August 17, 2017
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This is called friendship and service above self

  • Mutual friends, Debby Benson Miller and Paula Reinhold, are visiting with each other while Debby receives kidney dialysis at the Satellite Center in Rohnert Park. Irene Hilsendager

By: Irene Hilsendager
June 16, 2017

Debby Benson Miller was born in Northern California and as an infant was adopted by a family in Eureka. She attended high school in Fortuna, California and was a normal teenager enjoying herself as any young girl would.

It wasn’t until 2005 that changes came about. She went to have lab work done and was told that her blood test didn’t appear quite “right.” She had to have her kidney tested for Nephrotic Syndrome.  Debby started Peritoneal dialysis which she could do at home, where a tube is inserted into the peritoneal cavity that fills with liquid and cleans out the toxins. For many months later she had to have blood testing done to see if it would get better but alas she had to go on regular dialysis. 

Debby eventually went on a donor’s list at UCSF and was told that a kidney “wait” is sometimes up to eight years even  for a cadaver kidney. 

She then was notified to start talking to groups, friends and other kidney recipients as to what is the best way to start a committee and have meetings to see if there would be people willing to donate a kidney, At this point social workers must get involved to explain what actually happens during a transplant; both for the donor and the recipient. Benson was able to get eight people together and out of the eight only two matched.

Donors have to be free of any illness such as cancer , high blood pressure or on potent medications. The donor again is a good bet if they are young as anyone over 60 years of age is not really acceptable. Paula said it takes month to go through the process.

To begin the process, on-line questionnaires have to be filled out properly and scrutinized by a medical professional person and all are notified if they made it on the donor team.  At this point Paula came into the picture. Reinhold and another female made it through the scrutinization but for many reasons, Paula is the only one that matched perfectly.

This is very ironic as Paula and Debby have known each other for about 13 years as they both belong to the same Rotary Club, birthday, Bunco and book clubs. Reinhold filled out the questionnaire and made it through all segments of the form. Paula then had to have many tests including colon exam, blood pressure and too many others to name.  

Paula is such a giving person that all she wanted to do was to make sure that Debby’s life would be extended even if it was for only a year but with both ladies being so exuberant, they kiddingly say it will last for 30 years.

Debby brings up a very odd but good point. Since she was adopted, there wasn’t any family history for her to follow. But here is the good part. In blood tests there are markers that show how people are related. Most siblings have a five marker out of ten to show they are related. Paula and Debby have a six marker, which should almost make them sisters or cousins. Here is the ironic part; Paula’s grandmother was also adopted. Are these two ladies related? Wouldn’t that be a beautiful scenario? 

Debby says, “Even after going through dialysis every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, I have never felt pain except when the port became infected and I had to spend some time in the hospital.” “It was meant to be that Paula was the perfect match for me and I will never be hooked up to a machine the rest of my life.” So many people have been extremely helpful and  kind with offers of food, rides and more. Husband, Tom has been the designated cook and bottle washer but he seems to enjoy waiting hand and foot on Debby. It also was mentioned that the staff at the Satellite Center behind the Black Bear restaurant in Rohnert Park.  The staff at the dialysis center are incredible, always laughing and cracking jokes and have a very good rapport with the ambulance company that brings many patients to the center.

The dialysis center runs shifts two or three times a day with about 50 people being run through each day . There are four very long rows of chairs and dialysis machines running down the center of the building and television sets built into the ceilings. You may read or listen to an electric apparatus to pass the four long hours sitting and hooked up to a large white whirling machine. You may watch your blood being pulled out of you and new clean blood being filtered and returned to your body.

Every day, your kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood to produce abut 1 to 2 quarts of urine, composed of wastes and extra fluid. Chronic kidney disease means your kidneys are not filtering well  and may lead to kidney failure over time, 

Debby is such a bubbly blue-eyed fascinating lady that none of this has really affected her. Her surgery for the kidney transplant is scheduled for June 23 at UCSF and both patients will spend a few days recuperating. Paula will be allowed to go home and be pampered by her husband, Wulff. Debby will be hospitalized until it is proven that her medication is working properly for her.

Both ladies have expressed their desire to spread the word on kidney dialysis and it is their way of giving back to society. Debby wants to go on speaking engagements and start blogging to spread the word so other people know to jump on the bandwagon. 

Paula has volunteered around Rohnert Park for over 25 years , loves to meet new people and the one thing she had to do to prepare for the donor “giving” was to dig down deep into her past psychologically and keep telling herself it is for Debby’s well being that I am doing this. 

We must all remember that transplantation is not for everyone. The transplant team will operate on both of the ladies at the same time. One surgeon will perform the nephrectomy-the removal of the kidney from the donor-while another prepares for the placement of the donated kidney. They both will receive general anesthesia to make them sleep during the surgery as it usually takes three to four hours. Blood tests will help them know if the new kidney is working. Debbie will have to schedule an appointment with the transplant team and blood will again have to be tested. The tests will show how well Debby is doing and if her kidneys are removing wastes from her blood. One complaint Debby had is that during the dialysis, she gets very bad cramps in her feet and calves. The staff is so willing to give her foot rubs that she doesn’t mind it.