praying for a healthy kidney. ‘It was God’s plan,’ he explained.”

Here are a few photos from the family-style dinner.

Much love,

Mary Beth

Mitchell and his 3rd kidney donor, Jessica.

Mr. & Mrs. Lyne, Mitchell and Jessica.

Mitchell’s sister and 1st kidney donor Stacey, and Mitchell.

Mitchell’s #1 Fans!

Savemitchell.com Founder Mary Beth, Jessica, and Mitchell.

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A gift.

This blog was birthed on February 13, 2012, on the cusp of my two failed attempts to donate one of my kidneys to Mitchell. God put it on my heart to help this young man, that much I knew for sure…and if a kidney wasn’t coming out of my torso, then I would be used in another way.

Savemitchell.com came to life to tell his story, share updates, as well as establish a Facebook page for supporters to follow along on his journey. We’ve raised thousands of dollars, created Save Mitchell dot com t-shirts (over 100 sold and counting), and even had folks make homemade dinners for the family. We chronicled Mitchell’s triumphs outside of the operating room including getting to meet his favorite college basketball team (VCU Rams), watched him graduate high school, and attend Prom.

We’ve also learned about the not-so-glamorous, behind-the-scenes look at life on dialysis. As his Mother candidly said in the recent past, “he’s the sickest he’s ever been.” That statement says a lot considering the guy has been dealing with kidney failure and survived two transplants in the last 11 years. Needless to say, his loved ones and supporters have been clinging onto hope. That someway, somehow, someone would step forward to give the gift of life and be a suitable match.

Enter Jessica.

She emailed the Save Mitchell Facebook page on May 17, asking about his status since the blog had a lapse in updates. My response was:

For a while he was doing well, then him and his Mom went to NC about two weeks ago to visit family, and suffered a complication thru dialysis — he was in a lot of pain. Things seem to be doing better now. No updates on donors. The hospital is working on a ‘domino’ transplant that could involved 8 donors/recipients so the testing and matching process feels like it’s taking forever. Thanks again for reaching out & the support!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, we learned that someone named Jessica was being tested. In organ donation, the hospital coordinator keeps details confidential to protect everyone involved, including HIPAA laws (patient privacy), so his family & I were grasping for any and all information which was loosely shared. The stories and status changed every few days — one moment we’re talking about people in Missouri and Pennsylvania participating in a domino swap, the next moment we’re focused on fixing his dialysis machine, and the next moment we’re anxiously awaiting any update whatsoever from the transplant unit.

Well today was the day we’ve all been waiting for — this is finally happening in six short days. Mitchell has a donor, and it’s all thanks to sweet, selfless, super hero Jessica. She is donating to a stranger (known as “altruistic”) in need of a kidney in Richmond, VA — and her husband will donate their kidney to Mitchell. Although just like when I tested, Jessica wasn’t a match for Mitchell, the beautiful thing is she’s now saving TWO lives.

The odds of this entire situation happening are slim on multiple levels. For one, given Mitchell’s complicated history and multiple surgeries, has unfortunately made it very difficult to find strong matches; it’s not as simple as having the same blood type — the process is much more involved including antibodies, tissue matching, etc. Additionally, to have the swap take place in the exact same city is amazing. Dealing with dozens of people in a large kidney swap could have delayed the surgery for months, not to mention more room for error. Finally, Jessica is a nursing student and starts school soon — so her timeline to undergo the surgery and build in time to recover is tight. But, by the grace of God, the stars aligned.

Sure many hiccups could take place, causing the surgery to not happen , or complications from the transplant…but we’re not going to focus on that. No-no, we’re not even going to put an ounce of energy into What If? Because life doesn’t work that way — we are only guaranteed today, so let’s put our love and support into a perfect outcome for every single person involved. Let’s let go & let God. Let’s be brave and believe.

I asked Jessica if she’d write a guest blog post to share her perspective, what this experience means to her, and why she was inspired to get involved. She happily obliged and titled it: A Gift. Her story brought me to tears for more reasons than I could ever explain… I’m so grateful for everyone’s support, and lift up Mitchell, his family, Jessica, and her family ~ that Tuesday, August 7 is The Day that Love wins, Faith perseveres, Hope prevails, and we’re no longer here to Save Mitchell ~ rather, Mitchell is saved.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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