Part 29: One Year Later.

Today marks the one year mark since I donated a kidney to “stranger” Laurie Troxell so that my friend, Mike Atkinson, could receive a kidney. If I didn’t have the pain the first few days and weeks or the scars, I would think I was the same as the person next to me with two kidneys. It really has made no difference in my life – except for two ways:

  1. I can’t have Advil, aspirin or any of the like – only Tylenol which doesn’t do a thing for me. This has been hard when my body aches from crazy workouts at the gym or just from drinking too much the night before (and on that note, I feel I have a lower tolerance now too) or when I’ve been sick and want to take a specific cold medicine (read your labels).
  2. I think that saving a life – or really two lives since I gave a kidney to save a life in order to save another – is a pretty cool thing. I like to think I am pretty humble about it but it is a pretty amazing thing. Randomly Ill ask Greg if he thinks it’s weird that I only have one kidney – I certainly do!

The best part of this all is being able to share my story and the extended kidney family I will have forever. We are hoping to find the remaining members of our chain.  If I had more kidneys to give, I would do this over again ten times. The small amount of pain I had for about a month while healing is nothing like the pain of dying and being on dialysis and the chance to save a life.

And just to note one of the interesting things I learned in this whole process is even if your driver’s license says “Organ Donor”  the chances of donating your organs after an accident or a heart attack at home are very slim.  They say unless you die in the hospital hooked up to life support, your organs will be unusable by the time you get to a facility due to the lack of oxygen and blood to them.  So if you have the heart, will and craziness, become a living donor!

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Part 28: 4 weeks post surgery.

4 weeks post surgery.
I was supposed to go back to work yesterday, but ending up being today (1/26/16) as my paperwork was not completed.  Waking up wasn’t so hard, but the falling asleep “early” was hard.  My pain levels have definitely decreased as well as the random pains I was having…..but funny some pains started to creep back up as I was getting ready for work!

Hopefully I will be able to find out who my recipient is soon. I have already let Jamie my coordinator know that I am wanting to connect.  As today marks 4 weeks, and Friday will be a month, I am hoping she is doing well.

Also today, Mike goes back in for his outpatient, routine surgery.  They will remove the stent that is near his kidney, his dialysis catheter and also do a biopsy of the new kidney. He has been doing well but he did have a hiccup. He had to go back to the hospital to get a drain put in, on his birthday nonetheless, but it seems to be working to help the kidney have its room to continue settling in and not be compromised.  Stacy and Mike were able to make it out of the house and to the mountains for a change of scenery!

This is Mike’s health update from Jan. 16:
I’m not gonna lie…this week has been a challenge. Alotta pain. It started Sunday in the transplant site and got worse throughout the week. On Thursday the surgeon ordered an emergency ultrasound, which found significant fluid build-up near the new kidney.

An urgent procedure was scheduled to have a drain inserted to get that fluid out before it compromised the kidney by pushing it out of place. So yesterday afternoon they knocked me out and the interventional radiologist did the deed. The drain will stay in a few days until they feel it’s completed the process. This has already reduced the pain significantly., just learning to juggle the drain bag when I’m moving. Hopefully Monday they will have results from tests on the fluid.

Also, on Thursday I pulled the muscles in my right side. That has been excruciating pain. The doc says that’s common as they have to cut some muscles in the transplant surgery, which puts pressure on others muscles that aren’t used to being used for certain activities. It’s slowly healing and feels a little better today.

The good news is that the REALLY important stuff is all good – my new kidney function is solid, no signs of rejection, labs all look good. That’s what really matters, so I’m considering this a minor setback on the road to success!

I actually started to get whiney about having to do all this on my birthday, then my son Jeremy said, “How cool that they’re saving your kidney on your birthday!”

Perspective regained.

Here is the most recent updated from Mike directly, from Jan. 20:

Things have turned a corner. Here’s the rundown:

The drain put in last Friday worked well for a day, then I found myself in Urgent Care 3:00 Sunday morning due to severe pain. Bottom line: The drain is still working to get out the excess fluid and will continue to diminish until everything heals up in there and stops leaking fluid (mostly from the lymph system). Yesterday was the best day I’ve had in a while – MUCH less pain, easier to get around – and with no pain killers! Feel good this morning, too.

