Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Losing Track of Time

A couple of days ago, Pat and I were talking about how long ago our surgery was.  I was sure that the answer was 6 weeks.  Since I'm always right 😉, I made him get out the calendar and count the weeks because he thought it was 7 this week.  After counting several times, I admitted he was right.

7 weeks!  That means the lifting restriction will be up next week for sure and I can get my weights out.  It's funny, too, that now that I know we're farther along than I thought, I feel better.  The light at the end of the tunnel of being an invalid is in view, so I can go back to feeling healthy.  😀

In honor of that, I walked to the post office and back this morning - about 4 miles.  No marathon, but about double my usual distance.  And it felt great!  I've been doing some yoga, and plan to start back to class on Friday if there's room for me.  I'm all signed up for March, too.  The residual soreness around the main incision is still there but much better and my energy level isn't back to normal, but I feel like myself again.

Pat is doing well, too.  He still has to avoid germs so can't be around lots of people and that keeps us feeling a little cooped up (not to mention the torrential rains that make it less than desirable to be outside).  Good news is that he had a stent removed that was to guard against a build up of scar tissue where the new kidney connected to the bladder and, while the procedure to get it out was less than enjoyable, the irritation from it has gone away.  He is doing well with his labs and is down to getting them done once a week and visiting his doctors every two weeks.  Things are looking up!

We had a fun outing on Valentine's Day.  We went to Flaming Geyser Park on the Green River, which is only about a twenty minute drive from here.  We had a nice little hike along the river and through the trees but didn't go too far due to the muddiness of the ground.  It was a rare nice day in the midst of lots of rain, so careful walking was called for.  We need to go back in the spring and explore further.






The water level in our lake is high - we usually have about three more feet of beach than this and the pilings are visible under the dock.  Reminder:  clicking on any photo on the blog will make it bigger if you want more detail.



I'm busy knitting, of course.  Currently one obsession is a mystery shawl called Hale Bopp.  It's by an Australian designer, Ambah O'Brien.   I've admired her patterns before but never made one.  It's been a lot of knitting through Clue 2 but I like how it's coming out.



And the last good news:  while I've been very happy that stretchy leggings are in fashion right now, since that's all I've been able to wear, I am pleased to report that I can again zip up my jeans!  Will wonders never cease?


Friday, February 10, 2017

Weather Update

When I last posted, we had passed our cold snap and were having fairly mild weather, which gave us lots of opportunities to get out and walk.  If you're not familiar with the Pacific Northwest, it is a lovely place to live for a lot of the year.  The winters, however, are gray.  The skies match the pavement.  If you live on a lake, as we do, the sky matches the color of the water, which is the color of the cement patio and the color of the dock.  It also rains quite a lot.  If you have recently had surgery and must stay in this gray atmosphere until further notice, it can get quite depressing.  If you can't get out to the gym because you're not allowed to be around germs or you can't lift any weight and you can't walk outside because it's pouring rain, you get doubly depressed because you can't get any endorphins going by exercising or seeing the sun.



So, we had a nice change last week when it snowed!  We don't get much snow around here and I've been hoping for some for the last month.  It snowed all night Sunday and off and on for the next two days.  It was so pretty!  Monday morning Pat had to go to the hospital for his labs, but he was able to go to the one closer to us and he made it there and back just fine.  Other than that, we made stew in the crock pot and stayed in the house and looked out the windows.



I even went out and made a little snowman.  He wasn't too large since I couldn't lift a big ball of snow but he was cute.





By Wednesday we could walk outside; the snow wasn't too icy, too deep, or too melted.  It was so nice to be out although my walk was delayed until afternoon so I could finish making the pair of mittens I was determined to wear.  They ended up being very warm; I knit them very tightly out of handspun wool yarn.  Unfortunately I ran out of yarn before I made the thumbs so they're a little different color.  But they still worked great.



The lake froze again and had a layer of snow on the top, which was cool to see.  I've never been here in the winter before, so everything was new.  We worked on our jigsaw puzzle near our gas fireplace and were cozy and warm.



