Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2 Months and still going...

It's been two months for us all, and I'm just wondering how everyone is doing. So, if anyone is still reading this blog, chime in and tell us how you are doing.

I'm doing fine. The wounds healed up just fine, I got most of my stamina back, and I feel great! Just in time for my favorite time of year, Autumn!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Finally, an update...

Fortunately, the last week has been pretty uneventful. I'm still suffering from a bit of intermittent fatigue, but for the most part I feel fine. I mowed the grass the other day and tweaked a muscle in my abdomen, so I'll take it easy next time...

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to post some pictures from the first day I met Barbara. It was at a press conference at the hospital covered by the Daily News...

Here we all are, freshly scrubbed and ready for our closeup. From left to right, Dr. Ratner, Mr. Handsomepants, Barbara, Doug, Alina, Michael, Andrew, Laura, Lucky Luther, Hospital Dude Who's Name Escapes Me, and Dr. Cohen. A fine looking bunch...

Me and Barbara moments after we first met and hugged for about a minute.

A lot of people have labeled me a "hero". Modesty forces me to reject that label, and this picture reinforces that rejection. All I did was lie on a table, these people did the hard work. Congratulations to them for a job well done.

Barbara and Mr. McDreamy. There's a lot of love in that picture. I'm endlessly grateful to Barbara for taking care of my kidney for the next few decades, rent free...

And here is a shameless attempt to have my family on the interwebs. In the back row, left to right, Aunt Kathy, Mom, Amy, Christopher, Nicole, John. In the front, Barbara, Me, Robert. Awesome...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers...

Yesterday I was sitting around before dinner when the phone range. On the line was a lady who called to thank me for donating. She read about our story on the front page of the Poughkeepsie Journal and felt compelled to call. She is a survivor of a pancreas/kidney donation, so I could feel the added gratitude in her voice. Very sweet.

Later, on my way out to dinner, I stopped and picked up my mail. Hidden between piles of junk mail was a small thank you card, sent by another local woman after reading about us in the Daily News. It just doesn't get any better than this...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Program your tivos now!

The eight of us involved in the kidney swap will be on the CBS Morning Show around 8am. Be sure to watch!!

I'm working on it...

I'm preparing my post regarding yesterday's meeting, I'm just waiting for something. In the meantime, take a minute to read this nugget in the NY Daily News.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Today's the big day!!

Such anxiety. In a few short hours I'll be meeting my recipient. It's like Christmas and a blind date rolled into one...I'll post pictures of the whole thing later...

Feeling great by the way..

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Press conference Monday.

I don't have many details, but the hospital informed me that there will be a press conference on Monday, at noon. More exciting than the press conference is the fact that I will finally meet my recipient! It's very exciting and I am really looking forward to it. I have to get a haircut now since my Italian Afro ain't lookin' so hot...

Slept like a baby last night...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Over a week later, and all is well

This is starting to get boring. Yesterday I went food shopping, then to the farmers market. After that I went to the garden store. Getting in and out of the truck was painless, though required some diligence. With the exception of heavy lifting and hard physical labor, I feel completely capable at this point. I'm completely off pain killers. I'm still easily fatigued and look forward to my afternoon nap, but a nice long weekend of relaxation will take care of that....

Piece of cake.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

6 days later, and I am feeling fine...

This will be a very boring post. I feel fine. Very little pain. I'm tired though...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two steps forward, one step back...

I knew from previous surgeries that the recovery is never a linear experience. In a perfect world, we would get better in tiny little increments, with no regression. The reality is, sometimes we feel better, but sometimes things get worse. I say this not because things have taken a drastic turn downhill, but rather I am feeling more pain and fatigue today than I would have expected. The reason seems simple.

Yesterday, I felt so good that I reduced the amount of pain medication I was taking. That worked out fine while I was sitting at my desk working. It was less fine when I decided to take a shower and then cook dinner. Both activities, as non-strenuous as they are, really kicked my ass. I seemed to have aggravated my condition, so today I have a bit more pain. Oh well, just have to take more drugs!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't fight it...

As great as I feel today, I am still overcome with bouts of fatigue. At random times over the past couple of days, I've just gone off and taken a nap. It feels great and I think it's best if I don't fight the urge. I've earned a few midday naps, I figure...


