Monday, January 27, 2014

Scenes from the Lost Week

So last week was pretty rough for me.  How was it for you guys?

Yeah...for was RUFFFFF.  For the first time, I have to say I really I felt like I could call myself a Ruff Ryder, even without the bass ass motorcycle. Last week, I battled my first cold since the transplant. I'd been dreading this moment, and it finally arrived. 

When you get a kidney transplant, the doctors and nurses let you know that the medications they prescribe afterward are immunosuppressants.  These drugs weaken the immune system which, you know, helps you fight off illnesses and infections and stuff.  Basically, it attacks stuff that's not supposed to be in your body like, for example, another person's organs!  

People ask me why would my immune system try to destroy my kidney when it's working to keep me alive.  The immune system would just be doing its job, and our immune systems, when strong enough, are really good at finding and detecting abnormalities in our bodies (Check out more about your immune system here).

Taking immunosuppressants works wonders for basically "tricking" your immune system into thinking there's nothing amiss among the organs.   It trucks along, doing it's daily immune patrol duties, taking roll call of all the organs, not even being able to detect that "one of kidneys things is not like the others."  It's abilities are somewhat compromised and this works wonders for preventing organ rejection.  But this also makes it so people who take immunosuppressants are more susceptible to viruses and infections.  

There is a whole list of things that people who take immunosuppressants are supposed to do to reduce the risk of falling ill.  Actually, the list should be renamed "Stuff That the General Public Should Really Be Doing All the Time but They Don't Because They're Busy, Lazy, or Nasty."  But that's just me.  The list includes things like washing your hands regularly, throwing out old sponges, and cooking your meat until it's done.  KA-RAAAAAZY right?  

Medical professionals also recommend immunosuppressed patients get all the necessary vaccines, including a yearly flu shot.  I've gotten a flu shot every year since 2009.  I ended up getting mine a little late in the game, on Jan. 16 after reading a bunch of reports about the flu virus picking up in parts of the country, affecting most severely young adults who chose to forgo an annual flu shot (BEN...I'm looking at you.  Also, praying for you because I don't want you to be sick.  Love youuuuuuu).  So I marched right into the minute clinic and got stuck.  My arm hurt for about two days.

I felt fine (besides the arm) until about Sunday morning when a scratchy throat and a few sniffles started to settle in.  If you've ever had a cold in your lifetime, then you know that's how it starts.  That first morning you feel little beads of snot in your nose dripping down to the back of your throat.  I figured because I was on immunosuppressants that I might get a few symptoms from having the flu shot but then eventually, over the next day or two, the symptoms would go away.  As that Sunday wore on, I started to feel worse.  My sniffles morphed into gale force sneezes.  I could barely keep my eyes open during afternoon church service.  When I went to my parents' house for dinner that evening, I had to take a little nap in the guest room.  After my one-hour timer went off, I didn't want to wake up.  

I spent Monday, MLK Day, in our bed...the entire day.  Well...until it was time to make dinner.  I told Ben that since we had that day off I would make his favorite dinner...chicken parmesan...something I don't make very often because it's really involved. I managed to get out of bed an make the quickest dish of chicken parmesan I've ever made (and perhaps the best?) and I felt encouraged that I was able to do it.  Surely, I thought, this cold or whatever was on it's way out.  

Tuesday morning, the first real workday of the week arrived,  I decided to call out and spend the rest of the day in bed.  I worked a half-day on Wednesday and ended up staying home on Thursday.  I made my first full-day appearance at work on Friday. And that was the first time that I could honestly say that I was feeling "better."  

Now, I don't know if colds and viruses hit transplant patients harder. But far too many times I found myself crying out to God, begging him to "take me home"...over sinus congestion.  But it was pretty bad, y'all!  My sister called one day and I told her that I wanted to go to the hospital to get anesthesia.  At least that helps you get to sleep, which I managed to get only 4 hours of each night.  I even kicked myself out of Ben's and my bedroom and slept on the couch two nights because I couldn't stop sneezing, crying for air and blowing my nose.  

I should explain, however, that this was BEFORE, I...broke down and begged Ben to buy me some Sudafed.  Up until that point, I was doing at-home remedies, which are good alternatives to medicating before you have a cold, in the early stages of a cold, or even for short term sniffles and sore throats.  If take so many medicines and it can be hard to keep track of what medicines interact or interfere with the effect other ones.  Natural treatments are a good start to treating any illness.  Some of the things I did, pre-decongestant:
  • steep pieces of ginger with lemon in hot water for a "tea;"
  • boiled a big pot of water with pieces of ginger and inhaled the steam that was produced from the boiling;
  • drank mint tea; and
  • made a soup with a nice broth. I chose a chicken tortilla soup.  I used the broth but left out the chicken because I didn't have any.  
But since I was having too hard of a time sleeping at night I had to give in to the pharmaceutical industry.  I'm sorry but I don't have any small babies crying for me to feed them at night.  And I'm not about to live like I do until I really have to, OK?  I called my transplant coordinator on what would be the last really bad day of my cold and asked her if I could take Sudafed. If you are a transplant patient, or someone who already takes a lot of medicines, I recommend that you consult a health care professional before you take anything over-the-counter.  I've heard from some people who just don't respond to certain medicines very well, be it aspirin or a decongestant.  

After taking a decongestant one night I was finally able to sleep for like five hours instead of just four.  Things were looking up. And as I'm writing this blog post I'm 85 percent back to my healthy self.

I didn't intend to write a post about having a cold, out of all things.  I was probably going to write about donors or marriage or something somebody said to me recently.  But you know, sometimes, sickness happens. And I know that all too well.  I didn't get any blogging done last week, along with any actual pay-me-money work, any chores or other grown-up to-dos.  But whatever.  

Let's end this post with a song, shall we? OK!  Anybody like Daft Punk? 

Of course you do.  Good luck this week. Stay healthy.