Sorry it took me so long to follow-up from my last post. A lot has happened since then. I will jump right in and start where I left off.
The surgeries were scheduled for October 9, 2013. The Kidney foundation helps you with cost of flights and other expenses related to the travelling for this type of surgery, however they pay you after your surgery and you submit receipts. We decided to do some fundraising to help offset the cost of this journey. We held a couple of bottle drives, one where I lived and one where my sister lived. My garage was full to the rafters with bags of bottles and smelled like a brewery. I was a huge success though, we raised hundreds of dollars on both ends. My whole family came down to my place and we all had a bottle sorting party. I made a big pot of dinner and everyone rolled up their sleeves and pitched in. It was so great. People were so amazing! Neighbours came by and were asking us what we were doing then coming back with bags of bottles, people I hardly knew were handing me cash, my coworkers all pitched in and gave me a donation as well as a gift card to Winners to buy myself some new jammies and house coat for my recovery period; amazing, thoughtful people. Even the bottle Depot who came to my house with a big truck to pick up all of the bottles increased our total buy $150.00. Everywhere I turned, I was face to face with beautiful, kind people who loved our story and just wanted to help and be a part of it in some way.
My boyfriend Mike and I, flew into Ottawa a few days early so we could get some sight-seeing in before the surgery. I have never been past the province of Alberta in this magnificent country, so i wanted to make sure I saw more than just the inside of the hospital room.
Ottawa is a beautiful city. It is so clean and friendly. We felt so safe, even at night when we were walking. We took some amazing pictures and even crossed the bridge over the Rideau River, into Quebec. (Now I can say I have been to four provinces) The day before the surgery we spent a lovely, peaceful day hiking around Gatineau Park. I am so happy we took in some sites and got to see a bit of this lovely country.
I had developed quite a head cold and I was so nervous that they were going to cancel the surgery. Every time I went for a check up, the first thing they asked me was, “Have you had a cold or flu in the last 48 hours?” So, I created this elaborate lie, to tell the doctors if they asked me again. I was going to say it was allergies from walking around Pink Lake, in Gatineau Park. All the autumn leaves that had fallen and had started to mulch, had really worked a number on me. Well, what is the saying about best laid plans? The pre-op nurse took one look at me and said,” How long have you been sick and what are your symptoms?” I tried to implement my plan, but she saw right through me. It turned out alright though, she said as long as I didn’t have a fever, we could still go through with the surgery. Phew! I would have been so upset if they cancelled because of a stupid head cold.
Mike asked me just before they took me away to surgery, what I was feeling. I had no doubts or second thoughts. I was ready to do this thing; excited and a little scared at the same time. My fear was about the surgery itself. There is always a risk of death when you are under anesthetic and that was my only fear, not the pain or giving of the kidney.
The surgery was a success! I woke up in my room, with Mike standing beside me and a big smile on his face. I was very groggy and drugged, but happy to see him and to hear everything went so well. As I came to, a little bit more, Mike leaned in, kissed me and informed me that my sister’s surgery went equally as well. Her new kidney was loving its new body; it already started producing urine. That was the best news! Tears just started to roll down my cheeks. I couldn’t hold them back, even though crying really hurt my stomach. He just leaned in and held me as we cried together. It was a really, amazing moment and the best feeling.
My stay in the hospital was a little rough. I had a reaction to the morphine and could not hold anything down. I didn’t eat for several days. Even the Tylenol they were giving me, was coming back up. They decided to put a tube down my throat that would suck out the bile from my stomach, to stop me from vomiting. All I can say is, I am so grateful for my boyfriend Mike, for staying with me during that. It was really late, he had been with me all day and he was tired and ready to go back to the motel. I said, ” Go on Babe, go back. I will be o.k.” He said no, he would wait. It was awful. I was so glad he stayed, somehow he knew, but I had no idea what that was going to be like. It was awful! Again he held me as I cried. So much crying.( ha ha ha) After having the tube in for 24 hours I nagged and nagged the poor nurse to take it out. They decided to remove it and start giving me Tylenol via needle, instead of orally. They also changed the type of Morphine I was taking; it was so much better. I was dismissed the next day.
I had to stay in Ottawa for five days, post surgery, in case something went wrong with my suture, I would be close to the hospital. Mike did such an amazing job of looking after me. He was so tender and loving. He even made the chambermaid come back into our room to re-clean the tub, because it felt slippery and I was needing to have a shower. He was worried I would slip. He rented a wheelchair and he wheeled me all over. We managed to go and see some of the Museums that we didn’t get to see before the surgery. What a good man. A beautiful surprise came out of all of this that I had not expected. Mike and I connected on such a deeper level and I would not have wanted anyone else there with me, other than him. I can not tell you enough, how grateful I am for his unconditional love and affection, then and now.
The recovery process was a bit tough. The physical pain was manageable, but the fatigue is what really kicked my butt. Don’t get me wrong, there was pain obviously, but if I stayed on schedule with my medication it was manageable. I had no idea how tired I would be and it seemed to last for so such a long time. My visible scars were healing but internally, my body was still sorting itself out and getting use to having one kidney. That is a lot more to deal with than having a scar. I called the nurse at St. Paul’s on numerous occasions to make sure this was “normal.” It was.
My sister Julie came down and helped look after me, while Mike went back to work. She too, was awesome and looked after me so well. On October 22nd, her and I went over to Vancouver to see Angie, for the first time since our surgeries. It was a very emotional reunion. We compared scars and stories, shed some tears and had some laughs. Ang had to stay in Vancouver, close to St. Paul’s Hospital for a couple of months after surgery, because of the risk of her body rejecting the newly transplanted kidney. If she started to reject it, she needed to be able to get there immediately. SoAngie and I at St. Paul’s Hospital. Our first, it was good that we went to visit her, as I think she was starting to get homesick and needed a break from the monotony of doctor appointments,taking medicine and being a patient for a change.
Here we are, almost a year and a half later. Our scars have healed, we have recovered nicely. Everyone asks me, ” How do you feel? Are you all recovered?” I feel great! I don’t feel any different. There is nothing inside of me that feels empty or missing, except for the scar, that is healing quickly, you would never know I had donated a kidney.
Ang is doing great also, she is responding really well to her daily routine of taking anti rejection drugs and doctor’s say she is physically doing amazing. She now has the task of rebuilding her stamina and muscle that she lost when she was sick. It took three years to lose it, it is not going to happen over night. If anyone can do it , it is Angie. She is one of the strongest and most determined people I know.
The one lasting effect from all of this, I can say has truly changed me forever, is the outpouring of love, affection and support, that we both received from so many people, as we were going through this process. Hands down, this was the best experience of my life. I learned so much about myself and about the generosity of people. Everyday people, in our neighbourhoods, in our workplaces, and some who only crossed our paths for a brief time, are so good and willing to help. We hear so much negativity in the news and about the world, but time and time again, the individual people who touch our lives every day, keep proving to me, that the world is not a horrible place and people truly are amazing and help to make life so beautiful.