Surgeon says of all the problems, this is the best to have. It’s common, and the new kidney is still doing great. They’re not worried about it, which is of course the most important element of my recovery.

Yesterday was 3 weeks since transplant, and at 4 weeks I’ll have outpatient surgery to get the stent out, take out my dialysis catheter, and do the first biopsy of the kidney.

Thanks for all the nice notes and texts asking how things are going. We appreciate the support!

Part 27: 3 1/2 weeks post surgery.

3 1/2 weeks post surgery… January 23, 2016
This past week and a half (dating back to last Thursday) I have felt good and only sometimes a little bad. My midsection on the right has had some aches and pains: felt a pain for about 3 days near the middle laparoscopic incision where they out one stitch but still managed to make it to a holiday party, a wedding and out with friends 3 days in a row. During the next week, one day felt like I had a splinter in my abs and then for two days felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I chalk it up to healing and nothing half a norco can’t help! 

Saturday, January 23, I made it back to the gym…  Ok only kinda! I went to see some friends but also to do a very low impact modified workout one of my coaches gave me that I can do at home as well. It doesn’t look hard on paper but I was working hard and sweating. Part of it was marching in place which doesn’t sound hard, but if you do it right 50 reps can make ya work (takes me back to when I went to The Dailey Method)! I guess that’s what happens when you haven’t worked out for a month! 

And in case you were wondering, I picked off the glue from my incisions completely.  I did have some irritation with the lowest laparoscopic hole but that has seemed to go away.  The large incision is also doing well but has a piece of stitch coming out from one side.  Hoping the stitches heal inside and then that piece will just fall off!  I get some itching here and there on the large incision but all in all everything looks to be healing nicely.

I go back to work on Monday. Looking forward to having some responsibility again but it has been nice to have the time off. I do still have 16 days of leave to use in the next year if needed. 

Part 26: Home.

Home.
My mom and I flew home on Friday afternoon (Jan 8 Day #12 in SD, Day #11 post surgery).

Side Story: I was provided with a free ticket from Scirpps for Southwest to fly to/from on.  On Tuesday, Glenn, Mike’s donor, tried to fly home but was denied because his pass had expired – well mine did too on 12/31/15. I called SWA and the lady told me there was nothing they could do. I pulled out the kidney card and explained I had traveled on the first part before the expiration, when I booked my reservation they didnt even ask to check the date, etc.  Glenn and I turned to twitter for help and tweeted to @southwestair.  We got an immediate response and through direct message, the issue was solved and a new ticket/pass was issued.  Thanks to Tess and Sean for helping us get home!!

My mom and I had a good amount of luggage, all of which I could not lift, and made it difficult to get from the rental car shuttle to check in but we made it with only a few spills. Once we were home, my mom and aunt got me settled in, delicious food from my Aunt Nor put away, and then I was home, alone, with the animals as Greg was at work.

I got my self onto the couch, with Bentley snuggled up next to me, when all of a sudden there was a knock at the door. Bentley leaps up, using my stomach as a spring board, and on to the floor to bark and cry. I couldn’t figure out how to get up and yelled to the person at the door. It happened to be a floral delivery service who, thankfully, left the flowers on the porch.

It was awesome to receive such cheerful flowers while in the hospital from GoFundMe and Ensighten – my work.  Greg was awesome and got me some welcome home flowers, and FNS- my gym – sent me get well flowers too!

Flowers

I am now in my third day home and have been lounging and making sure to drink my 100 ounces of water. Saturday I went to a birthday party and a going away party – feeling like the human kidney encyclopedia. But I enjoy telling the story of how this all came about and how many lives it has helped save.

 

Part 25: Post-Op.

Post-Op.
Friday, January 8 was my post-op appointment. I only have to have 2 tubes of blood (not the usual 9) drawn and a urine sample. My labs were at 7:30 a.m. and then the appointment with my surgeon at 9:30 a.m. While waiting for the doctor, we got to chat with my coordinator Jamie. It was nice to catch up with her and tell her about my week and a half of recovery.

