Kidney Transplant Donor Alana Valacak
"‘Sharing your spare’ is really the best thing that you can ever do for somebody. I would do it all over again."
When her mom, Kimberly, needed a pre-emptive kidney transplant for Alport syndrome (a disease that damages the kidney’s tiny blood vessels), Alana Valacak, 29, of Walled Lake was one of several family members who volunteered to be a living donor. She was a match, and in June 2020 she donated her kidney.
When did you first learn about your mom’s kidney problems?
"My mom had this from a very young age, so it was something that I was always aware of. But I didn’t really understand the scope of it and that she would require a transplant someday until I got older."
Did you know about living donor transplant previously?
"I was aware of it but didn’t know a lot about the process of becoming one."
What made you decide to become a living donor?
"My mom needed somebody. My family is really close, and several of us were interested in being a living donor for her, but I was deemed the most suitable match. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my mom. She gave me life, and she has always put our family first. I think it’s a great privilege that I was able to do something that gives her life better quality."
How did you prepare yourself to be a living donor?
"The biggest part was having conversations with family and friends. I wanted to describe how I felt in my decision to become a living donor and be clear that I was confident in my decision. I’m fortunate to have a very supportive community, so this part was easy."
Did you have to make any lifestyle changes before the kidney transplant?
"I’m normally a physically active person. Strength training, yoga, hikes with the dog, kayaking. This all happened right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so most of my exercise occurred at home or at the nature trails nearby, but I kept it up until my procedure."
What do you remember about the procedure day?
"I remember arriving and checking in at Henry Ford with my fiancé. My procedure was before my mom’s. We saw each other briefly before I went into pre-surgery. I remember she and my dad both pretending not to be anxious about my procedure but not hiding it well. My fiancé, too."
Were you anxious?
"I was more excited about what I was doing, although my nerves hit for a minute when I was being wheeled back for surgery. I guess at that point it felt ‘official.’ The team at Henry Ford was incredibly kind and thorough. I felt that they genuinely cared about my well-being and that brought me a lot of comfort."
How did you feel after the kidney transplant?
"I don’t recall much of the first 24 hours, but when I woke up in the evening I was quick to check my phone for updates on my mom’s procedure. Fortunately, things went as well as they possibly could have. I am really happy that I was able to do something that improved my mom’s quality of life. I’ve never had any second thoughts about the procedure."
As a living donor, do you need to make any lifestyle changes?
"I drink a lot of water, avoid contact sports and watch my protein intake. I also need to avoid NSAIDs. These are all easily achievable. Other than that, I just have periodic follow-up appointments at Henry Ford."
What did the rest of your family think about this?
"At the time of the procedure, I think our family was proud but incredibly anxious. Post-op there was a big sense of relief. I can’t really imagine how difficult it was for my dad and sister to have to wait for both my mom and I to come out of surgery. Looking back, we’ve all grown from the experience in different ways but collectively are more appreciative of each other, and probably closer than we’ve ever been."
What sticks out after your living donor experience?
"Having done this for somebody I’m very close to, I’ve had a front row seat to just how great the impact can be. ‘Sharing your spare’ is really the best thing that you can ever do for somebody. I would do it all over again."
After lifelong kidney issues, Kimberly needed a kidney transplant to treat her Alport’s syndrome. Her daughter, Alana, volunteered to be a living donor. Read Kimberly's story >