The Gift of Life: FOX 5's Sherri Ly donates kidney to her brothe - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

The Gift of Life: FOX 5's Sherri Ly donates kidney to her brother

Posted: Updated:

MY LIFESAVING JOURNEY AFTER DONATING A KIDNEY

(Watch the video above to see Sherri's journey from the hospital to recovery)

March 19, 2014 is the day that changed my life forever. That's the day doctors removed my left kidney and transplanted it to my brother Cuong. I'd been an organ donor for more than 20 years and always thought if something should happen to me, my organs could save someone's life. Never in a million years did I think that I would become a living donor, and the gift of life would be for my brother.

Cuong first discovered he had kidney failure in November 2013. To this day, we still don't know what caused it. Apparently his kidneys had been failing for years, but he didn't know it. The doctors told him he'd need a transplant within months.

My twin sister Kerri and I immediately agreed to be tested to see if we were a match. During this time, Cuong was in and out of the hospital and eventually had to begin emergency dialysis. The process seemed to take an eternity. In January, he was placed on the kidney transplant list at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

I went to Birmingham to get tested along with my sister when a snowstorm hit. We'd gotten all the tests done, but the hospital shut down and we'd have to come back again to meet with the transplant team. The tests showed we were both a match. The transplant team would decide the donor. Another trip to Birmingham a few weeks later and another snowstorm created more delays. At the beginning of March, I got the call. I was approved to be the donor. The surgery would be in two weeks.

I scrambled to make plans and cut short a vacation to Florida for spring training. Instead of driving home, my husband and I drove with our two kids to Birmingham. The drive took 10.5 hours. We arrived on Monday, March 17th. I checked in the next day. My brother lives in Florida, so I hadn't actually seen him since learning I would be his donor. When I saw him, I hugged him right away and couldn't help but cry. Things were finally going to be better and all the dark days over the last few months hopefully would come to an end.

At this point, I wasn't really too nervous. As a reporter, we're pretty used to keeping our emotions in check because of the things we so often see. We both went to our rooms. There were more tests. My mom, dad, husband and children were with us. My big strong dad tried to stay strong, but my mom was another story. Two of her children were going into surgery and she was worried something could go wrong. The next day, the staff arrived around 5:30 a.m. to take me to the pre-op area. The surgery would begin around 7 a.m. Cuong was right next to me. It was then that it really hit me there's no turning back now. Not that I would have. This was going to happen.

Cuong and I chatted a little, the doctor checked in and not long after that I was sedated. There's a picture of me my husband took, out cold with my brother in the background. Apparently it didn't take long for me to get knocked out. I gave my husband my cell phone to tweet out updates. A few hours later, I woke up in recovery and was brought to my room. The surgery itself took less than three hours. The entire procedure was done laparoscopic and the kidney removed through an incision similar to a C-section for a baby. I don't remember a thing. My brother's surgery started after mine and lasted longer. I kept asking my nurses if he was out of surgery yet. Finally as he was being wheeled back to his room on a stretcher, the nurse opened my door so I could see him. I asked how he was feeling. He told me he was in pain and I told him I love you.

Truthfully I thought it would be more painful, but then again I was medicated. There was this weird thing with gas trapped in the body because your abdominal area has to be expanded to get to the kidney. The discomfort set in the next day. I felt bloated and uncomfortable especially when I waited too long to take more pain medication. I got up and started walking around the next day. My first stop was my brother's room. He was a few rooms down from mine. I couldn't believe how well he looked. Cuong felt better than I did. The kidney was functioning well. Over the next two days, we'd make the trip back and forth from our rooms numerous times to hang out and walk the hallways of the hospital together.

I was released after two days. I didn't think I was ready to leave yet but each day I got incrementally better. Back at the hotel, my husband put on the Three Stooges movie. I made him turn it off. Laughing hurt too much. I couldn't travel yet, so my husband and kids drove back to Maryland and I went home with my mom only a few hours away. I was able to walk some, but most of the day I was extremely tired and slept a lot. At least it was warm. I'd sit outside sometimes and listen to the sound of the water cascading down the fish pond in the backyard.

