Mike’s Story

Site created on August 11, 2018

Hi, my name is Debi, and I am Mikes wife.  I will be the author of most if not all of his journey.  Mike grew up in Kansas, and as a young boy was ill with kidney disease, diagnosed as nephritis brought on by strep throat.  He knew that he could possibly have problems in the future.   After a few years he seemed to get better and went on to graduate from Kansas University with degrees in Accounting and Business Administration.  He is a die hard KU Jayhawks basketball fan, but loves all sports including his Denver Broncos.  Before he became ill, Mike enjoyed camping, fishing, hiking, and just about anything outdoors.  He moved to Colorado in 1978 where he got a job at Kaiser Permanente in Denver.  That’s where he met me!  We married in 1981, and Mike retired after 35 years at Kaiser.  He did keep me around though.  We are the truest of soulmates.

Now the kidney part.  In 2005 we became aware that Mikes kidneys were failing, and finally was diagnosed with IGA Nephropathy, an autoimmune disease with no cure.  In 2008 Mike got very sick and we knew his kidneys had finally gotten so bad that dialysis and or transplant were the only answer.  He was then put on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.  And we began to prepare ourselves for what lie ahead of us.  As we were preparing for dialysis, a friend stepped forward and said she had been tested and was a match.  Unknown by us that she had done this, we could only ask Why?   Her answer, “because I can, I can do this.  We were overjoyed that she had stepped up and gave Mike another chance at a healthy life.  In January 2009, the transplant took place.  Our donor soared through it and is still strong and healthy to this day.  Mike with a few ups and downs over the next few years, did well and was able to live a very full life.  With Lola, the name we had given Mikes new kidney, life was good.

In August of 2017, Mike again became very sick rather quickly.  We rushed him to the hospital and found out that the kidney had gone into acute cellular renal rejection.  We were in shock.  He had only had the kidney for 9 years, and we had hoped for many more.  The Drs did everything they could to save Lola, but things continued to get worse, and Mike got sicker.  Between 2017 to now, many things happened very fast, including almost losing him around mid December 2017.  He finally began hemodialysis in December 2017, after failing a try at Peritoneal Dialysis.  Mike must be hooked up to a machine ,  three times a week, 4 hours each session.  It keeps him alive, but he still suffers from extreme fatigue, nausea and weight loss that limits his activities on his off days.   Dialysis is just a temporary way to keep him going until we can find a new donor.  Dialysis also has many risks including additional health complications and infections that could eventually end his chance of ever receiving a transplant in the future, leaving him on lifelong dialysis.  Life as we knew it has once again been dramatically changed.

So now, we share the plea “The Big Ask” for someone to step up and be his second living donor.  Receiving a kidney from a living donor can cut years off of being on dialysis and living donor organs survive longer than organs received from deceased donors and gives Mike the best chance of living a longer life.  As well as giving him his life back to do the things he loves.  
We have been unable to find a donor among our circle of family and friends, so we are asking for someone to search their heart to step up and donate one of their heathy kidneys.  It’s a Big Ask, and it’s not for everyone.  But I just know that there must be that someone, that ONE who will “share their spare”.  Mike’s wait on the list could be up to 5 years or more.  Over a 100 thousand people are on the waiting list for a kidney, and only about 20 thousand a year receive one.  Of those only approximately 6000 come  from living donors.   Sadly, many die while waiting.  Daily 12 people will die waiting for an organ that could have been donated. For more information on kidney donation, go online to the National Kidney Foundation at  (kidney.org).  It can answer most if not all of your questions regarding donation.

If you feel you can be the One for Mike, please call to see if you are a candidate.  All of this is done anonymously.  We will never be notified unless a possible match has been found.  You can call PRESBYTERIAN/ST. LUKES MEDICAL CENTER in DENVER, CO. at (tel:720-754-2155 (tel:720-754-2155) ) and ask to speak to a transplant coordinator for inquires about being a match for Mike Hamm.  They will do an initial phone screening at first, to see if you can be considered as a donor.  Mikes blood type is O, but even another blood type that is a good candidate could give through the pair donation transplants.  We cannot pay for a kidney, but new laws allow for a donor to take time off work through FMLA without fear of losing their job to donate.  The transplant recipients medical insurance pays for all of the donors medical bills, including all tests before surgery.  What is required from you is knowing the procedures and tests involved are as much for your safety, as his. You must be fairly healthy, although donors with some medical issues can donate. You must be aware of the procedure you would be undertaking and the recovery time of donating.   Donors are out of work sometimes for weeks recuperating, and may lose income if their employer does not allow for some type of paid time off.    They also have other expenses for travel, lodging, etc. for visits to a far away transplant center.  Currently there is a push to cover these costs for all living donors, but fortunately Mike and I may be able to cover most of these additional costs incurred by the living donor, and if so there would be no financial burden placed on you or your family.  If you are accepted, then we would make sure at that time all arrangements are made and as much of the costs as possible are covered.  The hospital will inform us if a possible match becomes available.  