Then we met with Dr. Schaffer who said my labs were great and my incisions looked good. I asked him about this little indent on my belly but he said that should go away with time. We also asked what the holes were used for but he informed us that they were for all different things – the clamp thing in this one and then moved to this one, or the cutting thing in all holes, and the camera moving into different holes too! The only hole he said was a constant was the top one which was used to hold my liver up and out of the way as that is on your right side. If you donate a left kidney, you don’t have this hole!

Here are my 4 holes — main 4 inch incision is right below my pants. All are closed with glue that seems to be like rubber cement.

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We headed to Mike and Stacy’s for a final good bye this trip and to check to see how he is doing.  Mike is doing great!  He has had several doctors appointments but seems to be doing very good.  He has some incision pain, but that means that it is healing!!

 

Mike

Part 24: Recovery away from home.

Recovery away from home.
I spent a total of 12 days in San Diego – 1 pre-surgery, 3 days in the hospital, and another 8 in hotels. My mom was with me the entire time to help me when I couldn’t get in/out of bed, or dropped something, etc. It was so nice to have her help.

While in San Diego, awaiting my post-op appointment on Jan. 8, we walked a lot and ate a lot. We made it a point to walk everyday including to lunch or the store. I would say by Tuesday, one week post surgery, I was ready to be home, with my animals, my own bed and my fiancé. Don’t get me wrong, 12 days in San Diego seems delightful but difficult when you aren’t feeling your best, and when they weather is crappy (stormy week in San Diego).

We ate at amazing restaurants, for our one meal a day!  Hash House A GoGo, Cucina Urbana, The Prado in Balboa Park, Extraordinary Desserts and The Red Door which is owned by Mike’s neighbor who treated us.  The Red Door was our best meal in San Diego (Thanks Trish!)!!

TRD

On Monday, we also got to visit with my friend Kerrie and finally meet her husband and sweet baby Reese.  On Wednesday, we took a trip to Ladera Ranch to see my cousins – there were 8 adults and 10 kiddos! Great to catch up with people that I don’t see very often.

Going into the that second week, I made leaps and bounds in my recovery….showering daily, dressing myself, and even drying my hair! I would have pain here and there, but nothing that a few deep breaths or a Tylenol couldn’t help. I was getting myself into bed, with the help of a chair as I would use it as a ladder to help get my legs up and into bed. I was sleeping on both sides with the aid of a pillow – being a stomach sleeper though this has been hard but I have compromised with the sides.

 

The stuff you don’t really want to know.

The stuff you don’t really want to know.
Here are things I wanted to know before surgery, but couldn’t find much info on.

Clothing – Bottoms: I purchased a few maternity skirts and pajama pants that were loose with a drawstring and a little bit big. This definitely was nice during my post surgery time. Yes, you are filled with the gas for a while, but also the incisions will be swollen and sensitive. In addition, underwear that does not have seams were nice, and those on the bigger side were great. I wasn’t sure where my large incision would be so I brought multiple pair (probably 20 for 12 days) and some that usually are my favorite pairs were not a favorite during these post surgery weeks.

Clothing – Tops: I also brought a few camisoles with the shelf bra – being that I was donating my right kidney, I had an extra hole right under my boobs in which a bra wasn’t going to feel good. My camisoles saved me and my tatas!! For curious minds, I think I finally wore a bra, loosely, on day 6 or 7 post surgery.

Slip on Shoes: I brought a pair of flips and a pair of slip on/off shoes. You really can’t bend over much so unless you have someone to tie your shoes, I’d go for a slip on pair. Socks are a bit hard to put on as well – so have some one around who is willing to help you.

Catheter: This was one of the things I was most worried about pre-surgery and ended up being a non-issue as everyone said it would be. They put it in when you are asleep and when they pull it out 2 days later, you just breathe and it gets pulled out. The downside is that every night they have to clean it with these wipes, and clean you off too. It’s just a bit uncomfortable, like there is a tube in your bladder. So looking back, I was a bit hyped up about it before surgery; it was actually really nice to I could just lay in bed and “pee” and not have to get up. Once I was off the IV, I could tell if I was drinking enough as I tried to get at least 500 mls each time before they drained it. J

Bathroom: I wasn’t required to poop before being discharged, which was nice to not have that pressure (no pun intended!). Once I stopped talking the norco, a few hours later I pooped; and then was regular (while not taking anymore norco). BTW – make sure you can be comfortable using the bathroom with other people around. You may need help getting up/down while you’re pants are down. And if you go out in public or a hotel, take the handicap stall – those hand grips work wonders when your abs don’t.

