Monday, January 9, 2017

Musings - Day 5 Out

I am not known for my patience. Like most, I want to do what I want when I want to. Waiting, although made tolerable by knitting, isn't high on my list of favorite things. Sitting back and enjoying a journey, while sometimes amazing, isn't my usual preference.

That brings us to the current situation. My right kidney, as far as I know, is comfortably ensconced in its new home and working away as always. My good old left kidney is wrapped up in business as usual, cradled in its usual spot. The rest of my abdominal cavity is pretty much a wreck.  I don't want it to be a wreck. I want to be back to normal. That being said, every day my improvement is stellar.  For a few days before surgery, every time I got out of bed, propped myself up, or rolled over, I thought "I won't be doing this again for a long time."  But I am!  A little gingerly, but better every day.  I even slept on my side for awhile last night.  It had been too painful before to even turn over there but I could stay for awhile.  Success!

So my expectations vs my reality so far:  I spoke to a couple of other donors who pretty much said that the recovery wasn't that big of a'd be extra tired for awhile, no lifting, pain quite manageable.  On the other hand, the Transplant Nurse told me I'd feel like I'd been hit by a truck on the day after surgery.  So optimistic me decided I'd be great.  Up until yesterday the truck theory was closer but not exactly true.

I think the problem was that I had a lot of pains that I didn't expect and probably was told about but chose to forget.  My whole abdomen from groins to ribs felt like it had been pounded with something.  Sides hurt, hips hurt, neck hurt, shoulders hurt too.  Some of this was probably from whatever equipment they use to stabilize you on the operating table and it must be medieval torture equipment. Whatever it was left bruises and marks all over the place. Some of it was from the gas they use during the laparoscopic procedure to make space to see inside.  It doesn't all come out and it's very "uncomfortable."  Torturous.  The weird pain like someone was stabbing needles into my shoulders was apparently "referred pain from the diaphragm"...who knows what that means?  So in addition to not being able to move around very well I also couldn't take a deep breath because it felt like my chest was being compressed by something.

I have four incisions, three small and one about 3" or so.  Each is painful but not overly so.  My lower abdomen is numb which makes it weird when it feels itchy but you can't feel it when you try to scratch.  Hopefully the itchiness is the nerves waking up.  Then there's the swelling.  Intellectually I know that trauma induces swelling and the big giant belly I now have will eventually go back to the medium sized belly I had before but I'm not quite convinced of that.

Without going into too much detail, bowel function is returning, gas pain is lessening, and my daily moving around the house isn't much different than it was before.  Thanks to all of my great yoga teachers over the years, I know how to protect some areas of my body and use others, and right now my abs are taking a rest...arms and legs and glutes are doing their share.  I can't lift anything over 8 lbs for a couple of months and it's hard to remember that...until I come close to doing something wrong.  Those muscles protest!  Thanks to you, Riley, I have super strong abs and they'll take this rest in stride and be back no problem.

I guess in my convoluted way, I am trying to explain that you never can quite be prepared for something as major as this.  Everyone's experience is different and the doctors can't fully prepare you for how it will feel if they haven't been through it themselves.  I thank my healthy, strong body for getting me this far and trust that it will continue to do the same for many years to come.

Now I need to take a nap.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


I talked the doctors into letting me come home last night. My insides aren't yet fully awake but I convinced them that I can manage that here in the comfort of my own house. Everyone at the hospital (with maybe one exception) was kind and caring and great but it was a hospital after all. It turned out to be lucky that we had to wait an extra hour or so for my meds since there was a fire in a house down the road from us and our driveway was blocked by fire hoses until shortly before we drove in.  Small mercies! I don't think it resulted in any casualties so could have been worse. 

I'm glad this is over and everyone is on the mend. Thanks for all the thoughts, good wishes and prayers. I appreciate my sister's help and care more than she will ever know and apologize in advance for how cranky I'm going to be. 

That being said, I really do feel like shit. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

We're Still Alive And Kicking

Wednesday was the longest day ever, but we're both here to tell about it. We left the house at 5:30 am to drive to the hospital. My dear sister spent the night, drove us in, then fetched, carried and accompanied us through the long hours. Pat's son was here as well.

When we arrived, we had a short interview with the hospital's media guy. This is the first time a local, four person transplant exchange has been done at this hospital and there'll be some publicity about it after we all recover. Then it was hurry up and wait. My surgery was first so I was taken to the pre-op area and prepared. We looked pretty good to start with.

The next thing I knew, I was in recovery minus one kidney. My sister accompanied me to my regular room when it was time. I tend to get very nauseated from anesthesia and/or pain meds and this was no exception. I didn't feel too bad on the whole. 

We waited a long time to hear about Pat. The donor kidney wasn't ready for him until around 3:00 and then the procedure just took a long time. He didn't get up to his room until around 10 pm. All procedures went well and the donor kidneys are working fine. 

