The Adventures of Kidney Boy

A Journal About Living With End Stage Renal Disease. Dialysis. Transplants. Love. Family. Friends. The Unsung Donor. This is my life, from the end of a needle to the bottom of a pill bottle.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My New Kidney - Part III

So, I was wheeled down to the O.R. at 3:30 in the morning.  I was already a bit groggy at this point, which totally affects my memory - so bear with me if the events here as I recall them are fuzzy.  I'll probably have my wife chime in here from time to time to fill in the gaps.  I mean, after all they sedated me and then put me under!

So, there we were - Jordan and I, sitting in the waiting room of the O.R.  Well, she was sitting.  I was sprawled out like a happy dog on my bed.  They'd given me a shot of some kind of happy juice, so I was just content to listen to the elevator music that was coming from somewhere unknown.  Jordan sat there, holding my hand and stroking my hair.  It was very peaceful. 

I heard some random grumblings coming from some of the people at the desk; they were there to assist in the surgery in various ways, and it sounded like they were complaining about something.   About what, I didn't know - I didn't know why they weren't mellowing out to the groovy sounds of the Muzak version of "Band on The Run" that was coming from down the hall.

Suddenly, as if I heard the hoofbeats of a marching army, my surgeon showed up.  This lady is a tough, no-nonsense, take no prisoners, lets get the job done and get it done right kinda lady.  Basically, she's awesome.  She comes into the room, and I can smell the palpable anger.

"I've been calling down here every 15 minutes for the last hour!" she screamed at them.

The team was grumbling that they were waiting for her.... and she chewed them out, hard.  After this minor screaming match.  She marched over to me and Jordan, huffing and puffing from chewing the others out, and shouted at us....  "You're IMPORTANT!!!" and she marched off into the distance.  Even though I was stoned to the gills, I was even a little shocked.  But Band on The Run soon overtook me again.

With the situation resolved, my surgeon went down to the operating room to prepare.  I laid there - holding Jordan's hand.  We sat quietly, merely looking into each others eyes.  This was it.  The moment we'd been waiting for.  All of our hardship, all the work and sacrifice of the past four years - in a moment, everything would change.  We needed no words.  After all we had been through together - that magic moment had arrived.  I've only ever felt the pulling gravity of love and anticipation so hard twice in my life - once was when I stood at the altar, looking down the aisle to see my bride coming to meet me - and the other was when she held my hand, looked into my eyes, and made the silent promise to be with me as we ventured down this hallway.  

Soon, the orderly came to take me down to the OR.  I'd been down this path before.  I remembered being marched down the same hallway seven years ago, to recieve a kidney from my father.  I remember the longing, the anticipation.... and here I was again.  Being wheeled slowly down that long, sterile white hallway, to the double doors of the OR.  Laying on my back, watching the ceiling tiles fade out into that world behind me - feeling the rush of briskly cold air as I entered the OR.

The Doctor asked me, "Hey.... do you mind if we listen to Lady Gaga during the surgery."

I tried to think of something witty - if you know me, you know that to put it mildly, I am not a fan of the Gaga's music.  But, I was too all I spit out was.... "Hey.... it's okay, it's just a Bad Romance...rah-rah-oh-la-la...."

I was placed next to the tiny operating table, and I slid myself over on it.  Those things are small. I am not a small boy, so I felt a bit weird.  I looked up and saw a big bright light..... and the anesthesiologist said, "We're going to put a central line in you, to administer the drugs...."  I said, "Will it hurt?"  he said, "Hahah, you won't feel a thing...." and he placed a mask over my mouth and nose.  I breathed in, and within minutes I saw black.

A few minutes later, I woke up real groggy.

"Great," I thought.  "Of course the medicine would wear off before they even start...."

"Man," I said aloud. "Have we even started yet??"

A nurse said to me, "Honey.... we've been done for a while...."

And suddenly, I realized I was a little sore and stiff, and my belly definitely felt funny.  Jordan was there.  She was beaming.

"Baby..... you've been making urine like crazy...." she said, and held up a bag.  It was almost full of urine.

I was stunned... it really happened.  It really happened.  I wish I didn't feel like I was BADLY hungover!

