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The ramblings and observations of a kidney transplant recipient, although not necessarily for that reason.

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A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (recommended by Killer)
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The day before the surgery...
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
...although I was not yet on any drugs, was very surreal. I remember most of it, but I really just checked out of my brain for awhile. I didn't want to think about anything, because anything would turn into transplant. So, I just sort of wandered through the day happy as could be, not letting a thing get to me.

The day started with breakfast with my parents and my best friend Mike. Christoper, the nurse coordinator who met with me a week before, told me to have a big breakfast because once I checked into the hospital I would be on a clear liquid diet. I would later find out that this would save me from a "bowel preparation." Now, I have no idea what exactly happens at a bowel preparation, but I'm almost completely positive its nothing fun.

I rode with Mike to the hospital and my parents drove separately. Just as we were walking up to the admitting desk, Matt walked up by himself, no parents, family, friends. Just him and his backpack walking in like its just another trip to the library or something. He had informed us that his father dropped him off and then went to watch Stanford play Cal at the Sunken Diamond baseball field (at Stanford). It all seemed very casual.

Then we checked in and made our way to unit ATU? ACU? A-something-U. Ambulatory Care-something-or other. When we got there we both asked for non-smoking rooms. The nurses informed us there was some mistake and we can't stay there tonight because they close at 7pm on Sundays and all the nurses go home. Don't you think someone at admitting would know this? Anyway....they sent us back to admitting and we waited there for awhile until they found a place to put us. Apparently the transplant unit (E3) was full. We ended up at F3...dear old F3.

The nurse at F3 took me into my room where a man in a hospital gown was being attended to by some other nurse. He didn't look all that happy to have a new roommate. I'm absolutely sure I returned the vibe. The only thing I remember about him is that he complained alot and needed vast amounts of attending to. Easy for me to say before my surgery, but I'm sure I complained at least half as much as him after my surgery as well. My nurse, whose name I need to leave out of this completely, began her check in routine.

She did her nice-to-meet-yous and isn't-it-a-great-thing-what-your-friend-is-doing-for-yous and then began filling out her paperwork which involved asking me questions. Name, DOB, Allergies, know...that stuff...and then something weird happened....obviousy deviating from her questionnaire, she asked "So are you getting 2 kidneys or 1?"

NO!! Did she just ask me that? Is she joking? Look in her's not joking. "One," I said. Did I just answer that question to a nurse who will be taking care of me? Can I still opt out of this? I mean....its a good question.....for a third grader. And, bless her heart, she was just generally showing an interest in my problem, but c'mon....where's the camera? Who's fucking with me? This would be the most memorable moment of my week in the hospital. I would later tell other nurses about it, who would try to convince me she was joking. She wasn't. She went on with her questions and stuck to the paperwork from there on.

Then blood draw. EKG. Chest X-ray. The lunch tray was on my roll-away counter top when I got back. A bowl of chicken broth. A juicy cup of grape juice. A dish of yellow jello (yellow is the worst one). And a frozen lemon icee thing. Then a round of people, endless people, came by to introduce themselves. Interns, fellows, med-students, nurses, coordinators, surgeons....none of them my actual surgeon. I shook alot of hands and heard alot of names that night, I remember none of them. I had checked out earlier in the day. I watched TV. My parents and friends (Mike & Louisa) sat in the waiting room not knowing whether to come in my room or not. Eventually my parents went home and said they would see me in the morning. Mike & Louisa came into my room and hung out for awhile, well past visiting hours, and left only at the point when the nurse (a different one after shift change) came in and explained I had to take a shower, change into my gown, and she had to put an IV in my arm so they could start pumping me full of fluids. new nurse (cute as hell with her Lisa Loeb glasses and eastern Euro accent), struggled putting the IV in. You see....I'm a phlebotomist's nightmare. I'm well known in Phlebotomy Journal and Blood Draw Magazine as "the toughest stick in the lab." None of my veins pop and thanks to blood pressure medications I've been taking for the last 5 years there is a fresh coat of hair on my arms that help to camouflage all the veins and arteries buried deep within. So, Audry spends a few minutes trying her best to find a vein, wipes my arm with some alcohol, and sticks it in.....STRIKE ONE! She missed....and I'm okay with it. Needles don't really bother me that much and most trips to the lab for me end in multiple sticks. I was willing to have her pull it out and try again, but she decided to save me the pain of another stick started wiggling (a technique I've seen used by many blood drawers). You can see the look of desperation on their faces when they realize they've missed and think they're close enough to wiggle it in, but it always ends in 9 or 10 seconds of useless needle wiggling and to be honest its hurts way more than another stick. Audrey decided she wouldn't let my left arm beat her. She wiggled for about 3 full minutes. "Sorry" and "I hope it doesn't hurt"....she was embarrassed and feeling my pain with me. FINALLY....she gives up....tries the right arm, gets it on the first stick, and puts a bandage over my left arm (my still badly bruised left arm). Can I go to sleep now?

No. Now that I'm settled, in walks the surgeon. THE surgeon. Dr. Stephan Busque. Regarded by most people in the hospital and by all his previous patients as a genius* (and a hell of a nice guy with an endearing little French-Canadian accent). Dr. Busque came in, checked me out with some very basic stethescoping, told me the surgery would be a little later than I originally thought, and told me I was being invited to take part in a drug study. I could have the option of taking a new immunosuppressant drug (not yet FDA approved) that was a modified version of another drug they are using now. They rearranged one of the molecules and were able to make the drug 10x stronger. Meaning they could give you 10x less of it and therefore reduce some of the unwanted side effects by 10x, including the nephrotoxicity of the drug. Meaning, if it worked, I may never need another transplant (most kidney transplants only last about 10 years because the immunosuppresants are nephrotoxic). He, while trying to sound impartial, was obviously very excited about it. I had tons of questions and he had tons of answers and now I would have until morning to think it through. Now I had to check back in. I have something serious to consider. Dr. Busque assured me everything would go well with the surgery and I believed him. I lay awake for only a few minutes considering my drug options. I already knew the answer.

*Dr. Busque apparently uses innovative techniques that other surgeons don't use to minimize post-op pain for the patients. Matt and I both regard him as amazing and will gladly give testimonty to the success of these techniques. Also, he really is a hell of nice guy.
posted by othur-me @ 11:38 PM  
  • At 5:07 AM, Blogger Jane said…

    Yay! He's home!
    Congrats on the new kidney. :O)

  • At 1:07 AM, Blogger othur-me said…

    Thanks! It's working great and I feel 10x better.

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