Kathy Vochoska

Bakersfield, CA
Living Kidney Donor

“Seeing the change it made in his life is such a blessing.”

Kathy and Chris

I was driving home from the airport after being out of the country for three weeks. I called my husband and after we caught up a bit, he quietly mentioned that our son had gone to the doctor a few days before with swollen ankles. They were waiting to hear back from the doctor. Call it mother’s intuition, but I knew in my heart something was very wrong.

The next day we received the news that our son was in kidney failure. We were in SHOCK. Our son was just 20 years old and kidney disease does not run in our family.

The doctor first hoped to “restart” my son’s kidneys with treatment. Ten days later we returned to the office, and I will never ever forget the doctor walking in and telling my son, “Chris, I’m so sorry but the treatment isn’t working. Your kidneys are not responding. The reality of your situation is, unless you begin dialysis, you will die.” To see my son’s eyes immediately water up and his lower lip tremble was heart-wrenching. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

Later that day, a tube was inserted into Chris’ chest that enabled him to begin dialysis the next morning. Seeing that tube coming out of his chest and him connected to the dialysis machine was one of the hardest days of my life. It was difficult to believe dialysis was his only chance to live. Without it, he would die.

Dialysis is horrible. Chris’ diet was incredibly restricted, and he was only allowed 5-6 cups of water per day. He was exhausted all the time and couldn’t do any of the activities he loved. I saw my son go from an active sports enthusiast who enjoyed snowboarding, hiking, surfing, rock climbing, and so much more – to just trying to make it through. Dialysis flipped his life upside down. I felt helpless.

Sitting with Chris at dialysis one day we noticed the man who was always sat in the treatment chair next to him wasn’t there. He had died waiting for his transplant. That hit both of us hard. As a mom, I wanted to trade places with him. Why did he have to suffer at such a young age? It consumed me.

One day, one of his dialysis nurses told me about living kidney donation. Like any mom, I would do anything for my kids and I was the first to sign up. On March 30, 2011, I donated a kidney to Chris. It was an amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Seeing the change it made in his life is such a blessing. Chris is back to feeling “normal” again. He married in 2014 and he and his wife are expecting their first baby. Life is pretty darn good post-transplant!

Chris is one of the lucky ones. He got his transplant. But the man who sat next to him at dialysis is like so many. Twenty-two people die each day waiting for a transplant. Those are real people – people like my son, your mom, your child, your cousin, your friend. They have families and friends who love them and are praying for that miracle.

Register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. You could perhaps save someone’s life and be their miracle.