Thursday, December 27, 2018

Kidney Donation Wrap-Up

***WARNING: Pictures of body parts ahead***

Well, I lived! And more importantly, my kidney is now living elsewhere, and reportedly working its little heart out! (Wait...was that a mixed metaphor??)

I'm guessing if anyone is considering donating as well, they would like to have a slightly more detailed description of the actual process, so I'll try to recap what I remember along the way. Beginning with...


After a HUGE meal at a local Brazilian restaurant (need to build up that iron!) and a very short night in a very cheap hotel, we arrived at UNM around 4:30 AM as directed. Yep, that's pretty darn early, but we needed to make sure my kidney got on the right flight on time! Into the paper gown (some hilarity involved - why was there only one sleeve?), much lying around and chatting with so many medical personnel I lost count. I am afraid I completely forgot everyone's names, but I do know all anesthesiologists at UNM are at least 6 feet tall. And everyone was approximately 16. Also all super nice! They put a patch behind my ear, as promised, to help with impending nausea. I do NOT do well with anesthesia, which we knew, and which will come up again later. Someone from the surgery team used what appears to be a Robert Munsch Super Indelible Never Come Off Until You're Dead and Maybe Even Later marker to make sure they knew which side the kidney was supposed to come from.

Seriously, this is after several showers and some rubbing alcohol. Mr. Happy is here to stay.
About 6:00, someone pushed some fluid into my IV, saying "I'm going to give you a little something now to make you feel silly." 

Then it was 1PM and I was in recovery.

I WAS ROBBED! I mean, no, I certainly didn't want to be awake during the surgery, but what happened to the "Count backwards from ten" bit?? I've watched TV, I know that's supposed to happen! I was all set to be a smart-a** and do it in Russian, too. I practiced. Hmph.

Well, as predicted, I immediately felt nauseous and started to throw up. FYI, vomiting after abdominal surgery is Not Much Fun. Fortunately, they were ready with more meds in the IV, and kept them up over the next 24 hours to keep things under control.

Mike had a LONG wait, first during the surgery and then the entire time I was in recovery. At that point he was only allowed in for twenty minutes out of every two hours! At least he got the latest Stephanie Plum read, and caught up with a mutual friend whose baby was in the hospital (doing well, I hear). They didn't get me to a room until about 3PM, around which time he headed home (4-5 hours) just in time to get kids to bed and then up for school the next day.

That night I was on IV fluids, with liquid Tylenol (I can't swallow pills) every so often to keep ahead of the pain. I really didn't have much pain - unless I tried to sneeze, cough, clear my throat, or yawn. Clearing my throat happened every time I tried to talk, my throat seemed to produce an unnecessary amount of phlegm in reaction to the intubation. It was also a bit sore in the back for a couple days, but only noticeable when I ate. I am used to sleeping on my side, which wasn't happening now, but even those fun pressure things they put on your legs to stave off blood clots couldn't keep me awake for long. 


I had kept Jello down in recovery, so I got a real breakfast - bacon and eggs, oatmeal, juice, coffee. Not much appetite and still pretty groggy, but I ate the first two. LOTS of ice water over the next couple days. I read one book (Melanie Cellier's latest, of course!), but mostly slept - in between "Hi I need to take your blood pressure" and "Oh it's time for your meds". UNM is a teaching hospital, so there were several residents included on the rounds. I know I have said this a dozen times, but EVERYONE THERE IS SO NICE! Seriously, absolutely no complaints about any of my care. Except the broccoli - why did they keep serving broccoli to someone who is already passing enough gas to power a truck?? (TMI? Sorry - one way they make room to maneuver in your belly is by puffing it full of gas. It all needs to leave at some point.)

I was way more lethargic than I expected to be, based on my 3 C-sections, but I had of course received way more anesthesia this time around. No more nausea (God bless Zofran), but thick-headed and sleepy. I had to cut off one nurse who was asking about the donation, because I was too groggy to think - he was very nice about it, but I still felt bad, and didn't get a chance to chat with him later. I did learn that one of my night nurses, Cody, used to be a children's librarian, although I never got around to asking where. I could totally see him leading Toddler STEAM.

Mila came in to tell me my kidney arrived safely, was transplanted successfully, and already working! The recipient has been waiting SEVEN YEARS for a kidney her body wouldn't reject. Mila even sent me a picture of my kidney, taken before it left:

First thought: That's a lot of fat that went with it. Bonus! But why isn't my tummy any flatter? Bummer.

Second thought: Wait. Is this now someone else's medical information? I mean, if it was still MY kidney at this point, I can post a picture of it, but now it's someone else's kidney. Do I need their permission? But I don't know who they are...I'm going to say it was still my kidney, as it was geographically closer to me.

I was removed from most wires and tubes by the evening, so I could get up and move around a bit. Just like with other surgeries, walking is encouraged. Still very very lethargic, with not much appetite, but dozing was getting harder as it was getting harder to find a comfortable position.