We threw extra seed out for the birds and watched them gather on the snowy lawn.  Doesn't take much to keep us amused!

After the snow left, we had a whole day without power.  That was when my collections came in quite handy!  Candle holders, candles (glassybaby and Partylite) and yarn (we wrapped up in sweaters, socks, shawls, and blankets) were well used that day.



Yesterday brought the torrential rain and flooding, but luckily we both made it to our errands and back home successfully.  Pat had to go have the shortness of breath thing checked out AGAIN but so far it still seems to be a medication issue that comes and goes and won't be serious.  I went to get a pedicure!


This morning we had a little break and actually saw some sun so we got going on our walk, stopped to say hello to the nice folks in our yoga class and got home before the next deluge started.  This is on the way through the field at the park.  This pond full of geese is usually just a grassy area.  But see that bright area? That's the sun!




We even had the energy to clear up a bunch of the broken limbs from the bamboo and maple tree.  The snow took a toll on them.  It felt so good to be outside and actually doing a little something!




Then the wind kicked up and the clouds rolled back in.  Back to the knitting and the next puzzle...



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Progress is a Relative Term

We had a little upset in our usual schedule of resting last week...we both can walk around our lake, which is about 2 miles, with no trouble.  Pat, though, had been noticing a bit of shortness of breath while walking uphill.  We, of course, ignored it until it got pretty bad last Friday, when he called to report it.  He had had a similar occurence several years ago and it had been a reaction to a blood pressure medication so we assumed that would be the case again.

The transplant coordinator talked to the doctor and they decided we needed to come in to their ER.  It's an hour away with no traffic and it of course was Friday night.  So we ate dinner and hit the road. The reason they wanted us at UWMC was so the transplant docs could oversee any tests and make sure the new kidney wouldn't be compromised.  That sounded good, until the transplant representative showed up three hours after we arrived and said she had just found out we were there.  So much for organization.  Anyway, in addition to the medication reaction, they were concerned about a possible blood clot in the lungs.  That would have been bad, so we were happy they checked it out.  The usual test would have been a CT scan with contrast but that's a no-no because of the new kidney.  They decided to keep him overnight in the hospital and did some ultrasound scans the next day that showed no blood clots.  A lot of trouble but a good result.  A change in medication and everything seems fine again.

So, back to me.  I had been feeling pretty energetic...we walked on Friday and might have done another errand before that.  Then we got in the car at 5:30 pm to drive to the hospital.  After all the hurry-up-and-waiting there, I left to come back home around 9:45.  They kindly said I could stay at the hospital if I wanted to...no thanks.  I've had enough of that.  I made good time getting home but still didn't get to bed until after 11:00.  I didn't get a great night's sleep and was up around 6:30 with texts from the patient and one of the kids asking about him.

So.....since I was up and since I had to drive through Seattle to get to the hospital, I decided I'd go to the glassybaby seconds sale.  I had been tossing it around in my mind for a couple of days and, since I was feeling pretty good, decided to stop by and check it out.  I knew people lined up way before it opened at 8:00, so I thought I'd get there a little later and maybe the line wouldn't be so bad.  Wrong!


Luckily I had a wool sweater on and it wasn't too cold, since I left my coat in the car a couple of blocks away and ended up standing in the line outside for at least an hour and a half.  Once you're there, you might as well stay, right?  Here's a photo that Sima found on instagram that includes me.  It looks like we'd moved up a bit since I took the first photo.



I fell in love with glassybaby a few years ago, and have collected several.  They're rather pricey, though, so a chance to get perfectly imperfect ones (as they call them) at a discount of 35% is a deal.  We're usually not in Seattle in January, and I've bought some from the website during the sale when they discount three or more 10%.

So, long story short, my quick stop turned into a 3-1/2 hour marathon, but I filled up most of a box and managed to get out.  My box, however, might have weighed a little more than the 8 pounds I'm supposed to be limited to, but sometimes ya gotta make an exception.  I don't seem to have any ill effects from the carrying. 