Jordan looked so happy - she took a video of me.... and we posted updates to Facebook, to keep everyone informed of what was going on. 

And thus began my road to recovery.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

My New Kidney - Part II

.... So, on a normal Friday, I hung up the phone, having just been informed that I might be candidate for a kidney that had come in.   I was a bit stunned, but I called my wife, Jordan - she was at work, getting her morning report and getting ready to begin her shift.

"Honey, hey."

"Hey, honey, what is it?"

"Yeah, the transplant clinic called.  They might have a kidney for me."

"What?  Are you messing with me?"

"No, this is for real.  I'm heading up to the hospital now."

"Okay....ummm... come get me?"

"Sure, I'll drive by on the way."

We said our goodbyes, both dumbstruck, and I headed up to the hospital.  She worked at the VA hospital around the corner from Upstate, so I swung by - she was already outside.

"I just dropped the phone and said.... I gotta go.... Steve has a kidney....and the whole floor went nuts.....they told me to get going...."

We hugged, and headed to the parking garage.  We parked, and slowly walked into the building - we checked in and headed upstairs, to the Transplant Clinic.  Eventually, they put me in a room - and my nurse practitioner came in, and explained that they wanted to get some blood from me to do another cross match to ensure I was a match, and she also said that the head of the department and the staff of surgeons would be in to talk to me.

It was also explained to me that the kidney had come from a "High Risk" donor.  Apparently, it was from a young man who had died from an overdose of heroin.  Intravenous Drug use is a high risk behavior - so they were performing what is called an NAT test on the kidney - this ensures that the organ is viable, and doesn't contain any diseases such as Hepatitis C or HIV.  His blood was tested, and no sign of those diseases were present, but they could lay dormant in the organ.  The NAT test shortens the half-life, basically, so that it can be determined that the organ is safe.

The head of the department came in and explained all of this - I'm relaying this to you as best as I can remember, so the specific details may not be entirely correct, but this is as I understand it.  The risk is low, but they have to inform me of it.  She then said, on a personal note, that if she were in my position, she would take it.  The match was perfect, she said.  A lotto winner.

Jordan and I had discussed this possibility at length when I was on dialysis.  I looked at her, and she at me - we already knew what our answer would be.

"We've talked and thought about this very situation, and we both agree that we want to proceed," I told the Doctor.

She smiled and said "Okay.  Let's wait on the results of the NAT test, and we'll get back to you."

We did a few more tests to see how ready I was, physically, for the transplant.  They were satisfied - so we asked the Nurse Practitioner if we could go home to collect some things, and maybe do dialysis one last time to get me really clean and ready for surgery.  She agreed that it was a good idea - the results for the NAT test wouldn't be in till 11 or 12.... so we got into our truck, and headed home.

We were in a daze..... a kidney was in our reach!  This could be our miracle - we desperately needed it.  My health was slipping daily - I didn't know how much I could hold on.  The weight of being my caregiver had wracked Jordan as well.  We were both hanging on by a thread - but we had each other.

So, as we waited for the NAT results, I, in all my wisdom, decided to get the oil changed in the truck.

It needed it, and I was going to do it that day anyway.  So, there we were.  On Pins and Needles.  Get the oil changed and the brake light fixed in the car at Valvoline Instant Oil change.  We were waiting with baited breath, when my phone rang again.

"Mr. Alexander?  The NAT came back negative for all diseases.  We'd like to formally offer you the kidney."

My heart.... I literally felt it jump.  The tears welled in my eyes.  I told Jordan.  We held back shouting.... but the tears and hugs flowed freely in that little oil change garage.  We told the attendants we were leaving there to go get a kidney transplant.  The crew cheered for us - and we pulled out the garage.

We went home, did our last session of dialysis.  Jordan put the needles into my fistula, just like she'd done everyday for the past two years.  I'd spent a total of four and half years on dialysis this time.

It was the last time we did dialysis at home.

Later, that afternoon, I checked into the hospital.

I was wheeled into the OR that morning at 3:30 AM.

I awoke, several hours later - groggy, and I was greeted with a bag of urine that was attached to me.

I was never happier to see a bag of pee........