Pain Meds: I was on a morphine pump straight out of surgery. The button allows you to receive meds every 10 minutes with the push of a button! That guy was my bff! Every 10 minutes it would light up letting me know I could have more. The down side was that I had to have an oxygen monitoring thing in my nose, and covered my mouth, as long as I had the PCA (push button). Morning of Day #2 I was taken off of morphine and was given norco. I took 2 just to keep the pain at bay and continued to take 1 every 6 hours (unless sleeping) until Day #6. From there I took Tylenol every 6 hours and then weaned off of that as well. As of Day #9, I did not had pain medicine at all. I will say keep the norco around because when you get home, things may be different. I ended up taking one norco on Friday night to help me get settled and sleep.

Water: After getting off the IV fluids (they will leave the IV in your arm until you are discharged incase they need it), I was told to drink at least 2.5 liters a day. I was sucking down water like there was no drought! Every day my goal has been to have at least 100 ounces of water (2.5 liters = 85 ounces; 3 liters = 101 ounces). I have surpassed it; even rounding down when out to eat.

Chair not bed: When you get to up walk, don’t go straight back to the bed. Sit in the chair in your room; it will help put you more upright and a different position then in the bed. Speaking of the bed, the one I had always was moving – inflating and deflating so not the most comfortable at all times and definitely something to get used to while sleeping.

Stool Softener/Laxative before surgery: Make sure to take these at the earliest time they tell you too. I waited to the latest time and was up late in the bathroom. They will provide stool softeners to you post surgery so that when you do poop, it won’t be so bad.

Ladies: They like for you to be off birth control for 30 days pre-donation. That worked out fine on my “schedule” but then would leave me to have my period the weekend after surgery according to my regular functions. With the trauma that surgery causes to your body, I got it a few days early. My sister, the ER nurse, said this is very common for women who go through traumatic experiences. She said when women come in to the ER, sometimes it triggers them to have their period. Pretty sure my surgery is what caused the early arrival.

My Sister.

My Sister.
My sister, Megan, is a nurse in the ER in Chico and happens to be 10 years older than me. She also happens to be the best sister in the whole world.

With her hectic schedule I wasn’t sure if she would be able or wiling to come to San Diego during any part of my recovery. We were able to make it work so that she would be there while I was in the hospital – probably the biggest and most important days to have her by my side – and the most fun for her!

She was on point and working the whole 48 hours she was there. Always making sure the nurses were doing what they needed to be doing for me, suggesting other medications when appropriate and just being my loving, caring sister. I would “warn” each nurse with “This is my sister, she is a nurse and may ask you a lot of questions.” Even “threatening” the tech who did my IV that y sister would be there later and inspect his work! Some loved having her there, others maybe not but those weren’t the nice nurses anyways.

My sister got me up and moving before the nurses tried. I needed her to be there, to push me, to make sure I was doing what I needed to do to heal. She was so gentle, even giving me a foot massage on Tuesday when I was feeling just ok. She provided some humor when she pulled out some bells from the lobby Christmas tree saying I could use them when I needed help! She donned a gown when she spent the night with me wanting to have a SP (slumber party) and thought it was like a time when were we were at camp (although we never went to camp together – not sure who was on the norco at that point!).

She asked for the incentive spirometer – the breathing apparatus to help you take deep breaths and set a goal of 2500. I was only getting to about 1000, close to 1500 on a good breath. On day 2, I passed it around the room – my mom and sister only getting up to about 1500, but Greg got to 5000! HIGH SCORE! He did it with his nose and got 2500!! I was happy with my 1500. She also asked for a hat – the one you pee in – so that I could make sure I was drinking and peeing enough. I used it a few times, surpassing the goal of 300! (Didn’t pass this one around!) But it was these little things that were the kind gestures that I would have never even thought of to ask the nurses for – or that they would have even thought to give me.