It's the Monday after my Thursday kidney removal, and I feel great. I just got out of bed like nothing happened. Very little pain. I am a little light-headed this morning, but that's probably due to the fact that I am eating less than usual. Amy made some blueberry muffin tops last night, so I'll give a few of them a good home.

On a less glamorous point, I've been urinating as usual, with no pain or discomfort whatsoever. What else can I donate??

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day three...

Today was my third full day of recovery. I didn't really sleep much last night; it was very stormy and the thunder kept waking me just as I was drifting off. As a result, today was a slow day for me. After getting up around 8, I messed around until we went to the farmers market. It felt great to be outside, not only to be in the fresh air, but also for the normalcy of it. People still seem shocked at the idea that I just gave away a kidney a few days ago. After returning from the market, we had a nice lunch, and I rewarded myself with a delicious percocet. It really took the edge off, and I could feel my mood improve by the minute.

For the most part, I'm still moving around slowly. If I move my body the wrong way, I get some severe pain. Overall, I feel very capable, with only a few things that I wouldn't want to do. This donation becomes more of a no-brainer everyday.

You can leave soon...

After my first full day of recovery was over, I settled in with a couple of percocet and the Yankees game. Thanks to the drugs and our 1-0 victory over the Sox, I had a fairly good nights sleep. I awoke feeling great, looking forward to heading home. My surgeon, Dr. Ratner, stopped by a little after 10 am. After checking me out, he decided that I should be discharged, which was music to my ears. We could get home in time to hang out with Frankie and Sammy for a while, then head over to Basil's 2nd birthday party. Hours passed, and still the nurse didn't show up to discharge us.

As it turns out, we needed to wait for a different doctor to come see me. After he looked at my wounds and asked me how I felt, he said it would be about an hour for the discharge to get written up. That was at 1 pm. I won't go into the boring details, but we finally left at around 6 o'clock. I was annoyed, but I guess that's what happens on a Saturday.

All in all, I felt pretty good. The pain was less, except if I twisted my body. Once I learned the tricks to mitigate the pain, I was feeling fine. It's amazing that less than 48 hours after donating a kidney, I was walking around like almost nothing had happened. If this is the worst of it, I'm very happy with my decision to go through with it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

You're turning Violet, Violet!

If we were to look at the human body in a textbook, we would get the impression that our organs were all neatly spaced apart and brightly colored to help identify them. In real life, they tend to be all squished together, requiring a trained eye to pick them out. With laproscopic surgery, the team uses carbon dioxide gas to gently inflate the area they are working on, in order to have room to work. After they are done, they try to pump as much of the gas out as possible. Unfortunately for the patient, some of the gas naturally migrates to little nooks and crannies of our interiors. Once we are sewn up and made airtight, this gas can cause some serious discomfort before it exits through burping or ....well, don't make me say it.

One problem I experienced on Friday was great pain in my shoulder area anytime I sat down with my back against the chair. I was told that this was normal, and that walking would help remove the gas. So, we did laps around the hospital floor. Nothing seemed to help until the evening, when the gas started coming out. What a relief! My belly looked like I was pregnant, and I felt like I had just given birth....

The first night.

The first night after surgery is never a pleasant night's sleep. Besides being in pain, there are all sorts of disturbances. My IV was hooked up to a machine that sounded like a hard drive crashing, over and over and over. Concerned nurses appeared constantly to check me out and take my vitals. Even my bed conspired against me, constantly adjusting its firmness automatically, to keep bedsores to a minimum. If ever there is a time to regret donating a kidney to a stranger, this is it. Of course, I knew coming into this endeavor that there was going to be some pain involved. Having been through surgeries before, I knew the first 24 hours are the worst, and each day after would be a quantum leap in my recovery.

Though I didn't get much sleep that night, I definitely felt better the next morning. The general anesthesia had almost completely worn off, and I was able to get out of bed without too much difficulty. It wasn't all perfect though, as my new nemesis emerged...the gas.

15 minutes until...

One thing they monitor closely is your ability to urinate. With the catheter, this is not much of a problem. However, the surgery can put the bladder in a bit of a tizzy, and it's important to be sure it's working. After the removal of my catheter, the clock started ticking. I had a few hours to urinate on my own, or risk having another catheter put in, this time without the benefit of being under general anesthesia.

