Approximately 2 months ago now, I had major surgery to both extend my life expectancy and help me feel better for the duration of it, all made possible thanks to Tom’s courageous sister, Emily! She kept a similar blog to me from the view point of the donor: http://kidneydonorjourney.tumblr.com/post/114414555965/long-time-no-see
During my time in hospital, I tried to keep a record of everything I went through, both physically and mentally. However, given I was in for a week and each day feels like two…it became long. So I’ve split it into sections and will (try to) post every Tuesday with a new part of the diary entry.
Any comments or questions plus corrections from family who remember differently, welcome.
[Brief shameless plug while I have your attention: On top of being an extremely generous person by giving me one of her internal organs, she’s also a ridiculously talented graphic designer and created the cover of Tom’s first book. You can see the cover and obtain a copy of the book using the links at the end of the article on this website: http://thomashbrand.com/ or via his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ThomasHBrand?fref=ts]
Diary of a transplant patient
Sunday - Admission: 4pm
About a month or so before the day, I received a letter requesting we attend a particular ward the day before the operation. On arrival, Mum, Tom and I went straight there and arrived and were swiftly informed there were no beds available on this ward and I’d need to attend the one above.
The move, unfortunately, meant there was a slight administrative issue as they now couldn't find my file which had been seen last in the previous ward.
However, step one was complete: safely deposited in hospital with mum and Tom for company.
Realising we weren't actually waiting for anything and we were all just sat around anyway, I suggested they head off home. Especially as I now wanted to unwind before sleeping.
The nurse then quickly popped in and reminded me I couldn't drink or eat anything after 12am as I had to be completely clear for the operation.
After reading for a bit, at around 10pm, I finally decided to curl up and get some shut eye. That’s when I realised the woman in the bed next to me had now been talking for 6 hours. And not quietly either. Ignoring it was unsuccessful, so I finally got out of bed, peered round the curtain and informed her, politely, I needed to sleep, but couldn't if she kept talking. She immediately got out of bed and left the room....continuing her conversation.
Getting back into bed, I was out like a light. Woke up a couple of times in the night, but that was a given so I slept sporadically, but well. The beds in the hospital were inflatable mattresses with crisp white sheets, comfy pillows and a blanket that looks depressingly thin, but was actually really cosy. Especially as they keep wards relatively warm so you don't really need anything thicker.
6a.m. the next day...
I woke up, thirsty and hungry and seriously fantasising about pastries, but unable to have anything. Gradually, over the morning, things started to happen. First had a cannula placed in my wrist, then was given a pill, had something injected via the cannula and bands with my details on them attached to my wrist and ankle.
I was then informed that Emily was in surgery (her admission had been at 7.30am) and they'd be calling me down as soon as the kidney was removed.
The final preparation was a drip attached to the hand cannula : an anti-biotic to prevent potential infections during and after surgery.
A chat with the doctors and anaesthetists and I was a step closer to my own procedure. By now I can't recall if they'd found my notes or created a completely new one for me, using computer based information to fill it in. But everything seemed to be pulling together.
As well as hungry and thirsty, my lips were ridiculously chapped. I’m talking about a whole new layer of dry on them. I desperately longed for my lip balm. Not because of vanity but I felt like I had glue drying on them. Bleh! I dealt with it, however, knowing I had bigger things to come.
During this time the doctors and nurses all hovered around my bed, making notes, passing on instructions and so on. I continued to wait.
That's when the itching started. However, as I hadn't eaten in a while and my sugar level was starting to drop, I was tired and woozy and despite the back of my head itching like crazy and now needing the loo, I stopped processing logic and didn't think anything of it.
At this point I was asked if I could walk to the theatre. On asking how far the theatre was she looked doubtful and replied 'a bit of a walk'. Nope! So a trolley was called to take me there.
Finally, nature's call became more of a yell and I nipped to the bathroom. The itching seemed to have spread so I checked my stomach...and that's when I saw the rash. A small part of my exhausted brain couldn't be bothered to mention it, but watching hours and hours of 'House' the weeks leading up to the operation, I knew that everything has to be mentioned, no matter how small it may seem. Especially before major surgery.
On leaving the bathroom, I pointed out the rash and the itching to the nurses and the doctors were immediately notified....literally just as one of them came in to announce I'd been called in for surgery!!! Does my body have timing or what?
One of the nurses pointed out I hadn't shown a reaction to anything until I'd been attached to the drip which was the final medication they'd given me. They checked me over, ascertained I was definitely allergic then unplugged the drip. Cue 5 minutes of the doctor (very subtly but his body language spoke volumes), going 'shitshitshitshitshit' as the kidney was now out of Emily and they had to put it into the recipient asap.
For those curious to know what would have happened if I couldn't get the kidney, Emily had been given a form to sign prior to the surgery. This came with 3 possible options:
1. Return the kidney to the donor (can't be done after it's been placed in someone else)
2. Give it to someone else
3. Bin it
Tom, Emily and I stared at the form: 'that's an option?! That?? Yeah sod all the other people waiting for one, let's get rid of this fresh, really healthy one'.
Anyway, the doctor came back every few minutes for 5 minutes, checking my breathing and confirmed my throat was not in fact closing up. The white arm and ankle bands I've been given were replaced with the same, but now in red, so if anyone saw it they wouldn't try the same thing again.
Finally the trolley to take me down was brought in and here the doctor got a touch more urgent, asking me how I was feeling. I told him as gently, yet as defiantly as I could that the itching had gone down, I had no problem breathing and I should be fine. I even took a couple of deep breaths then grinned at him.
Then they received another call to notify the doctor that they had another range of antibiotics down there and to get me there asap. I laughed when I realised they'd just happened to use the one antibiotic I was allergic to. Which I discover literally minutes before my operation. Beautiful.
So we get the go ahead, and I was helped onto the trolley due to now basically having no strength.
On arrival, I was pushed into a preparatory room just outside the operating theatre. Here I met two very cheerful nurses plus the anaesthetists from before.
Hooking me up to the monitor took 3 attempts as it wouldn't take easily and when it did, one of the nurses said ‘yay! She’s alive!’
At this point, they turned away and I found myself getting emotional. Nopenopenope! I was to stay calm and relaxed. If they saw me get upset and reassured me, I’d’ve gone off on one.
On turning back to me, a mask was slowly put over my face, causing me to cough as it poured some almost flavoured air into my nose, shocking my air canals then watched as the final liquid was injected into the cannula in my hand, thinking ‘this is it’.
I remember watching the world first blur, then heard a faint voice say 'she's nearly there'...and I was out.