I had my mom and Greg there too, but having my sister was the best. Someone who knows you and knows the medical field is the best thing you can have your 2 days post surgery. I am so grateful for her skills and love, especially during this time.

She went home Thursday, only to return to work on Friday, and a patient that had a recent kidney transplant was in the ER (not kidney related). She got the chance to check on him and chat with him about me and about his transplant. Such a neat experience that not only effects me, but those in my life.

Meg – I love you and I am forever grateful that a sister is a friend forever.

Part 23: Lots of W’s – walking and water.

Lots of W’s – walking and water.
I have been doing a lot of walking and drinking a lot of water. The doctor ordered at least 2 liters of water per day – rounding up that’s about 85 ounces of water. He said that the thing he sees most common at post-ops is that the kidney is dehydrated. So my goal is at least 100 ounces a day and not to be in that statistic!

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Friday night we walked along the coat at La Jolla Cove and saw the sea loins (and I had to prove that they were sea lions as it was dark and hard to see but my mom and Greg didn’t believe me). We walked in the Gaslamp and had some appetizers at Rustic Root – cute new place down town. Then it was time for bed as I hit the wall on my last bite of food. I even got dressed and put on make up – definitely feeling better!

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Saturday we dropped Greg off at the airport and went to Coronado. My mom and I parked and walked to breakfast and then around Hotel Del. I think I had 80 ounces of water by 1 p.m. We headed to our new hotel, thanks to Bev & Walter for their time share, and rested up. The week ahead is full of more walking and more water. We are really close to Balboa Park and hope it isn’t too rainy this week to enjoy it. We will check in with Mike and Stacy before we leave this week, as well as take a mini road trip to see my cousins in Orange County. Hoping to also squeeze in a visit with some old friends in the area. That’s it for the surgery/post-surgery update!

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Part 22: Part 3 of Post Surgery.

Part 3 of Post Surgery.
NIGHT #2: Night 2 was much better. My night nurse Jeannette was very nice and also informed my sister with everything. My sister said she was very thorough in her evaluation of me at shift change and throughout the night. My sister stayed with me on night 2 but it was very uneventful.

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DAY #3: I was up at about 6 a.m. to take out my catheter – a lot easier than I expected!! Later I changed into a pair of my own pjs, and just waited and walked around while I waited for the doctor to come see me and discharge me. I took a visit to Mike, who was down to only one bag of fluids and doing well. He had a rough night but was in good spirits. You would have never known this guy had a transplant just 2 days ago. He was already producing more urine that in the last 2 years! I think this kidney thing was good for him!

I was told I had to pee by 12:05 p.m. and like a champ, I had peed twice before 11 a.m.! My appetite was still not back; lunch was delivered and it looked terrible – turkey with a gelatinous gravy, yellow mashed potatoes and a stuffing. I took a little piece of stuffing, which tasted like Stove Top, and devoured it – I guess my appetite was back!

The doctor came in and had the picture of my kidney I had requested. It didn’t really look like a kidney but that was because they removed some fatty tissue with it to send to Colorado and let the recipient team clean it up and keep what they wanted. We were finally discharged and headed to the hotel.

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We got settled and hung out for a bit and then my sister left. This was New Year’s Eve and my mom, Greg and I wanted a fancy, take out dinner so we looked to Door Dash. We placed our order for Roy’s but 40 minutes later got a notice that our order was cancelled because they only had one of five items we ordered. So we ordered again from another restaurant and when the driver got there they didn’t have our order and were not doing Door Dash orders. So we now were charged on my card twice with no food at 7 p.m. We finally ordered from Fish Market and Greg picked it up! It was a delightful meal to have to end the year!

P.S. I contacted Door Dash and they cancelled the charges on my card – thank god – and gave me some credits after I pulled the “I just donated a kidney and this is adding unneeded stress to my recovery!”

We celebrated NYE at 11:15 p.m. with a sip of champagne and a Norco for me! I had brought along champagne flutes and Happy 2016 napkins to celebrate – of course I would! hehe

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