I was half sleeping when Amy returned to the room with horrible news. I had 15 minutes to pee, or the mean nurse lady (I kid, she was wonderful) would come fix me up. I quickly (as quickly as I could) ran to the bathroom and prayed into a plastic urine jug. A minute later I emerged victorious, my urinary trophy in hand. Say NO! to catheters.

I cannot tell a lie...

So one of the goals of this blog is to encourage people to donate their kidneys to strangers in need. Along with all the upside, there has been some pain. My surgery on Thursday went off without a hitch. I was wheeled into the operating room at around 9:20 am.

After pleasantries were exchanged among everyone, I was promptly put under. My kidney was lovingly removed, prepped, and implanted into my recipient. At around 2:30 pm, I started to wake up from my drug induced fog, in pain and with a dry mouth. I hate waking from anesthesia, because all I want to do is sleep, and all the nurse wants me to do is wake up.

She brought me some water as I fought to keep my eyes open. The pain was pretty severe, so the nurse administered some morphine to take the edge off. I need that recipe. With each shot the pain melted away like an ice cube on blacktop. Eventually I was fully awake and was wheeled up to my room. And what a room it was. As a treat, I was given a suite in the McKeen Pavillion, NY Presbyterian's award winning patient recovery area. We had views of the Hudson River, GW Bridge, and the entire island of Manhattan. My recovery was made much more enjoyable watching the ships pass outside my window, and seeing the New York Skyline at dusk. Fantastic!

I started to settle in for a long painful evening. Soon an attractive nurse came to remove my urinary catheter. It was my first time having one, let's hope its my last. Not a comfortable feeling, I can assure you. In one swift but startling motion, she extracted the tube. Relief! Ok this won't be so bad....

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wall Street Journal article

My friend Dan Akst is a freelance writer. He has published several books and has written for various newspapers and magazines. He has written a piece about the donation, and it will be running in Friday's Wall Street Journal. Look for it under the Taste column in the weekend section. Super cool!

Edited to add the link---->Click me!

24 short hours to go....

It's 7:15am on Wednesday morning. People have been calling and emailing in the past few days to offer their support and well wishes. It feels great and I am ready to go. Today I'll be packing a bag, finishing up any last minute chores, then heading down to NYC. the hospital had generously offered us a room in their luxury wing called McKean. It's much more convenient than staying in a hotel. I'll snap a few pics when we get there.

The most common question I've gotten is "Are you scared?" Surprisingly, I'm not scared or nervous at all. Maybe things will change today...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My last weekend for work.

When I saw the weather report for this weekend, I could not have been more disappointed. I don't like the heat, and this weekend is going to be scorching hot. I have a ton of work to do outside since it is the last weekend I will be able to do anything strenuous for a month. The lawn needs to be mowed (all of it, down to the street), the garden needs to be weeded and maintained, and a bunch of other small jobs will be accomplished. It's the first real tangible effect of Thursday's event. I guess this thing is real...

Friday, July 18, 2008

A bit of a scare, and an "all clear"

So the lovely (dare I say hot?) donor coordinator called me yesterday to inform me that the x-ray showed a spot on my lung. "You don't smoke, right?" she asked, mirroring my immediate and worst fear. No, I don't smoke, but I do have really bad luck. I would have to make a trip back down today for a more precise look at what what hidden inside. 250 miles, and 7 hours later, I get what I wanted to hear. "All clear"

That's a relief.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A week to go, and something on the Today Show.

I week from now, I will be (hopefully) recovering nicely after my surgery. Yesterday was my last battery of blood tests, as well as an EKG and a couple of x-rays. Now, all I need to do is stay healthy and alive for the next 7 days. I've noticed over the past 24 hours that my emotions are starting to well up as my brain more fully grasps what I'm actually doing. I keep picturing myself seeing my recipient for the first time, both of us knowing that we have each changed the other's life forever. It isn't often that we can have such a profound effect on another human being, and it's what drove me to do this. I tell people I am doing it for selfish reasons; it's that feeling when we first meet eyes that I crave.

This morning my mother called to tell me to put on the Today Show. Apparently they were doing a piece on a new advancement in kidney donation. Instead of cutting a few incisions through which the instruments and cameras are passed, as well as the incision for the kidney to be removed through, one incision is made in the belly button to accomplish everything. The end result is less pain and a shorter recovery. Hopefully, this will encourage even more people to donate.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Two weeks and counting...

