At the age of 35 I’d had a kidney transplant. My sister was a perfect match and gave me a lifesaving gift of a kidney. In 2012, I was 52 and that was the furthest thing from my mind.
I was single, having gone through a disastrous divorce six years prior and had just started to really love my life. I lived in a cool apartment and hung out with fascinating people from all over the world. I had a fabulous job for an international pet food company and on this day was in Denver for a work trip where colleagues and I planned to host a huge community pet-related volunteer project.
I had spent the first few days visiting a girlfriend. At the end of the week, the plan was to meet up with work colleagues at the park. After sending a few texts, I discovered the people I planned to meet were stuck at home due to the weather. I’m a connector and have a strong work ethic so I kept trying to connect with several colleagues to no avail. As a last-ditch effort, I sent one last text to a man from work who I thought for certain would be there.
I wrote, “Hey, it’s Kasey (in case he didn’t have my number in his phone). I was supposed to connect with Maria at the park, but her plane was delayed so I’m at the Westin. Wanted to see if I could connect with anyone else…”
It turns out I had entered his number incorrectly in my phone and, compounding my irritation, I got a text back from a totally different man.
Henry was on his way to work when he got the text. He doesn’t normally reply to texts from strangers, but he thought my text was polite, so he answered back: “Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number. But if I wasn’t headed to work, I’d be down to hang 🙂 any who hope u can find a friend to hang with. Have a good one :)”
My embarrassment led to an explanatory text to which he then replied. We ended up texting back and forth about “The Law of Attraction “and the book, “The Secret,” both passions of mine. Imagine my delight when this stranger brought up something vital to my life!
We connected over shared ideas about spirituality that led to emails. We learned that we were 29 years apart in age, but had connections through books, movies, music and even the Meyers Briggs Personality Type Indicator. He’s an INTJ and I’m an ENFP, which turns out are perfect matches.
Intrigued, we met in person a week later to continue the conversation. Neither of us was in the practice of meeting a stranger, so we met at a coffee shop. We planned an informal sort of chat to talk about careers. Mine was well advanced; his was just getting off the ground. We were both a bit nervous, and eager to meet.
This turned out to be anything other than a typical coffee. Our first moments were pleasant – he says he felt my energy and presence as soon as I walked in. He was tall, handsome, had a tattoo 🙂 and was quite personable. After ordering coffee, we learned more about each other and found nearly immediate rapport.
The plan was to split up after the coffee, since we each plans to attend the July 4th holiday concert with other friends. During coffee, both of our friends cancelled. Instantly I decided to trust my instincts and suggest we go together. I am equally comfortable spending time with 20-somethings and 70-somethings, but he didn’t know that. But, he said yes, and we headed out.
Our relationship was defined by synchronicity, and we ended up falling in love. Synchronicity brought us together and helped us begin a life together.
Were we, our friends, or family concerned about the age difference? Perhaps I was the only one, because Henry looked like he was 17 even though he was 23. I looked young for my age, but in public people thought I was his mom.
We’ve now been married for four years, and I can tell you, yes people still do think that. I examined my own feelings, rethinking my entire perspective about what kind of person was appropriate for me to see. I was determined to take this on as a growth challenge and now I no longer worry about it. I’m so happy with my decision.
Two years into our relationship, we were celebrating the anniversary of my first text in 2012. We celebrate it every year, at the coffee shop where we first met and at our favorite places. That evening at “our” restaurant, I hear my favorite song, Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” playing. “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you, mountains crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me.” It was totally out of place there, but before I could ponder the oddness, Henry was on one knee proposing to me!
He loves to tell the story of how he had to keep the ring box in the waist band of his shorts the entire day and how afraid he was that I’d bump it and figure everything out. He arranged to have the restaurant play “our song” for the proposal. I was surprised and delighted. I had found great integrity in this amazing young man, so I said yes.
We got married a year later on the same weekend as the anniversary of the first text. Being spontaneous, we planned it in two weeks. Three days before the ceremony we found out the location was flooded. We never missed a beat. We never got stressed or let any anxiety interfere with the need to get moving. We figured out a better location and a restaurant to host our 30 guests in three days. Two of my favorite memories are our shared calmness planning the wedding, and the beauty of the wedding itself.
Henry is an old soul. He’s generous and caring and wise way beyond his years. And the beginning of our relationship, when he learned I’d had a kidney transplant, he immediately volunteered one of his, should I ever need it. He’s O+ blood type and would likely be a match if I ever needed another transplant.
During my first transplant, the time that elapsed from the day I found out my kidneys had failed to the operation was three months. That was just enough time to get through the unexpectedness of the loss of my kidney function. Seven years before, I had been diagnosed with a kidney disease: Immunoglobulin A Nephropathy. This disease results in local inflammation, that over time, can hamper the kidney’s ability to filter waste from the blood. But I never understood that I’d lose kidney function and need a transplant. I was beyond devastated.
22 years later, my second kidney failed. I had some time to prepare for a transplant, but nothing could have prepared me for two years of hemodialysis. As a very active person, I hated being tied to a chair four days a week. My doctor kept telling me it would be about three more months, and another, and another, as one thing after another happened.
Henry’s favorite story from that time is that I never complained. As a person who’s dedicated to finding meaning or joy in challenges, it makes me happy to hear him say that. Believe me, I certainly did complain but I was able to fairly quickly redirect that negative energy right into learning something from the delay.
We were overjoyed when Henry’s kidney was a match. That was the brightest spot in those two years. At 30 years of age, he had a big, healthy kidney that was a perfect immunological match for me. So, while he doesn’t match me for any of the six tissues used for match strength, I never developed any antibodies that will fight his kidney. The hope we have now is that I live a long and healthy life with his strong kidney. I promised him in my wedding vows that I’d be going on hikes and other travel adventures with him, well into my 80s.
Our operations were on April 9, 2019. I remember waiting in the pre-op area when they took Henry. Then I was alone and felt small and insignificant in those moments. When it was finally time to go in, the enormity of it hit me. We have other memories, as a reporter from our local paper wrote our story and a photographer got amazing shots of us, including one of Henry’s kidney after they took it out of him and before they put it in me.
Henry went home in three days, and me in four. The time together after the operation is time we will always cherish. We were on the same schedule from one day to the next of bad and good days, making sure we were keeping up with our pain meds to the daily check-in on our states of constipation. If either of us had had an operation but the other hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been at all the same.
Looking at this transplant from the big picture, it still amazes me that once upon a time, I put a phone number in my phone incorrectly, years later sent a text to it, got a wrong number, he texted back, I met him, fell in love and then got a kidney. Sometimes I don’t marvel at the improbability of it. It happened to me, one small step at a time. But then other times, Henry and I are both awed by the sheer insanity of it. And in special moments I love saying, “Thank you for answering my text.”