Saturday, June 11, 2011

how often do you get to change someone's life?

My brother went home today. In between our online rounds of words with friends (as usual, he's trouncing me), he kept me updated on last blood tests, discharge papers, how the dogs reacted when he walked through the door.

He's home.

I'm home.

Somehow nothing feels all that different. I'm swollen and bruised and tired. And battling gas that's taken on a personality of its own. But, I felt worse after I fell off my bike last fall.

And then I read my brother's latest post on facebook:

I can't believe this, but I am home. I have a few months of intense follow-up and I've got to avoid crowds during that time, but I'm home with a GREAT new kidney and a new lease on life.

There were endless enthusiastic comments below. I was touched by the support. Heartened by how loved he is and how thrilled people were to hear he's ok.

And then tears welled up and I started to sob.

This was because of me.

He's ok because of me.

I changed someone's life.

The months of angst and frustration have been wiped clean.

As a life-long cynic, nay sayer, non-believer, I am now standing in grateful. I'm basking in miracle. I'm a believer of possibility in spite of brick walls and dead ends.

I've been part of the impossible happening.

And Dave, I'll say it again, there's no place I would rather have been than sharing this kidney journey with you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

a (well-deserved) shout out for Sidney

6 months ago I couldn't have told you where my kidneys reside (around the back, under the ribs), how big they are (each is about the size of a fist, or what they do (cleanse waste from the blood, after which it's combined with water to form urine).  

Nor did I have any idea how brutal kidney disease and subsequent failure could be. How difficult dialysis is. How much life is compromised when these organs most of us pay almost no attention to, can't do their job anymore. How many things can go wrong deep inside that most of us never, ever have to think about.

My brother did. And as I joined him on this journey, so did I.

I just heard he's going home tomorrow. With Sidney chugging along, quietly and effectively doing his job. And so, I'm going to spend a moment giving my former kidney the shout out he deserves.

Unbeknownst to him, after invasive surgery, he was whisked out of the only body he's every known only to be thrown into a system that's been outrageously compromised for 45 plus years.

He made me proud. 

He started working right away. Not only that, he started doing great job. I'm going to get a bit technical here so bear with me. From the Mayo Clinic website:

Creatinine is a chemical waste product that's produced by your muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. Healthy kidneys filter creatinine and other waste products from your blood. The filtered waste products leave your body in your urine.
If your kidneys aren't functioning properly, an increased level of creatinine may accumulate in your blood. A serum creatinine test measures the level of creatinine and gives you an estimate of how well your kidneys filter waste (glomerular filtration rate). A creatinine urine test can measure creatinine in your urine.
Normal creatinine levels in a male are 0.6 to 1.2 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dl) in adult males. When my brother started dialysis he was over 6. 

After surgery he was down to 4. 

Then 2.7. 

Then 1.4. That's when it seemed everyone was getting excited.

Yesterday Sidney got it down to 1.3, within spitting distance of normal.

This morning? 1.2. Yup, 1.2. Normal. Healthy. 4 days post op and that little kidney made the impossible possible. 

I'm so proud. 

I'm so relieved. 

And I'm so grateful that despite the drama, the big move, and the new home, Sidney's settling comfortably in.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

living in a miracle

I'm back home. Except for the pain meds and the super swollen belly, and the period that's literally just arrived, it's almost like I never left. Mediating arguments about who has to walk the dogs, faciliting dinner, negotiating between siblings, putting things away . . . apparently surgery has no impact on any of the above. 

In a way it's a relief. My life is still my life and I'm easing back into it, which is exactly what I had hoped for. No huge drama. No major complications. Just an easy breezy transplant. 

What's amazing is that's basically what happened and the odds of it working out that way were little to none. Here's where the miracle part comes in. 

My kidney is now working in my brother's body. Total and complete miracle. Not only that, it's working really well. Dave's kidney function levels are almost level with mine after 3 days of this new organ pumping away. 


