Monday, May 13, 2013

What Happens Before a Transplant

10 Days With Kidney

I cannot believe it's been almost two weeks since I wrote anything meaningful on this blog.  My fiance helped me keep the blog from disappearing into the realm of "blogs that we start and then never ever come back to again" by doing an ah-mazing guest post last Monday.  So I'm pretty thankful for that and him.  I think he did an excellent job of not only sharing his perspective on the whole kidney transplant event, but also describing what the mood and atmosphere were like for most of us really.  After editing Ben's post and blogging it, I turned and looked at him from my hospital bed and said "Why didn't you say you were feeling that way?! The whole time I thought you were calm but you were actually freaking out like me!"  It's probably for the best that he didn't tell me how he was really feeling, or else I would have gone into full scale panic mode. I was only flying at about half-staff with the nervousness and that was mostly due to my mom's and Ben's positive and supportive presence with me in the pre-op room. 

So we've heard what Ben has had to say about the surgery. Now it's my turn! For today's post, a list (obviously)!  ThingsThat Happen Before You Have a Kidney Transplant. And... go!

1.   You shower for the first time in a month.  Yes.  I....actually can't remember if I revealed that on this blog but the Thursday before the transplant, May 2, was my first shower since I had the PD Catheter placed.  Because the holes in my stomach were still healing and they didn't want me to get an infection, I'd been taking sponge baths.  Let me tell you, that first shower after 4 weeks of not showering felt so good, I didn't want to get out of the tub.  It was also the last time I would shower with the catheter. So to all of you wondering if my hair smelled when you saw me that one time out in that one place, the answer is...probably.

2.   You wake up pretty freaking early.  Kidney transplants have to begin in the morning.  That is the rule. Actually I don't know if it is. I just made that up. But we had to arrive at the hospital at 6 AM to check in.  Around 6:30 and 7:00 they called my dad and me back to the pre-surgery areas where we had our vitals checked and started having us get undressed. 

3.  You yell at your mom for touching your neck.  And she shouldn't have touched my neck! Especially, after the anesthesiologist had JUST come in and done something to it.  What had happened was the anesthesiologist asked me to turn and lift my head so that she could make a mark where my main artery was with a marker.  During surgery they inserted an IV with three different tubes into my neck to deliver transplant medicines and antibiotics directly to my heart during the surgery.  My mom, of course, because she's always touching me (my face, my hair, my neck), walked over to where I was laying in the pre-op area, balks "What is that?!" while trying to rub the marker off my neck.   OK soooo, I do watch House and I do watch the news. And that type of s*#t right there...that's the type of s*#t that will have you going into the operating room for a kidney transplant and coming out with no legs. Real talk. So of course I yelled "Don't touch me!" and cried for the nurse to bring the anesthesiologist back to redo the mark.  Fortunately, my mom did not manage to wipe off the marker spot and I probably shouldn't have yelled at her.  But I had to do what I had to do! I used to cover "wrong side surgery" for a health care publication.  That stuff is real.  

4.  You meet a lot of different doctors and nurses.  All during pre-op several nurses and doctors were coming in to introduce themselves, to let me know that they would working with the main surgeon to do the transplant.  Luckily at Inova, everyone was super nice and extremely accommodating. One thing that some people might find annoying (my mom was irritated by this) they ask you the same question over and over again: why are you going into surgery.  Kidney transplant.  I didn't mind this. I knew they just wanted to make sure all their ducks in a row and that everyone was in the right place.  This doesn't bother me because, like I said, I watch House and the news, and I know what can happen when there's a wrong answer to a question. Anything to keep everyone safe.  One of the nurses also, set up one of the three IVs I would have over the course of the procedure. 
5.  You wait for about an hour and a half.  After all of the above was done, my mom, Ben, and I waited in the pre-surgery room for about an hour and a half, until it was time for me to wheeled away.  During that time, I started to think, maybe the surgery won't even happen.  Yes, I wanted to be healthy.  Yes, I wanted to get a new kidney.  But did I want to undergo major surgery with risk of complications?  No, not really.  After meeting all the nurses and talking to the anesthesiologist, the reality of what was about to happen was kind of starting to get to me.  I didn't want to be put to sleep and I didn't want them to slice me open and spread apart my skin.  I didn't want to be cut and poked and prodded. I just wanted to magically be healthy.  So while we waited, there was a part of me that was wondering if the surgery would even happen.  Well, at 9:30 when the anesthesia nurse  came in and gave me "the good stuff" aka hospital strength Valium, it was time.  They wheeled me out of the room in my bed, wearing just a gown and a blanket. I barely had time to say bye to Ben and my mom, not that I would remember saying it anyways.  

The last thing I remember before the surgery started was me trying to roll onto the surgical bed, but just laughing uncontrollably instead of moving.  This may or may not have happened. And then I remember the lights on top of the ceiling as the nurses were strapping me onto the table. Then they gave me "oxygen."  And I was gone for about six hours.

There's something that happens in the seconds before surgery, where despite all the fear and accumulating anxiety your mind, and body, just sort of gives up and gives in to what's about to happen to you.  There's no room, space, or time to fight back or even say no. You deeply inhale the air being pumped through the oxygen mask and something inside says "Finally."  It's almost a relief that you've gotten to the point where you can't worry anymore, even if you wanted to, and you can't think about the may or may not happen. In those seconds before it all went dark, I thought "Finally. Time to find out if this is it.  If this will work.  Time to find out..."