Father and grandfather Karl Black spent four years on dialysis struggling with fading energy and health challenges. The Black family began fundraising with Help Hope Live in February for significant out-of-pocket costs, including the $15,000 they were told to anticipate every year for the first three years of post-transplant expenses.
Karl’s wife, Mary, and daughter, HeatherJane, used his Campaign Page to document his wait for a kidney. In the process, they managed to capture one of the remarkable, hope-giving transplant journeys that unfolded in the midst of an international pandemic.
Click on a date below to read the Update for that day from Karl’s family.
Karl and I had a unique day. We spent the day with him in dialysis (he has been on hemodialysis since April 2016 and I got trained as his certified dialysis technician in July of that year). He slept, then we went together to get his car fixed, then we went out to eat.
The thing that made it special to me was that even though he was very tired (always is after the treatment), he wanted to do something nice for me for Valentine’s Day. He let me choose a restaurant and kept himself going long enough to sit upright during the meal and open the door for me when he left.
It may not seem like much to others, but it meant the world to me.
Thank you, Karl, for being such a wonderful, loving husband who has always taken such good care of me and our family. Even though you can’t do what you used to do, amid vertigo and physical weakness and foggy brain, you still think of others.
Thank you for caring and never giving up. Thank you, Karl, for being you!
-Mary Black, Karl’s wife of (almost) 38 years
Good news! After 2 ½ months of testing, Karl’s brother was approved to donate a kidney to him! The surgery is scheduled for April 7!
The challenge is that with COVID-19 concerns, the hospital has cancelled or postponed all “non-essential” appointments through the end of March, and that may continue through April. They will let us know.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! We are so very grateful for so many kind, concerned friends!
It was confirmed that the living donor transplant scheduled for April 7 will be cancelled due to COVID-19, and it will be postponed indefinitely.
However, today my dad was put on alert for a deceased donor transplant. He is not very high on the list, so our expectations that it will go through are very low.
At 10:30 p.m. last night, my dad received a call and was told that a kidney was available if he wanted it. Despite some of the concerns that have arisen because of COVID-19, he said that he would accept it, and he was told to “come right now.” Rushing to get things prepared, my parents left around 11:30 p.m. for the hospital and arrived around 2:45 a.m.
They proceeded with all the pre-surgery tests and he went into surgery around 8 a.m. today. About 11 a.m., my mom was told that the surgery was complete and the doctor would talk to her. When the doctor came, he told her that the surgery went really well, the kidney was very healthy, and as soon as they put it in, it started right up. It is doing exactly what kidneys need to do in the body.
We are so grateful that things turned out so well. Thank you so much for your prayers. We are very grateful to the donor who gave my dad a kidney and their family. Please pray for that family as well!
At this point, all we know is that he will be in the hospital for three to five days and then have to stay close to the hospital for a month while they continue to monitor the new kidney to ensure it is functioning properly.
I woke up after sleeping pretty well for a few hours—at least as well as is possible in a hospital room when the nurse comes in every hour!
Speaking of the nurses…
These nurses and CNAs and all the staff are so impressive! We are so grateful for them! While half the world is freaking out about viruses and earthquakes, these guys are just going forward, taking care of one patient at a time, quietly doing what they have always done.
Here, the whole transplant unit was just moved to a new location because their former area has been reserved for COVID-19 patients. Everyone is in new territory in so many ways: new location, new—and constantly adjusting—rules and regulations because of the virus…they are doing a phenomenal job!
When we checked into the hospital, they told us that no one is allowed any visitors in the hospital right now—except for transplant patients, who are allowed one visitor. Not one visitor at a time or one per day: one visitor, the same one, for the whole three- to five-day hospital visit. Wow…
The cafeteria is a skeleton of what it used to be with all the tables put away. Go get your food and go back to your room—don’t congregate. The hall where lines usually form has red tape on the floor at six-foot intervals with the words, “6’ Social Distancing” printed on the tape.
When I went to get dinner at 6 p.m. last night, there was only one serving area open and three people standing apart from each other waiting in line. When I got to the pay station, the clerk asked me, “Do you work here?” I told him, “No, my husband just had emergency transplant surgery.” I don’t think he sees many like me right now.
Even with all that, it still feels hopeful and happy here. Everyone has been kind and helpful. When I got lost trying to find the surgery waiting room, a kind soul in scrubs, a mask, and gloves showed me the way. There were no volunteers there, and only one hospital staff member, who said that she had finished her whole day’s work already. No visitors means not much to do.