The team of people who pulled this off pulled off the impossible. I don't know if anyone deep down truly believed this would work. There were so many complications, so many detours and sidetracks and almost dead ends that existed well into the actual surgery. 

And yet, here we are on the other side. 

Total fucking miracle. 

Aside from the pain, which will continue to lessen, I will continue to heal until I'm fine. Another miracle. And my brother? His life changed. Dialysis is a thing of the past. His chest catheter is gone. He can eat bananas again. Miracles, on every level. 

The mundane mixed with absolute splendor just about sums it all up. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sidney has left the building

The past few days were both a blur and stretched on forever. One day I'll write it all out but at the moment, my brain's not that capable.

So, here's the quick recap:


There was room for the kidney, in fact it fit nicely. On top of that it's already working better than people thought it would.

Miracles do happen. My brother has a healthy kidney for the first time in his life. I think we've all been holding our collective breathes for months and now that we're on the other side we can appreciate show truly great this is. Or at least we will when we've both recovered.

Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. Anxiety. Panic. Pain. Incision pain. Gas pain. Nausea. Endless blood tests and temp checks and heparin shots and meds wearing off.

The day before? I remember almost nothing. I was so nervous getting ready for surgery. I remember hearing there was room to go forward, that the operation was a success. I remember seeing my brother being wheeled past me in recovery. He waved and his doctors told me he was saying thanks.

Today I'm feeling more like myself. Slowly, but it's happening. The best moment though, one that will be a highlight for the rest of my life, was hearing my brother's voice next door. I walked in and there he was. I quickly set up wires so we could get online and we just chatted. Like we always do. Nothing supendous interspersed with what a miracle this was.

It was. It is.

There aren't words of gratitude that could properly thank everyone involved. Our surgeons were some of the most caring, compassionate people I've met. The transplant team was supportive and understanding and dedicated. Just about every nurse, every technician, every person I've dealt with over the past few days has been kind and helpful. Of course there have been glitches but that's life.

That's life.

And sometimes life is so stupendous I'm left speechless. This is one of those times.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The kidney Will Come Out. Tomorrow.

First of all, forgive me. That blog title was too perfect to pass up.

This morning I picked my brother up at 7:30, drove him to the hospital, went through admitting and hung out for a bit in his lovely private room with a stunning view. 

As we were walking through the front doors I mentioned that one thing I've been doing to keep things in perspective is to hold onto the fact that millions of people have successfully gone through surgery. Whether in dire circumstances or for superficial reasons, people survive this every day. 

Then my brother said, "Yeah, but how many people go through surgery to help someone else?"

Maybe that's why I'm so ok right now. 

As I drove home I felt content.  Excited. Happy. Almost giddy. How often in life can you feel like you're totally and completely doing what you're supposed to be doing? That you're in the right place? That your actions could make a profound and concrete difference to someone you love?

The nervousness is there. But today I'm going positive. I'm wearing more good luck tchotchkes than any one person should: a handmade Ganesh necklace, my silver kidney bean, 100 wishes on a black leather cord, the elephant bracelet on red string I've been wearing since the day I found out I was a match (my brother's wearing a matching one), a  humongous pink rhinestone ring, a swaha t-shirt that a dear friend gave me. 

I had total parking karma this morning, both at the hospital and back at home. 

It's a stunningly crisp, bright blue sky day. 

My body is aching from the hour 45 Led Zep yoga class I took last night that had me twisted and turning and laughing out loud (namaste MD). Add that to the 10 mile bike ride and yoga class on Friday and I'm comfortably numb. 

There's been endless support and enthusiasm from so many people. Those good wishes are helping keep me afloat. 

I'm heading to brunch with some of my favorite people. 

Then I'm turning Sidney's moving announcement into posters - my brother wants them for the hospital. 

Iz wants to watch 16 Candles with me later. Happy sigh. 

And tomorrow I get to change someone's life. 

Life is good. I am grateful. And I'm 100% ready to send this kidney off to its new home.