Having a second child could have killed her, instead he saved her life
This Friday evening OnMilwaukee and FM/102.1 will host a fish fry dinner fundraiser for Donate Life Wisconsin at O'Lydia's in Walker's Point featuring the world's first fish fry eating contest. Donate Life will be at the event to register people as donors. (Having the sticker on your license is no longer enough.) Please join us.
Three decades ago, Linda Sackett's doctor warned her not to get pregnant again. Linda, who had a serious kidney disease, survived her first pregnancy, which resulted in the birth of her son, Rick, but her doctor said a second would be too risky.
The disease, called Chronic Glomerulonephritis, hinders the kidney's filtering system and causes scarring to the organs. Linda, who was in her 20s at the time, was told she would need to have a kidney transplant by the time she was 30.
However, Linda became pregnant again and decided she was going to full term despite her doctor's warnings. She gave birth to another son, Rob, who is now 28.
"They took him six weeks early because of my condition, but otherwise he and I were both healthy," says Linda, who owns O'Lydia's in Walker's Point.
Years went by and, although she was tested regularly, her kidneys continued to work properly. Two years ago, at the age of 51, Linda finally received the news that her kidneys were only functioning at 6.5 percent and that it was time for a transplant.
"I was stable for 26 years, but I knew surgery was inevitable," she says.
Both of Sackett's sons were tested and, based primarily on blood type, determined a match. But for Rob, it was a no-brainer that he should be the donor.
"My brother is married and he has a kid. I have neither," says Rob, a firefighter and paramedic. "And Rick runs the restaurant with my mom so he could run the business while she was recovering."
Rob underwent many months of testing and spent 5-8 hours a week at the hospital.
"I underwent every test you can think of," says Rob. "But it's my mom. There wasn't any consideration."
Linda underwent massive testing, as well, and was told, despite her ailing kidneys, she was in excellent health. "That was a good thing that came out of this," she says.
Despite exhaustion, pain and major water retention in her knees and ankles, Linda worked at O'Lydia's the day before the surgery.
"It's tough to take off work when you own the business," says Rob.
Earlier this year, on the morning of March 15, Rob and Linda went into surgery at Froedtert Hospital. Surgeons removed one of Rob's kidneys and transplanted it into his mother's body. Consequently, Linda now has three kidneys.
"And Rob now has an open tab at O'Lydia's for life," says Linda.
Linda says she felt much better within a day of the surgery and the massive swelling from below her waist diminished. She was back at work within 3.5 weeks and has experienced zero side effects from the surgery and the medications. She attributes some of her easy healing to knowing the business was in good hands with Rick.
"I just had my three-month check up and everything looked great," she says. "They said my kidney will probably outlive me."
Rob's recovery went smoothly, as well. Today, his only restrictions are to stay away from foods that cause high blood pressure and Ibuprofen.
"I had no question, no doubts that I was doing the right thing," says Rob. "She's given me everything."
Linda and Rob both hope their story will encourage others to become organ donors. According to Donate Life Wisconsin, more than 2,200 people in the state are currently waiting for a life-saving transplant.
"It's certainly a gift," says Linda. "One that's often a matter of life or death."
Recently, Linda contacted the doctor who told her not to have a second child. "I said, 'You know the son you told me not to have? He wound up saving my life,'" she says.
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