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The Graduate.

Mitchell graduated from high school!!! We’re so proud of him. Here he is on the big day alongside his Grandfather.

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March madness

What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been. March madness is in full swing.

First, acts of kindness exploded in full force, allowing Mitchell to be treated like a superstar for an evening, recounted in this blog post. The courageous guy, fighting for his life, got to enjoy himself by watching his favorite college basketball team up close & personal. No really, check out his view from right behind the players’ bench.

Then, if that wasn’t amazing enough, a local TV new station decided to cover the superstar “story.” You see, in my former life I worked in the news. One of my roles was to read press releases and decide which pitches were newsworthy. Because of this experience, it helps me in my current marketing/PR roles at work…and luckily…during my free time convince reporters to give pro bono publicity for a sweet 18-year-old who needs a kidney. In this case the spin went something like this: The Virginia Commonwealth University basketball team plays George Mason at the Siegel Center tonight. But while most fans will be focused on the rivalry, they won’t realize there is an extra special young man in the stands….meet Mitchell Lyne.

The clip can be watched here: Mitchell Lyne Needs a Kidney to Live

Please post the link on your social media pages, send an email to contacts, or spread the word in conversations among friends and family. If it gets in the right hands, who knows, maybe a kidney donor is right around the corner.

In addition to that night of magical memories, another meaningful mission is in the works.

A few months ago I moved to Baltimore and started working at Johns Hopkins in the marketing & communications department. The irony of this connection + being a potential donor to Mitchell is outlined in this blog post. Well I took a shot in the dark and asked Mitchell’s sister Stacey & his Mom if they would consider having him sent to Hopkins for a second opinion. Seeing as though he has received care by the same hospital in Richmond for over a decade, I completely understand why the family feels loyalty. At the same time though, there really is nothing to lose by seeking extra eyes and hands on Mitchell’s medical records. He has had so many complications and condition isn’t getting any better {case in point, his first full day of dialysis was delayed due to a stomach lining infection ~ it is extremely painful & can even be fatal}. You just never know…and don’t want to ever wonder: What if?

Low & behold, they decided to go for it!

Even though the hospital doesn’t accept his insurance. Even though the world-renowned kidney transplant expert is incredibly busy. Even though the administration team is swamped. Even though…all of these hurdles, God had other plans. Mitchell & his Mom are headed to Baltimore in two weeks for a consultation with the same doctor who has performed over 1,000 kidney transplant surgeries, has appeared on network TV in the reality series Hopkins 24, was part of the first-ever 5-way kidney swap transplant, and regularly travels all over the world giving talks to his peers.

He has no idea who I am. I’ve passed Dr. Robert Montgomery in the hospital halls {to be fair, you really can’t miss him or his distinct beard}. I’ve read countless articles about him. I’ve even sat in his office for a meeting with his colleagues {and completely got distracted by framed photos hanging on the wall, standing next to several American Presidents}. I’ve secretly hoped, from Day 1, that he would meet Mitchell. Yes there are hundreds of brilliant physicians at the esteemed #1 hospital in the United States, but for whatever reason Dr. Montgomery has been singed on my kidney heart.

Ironically, I haven’t even met Mitchell face-to-face, and will get to look at him in the eyes for the first time, on the same day he gets to meet the Hopkins family. I am looking forward to hearing what comes from this Meeting of Hope — and excited to see what else God has up His sleeves. He continues to use me in ways I could have never imagined, and give the master innovator every ounce of credit.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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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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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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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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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

Read the rest of this entry »

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Benevolence

| be·nev·o·lence |

noun

1. desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness: to be filled with benevolence toward one’s fellow creatures.
2. an act of kindness; a charitable gift.

I scrolled through 120 blog themes in an attempt to visually portray the purpose of this platform — to save Mitchell Lyne. More on this warrior to be reckoned with in upcoming posts.

One blog theme was titled: Benevolence. Although it isn’t the design I ultimately chose, the word’s meaning seeped into my pours. You see, I’m part of a human species that has no choice but to help others in need. That attribute is solely derived from God. He made me this way and I own it, for better or for worse.

I am what some might call a spiritual person. Yes I was raised Christian and this denomination makes up the majority of my faith’s DNA, but my heart most resonates with practicing The Golden Rule {treat others how you would like to be treated}. As the Dalai Lama said, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.”

