Stitching The Family Back Together

Feb. 14, 2017

When you give love, you receive love.

It’s been nearly a year since North Texas softball associate head coach Natalie Kozlowski donated one of her kidneys through the Kidney Paired Donor program and another donor did the same for her sister-in-law Kerry Kozlowski.

Six people – three donors and three recipients – were involved in the organ exchange. Natalie’s kidney was sent to the East Coast and her sister-in-law received one from an anonymous donor.

What has happened in the months following surgery?

“I feel great now, but my recovery was very rough in the beginning,” Natalie said. “The first two weeks were awful and I didn’t start to feel like myself until the third or fourth week. At the end of the six-week recovery period, I was able to workout again, but it took an extra month or so to finally get back to my normal self.”

As for her sister-in-law, recovery has been long and difficult.

“The first three months were the hardest in terms of recovery,” said Kerry, who is off dialysis, is down to bi-monthly blood draws and has to see her physician once every two months. “Relearning how to walk after the surgery was difficult. I had to wear a medical mask in and out of the house and I was on a lot of medication.”

The hardest part of the recovery for Kerry was having to wear the medical mask, necessary in her weakened condition to avoid germs.

“My kids didn’t understand why I had to wear it,” she said. “I had to wear it to protect myself and now that I don’t have to, it’s not only been good for me, but for my kids as well.”

Now, as she comes up on her one-year mark post-surgery, she is once again finding normalcy in her life.

“I feel really good and have a lot of energy now,” she said. “I feel like my life is back and we look forward to taking advantage of the future now.”

Nine months removed from surgery, Kerry’s husband and Natalie’s brother Chris is seeing a difference in his wife’s progress as well.

“We no longer have to worry about Kerry’s condition,” he said. “There have been a lot of doctor’s appointments, she is still on a lot of medicine, but being off dialysis is really helpful. Every day is another good day for her and she is getting back to her normal self.”

Milestones have already been achieved in Kerry’s progress, but when May hits, new opportunities, ones many of us take for granted, will open to the Kozlowskis.

“When I hit the one-year mark, I will be able to fly again,” Kerry said. “I’ve also been thinking about going back to work, so it’s nice to be able to think this way instead of being limited as I was before.

“We can start planning vacations as a family again,” she added. “Before, we couldn’t take family vacations because we had to drive everywhere and that’s tough when you have a thirteen-year old and a nine-year old who want to go to the fun places. I couldn’t be around crowds, so we were limited in where we could go.”

The first family vacation was a ski trip over Christmas, a trip where everything felt right.

“Life felt like it was back to normal again,” Kerry explained.

Kerry doesn’t know the donor that helped pave the way to normalcy again, but she is thankful for what he did for her.

“I’m so grateful for him,” she said. “He helped give me my life back.”

As for Natalie, she is just happy she was able to help out her family.

“Not only did I help save someone else’s life, I helped save Kerry’s, too,” she said. “Family is everything to me and our family, so it’s the greatest feeling in the world knowing she is finally feeling better and can have a future again.”



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