I do have quite a lot of pain and most of it seems to be residual gas from the laparoscopy. Not pleasant at all. I'm getting up and moving around, though, and looking forward to easier days ahead. 

I managed to knit a little today but slowly. The first Pussyhat will probably not be finished here. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

T Minus One and Counting

Check in time for me is 6:45 am.  And here I am at 10:30 pm drinking water.  I'm supposed to drink 2 liters of fluid between 8pm and midnight and it takes a long time to do that.  Plus I'm not really worried about sleeping; after all that liquid, who will be able to stay in bed?

Surgery is imminent, we are ready.  There are some nerves and worry about the aftermath of the surgery but on the whole I'm very optimistic and ready to be done.  The medical and surgical teams are great, the hospital is excellent, we are in good hands.

Today was cold and sunny and we got to go for a walk.  Life is good and going to be better.  I appreciate all the support and encouragement we've received and the help we'll get for the next couple of weeks.  See you on the flip side!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

The first day of 2017 and it's now just a hop, skip, and a jump to surgery.  We are excited but nervous; hoping that the advice of "you'll feel like you got hit by a truck on Thursday" is a gross exaggeration. Neither one of us has had major abdominal surgery before and we know it won't be a walk in the park but we're both strong and healthy and are expecting to have good results and smooth recoveries.

We realized today that next Sunday we'll be watching football in separate places with brand new scars on our tummies.  Something to look forward to!

I wanted to share a link on here in case anyone reading here is interested.  We have set up a donation page at the Northwest Kidney Centers and hope to raise some money for their education fund.  Diabetes is one of the most common reasons for kidney failure and in a lot of cases it is avoidable or reversible with lifestyle changes.  The Kidney Center does a lot of education on diet and exercise choices that can help avoid the misery of kidney failure.  We hope to help them in patient education and advocacy and also try to raise awareness of living organ donation.  You can check us out here.  Donations are much appreciated.

We had a lovely weekend full of friends and family.  And knitting!  The weather has turned cold, so I paused in my gift hat knitting to make one for myself.  I don't think I look good in knit hats, but walking here is unpleasant without something on your head, so I gave it a go.  I used some Spiffy from The Plucky Knitter that I had left from a shawl and had just enough for a hat and pompom.  It's soft and lightweight and was great on our walk around the lake today.

We had some good friends over yesterday for an early New Year's Eve party.  We watched the UW Huskies lose to Alabama (boo!) and then had dinner.  It snowed off and on, so they got on the road to head home fairly early.  I remembered that we had some Japanese wishing lanterns left from the Princess' wedding and we decided that this was a good time to send some good thoughts into the universe.  We went on to the dock, lit one, and watched it sail high into the sky with some of our wishes for a healthy and happy year.  Unfortunately, the wind came up and it turned sideways and then came down in the water, but I'm sure it was up long enough to get our wishes out there!

The other morning the ice on the railing panels was just beautiful.  There's so much beauty in nature!

All best wishes for a happy and healthy year for you all.  I might get to one more entry before the surgery if I have anything to say.  We will be notified on Tuesday what time to show up for surgery on Wednesday and it's probably going to be first thing in the morning.  Too keyed up to sleep much now, probably too painful to sleep for awhile, so maybe I'll get a lot of knitting done in the coming days!  One can only hope.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Part Four - More Tests and Talking

After we successfully made it home, we got up bright and early the next day and left the house by 6:00 AM.  We needed to be at the UWMC lab at 7:30 and we live an hour away not counting traffic and rain, of which there is always some.  Pat had more appointments than I did, so I tagged along with him until I had to be somewhere else.

We both supplied blood and urine samples, then went to the Cardiology Center, where he needed another Echocardiogram.  When you're on the transplant list or being screened for the transplant, they want to make sure that the organ is going to a person who has other healthy systems; i.e., heart and lungs.  So  Pat has had CTs, ultrasounds, cardiograms, etc. every year and it was suddenly decided that since his last one was last spring, another one was necessary.  They squeezed it into our busy schedule of appointments.

It was interesting for me to watch (I don't think he could see anything) as the test is essentially an ultrasound of the activity of the heart.  The display looked just like the one you see when you're looking at your baby, but this showed the heart activity.  Sometimes there would be bursts of blue and red and I don't know if this was electrical activity or coloring by the machine to differentiate something, but it was pretty cool!

I left and went to my first appointment in the Transplant Center.  I met the Donor Nurse Coordinator, to whom I had spoken on the phone many times, but never met.  She went over what to expect in the hospital and had me sign permission forms again.  As a living donor, you are allowed to change your mind about donating any time during the entire process, so you have to give your permission and sign that you understand multiple times.