Some concern about my bladder emptying properly, but things were moving along, so they decided I could go home. Hooray! Mike left home in the wee hours and arrived before lunch. I got a shower - hooray again! - and put my own clothes on. Staff made sure my prescriptions for Tylenol and stool softener were filled before we left, so we didn't have to mess with that here. They also gave me Zofran again just before we left, in case of motion sickness. Discharge happened much faster than I expected, and I didn't realize until we were on the road that I hadn't seen Ana Maria and Mila again as planned. I wasn't about to turn around again once I had made my escape! As nice as everyone was, I wanted to be HOME! We did talk to them on the phone en route.

Another LONG drive for poor Mike, with me trying to sleep in the passenger seat - and I thought the hospital bed was uncomfortable! Apologies to anyone I scared at the Carrizozo gas station as I stumbled through to the bathroom. When we got home I went straight to bed, but stayed awake to see the kids and my mother, once she brought them home from her house. I took the nausea patch off, took some Tylenol, and went to sleep.

Saturday and Sunday

I didn't need the Tylenol any more - no pain, just soreness - and never needed the stool softener. But. I maybe should have left the patch on.

So. Sick. At this point, I should point out that what I was feeling wasn't necessarily what anyone else would feel, but part of my usual extreme reaction to the anesthesia. I was miserable. I never threw up, but I felt very close to it much of the time, and had no appetite - which was bad, because I needed to stay hydrated! The kids were VERY good the whole time, Christopher being especially helpful, but they were sad I wasn't interacting with them much - Sheridan kept saying sadly, "You HAVE to be better for Christmas!"

A few people stopped by with meals, which is just awesome, but I couldn't make it downstairs to say hello. Sunday night some friends had a party I had really been looking forward to, but I sent Mike and the kids on instead. Even in a silent house, I couldn't sleep. I had already slept so much my body didn't need that any more! Gah! At least I could lie on my sides again, and it was my own bed, and nobody was coming at me with a blood pressure cuff. Our sixty pound puppy practically tiptoed onto the bed at one point, snuffling at me sadly and then gently stretching out next to me.

Monday (Christmas Eve)

As soon as we were both awake, I told Mike we needed to call UNM about the nausea. I did NOT want to spend Christmas (or any day) at the local hospital on an IV. The on call urologist got back to us pretty quickly, and called in a prescription for Zofran.

Irony - as Mike drove down to get it, I felt the fog lift! Not so groggy, not so nauseous, and I was actually out of bed and downstairs when he got home. Hallelujah! Everything had finally passed out of my system - and I knew there were a lot of people praying, as well. I never ended up taking the Zofran, but I am very thankful they were so quick to provide it.

I had mostly prepped for Christmas before I left, so I visited with kids and answered a few messages, dozed on the sofa a couple times, and ATE and DRANK. My stomach was still a bit sensitive, and seemed to have shrunk a bit, but yay for hydration. 

My older daughter Mari arrived that evening, after driving all day long. I haven't seen her since September, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Funny how much animated talking affects your stomach muscles and breathing! By the time we had helped Santa do his thing (Mike and Mari carried, I shoved and directed), I was absolutely beat. Shane was allowed to sleep in our bed for the first time since I got home, since Mari now had his room. He didn't wake up, but stuck tightly to my side, reaching out every now and then in his sleep to pat me and make sure I was still there.

Tuesday (Christmas)

Perfect! I was still getting my appetite and energy back, but I was able to fully participate in Christmas. The kids got WAY too much stuff, as usual, and family members came in and out. I was able to help make lunch and supper, and went to bed just a little earlier than usual. Whew! I'm obviously not jogging around the block, but I feel pretty good.

Itchy, though. I was expecting to have bandages to take care of, but happily each incision is closed with dissolving sutures covered in glue. That make showering much easier! I'm supposed to let the glue flake off, which it is starting to do, and that itches. A minor complaint, though. 

I have four incisions. This one at the side:

As you can see, it's about the size of my wedding ring. I have to look to find it, it's not even sore. Crazy!

The other two small ones are where tubes/instruments were inserted, to do the whole thing laparoscopically, then a slit by my belly button - about 2 1/2 inches - where Dr. Alba slid her hand in:

How do people do mirror selfies and not end up with them all blurry?

Not surprisingly, my belly button area is the most tender, but manageable. Probably a good thing I gave Mykela all my belly rings years ago, though. There was a little bruising the second day, but that is all gone already - the shadows you see around the holes are glue.

And that's it! I'm not allowed to lift anything over ten pounds for 4-6 weeks, and I'm encouraged to stay hydrated, but there is no special diet, no more meds. I go back in mid January for follow-ups, and expect to return to work the next day.

Ana Maria asked if I would do it again, and I absolutely would! The weekend was miserable, and my family had to help out a lot more than I had planned, but what is that compared to someone being on dialysis the rest of their life - or worse? If you have any thoughts of being a living donor and have questions, please feel free to ask!! And a huge, huge thank-you to Mike, Mom, Mykela, the kids, and all the friends who have helped out!

1 comment:

  1. Ami, your kidney may not look like a classic cartoon version but it is the most beautiful thing I have seen posted all day. May it serve its new owner diligently and faithfully! You are incredible.