There was absolutely not a chance in hell that 60-year-old John Ivanowski of Kirkwood, Missouri was going to allow it.
For over a year, ever since he was diagnosed with Immunoglobulin A Deficiency, John was living on dialysis, hooked up to the machine for hours a day.
And he was in a slow but steady decline, and it sucked.
“From there, it’s just been dialysis every couple of days since then. So, for over a year, he’s been hooked up to a machine for three, four, five hours a day. It’s not the right quality of life I don’t think anyone should have to live in,” recalled his daughter Delayne. “So, then my first thought was, why can’t he just have my kidney right now? He likes to walk my dog and run with my dog and he wants to do all this stuff, but now he's hooked up to a machine.
I don't think that's any way that anybody should have to live."
But there was no way he was going to allow 25-year-old Delayne, a nurse at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, to do what she had been imploring her father.
To allow her, as perfect match, to be his kidney donor.
She is his everything.
He wasn’t just reluctant, he was adament.
15 years ago, the family endured the loss of their son and brother Dawson, who died of neuroblastoma cancer, and the thought of his daughter having surgery for his sake, and all that entails, was too much to contemplate and he simply wasn’t having it.
"I thought, I lost my boy and if anything happened to Delayne, I don't know what I would do. I’m like, ‘You’re too young. You’ve got a long time to be here, and my time’s limited. I told her, I'm not taking your kidney. I told her that flat out.”
Despite his opposition, and being a nurse, decided to donate her kidney anyway, working with the Barnes Jewish Hospital transplant center.
Said Delayne, “I don’t even know how I got his coordinator’s phone number, and I reached out to her, and I was like, ‘Hey, how can I do this. When can we start?’ And then as soon as he was good enough basically for the transplant, they started running me through a bunch of tests.”
All the while, John “had no idea it was going on.”
To his anger at her going against his wishes?
“I was like, ‘I’m going to do it. I don’t care how mad he is at me. I don’t care if he kicks me out of the house or hates me or doesn’t say a word to me for the rest of my life.'At least he’ll be living a good life and not hooked up to a machine.”
Dr. Jason Wellen, kidney and pancreas transplant surgical director at the Washington University & Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, went along with the ruse, justifying it if Delayne initially agreed to be a ‘anonymous’ donor.
Oherwise in reality, John would have remained on the waiting list for several more years.
Said Dr. Wellen, "There are over 100,000 people in the country right now waiting for a kidney transplant. The one way we can get people transplanted within a few months is if they come to us with a living donor."
Recalled John, "They called me at work and said, 'We've got an anonymous donor,' and I about dropped the phone and thought are you kidding me? People can be on the [kidney waiting] list for five, six, seven, eight years and go through dialysis for that long, and I just couldn't believe it."
And so it went, and after eight months of secrecy, on February 16th, the surgery came and went, and was a success.
Which meant no more dialysis machines and getting back to life.
And after waking up from surgery, his anonymous donor, his daughter, walked into his room wearing a hospital gown.
Said Dr. Wellen, "We had to figure out how to put them in separate areas of the pre-op area and how to make it so they didn't see each other in the post-op area and make sure that they were in different parts of the floor until she was ready to let him know that she was the donor. It took a lot of teamwork and effort behind-the-scenes to respect her request to make sure that he didn't know it was her."
Said John, now that the anger and shock and fear have gone, replaced with nothing but pure gratitude, "I wouldn't change a thing. I feel so much better. Not to be hooked up to the machine anymore and be able to do what I need to do or what I want to do, it’s just a big relief.”
Said Delayne, “If you are going to give a kidney, it is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give in the world.
It’s literally like donating life.
If anything, I've saved one life and hopefully I can, with awareness and other things, save other lives by encouraging people to become donors or to take that next step and go get the testing done to become a match.”
As for her dads wishes?
"I'm not good at being told no."
DMV staff have helped 165 million people across the country to register their decision to be a deceased organ, eye and tissue donor.
The National Kidney Registry helps people facing kidney failure by facilitating paired kidney exchange and making living kidney donation safer and easier.
Dr. Wellen wants those interested to know...
"We spend a tremendous amount of energy and resources and effort to work on every person that comes forward as a living donor. To the point that we feel extremely comfortable knowing that if we approve for them donation, that they'll have no higher risk for the rest of their life of renal failure or any other medical issues."
Bonnie Raitt recently won two Grammy Awards, for Song of the Year, and American Roots Song of the Year.
She most often is known for songs that she reinterprets as her own.
Until she heard on the radio the magic and grace of such an organ transplant.
How a recipient searched for the mother of the young boy who died, and whose heart is now beating in his own chest.
And would she like to hear her sons heart beating once again.
And so moved, put pen to paper.
I watched him circle round the block
Finally stopped at mine
Took a while before he knocked
Like all he had was time
Excuse me, ma'am, maybe you can help
The directions weren't so clear
I'm looking for Olivia Zand
They said I might find her here
I looked real hard and asked him
What she's got he's looking for?
Said there's somethin' I think she'd want to know
And I let him in the door
It's not like me to trust so quick
Caught me by surprise
But somethin' about him gave me ease
Right there in his eyes
And just like that your life can change
If I hadn't looked away
My boy might still be with me now
He'd be 25 today
No knife can carve away the stain
No drink can drown regret
They say Jesus brings you peace and grace
Well he ain't found me yet
He sat down and took a deeper breath
Then looked right in my face
I heard about the son you lost
How you left without a trace
I've spent years just trying to find you
So I could finally let you know
It was your son's heart that saved me
And a life you gave us both
And just like that your life can change
Look what the angels send
I lay my head upon his chest
And I was with my boy again
I spent so long in darkness
Never thought the night would end
But somehow grace has found me
And I had to let him in
And by Dr. Jill Biden, no less.
But I digress……
As we are regretfully living in a broken system, where a surgery or an illness can bankrupt a family… like so many others, there is a gofundme set-up to help with the Ivanowski’s medical debts, for those so inclined.
It’s disturbing that many must do this, but here we are, and until we have a more humane system in place, and we’ll never stop fighting for that day, we do what we can to keep a watchful and concerned eye on each other.