I apparently usually choose the blue-green color.



If you notice the two green ones, however, they were intentional purchases.  I thought the green was the closest I saw to the color of the living donor ribbon and I wanted one of that color for us.  Pat suggested I get one to give to the other donor in our exchange group, so I got two.  We hope to get to meet them in the next couple of weeks.






Then the day progressed; I drove to the hospital and waited in Pat's room for the tests to be finished and him to be discharged, which happened about 3:30.  Then we drove home.

The moral of this bunch of details is that, after having more activity and staying up later two days in a row, I haven't been able to keep my eyes open past 8:30 pm or so and then have proceeded to sleep about 10 hours.  My energy, alas, is not keeping up yet with my opinion of it.  I guess I need a wake-up call every few days to keep me from getting too cocky.  We're one month out from surgery and healing up very well.  But apparently resting still needs to be an item on the to-do list every day.  I just hope I don't get too used to it!



Thursday, January 26, 2017

Post-Op Visit

I was scheduled for my post-op visit with the transplant donor team last Thursday.  All my helpers had left by Monday night and I had asked my sister to come back Wednesday evening and stay over so she could drive me in early Thursday morning.  Well, we had horrible heavy rain Tuesday and Wednesday, so I told her I could make it on my own.

I made it fine; there wasn't any rain so the normal awful traffic wasn't made any worse.  The extra person for the carpool lane would have helped but the trip wasn't too bad.  Then the keystone cops  part of the visit started.  Normally, the clinic days at the transplant center work on schedule.  You go for labs, you go to your appointments.  They put you into a room and the doctor, nurse, coordinator, pharmacist, etc. comes to you.  It's kind of a round robin experience.

Something was mixed up last week, though, and I had to wait quite a long time and then my appointments were mixed up.  The funny thing was that Pat arrived early for his check up, hoping to see me, and they called him right in.  So we spent the next couple of hours going between rooms to check in with each other while staff was coming to get us and bringing us back.  It reminded me of one of those old cartoons where there's a long hallway with closed doors and people dart across in and out of the doors.  The lucky thing is that, although I'm not on any medication now, I still feel as if I'm surrounded by a bubble or a ball of cotton most of the time.  So I don't really get impatient.  I know; enjoy it while it lasts!

My labs were good.  One major test of kidney function is creatinine level.  This has been a major topic of conversation in our house since Pat's kidney function got really low a couple of years ago.  Normal creatinine level should be about 0.6-1.2 mg/dl and Pat's was close to 5.  I think when he started dialysis it was actually near 7.  Not good.

My kidneys, of course, were healthy, and the pre-surgery creatinine was about 0.68.  Right after surgery the level was 1.13, reflecting the loss of half of the filtering mechanism in my body.  Two weeks later the level was down to 0.89.  My remaining little kidney is already picking up the slack.  It will increase in size and function over time until it is handling 85-90% of the work that both kidneys did previously, which is plenty to keep me healthy.  Amazing stuff.  Public service announcement for today:  Drink Lots of Water!  It keeps your kidneys healthy.

The other interesting fact I learned that day was that my energy level, which has been low, might not be back to close to normal for 6 months.  That's a little longer than I had expected.  I can still do what I want, but one walk or outing a day is pretty much it.  For example, after my long day last week where I left at 6:45 am and got home about 2:00 pm, I wasn't able to get myself off the sofa for more than the time it took to make a dinner and eat it.  Then I went back and dozed until bed time.  Not how I'm used to feeling at all.  Both Pat and I have a lifting restriction of about 8 pounds for another 5 weeks or so, which is kind of hard to remember.  We went to Costco yesterday and just bought things that we could lift one at a time.  No cases of cans or bottles!

So everything is good.  Pat came home on Monday afternoon and he's doing well.  We just have to be very careful about exposure to possible infection, so it's mask, rubber gloves, hand washing, being careful about food contamination, etc.  I expect this will improve over time as his immune system comes back to a higher level.  A little change in lifestyle but so worth it!

My prize for donating my kidney:




And.....I did some spinning last night.  So nice to get back to my wheel!




Sunday, January 22, 2017

We interrupt our previously scheduled surgery updates...

for a little bit of knitting which is also political commentary.

You probably noticed that I mentioned knitting Pussyhats in the last couple of weeks.  I know I was knitting one before I went into surgery and worked on it some more afterwards.  Note:  I'm sure this was the hat that I messed up and had to do over but that probably would have happened without simultaneous drugs and pain.  Anyway, I ended up with four hats.  The process of knitting them was interesting and I tweaked the pattern every time, so kept a little bit of interest up.  They also came out totally different sizes due to adjustments in needle size and how much yarn I had.  Whatever!  I finally finished.



My sister planned to go to the Womxn's March in Seattle so I managed to finish up the hats in time to meet up with her following my post-op appointment on Thursday.  I'll tell you how that went next time.  See how I keep you coming back?

I, of course, wasn't able to go to the march, although I really I wish I could have.  History being made!  My pathetically low energy level right now wouldn't have seen me through the probably 6-7 hours on my feet.  So my four hats marched proudly on my sister and three strangers, who rocked them!



These photos were taken at the bus stop, where folks were patiently waiting as they tried to get to the march gathering spot.  As an estimated three times the expected 50,000 people were all trying to get to the same place, buses were few and far between and crowded when they arrived.  I couldn't find a really representative photo of the crowd, but like this one.  Our iconic Smith Tower is in the background and the amazing blue sky shows up.  Our pretty much constant rain of the last few days took Saturday off.



I was so happy to be represented in even a tiny way on such a momentous day.  My heart, my handiwork, and my lovingly-collected wool were all there.

I am proud to personally know so many women who marched in multiple cities, including London!  We must stand up for our rights and everyone's rights and these beautiful, peaceful, pink marches were a wonderful start and a total inspiration.

I love the contrast photos of the Capitol Mall.  Relatively empty during the Inauguration and full and lively during the Women's March.  March on! Stand up for what you believe!







Monday, January 16, 2017

Exciting Weekend!

Good Monday to everyone!  I'm feeling better every day although I had  a rough day last week, but decided that it was the pain medication/laxative combo to blame and I cut those out.  I still, of course, have a long way to go to heal up, but bruises are fading and I'm feeling stronger.  The areas around the incisions are still sensitive but getting better all the time.

Saturday the Princess and I planned for a few visitors, but were mostly planning to watch the Seahawks (lose, boo!) and nap, which was working fine for us most days.  Instead, we had Grandma, Grandpa, Julie, Robin, and our local kids with the grandbaby, who kindly provided lunch.  The nice little visit was progressing when the front door opened and in walked Mr Hollywood, which was a total surprise.  I've been so blessed to have the great company and care of my sister and my Princess, but having all the kids here together to see me was such a boost!  The out-of-towners are leaving today but we've had the nicest time.  Getting a few heavier/awkward chores done by the taller one was an added bonus.

Grandma and Grandpa don't get to see these two very often.



All the kiddos plus grandbaby (whose parents don't want his face online).  He's totally rocking his Gramps cardigan, though!



Ma and her little chicks.




We drove into town for a surprise visit to Pat, who I hadn't seen since leaving the hospital.  He's doing well and looking good.



The mask is for protection against any and all unwanted germs and seems to be working well so far.  He's walking a mile or so at a time and progressing nicely in his recovery.  I have to step up my game to keep up with him.  I keep thinking that a walk around the lake will happen, but so far I haven't made that distance.  Maybe today, before it starts to rain later.

It was still frozen and beautiful at sunrise today.



All in all, good spirits, good care, good progress.  Back to knitting PussyHats.  I still have at least two more to make.

Thanks again for your interest and good wishes and donations so far to the NW Kidney Center.  The page is still up if you've been meaning to but haven't gotten to it yet.




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 deal...you'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.