Then I met with my surgeon.  I feel so confident with him; he's kind and sensitive...not at all like what you hear about surgeons in general.  I asked him how many transplant operations he'd done and he smiled and said he'd been doing them since '82.  A good sign.  He also reiterated his philosophy that he'd told me before.  The Hippocratic Oath instructs doctors to do no harm.  He wrestles with his conscience about harming a perfectly healthy individual for the good of another.  I teased him that if he messed me up, my kids would come after him.  He replied very seriously that he would come after himself in that case.  His conscience would not let that go.  I have every confidence that he will be careful with me and the outcome will be excellent.  He showed me the CT scans of my abdomen, which were very interesting.  The right kidney will go.  The left will increase in size afterwards and eventually do 85-90% of what two kidneys do.  That, he said, is plenty.

I was finished for awhile, so joined Pat in the next room for his meetings. Patient Nurse Coordinator, Nurse Practitioner representing his surgeon (who wasn't available that day), pharmacist, and the Nephrologist who heads the transplant team, who popped in.  He is so excited to be doing this exchange and was practically beaming when talking about what good matches we have and how successful this will be.  I'm glad everyone is super confident!

Pat had to have one more immunization and we headed off to the Pre-anesthesia clinic.  We each met with a nurse to be questioned about anything that might affect the anesthesia we will be given.  They ask you things such as, "can you walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath?" and "can you walk a block or two?"  They search mainly for any heart issues that might arise during surgery.  Hey, I can swim a mile and I did a triathlon last year.  I guess I can do those things.  We both passed.

So now it's back to waiting.  I do have to give one more blood sample tomorrow but then we wait to hear from the anesthesia department on Tuesday about what time we have to show up on Wednesday morning.  And keep our fingers crossed that nothing changes between now and then.  Until we're there and ready to go I won't really believe this is happening.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Part Three - The Travel Part

In addition to having to get our acts together to leave town with little notice, we found an opportunity to rent our condo for a couple of months during our absence.  This meant that we would need to reorganize and move a lot of the stuff we've been leaving there out of closets and cupboards so renters will have space for their stuff.  Scrambling commenced and we got windows washed, carpet cleaned, closets emptied, garage tidied, and new dining table finished and set up (and old one gone.)  We also had to pack up the stuff we wanted to take home with us (the car might never have been so full and heavy.)  Pat had his final dialysis in the desert early on Friday morning, I went to my final exercise class and we were ready to leave a little after noon.  It was actually a bit rainy, so there were rainbows galore that morning.

Our original plan was always to drive to Vegas this weekend to attend the UNLV graduation.  Our SIL, Mike, graduated with a degree in accounting and we wanted to support him and let him know how proud we are.  The graduation was Saturday morning at 9 AM and we thought we would see the kids Friday night, go to the graduation, and then leave for Seattle without staying for the party as was our original plan.  However, there was snow forecast along our route home and especially over Snoqualmie Pass by Sunday and we decided that leaving early in the morning on Saturday would be our best bet.  So we drove to Vegas on Friday and most of the drive was very windy but otherwise uneventful.  (Except for the broken windshield wiper that we managed to get replaced in Yucca Valley.)  We went to dinner with the kids at our favorite Mexican restaurant, then visited a beautiful cactus garden with them.

We got on the road early Saturday morning and Mike managed to graduate without us.

We headed north and planned to make Boise.  This was a long day of driving but very beautiful.  The first sign of snow was in the high peaks north of Las Vegas

and as we drove we saw more and more.  After awhile, snow by the roadside was a common sight.  We were lucky that the snow had fallen the day or two prior so the highways were clear.  We stopped for lunch in Ely, NV and had our first experience with snow underfoot.

The lunch was indeed worth braving the cold!

It did continue to get colder, though, and by the time we got up to leave Boise on Sunday morning, it was below zero.  We really enjoyed the views, though.

We stopped in the Tri-Cities area of eastern Washington to have lunch with a friend of Pat's from high school and his wife, and had a nice time.  Those kinds of stops were the only cases of driving on snowy roads and we were glad of that.  The snow on Snoqualmie didn't happen on Sunday and we made it across before dark in any case.

We got home to our lake house in the late afternoon, with time to unpack and pick up Thai food for dinner.  It was cold in here despite the fact that I'd bumped up the thermostat about 3 hours prior to our arrival.  We appreciate this house much more as a summer house, now, since the bare floors, high ceilings, and huge glass windows and doors can get a little chilly.  Here's mostly what we'll see on our walks around the lake in the next few months.  Pretty, but damp, dark and cold.

I filled up the bird feeders and we are having a great time watching the birds again, and also seeing all of the different varieties of ducks that are here in the winter.  Doesn't take much to keep us amused!  It's supposed to snow this evening so right now I'm enjoying the smell of the big pot of chili I'm making.

Our early arrival at UWMC for testing and pre-op visits on Monday will be the next post.  Happy holidays!