Ten days after the surgery, I went back to Birmingham for a follow up. I asked my surgeon, Dr. Jeremy Goodman, a million questions. I'm a reporter after all. I wanted to know week to week what to expect. When will the bloating go away? How long before the pain goes away? When can I start working out again? Will I feel the missing kidney? How much will my one kidney be able to do? If there was a question, I asked it. After all my questions were answered, Dr. Goodman cleared me to fly home.

It felt nice to get back to my own house and my own bed. I was still in pain. I'd describe it as degrees of discomfort. It was hard to get comfortable to sleep. I could actually feel my insides shifting as I turned from one side to the other in bed. Some days I seemed to have burst of energy, but then I'd be wiped out for the rest of the day and the next. It was hard not to do anything or to take it easy. Friends brought us meals the first week. I had a long list of things I was going to do: call friends I hadn't spoken with in a long time, organize all my pictures on my computer, make all my summer plans, but that wasn't the reality.

I made sure to walk with a friend almost every day to keep up my fitness, but sometimes I pushed it too hard and felt it. I'd be exhausted. In some ways I think I was unrealistic about how quickly I'd feel normal again. They told me the recovery was 6-8 weeks. Somehow I thought mine would be faster. Four weeks through when the doctor told me the discomfort should be gone, it wasn't. I still had some inflammation in my stomach and digestive tract that wasn't subsiding. I was having a lot of acid reflux, which I got occasionally, but not like this. The transplant team told me sometimes the stress of surgery can trigger that. I was given some medicine to treat the stomach inflammation. After another week, I was starting to feel better, but still got tired quickly.

All this time Cuong remained in Birmingham during the week for lab tests and check-ups. We talked a lot. My worst fear was that his body would reject the kidney. He was able to go home to Florida on weekends, a 4.5 hour drive away from Birmingham. He continued to have issues with possible rejection. At one point, he had to undergo a kidney biopsy to make sure it wasn't failing. The kidney was fine. There were changes to his medicine and more tests. He underwent a high dose steroid treatment to combat rejection. The day after Easter, he was allowed to go home for good, but he'd have to go back for routine visits. I got to see him that day, coaching his middle school baseball team for the first time in weeks. It was good to see him, doing something he loves so much.

After six weeks, my stamina was returning. I began to increase my exercise. I would still get tired early at night if I was on my feet much. I'd get cramps occasionally and pangs if I overdid things but I was able to get out more. I returned to the gym a week later. The workout was a lot harder, but my strength was still surprisingly good. I'm not back to my old level yet, but I'm getting there.

Then on May 12th, just shy of eight weeks I returned to FOX 5. For the most part I feel normal. I can do almost everything I did before, with the exception of a few things such as contact sports. I can't take certain medications. These are small sacrifices to save someone's life. Being a living donor is an individual decision but was the right one for me. There are so many who need kidneys and never get one. I feel lucky I could give the gift of life to my brother.

March 19, 2014 is now Cuong's new birthday. I pray he will celebrate this day for many, many years to come.

  • Latest health newsMore>>

  • Flesh-eating bacteria found in Chesapeake Bay nearly kills Md. man

    Flesh-eating bacteria found in Chesapeake Bay nearly kills Md. man

    Monday, July 28 2014 11:41 PM EDT2014-07-29 03:41:27 GMT
    A Maryland man nearly lost his leg and his life due to a flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus, which is typically found in brackish waters like the Chesapeake Bay.
    A Maryland man nearly lost his leg and his life due to a flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus, which is typically found in brackish waters like the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Fist bumps less germy than handshakes, study says

    Fist bumps less germy than handshakes, study says

    Monday, July 28 2014 8:27 AM EDT2014-07-28 12:27:32 GMT
    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps. The familiar knocking of knuckles spreads only one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does, researchers report. That's better than a high-five, which still passes along less than half the amount as a handshake.
    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps. The familiar knocking of knuckles spreads only one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does, researchers report. That's better than a high-five, which still passes along less than half the amount as a handshake.
  • Aid Group: 2 Americans have Ebola in Liberia

    Aid Group: 2 Americans have Ebola in Liberia

    Monday, July 28 2014 7:18 AM EDT2014-07-28 11:18:05 GMT
    Two American aid workers have tested positive for the Ebola virus while working to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease at a hospital in Liberia, a relief group official said.
    Two American aid workers have tested positive for the Ebola virus while working to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease at a hospital in Liberia, a relief group official said.
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices