Our transplant story

It’s been four days since the surgery took place and I’m finally feeling the haze begin to lift. The word last night was that, after a couple of days of ups and downs for my dad, his blood pressure had settled right where it needed to be and the kidney was producing beautifully! Things were a little scary there for a while, and he’s by no means out of the woods yet, but I’ll take last night’s report as a good sign!

I made it through most of the yesterday without any Vicodin, finally taking a dose at bedtime when fatigue was beginning to settle in and a bit of pain had resumed. I woke up very early this morning, at about 2:30 and felt no desire to fall back asleep. I guess I’ll need to work at getting my body back on schedule eventually, but for now, I’ll take advantage of the quiet and feeling well enough to begin to tell the whole story.

Thursday, July 24, 2008 – Music began to play from my clock radio at 3:30 am. I had set the alarm so that I’d have time to hit the snooze button, but I don’t know what I was thinking. There was no way I could just doze off again on this day. I really didn’t need any “snooze” time. I laid in bed for a few minutes, before shutting off the alarm, getting up and taking a shower.

I gave myself too much time. I had packed a bag the day before with everything I might possibly need during my hospital stay; lounge pants and t-shirts, books and my mp3. I didn’t need to put on any make-up or worry too much about my hair, other than keeping it out of my eyes until the surgery. I found myself wandering around aimlessly before it was time to leave, just waiting for Mark to catch up with me.

At 4:50 am, I snuck into the kids’ rooms and kissed each of them goodbye before we pulled out of our driveway and made the short trip to my parents’ driveway so they could follow us to the hospital. My sister and niece were riding with my parents so that they could be with my mom in the waiting room during the surgeries. By 5:00 they were ready to go and we made our way to downtown Minneapolis and into the surgery center by our 5:30 check-in time.

We actually had to wait a few minutes in the outer lobby before the surgery center opened. We sat together in a row of seats, my sister and I actually joking around and snapping a few pictures. I was not yet feeling nervous, much to my own surprise.

(Well, maybe just a little nervous….)

It didn’t take long before we heard the click of the security lock and we were allowed to enter. My dad and I signed a few forms and soon we were called back to our separate rooms to change into our hospital garb and answer a few more questions. I was given a shot of something, in the stomach. I don’t remember what it was or why I needed it, but remember thinking that it burned. It may have been a blood thinner to prevent clotting in my legs. Not long afterwards, our family was told they could come sit with us until it was time to move us to the operating room, which seemed to be only a few minutes.

We were called, along with another man who was having surgery, and his wife, to follow a nurse to the operating room and surgical waiting room. We took an elevator up to the fourth floor, then walked a few long hallways, finally stopping in front of two big doors where we were told that this is where the patients parted with their families.

I quickly hugged my mom, my sister and my niece, finally getting to Mark. After all the past months of feeling ready, confident and comfortable in my decision, this is where I decided to lose it. Without warning, tears began to fall as Mark hugged me goodbye. He realized I was crying and wanted to know what was wrong. All I could do was whisper that I was finally scared. I was trying not to be obvious. I didn’t want to scare my mom or my dad, so I sat there hurriedly wiping the tears from my eyes, as quickly as I could, feeling like a little girl trying to reclaim my bravery. Mark assured me that everything would be fine. He had confidence in the surgical team and he would be right there waiting as soon as I woke up. I managed to dry my eyes before I totally lost it and walked with my dad through the big doors ahead of us.

Inside were rows of beds on each wall and my dad and I were placed on opposite walls so we could see each other until we were wheeled into our operating rooms. I tried to remain calm as I waited and the nurse, noticing I was shivering, brought me an extra warm blanket to cover up with. The anesthesiologist for my dad came and talked to me about how he would take care of Dad during his surgery, knowing the heart condition was a concern. Next, my dad’s surgical team came and talked with me briefly about his surgery. Then my own anesthesiologist came to talk to me about what I could expect. I honestly don’t remember what he said to me. By this time the surgical team was talking with my dad and I was doing my best to hear what was being said. I didn’t think my dad had his hearing aids in and was afraid they would ask him a question and he would misunderstand, but he seemed to be doing ok. Finally, my surgeon came by and talked with me a bit, marked my left side with a Sharpie marker and told me I’d soon be on my way.

The nurse who had been sitting with me told me she was going to give me something that wouldn’t knock me out, but just take the edge off. I remember her injecting it, then getting wheeled off to the operating room as I could feel myself relax. It tried to wave to my dad as I left, but he was surrounded by his team and I don’t think he saw me. I relaxed so much that I remember watching the walls pass by as my bed was wheeled along and thinking, “It’s a good thing I’M not driving right now. WOOOOOOOOOO!” The walls were spinning around me and I smiled at that point. I found myself so amusing that I actually smiled! Those must have been some good drugs!

I remember reaching the operating room and noticing how full of equipment it was. I know that someone was talking to me, but I can’t remember at all what was said and soon I was completely out.

The next thing I remember was someone saying my name, it seemed, very loudly. “TERRI!” I opened my eyes and felt the oxygen mask on my face and could see a nurse sitting beside me. She was telling me that my surgery had been completed, but I was distracted by the oxygen blowing in my face. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and tried to adjust the mask. The nurse gently placed it back where it belonged and told me I needed to keep it there, but I was sure there was too much blowing in my face and once again, I tried to adjust it, this time managing to disconnect the tube from the mask. Once again, the nurse was calm and gentle, saying, “Let me fix that for you.” But again, I was sure I was suffocating and managed to knock the tube off the mask again. Finally the nurse decided I might be more comfortable with the nasal mask instead and gave me the tubes that sit just under the nose. Ahhh, much better.

I’m not sure how long I laid there before I became aware of my dad in the room. I could hear him moaning in pain, but was relieved to know he made it through his surgery alright. It was right about this time that I began to realize that I, myself was in pain and began to hyperventilate. The nurse asked if I was in pain. I tried to answer her, but found I couldn’t speak. I could only whisper, “YES.” The nurse informed me that she would give me an injection of Delaudid and I remember thinking, “Yeah. Delaudid.” A friend of mine had said to ask for that one! The Delaudid took effect immediately and the pain seemed to ease.

The next thing I knew, Mark was by my side and I was being wheeled off to my room. Things were getting fuzzy again at this point but I remember Mark asked how I was doing as I was being moved and I whispered, “I can’t talk! I have no voice.”

We finally got settled in my room, and the rest of the day is kind of a blur of visits from the surgical team, nurses and HCAs (nurses’ aides.) I was assured several times that my dad did fine through his surgery and my kidney was beginning to function in his body. Mark stayed by my side well into the evening, just sitting while I slept and making sure I was comfortable when I was awake, and trying to get me to eat a bit of chicken broth for lunch and dinner. My mouth was extremely dry and he fed me ice chips and offered me ice water as often as I could take it. He expressed concern about my loss of voice, and we were told that during surgery, the breathing tube sits between the vocal chords and sometimes causes a bit of trauma. One of the nurses told me later, when there were signs of my voice returning, that she had been fairly concerned. She said it’s not often that there’s a complete and total loss and she was worried the damage might be more serious. Thankfully, it appears it’s not.

My incisions were checked several times on Thursday and I was not thrilled to see how bloated my stomach was and that there were four small incisions and one large one where the kidney was removed. I had been told to expect three small ones and one large one, so I’ll need to find out where the extra came from. The large one was really the only painful one, but there was other pain to work through, like learning to fill my lungs with a deep breath again. I couldn’t believe what an effort it was to fill my lungs with air, but I was told to keep working at it to prevent pneumonia from settling in.

I was awakened on Friday by the arrival of “breakfast.” I lifted the cover on the plate, tried one bite of some very bland, pasty scrambled eggs and called it quits. My mouth was still insanely dry from the surgery and all I wanted to do was drink ice water. By Friday, I was encouraged to sit up in a chair, which I did, with some pain, while the HCA changed my bedding for the day. I was slightly more aware of the comings and goings of the staff and was able to ask for my pain meds when I felt I needed more. Again, Mark came to sit with me for most of the day as I drifted in and out of sleep. I managed to eat some lunch and took a few short walks down the hallway with Mark’s assistance. When dinner arrived, Mark tried to get me to eat, but the sight of it made me sick to my stomach. I just could not eat. We tried walking one more time, but I was no sooner out the door when a wave of nausea hit and I hustled back to my bed. The nurse told me I was trying too hard and didn’t need to walk anymore that day. I had been hoping to make it to my dad’s room, but had no such luck yet. Mark assured me my dad was ok. I was given some anti-nausea medication in my IV and soon was falling asleep, so Mark left for the day.

Saturday morning found me awake at 3:00 am, feeling much, much better. I found I was able to walk to and from the bathroom on my own, rather gingerly, but I was doing it. The nausea was gone and I was better able to sit upright. I dozed off and on throughout the morning until the surgical team paid me another visit. I was informed that I could now take charge of my direction, and was free to leave whenever I felt comfortable going home, even that same day, if I felt up to it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready to go home, but the roommate from Hell had arrived Friday in the early morning hours and I had had enough. I wanted to go home. I told the surgeons that I would love to go home, “TODAY.” The head surgeon smiled and said, “Ok, then. We’ll get you all set to go!”

I called Mark and told him I was being released. He couldn’t believe it and sounded uncertain, but I  reassured him that the surgical team had approved me to go. Besides, it would be a few hours before my release forms would be processed and my prescriptions arrived from the pharmacy. So he came back to the hospital to wait with me for the final ok to go.

While we waited, we walked again, finally making it to my dad’s room. He was SO sleepy. He must have been given something to help him sleep and ease the pain because he kept falling asleep mid sentence while we talked. I felt bad because my dad had been doing SO well on Friday, when I couldn’t get to see him, and then today, he had taken a slight turn for the worse. We finally left him to get his rest and returned to my room to pack up my belongings. Mark carried some flowers and my bag to the car while I waited in the room. My prescriptions arrived before he returned and I was told I was free to go.

I’m telling you, that walk out of the hospital was the longest walk of my life. I hadn’t ventured more than a few hundred feet from my bed in the last couple of days and it was a long walk out of the hospital, but I made it. It was slightly painful, but I did it.  And being at home has made it feel as if I’m improving in leaps and bounds. I worried about my dad most of the day on Sunday, but got the good news Sunday night that he seemed to be doing phenomenally well. I have no doubt that this sudden improvement is due to all the prayers and support of our family, friends, and all of you! Please pray, as I will for my dad’s continued improvement. We’re not sure how much longer he’ll remain in the hospital, and I hope he can be home soon.

**********

Thank you to all of you for keeping in touch, for caring, and for all the wonderful comments, words of support and prayers that you offered. I have some catching up to do around the blogosphere, and I have lots of time to do it over the next few weeks. For the moment, I’m going back to bed, but I’ll be around later today and over the next few days, hopefully catching up with all of you.

35 thoughts on “Our transplant story

  1. You “sound” like you are doing well. What a story…and don’t worry about us…we will still be here being banished to couches and getting mad about overflowing trash cans, while some people (youself and your father) deal with real issues.

    Be sure to have some people wait on you hand and foot.

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  2. Thanks for the story. I cried with you when you wrote about your fear finally settling in and crying when you hugged Mark.

    I am glad you are feeling so much better!! You are one special woman Terri! I have so much respect for you!

    Love you! Continued prayers for you and your Dad!!

    And YES, enjoy that pampering and being waited on…God knows you deserve it. :)

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  3. What a journey. It’s so good to hear from you directly and hear how you are doing. Sounds like you are on the right track to healing (as long as you continue to take it easy).

    The burning injection in the stomach sounds like my good ole friend Lovenox. Keep your legs moving while you are laying down and doing some simple stretches. I’d hate to hear about blood clots :(

    You know we are still praying for you, your dad, and your whole family. Take care of yourself and let others take good care of you as well.

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  4. Terri,

    Thank you so much for the update. I am SO happy to hear that the surgery was a success for both of you and will continue to keep you all in my prayers. Now get some rest girlie.

    Love you lots!

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  5. Interesting account. Don’t overdue things over the next few days; you need to get your strength back up as your body gets over the shock of losing a part of itself. We hope to hear good news from your dad as he heals up, also.

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  6. I’ve watched this story develop, but I’ve not said anything because.. well.. it’s such a selfless, generous thing you’ve done and no words I can muster seem to do it justice.

    So… just *hugs* girly.

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  7. Terri sweetie! Thank you for sharing…but get some rest already! We will be here going on with our daily lives still with you and your dad in our hearts and in our prayers…but YOU take care of you!!!

    WHAT a story! You and your dad are so very brave. I know you did what any daughter would do but you are still one of the most amazing women I have ever come across!

    BIG hugs and blessings for a great week to both you and your dad!

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  8. I wasn’t expecting the full story quite so soon! Thanks for sharing!

    I was hoping to be able to write something wonderful here, but I am lost for words. God bless you, Terri.

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  9. Terri,

    Back when I was researching the decision to be a living donor, this is exactly the information I wanted but couldn’t find. All the ‘stories’ out there are told so far after the fact, that they’re sanitized of the gritty reality of the thing.

    I’m so glad you and your dad are doing well, and I appreciate the little sneak preview :-)

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  10. Terri,
    Thanks for the update… Once again I felt like I was right there with you and your family….
    Talk to ya soon….

    Danny J.

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  11. Rest well, my dear. I hope your dad continues to do well and your own healing is quick and as painless as possible.

    When you get a chance, I’d love to know what that “relaxing” drug was — I could use some of that on a daily basis.

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  12. It is really interesting how different your hospital treated you than they did me. Nonetheless, I think we focus so much on getting to the even that the pain and discomfort afterwards comes as a total shock at least it did to me! – I was thinking “what the heck happened here and who’s bright idea was this…oh mine:(

    It definitely takes a while to get one’s sea legs back even when you are recuperating rapidly so don’t despair and try not to get frustrated. It’s sometimes hard to talk about what is going on with people who love you but don’t have any similar experience to draw upon. Feel free to give me a call if you need to share to someone whose been on the same train (505 507 2646)

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  13. Oh Terri you are truly the strongest, most loving,generous selfless person I know. Ok my dad is a great man, he too wouldn’t think twice about such a decision! I am so thankful you are doing ok!! What a story! I had a lump in my throat, while reading your journey!! Yes please take it easy, and take care of yourself!!BTW! You looked beautiful before your surgery! You are a superstar!! LOve and speedy recovery to you and pops!!

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  14. What a story. Terri, please get some rest and don’t overdo things. It is easy after a surgery like that to feel as though your MUCH better… when you REALLY need to take it easy and HEAL.

    So glad you and your dad came through this so well. Sending more prayers, good thoughts and best wishes to you both.

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  15. Wow, Terri…what a story! I’m so happy all has turned out well and wish you and your dad a speedy recovery!!

    You are such a source of inspiration!

    Get some rest and let all the wonderful people in your life take care of you…you certainly deserve it!

    *More Hugs To you!!**

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  16. Leading up to this day must have been nerve racking. After reading your story it seems so much more real … even to my own eyes.
    It is sooooo nice to see that you are doing ok, and are able to resume some of life’s everyday moments with family and friends. I have to admit, thinking about how you awoke from surgery sounds very scary.
    You have done such a wonderful thing Terri, and I have all the hope in the world that Dad will be home soon.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us … I can’t help but marvel at the doctors that can actually do a surgery of this nature :-)

    Eric

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  17. Terri, It is so good to (hear) your voice, to know you are on the road to recovery and even though I should encourage you to rest I am so glad to know that you felt up to blogging and checking in!!!

    Now take care of yourself, I am continuing to keep your dad in my prayers….and for your complete recovery!!! Take care dear friend!!

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  18. Oh Terri, I’m so glad to be back up & running and to find out how wonderful everything is turning out! I’ve so wanted to know how things were going, but couldn’t check! I will continue to keep you and your Dad in my thoughts & prayers…and wish you both a speedy recovery!
    Barb
    ps…yep, it would be Fargo my Son will be at…might take ya up on checking in on him!! :)

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  19. What an amazing angel you are for doing this for your Dad…absolutely THE most touching and selfless thing I’ve read on the internet in a really, really long time.

    I’m so happy you were able to remember it all and document it – quite a bit of it reminded me of when I was in for my c-section and I *know* many of those feelings and sights and sounds. You made a perfect visual with this post.

    Your Dad will definitely be in my thoughts and prayers.

    xo

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  20. Wow, Terri, this is the first time I’ve visited your blog (came by Dan Leone) and I’m so very glad I did.

    I cannot think of a more selfless, wonderful act than what you have just done for your Dad. You are such a brave and special lady.

    I hope your recovery goes well, and that things start looking up for your Dad very, very soon.

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  21. Girl, I can totally empathize with you on the thirst thing, you know! Glad to hear everyone is doing well – will continue to hold your family in prayer.

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  22. I had such peace for you and your dad through this. I am glad God has answered all our prayers, and isn’t He amazing linking you to so many believers, who can pray??? I think you’re so amazing and am so happy that your kidney is doing well in your daddy. God continues to lay you both on my heart, so I pray for continued strength and peace. I know both your recoveries are going well and offer prayers of thanks for that as well. Thank you for keeping us all updated.

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  23. Terri, this was so amazing. I feel like I was on your journey with you. I cant believe you were able to share all of this so quickly and so well written. what a terrific sign that you are doing so well.

    Love, Hugs, Kisses.

    xxooo

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  24. I can always count on you for a very detailed story! I love the reference to good drugs! But most of all I’m just thrilled that you and your dad are doing so well! I’m still keeping you and yours close to my heart:)

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  25. Pingback: Four Months and Seven Links | These Are Days

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