Jane Andrews is thankful for the gift of life
By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Aug. 2, 2013
Jane Andrews lights a candle every day, just to slow herself down. “I have so much energy now, it’s unbelievable,” said Andrews.
But it wasn't always this way.
A cook at the Hartford Correctional Center, Andrews is just under two months away from retiring and starting the next chapter of her life – a chapter that doctors told her father when she was younger would be left unwritten. Andrews was diagnosed with diabetes back in 1970, when she was almost 8 years old. The doctors at the time told her father she wouldn’t live to be 50. She turned 50 last year.
Andrews, now 51, defied the doctor’s predictions while enduring a number of hardships along the way. It was in her mid-30s that Andrews, a very active person, started not feeling well. She said she started feeling very tired. “I could sleep 10 or 12 hours and I would wake up and I would think I've got to do better today,” said Andrews. “Day after day, I would get out of the shower and I’d get dressed and sit down and put my socks and shoes on and I’d fall back to sleep - not sleeping like waiting for the bus kind of napping, but like a couple of more hours.”
Andrews consulted with her doctors, who referred her to a specialist. She was told she was heading down the road to end-stage renal disease. “'End-stage' kind of scares me,” said Andrews. “That’s a cancer term, which is how my mother died.”
Andrews began dialysis in 2002 which she referred to as “like a part-time job.” And in the pure sense of hours, it was like a part-time job for her. She attended dialysis three days a week for almost four hours each session. “What I was doing by going to dialysis was trying to get ahead of the game and trying to stay alive,” said Andrews.
In July of 2004 she received a call from the hospital that they had a kidney for her. She waited in the hospital for four hours before the doctor came in and apologized that the kidney wasn’t healthy enough to be transplanted. Even though she didn’t receive a kidney at this time, it did move her up on the transplant waiting list. Also, at the request of the doctors, she visited with a pancreas specialist who offered her the opportunity to have a kidney and pancreas transplant.
“I said, you know, why not? If it doesn’t work out, then they can learn something and help somebody else,” said Andrews.
Nearly two weeks after Andrews met with the specialist she received another call from the hospital telling her they had a good donor for her. Andrews remembers it was a Thursday night around 6 p.m. and the doctors wanted to do the transplant before midnight – the surgery didn’t take place until the following afternoon.
“So on August 20  I received the gift of life,” said Andrews. “I received a kidney and pancreas. The donor was a 19-year-old male named Brian. “I don’t know what happened to him, I really don’t need to know,” said Andrews. “It just says a lot about his generosity and about his character and the family he came from.”
Andrews has never met the donor's family, but they have exchanged letters, and Andrews has been able to learn more about Brian. She said the family wrote her first and there has never been a day since where she has read that letter without tears.
She shared an excerpt from the letter: "I hope that reading this letter has not made you feel bad or sad in any way. My son passed away and that wouldn’t have changed under any circumstances. I appreciate this opportunity to write to you and give you an idea of who my son was and tell you that it is a very good feeling to know that he brought joy into the world even after he left it. I don’t often think of it because I do miss him very much, but I truly believe that he left the world a better place in many ways. I hope that all is going well with your transplant, that the quality of your life is better and that you live a long, healthy and happy life."
Andrews said Brian was in the National Honors Society for three years in high school and he was the class president for three years.
“He had a lot more potential for a future than I thought I did, but apparently there’s spirits running around saying that I have some work to do,” said Andrews.
For more information on LifeChoice Donor Services, visit www.lifechoiceopo.org.