When Karl’s surgeon came to talk to me after the surgery, we were the only ones in the waiting room. He couldn’t shake my hand, and he said that things are changing every day. He suggested that I go back to the room to wait for Karl to get out of recovery—no congregating.
The surgery went really well. The kidney is healthy and seems to be working for Karl. I am so grateful for that donor and their family, who were willing to give Karl the kidney. It’s a chance for a new life. I’m grateful to God for creating our bodies to heal themselves, and that those tissues that make up a kidney know how to act even after being shut down—when they were given a chance to start doing what they were created to do again, they accepted the opportunity, and now they continue to fill the purpose of their creation.
That may sound funny, but that’s how I see it right now. What a miracle!
It makes me think about people in general. We are all designed to do something unique and special, something that no one else can do quite like we can—something our Creator gives us to do to bring joy to our own lives and to lift and bless those around us. He will inspire us with what those unique gifts are and help us use them for good—if we will let Him.
Karl and I and our family are so grateful for the faith and prayers of so many people. I know a lot of people are praying for a lot of things right now, not just for us. We are, too. Our hearts go out to all those who are losing jobs, losing loved ones, losing faith. And those who are keeping the faith despite so many challenges.
We say, keep the faith—there is so much good in the world, and so much to look forward to.
We are in quarantine at my sister’s house. We feel really blessed to have this place to come to. Karl stays downstairs and my sister stays upstairs, and I go up and down. We will be here for several weeks.
Karl was released from the hospital on Friday, April 3. He was doing well, but that same night, he started experiencing pain in his abdomen. He was in the emergency department for about 8 hours, alone—they don’t allow visitors, even in the ER. I was on the outside praying.
Some great miracles and blessings came, despite the concerns. Karl’s sister went to work and rallied several family members who lived close. Within about 5 hours, she had collected food, cleaning supplies, masks, and even a loaf of fresh homemade bread. She drove many miles to collect it all, and then dropped it off at my sister’s house—before we even returned from the ER! What an incredible world we live in! What a blessing, to be part of a family that can get into action with such speech and thoroughness!
It has been hard—I will admit that. It has felt a lot like chaos. There have been concerns about how to best keep things clean and how to keep the food nourishing, plus how to get enough rest. There has been a lot of sterilizing, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and individual caring to do, but we feel the faith and prayers of so many.
Today is Good Friday, the day the Christian world celebrates the offering that Jesus Christ gave to provide Salvation to the world. Many people are struggling right now. Many people have also seen an abundance of miracles and blessings in their lives. We are some who have deeply felt both tests and miracles in the past few weeks.
We are grateful for both: the challenges and the blessings both make us stronger and more appreciative of the good people in this world and the goodness of God.
Hi, this is Karl. I’m the proud new owner of a shiny, partly-used kidney! I’m so grateful to the donor family and feel sorrow for their loss. I hope they will be blessed a thousand times for their sacrifice. I never used to pay that much attention to organ donation, but I’m tremendously glad for it since it turned out that I was one of the ones in need.
[Karl captured many additional detailed insights about his transplant experience and recovery: click here to read them all!]
I’m now on many medications, some of which I’ll take for life, to ensure that the kidney isn’t rejected by my body. The problem is that they make me effectively have no immune system, so I must be super-careful not to be around sick people or do anything that might introduce a disease or condition that my body would otherwise easily fight off.
This is especially hard for me because I love being with my grandchildren. Children are constantly getting things as they build their own immune systems, but I have to maintain “social distancing” from them for quite a while, even after the coronavirus is overcome.
I was glad to be discharged! They gave us a lot of written instructions and many visits from specialists (some remotely due to COVID-19 concerns). I was seen and instructed by physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, doctors, post-transplant coordinators, case workers, and others. I’m glad that most of the instructions were written—otherwise, it would be hard to remember so many.
We are at our temporary “home” with Mary’s sister since we have some required in-person clinics and frequent bloodwork for the first month after surgery, and we need to stay close to the hospital. Due to coronavirus concerns, they allowed us to have home health nurses take the blood samples, which reduces the amount of travel required.
Regardless of the unpleasant aspects of my recovery so far, I’m very glad to have a new kidney and the promise of renewed energy and a new lifestyle. No more dialysis!
Many prayers and helpful support were offered by so many during dialysis, and especially now during and after surgery. I thank you all from my heart.