February 2019 marked five years on the kidney donor waiting list for Celina’s Sandra Danielson. Her wait is now over, thanks to Celina resident Brian Roach.
By: Renee Marler (4CMEDIAGROUP/OurCelina)
There are over 122,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in the United States. Celina Elementary receptionist Sandra Danielson is one of the 122,000. Sandra has been on the donor waiting list for a little over 5 years.
When Danielson was born, her urethra was not connected to the bladder as it’s supposed to be so she had her first surgery at the age of six months. Because of her condition, her kidneys never grew to full size and remained that of a 7-10 year old. She was able to control the symptoms with diet mostly but as most teenagers do, she rebelled a bit.
At the age of twenty-seven, Danielson was told she would most likely be on dialysis “someday” but a cocktail of medications kept her in a relatively normal range and allowed her to live life with little interruption.
“You know how it is, you think you are invincible…until one day, you realize you really aren’t,” she said.
In 2015, Danielson started feeling sick saying, “My chest hurt, I didn’t want to eat or drink. I thought I had pneumonia, to be honest. I just felt awful.”
After a few days, she decided to go to the doctor who confirmed the pneumonia diagnosis, but the news didn’t end there.
“Yes you have pneumonia, he said. But that’s the least of your worries,” recalled Danielson.
Her levels were severely elevated and she was in kidney failure. She was taken immediately to have a port inserted to start dialysis. She was told she would be put on a list for a kidney transplant, but that the average person is on the list 3-5 years. With the shortage of deceased donor organs, transplant waiting lists are getting longer and longer. Medical science has made it possible to take a kidney or part of a liver from a living donor and transplant it into a person in need.
“I knew I would be ok. I just felt like I knew it would all work out. I told Jason [husband] that everything would be ok. I had a calm that only Jesus could provide. I called my family and let them know also. Those were some hard conversations,” she said.
There were many visitors and lots of activity in the first few days.
“I was blessed with an incredible support system. But your mind is strong thing. I was in the hospital for eight days. And it gets quiet and you start thinking about what your life is going to be like. You’re left with your own thoughts and sometimes, they aren’t that great,” said Danielson.
During that hospital stay, Danielson said her faith was tested more than ever because the dialysis was flushing the toxins out causing severe nausea and vomiting. “It was at that time I thought I might not be able to pull through this,” she said.
Danielson said prayer and positive thinking helped pull her out of the slump and regain her life.
Upon release from the hospital, Danielson had to travel to the dialysis clinic three days a week for a four-hour treatment. She did this for an entire year, but never went alone.
“I never had to go by myself. My husband and boys never let me go alone. They never left my side,” she exclaimed.
After the year of dialysis at the clinic, she was able to transition to at-home dialysis treatments, which she has been doing for the past four years.
“Every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and either Friday or Saturday it’s just something I do,” says Danielson. “It’s about three hours each time start to finish and it’s just become part of our routine.”
In the course of the five years of being on the donor list, she has had a number of people reach out to see if they were a match to donate for her. Each time, for some reason or another, they were excluded somewhere in the process.
One person went through the process only to find out she had early stage breast cancer. Danielson said she feels like God used her as a vessel in a way to possibly help that woman get the diagnosis she needed.
“My faith through all of this has grown tremendously. Without turning it over to God, I am not sure where I would be,” she said.
In late 2019, Brian and Kari Roach, the parents of a child who attends Celina Elementary School where Danielson works, walked in and noticed her looking unusually tired.
“We just asked her what was going on and she said she was on a list and needed a donor with a particular blood type,” said Roach. “That’s when Brian said ‘Cool, that’s my blood type, send me the website’ and it was really as simple as that.”
Brian completed the online questionnaire and since it was during the holiday season, didn’t really expect to hear anything back anytime soon. But before long, he was told he was a match for Danielson. There were still many other steps and tests to perform before they could be declared a perfect match and cleared for surgery.
“A lot of things go through your mind, of course. But he was really determined. Every step of the way it was just another confirmation from God,” said Kari Roach.
February 2019 marked five years on the kidney donor list for Danielson. She had been down this road a number of times. She had seen donors make it a few steps and then not work out. But one February afternoon, Brian Roach walked into Celina Elementary with a bouquet of flowers to give Danielson the news she had been waiting to hear. The final test came back and he was, in fact, the perfect donor, or as they call it a “complete match” for her.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the office as they hugged and cried.
Danielson’s husband, Jason said, “What do you say to that? How do you thank someone who is literally saving your wife’s life? There are no words.”
The surgery is scheduled for March 17, 2020. It doesn’t go unnoticed that Brian Roach does have Irish ancestry and will be donating on Saint Patrick’s Day. So now Danielson said she can say she is part Irish as well.
The recovery for Roach should be two to three days in the hospital, while Danielson hopes to be out in less than a week. Living kidney donations begin working in the recipient’s body sooner than an organ that has been kept on ice and transported to the hospital. A living donor kidney usually begins working immediately, whereas a deceased donor kidney may take several days or weeks to function properly.
The recipient’s insurance covers the entire procedure and expenses for both the recipient and donor so the donor has no financial burden.
Living kidney donation is an immeasurable gift. To the recipient, their donor will always be a hero. Deceased donation rates continue at about the same pace as in the last 10 years, but the number of people who need a transplant continues to grow. Living donation is the best way to save more lives. Please visit this link for more information or to become a living donor and save a life today: https://www.bswhealth.com/specialties/transplant/transplants-performed/kidney-transplant/pages/default.aspx .
A Note from OurCelina:
If you know Sandra, which most of us do, you know she is a private person. This is not a story she wanted to tell to garner sympathy or even attention at all. She and her family are truly grateful for the gift of life Brian Roach and the Roach family have given them. She is a precious woman and we are thankful as well. Her goal in telling this story is to encourage others to get tested to see if you could save someone’s life just as her’s has been saved. Remember, there are 122,000 names on that waiting list. With your help, we can give some of those names a chance at life. If you are able and feel led, please research the living donor program. She and Brian encourage and welcome any and all questions from people considering it also.
We will be following the journey of Sandra and Brian and will share with you along the way. We ask that you please keep them in your prayers on March 17th as they both undergo their procedures.