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With a perfectly functioning kidney, Fleisher started feeling better right away. But Matthews hit a few rough patches. "For me, it was the first time my body had half of its filtration system," she says. "I was tired and nauseous. It takes six to twelve months for the remaining kidney to grow to make up for the missing kidney, so it's an adjustment. The kidney grows up to 30 percent of its original size. We're like lizards!" To top it off, Matthews had a rare post-operative complication: She developed crepitus, in which excess air (pumped in during surgery) gets trapped under the skin. She also had edema, or severe water retention. "I'm the tiniest person and I had 40 extra pounds of air and water on me," she recalls.
Even after such hardships, which lasted about a month, Matthews says she has no regrets. "Ben is feeling so good and doing so well," she says almost a year later. Since IgA nephropathy tends to come back at the same pace as the original disease, Fleisher should get about 10 good years out of the organ and hopefully more. He describes Matthews affectionately as coparent to his new kidney and also as a saint; one of the biggest gifts for him was "the miracle of asking for help and getting it. I got a kidney and so much support from my family and our amazing community."
For Dennis, the prospects of long-term success are excellent; with lupus, recurrence of the disease in a new kidney is rare. Buda sees benefits in her life already—chiefly, the gift of being able to help someone live healthier and longer. "There is a reward in giving," she says. Fellow donor Matthews agrees. "It was a way for me to connect back to that oneness of spirit and to be of service. It was an honor and a joy."