This is not an easy ASK, but I put my pride aside to save the husband I love with all my heart.  We know now that we must come forward, put it out there, or he can die waiting.  Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please share this post with others.  Begin the conversation, “Can I be a living donor to save a life.”  Don’t take your gift to the grave. 

Mikes match IS out there. You may be the one. Please search your heart.  ARE YOU THE ONE?
Please share this account on Facebook if you can.  The further out we can reach,  the better our chances for finding Mike a kidney.  

--Do you have questions for us?  We have set up a special phone line to take any questions you may want to ask us personally.  You can call at any time and leave a msg., name and number and we will get back to you ASAP!  You can call at 303-350-8894 (tel:303-350-8894).  
--You can also go to www.pslmc.com/service/becoming-a-kidney-donor  to complete an online living donor questionnaire.
—Or call  for a living donor coordinator at PSL/St. Luke’s at 720-754-2155, option 3 and speak directly to them about becoming a donor for Mike.
—You can email any questions you may have to LivingDonorsPSL@HealthONEcares.com

With the most sincerest of thanks,
Mike and Debi Hamm.

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Newest Update

Journal entry by Debi Hamm

It’s Spring and my daffodils are in full bloom.  I had 300 bulbs planted last year and it was the best thing I ever did.  Seeing first the crocus, then the daffodils, and now, even a few gorgeous tulips, has been the best thing ever to brighten our spirits.  The weather is getting warmer, and Mike and I look forward to spending as much time as possible sitting outside on our patio.
 This may be our last summer in this house, so we will not take one moment for granted.  Last year we put quite a bit of money into redoing our landscaping, planting flowers everywhere, and getting the outside of the house totally looking the way we always wanted.  Then we were going to totally revamp the inside.  Well, after a lot of serious discussion, we finally decided that our home could possibly end up being too much for us in the future.  We live in a two story, and the stairs are becoming harder for me to get up and down. Nothing I cannot handle at the moment,  but we asked ourselves “Could this house become problematic in the future for us”? Not only the stairs, but the upkeep of a large home. That answer was Yes! Neither Mike or I have great health, so we thought, let’s not wait until it becomes really hard to make a move. With that, the decision was made, and as much as we love our neighborhood and our neighbors, we are actively searching now for a new home. We have discovered that just the search itself is hard, tiring. So I am glad we are doing it now while we still can, but we are heartbroken to leave our beloved cul-de-sac!  We have literally the best neighbors in the world. Most people hardly know their neighbors. But we are all more than that. We are friends. Good friends that you can count on in a pinch. It is scary to start over. There is a lot of fear surrounding just that!
 Mike is doing well, or as well as one can be on dialysis. He is gaining weight back very slowly, about one pound a week. It’s hard with such a strict diet, but he is counting those calories every single day to make sure he gets enough for that 1 pound. He has begun to walk on the treadmill every day, and is also exercising and lifting very small amts of weight.
All of this will help keep his body transplant strong.  He naps more than he used too, and he tires much more quickly while on dialysis.  But like me, he too is now learning to pace himself. That was a hard one for him, he was always so active from the time he woke up until he went to bed.  His fistula has started to be problematic, so they may have to start poking higher up in the arm. We had hoped it would last longer because they really do cause a lot of deformity of the arm. But it is what it is.  
 No leads, no activity as far as finding a donor.  This last month was very hard for me personally. I felt so defeated, angry and heartbroken that I had not been able to find a donor for Mike. We spent every single day, and most of the day for me searching. Maybe I started out with hopes too high to achieve. Mike and I have discussed it a lot, and have resigned ourselves that it will probably be a cadaver kidney in his future. That means many more years on the list and on dialysis.  I am slowing my search, although I will never give up looking, I just need to also take care of myself and my sanity.  Our every waking hour was on finding that kidney, and it is exhausting for us both. We want to just take a moment for ourselves right now, and find that happiness again. One day at a time.
 I will continue Mikes updates. Things can change so fast around here. We will be busy in the coming months, house hunting, purging and getting our home ready to sell while we look for our last home, and every other minute will be on our porch enjoying the summer.   It will be a good distraction, and I think we need that for awhile.
 Happy April, Debi
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