Being An Organ Donor Is The Best Thing I Ever Did

I Gave My Kidney To My Best Friend's Step-Dad, And It's The Best Thing I Ever Did

I knew that I couldn't watch my best friend lose someone. I love her way too much.

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In December of last year my best friend, Meagan, called me, crying about how sick her stepdad was getting. His kidney disease was progressing and he really needed a transplant. Her older sister got tested to be a donor, but her own kidneys were not functioning high enough to donate. Meagan was sad and overwhelmed and I could tell she felt guilty because she had her own kidney issues that prevented her from qualifying as a donor.

I honestly didn't really know her stepdad, Sam.

I knew her mother and her sisters but had only met Sam once at that point. Listening to her vent on the phone, I said, "What if I do it?" Initially, she didn't take me seriously and I honestly didn't even take myself seriously, but the more I thought about how sad she'd be to lose him and how much Sam meant to her mother, I knew I was committed to trying.

So I decided to ask her mother how to get tested.

I began the process in January 2018. It was hard to get to all the tests and appointments in between working full time, going to school, and squeezing in internship hours. I had multiple labs done, an EKG, constant blood draws and blood pressure tests that would not only match us but would also ensure my body could withstand the loss of a kidney. My kidneys needed to be functioning at around 80% and my tests came back at 180%.

I got the news that I was a complete match in late spring.

I was absolutely terrified. I chose not to tell anyone about the surgery at first, fearful that I'd have the procedure and then it wouldn't work for him. My biggest fear was that I'd risk my life and my kidney would fail him. I didn't know if I could handle that emotionally.

The psychological assessment was the worst part.

I sat in a small room with a social worker, while she interrogated me, to ensure I wasn't being pressured into anything. She asked me over and over again if I could handle the surgery failing. She asked if I'm prone to anxiety or depression and who would be there to pick up the pieces if Sam got worse or if my own health declined.

After that appointment I had to create a living will and sign documents, dictating who had a say over my body if I could no longer speak for myself. That was a very hard moment. I had not even told my family about the surgery, and here I was making them my beneficiaries and legal guardians of my organs.

I finally told my family two months before the scheduled surgery.

I was terrified but also anxious to see if it could really help him. Sam was so careful not to pressure me and his gratefulness has fueled me in so many ways.

I was so nervous to tell my family. I all but created a power-point presentation, dictating my reasoning. I was prepared to go to court and battle it out with them but was met with nothing but love and support. I was so nervous they would not understand, but they never questioned me. They just asked where they needed to be, and when.

Finally, on June 5th, 2018, doctors removed my left kidney through my back, taking a piece of my rib with it.

I won't lie, waking up from that surgery was the most excruciating pain of my life. They categorize it as being 8 to 10 times the pain of childbirth.

Healing from all the muscle pain was such an emotional process. I don't think anything truly could have prepared me for that. It took about 12 weeks to heal completely, but for Sam, it happened so quick.

The doctor reported that the instant the kidney went in, it began working for him. Sam went from having two kidneys that only functioned at 8%, to having one work at nearly 100%. Within days he looked the healthiest I had ever seen him. It was the greatest feeling in the world.

Here it is 6 months later and you can't look at either of us and tell we went through such a major procedure.

I didn't really know what I was doing, but I knew that I couldn't watch my best friend lose someone. I love her way too much.

Now, we are all family. Sam is so healthy and back to work, running his restaurant. The experience is one I consider "painfully amazing." A true and utter miracle. I gave my kidney to my best friend's stepdad and it's the best thing I ever did.

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
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It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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The Lazy Girl's Guide To The Gym

Also, everything else you should know if you're a slightly out-of-shape girl (like me).

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With my freshman year coming to an end, I realized a lot of things. I made new friends, I found new hobbies, and I learned a lot of lessons. One of them being that the "Freshman 15" is very real and very scary.

While my friends and family have attempted multiple times to convince me that I'm just being dramatic (I am), I still want to make a change in my lifestyle or I will, in all seriousness, be on track to the "Sophomore 20".

Here is a list of my best gym and healthy lifestyle tips that I am slowly attempting to live by this summer in order to resurrect Emily's 18-year-old body and health.

1. Increase water intake.

2. Find a gym buddy.

3. Start off with cardio.

4. Don't stop on your cardio until you're dripping in sweat.

5. Chug a LOT of water an hour before the gym.

Do not do it right before, or you will be in pain.

6. Eat light beforehand but just enough to hold you over. 

7. Plan out what your routine will be BEFORE you get there.

My routine: Elliptical for a mile, Stairmaster for 10 minutes, ab HIIT workout for 10 minutes, 5 more minutes on Stairmaster.

8. Buy healthy foods while you're feeling motivated.

9. Find a gym that isn't too far from your house. 

10. Don't get mad at yourself if you don't see results in a day.

I know this is a hard one.

11. Try fitness classes. 

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