In 2001, my college days in Richmond, Virginia were coming to a close and graduation day was fast approaching. However a sorority sister, Stacey, had much more on her plate than job interviews and finals. Stacey donated a kidney to her younger brother, Mitchell. He was only 8-years-old at the time. Our sisterhood chapter organized fundraisers for their family and rallied around in support. To the best of my knowledge, the surgery was a success and everyone would live happily ever after.
Time passed and the social media network Facebook exploded, which essentially fosters online reunions and put me back in touch with Stacey. I would have categorized her in the ‘acquaintances’ folder. We were friendly in passing & saw each other at mutual friends’ bridal/baby showers. Then to my surprise, a few years ago, her status update said that Mitchell needed a new kidney. By the time I learned my blood type after donating a pint to the Red Cross, A Positive – a compatible type, another donor had come forward and matched Mitchell. I silently decided to get tested, but never had the opportunity.

Once again, I figured the organ’s new home was safe & sound. The end.

But everything wasn’t OK. I didn’t understand why exactly, but felt terrible for his family and for the young boy who endured so many scalpels before graduating high school.

Last spring, without telling anyone except for Stacey and a few close friends, I went to the hospital to see if I could help. God told me to. Not in a whisper, not as a subtle suggestion, nor as a possible consideration. Nope — it was an adamant directive. My heart was heavy with His call-to-action and there was no ignoring, or, questioning it. Others would later ask, “But, but, you don’t even know him?” “But, but, you aren’t even that close with Stacey?” “But, but….what if ___?” On the drive over to the hospital lab that morning, I prayed, hard. I asked God to help navigate this somewhat scary and unknown world of kidney donations.

“I leave this outcome entirely in Your hands. If this is meant to be, You will see to it that I’m a match. Selflishly, Lord, I kinda don’t want to match, because then that would mean I have to actually deal with a surgery…and who knows what else. But seriously, I trust You — I do, and will handle the outcome however this plays out. Amen.”
A few days later the donor coordinator called and said, “The doctors can’t believe it, you appear to be a match! They’re scratching their heads at how close the results were.” She continued, “The criteria for matches is very strict since we’re being extra picky this (third) time. You need to come back and have more blood work drawn, we’ll now literally crossmatch your bloods on top of each other and see how they react.”

I knew it, I just knew it. God had a plan after all and I’m glad I was quiet enough to listen to, and hear Him.

After my second batch of testing, the coordinator’s next call wasn’t as positive as the first. Our bloods didn’t like each other after all. I was extremely confused, totally dumbfounded.

“How could this be? God, what was this all for? You put it on my heart to get tested, remember?”
I could have sworn that it was written, as they say, that I was meant to be a match. Ultimately I rationalized that my involvement was to help the family know that there are people out there willing to help, and keep their hope alive.

The experience also became an exercise for my boyfriend and I to have very serious discussions about us, our future, and practice clear communication about delicate subjects.

Nine months passed and I eventually moved cities, started working for Johns Hopkins Medicine on their marketing team, and thought the Mitchell files were closed. But then a few short weeks after relocating, my phone rang. It was the hospital coordinator asking if I was still interested in donating. “It’s a kidney swap situation. Another person in need of a kidney has a loved one who matches with Mitchell. Now we need to find a kidney for that person.”

My head was shaking — this was it. God wanted me to help save two lives, not just one. Ok, I get it now.

In the meantime, before receiving the kidney swap scenario call, I learned a tremendous amount of clinical information on the kidney, living donations, the surgery, and long-term impacts on a living donor {which are basically none, people can live a normal, full lifespan with only one kidney}. As fate would have it, one of my service lines at Hopkins is….the transplant department. The first project assigned to me had to do with incompatible transplant from living donors.

Really? Come on. As they say, God certainly has a sense of humor.

I was also intimately familiar with kidney swaps because as it turns out, Hopkins is the first hospital that performed a “domino” tranplant – six people to be exact – and I had just watched a video about it the very same week.

Today, February 13, Mitchell was wheeled into the OR to have a port placed in his abdomen. He needs to start dialysis. This is such a blessing and such a curse. The treatment keeps him alive and that is magnificent. But the curse is that it means he doesn’t have the kidney swap in place to proceed with a transplant.

On Wednesday I’m going to the Hopkins testing lab to have blood drawn and see if I match with the recipient-in-waiting down in central Virginia. I don’t know much about her except for the fact she’s in her twenties, has never had a transplant, is also on dialysis, and has someone who loves her enough to give up his/her kidney to a stranger — Mitchell. If I’m not a match for her, then this web site is my second best gift ~ a place to advocate and give him and his family a voice.

Please keep these two courageous souls in your thoughts and prayers as they wait and hold onto hope.

This online community is a place to champion for and support Mitchell. We’ll share stories about his life, his fight, his progress, and hopefully, his new kidney. Oh – and – in case you’re interested, the name of this blog design is Brand New Day…which is what I hope Mitchell will be granted for many years to come.

Much love,
Mary Beth

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