It's less than two weeks from my donation and I am getting more excited by the day. To add to my excitement, my blood test results came back, and I am plenty healthy. My cholesterol has dropped considerably, and my triglycerides even more. My liver function test numbers, which have been chronically at the high end, are just fine. All those supplements, fish oil, and lack of ice cream are paying off.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lead me not into temptation.

As I've already mentioned, I've given up drinking for the month leading up to the donation. Hey, that kidney is a reflection of me, and I want it to shine. So, what sort of tricks do I employ to reduce the temptation of drinking?? That's right, you guessed it....eating dinner at a wine bar. Damn, I am stupid. Tuesday night means live jazz and tapas at Mercato, one of our favorite local restaurants. Along with small plates and big music goes a wide selection of Italian wine. All that grapey enticement, trying to seduce me with its mysterious ether. Blast!!!

To the person who will someday provide a home for my kidney, please understand what a sacrifice this is. I can live without my kidney, but not my wine!

You can't choose your family...

Like most people, I love my family and friends. I can't think of my life without the memories of holidays past, sitting around my grandmother's table, surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins. We all love each other dearly and only want what's best for everyone.

One big issue non-directed donors go through is how to deal with the objections of the people who love them. It's instinctive for family to want to protect us from what may be bad decisions. I'm finding that the closer I get to the donation date, the louder their cries become. "What happens if you get in an accident and your only kidney pops??" or "What happens if your child needs a kidney and you've already given it to a STRANGER?!" All the what-ifs and whys can easily be answered, but their concerns linger. Here are a few common questions and answers.

1) What happens if you get in an accident/ suffer from renal failure/ pass out in Mexico and have your kidney harvested by a band of black market organ thieves??
A) If I lose my remaining kidney for any reason, as a donor I am first on the list for a replacement kidney. Think of it as an insurance policy against future kidney loss, with the added bonus of helping someone live a healthier life.

2) What if your child or some other family member needs a kidney, and you've already donated yours to a stranger?
A) For me, this is a failed question. I would rather take a near 100% chance at helping someone today, than hoard my kidney in the slight chance a family member might need one tomorrow. While family is very important, we all have the right to live a fulfilling life, regardless of whether or not you are related to me. Hopefully, in the unfortunate event that someone in my family needs my kidney, someone else will look at my experience as a donor and step up. We can't live our lives wondering what may happen, while watching others suffer.

3) God gave us two kidneys for a reason.
A) OK, beside the fact that I don't believe in God, there are lots of things in our body we don't "need". Tonsils, adenoids, appendixes, hair on our heads. Our bodies are amazing in their ability to cope with physical deficiencies. Once my second kidney is out, the remaining kidney begins to swell in size. In 6-8 weeks, it will have grown up to 80% bigger, more than big enough to handle the burden of cleaning all the impurities from my blood.

4) Why are you doing this? What the hell is your problem??
A) The idea that I can help someone in such a profound way is very compelling to me. We chase the ridiculous goals, like wealth, beauty, and power, without realizing what is really important. Money, as I know all too well, is fleeting. Beauty fades. Power corrupts. There is no downside to helping someone live a healthy life.

If you have a family member who is donating a kidney, understand that the decision they have made has come after a lot of research and consultation. This isn't like dropping a dollar in the ASPCA tin at the deli. It is likely that a lot of time and effort has brought them to this point. From my point of view, a little more support and a little less nay saying would be just what the doctor ordered. ..

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What's that wagon doing here?

I have less then a month to go before the donation, and it's time to get really healthy. I've already been eating well and spending a little less time on the couch, but the next step is to quit drinking. While I'm at it, I figure I'll swear off crack and PCP too, just to be safe. There is a big birthday party this Saturday for an old friend. From that point on, no booze will be my friend. So, if you see me shaking uncontrollably, or if I am a little more punchy than usual, you'll know why.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Breaking News!

Well, I just received the news I have been waiting for. My kidney donation is officially scheduled for July 24th. While the details are still not completely known to me, I do know that it is a three-pair match, meaning that there will be three simultaneous donations occurring. All of the transplants are pre-emptive, meaning the recipients have not yet begun the torture of dialysis. Also, the transplant coordinator tells me that there are some young people involved. With youth on their side, the prognosis looks good.

Hopefully I will begin to pick up the pace of my posts (as if anyone actually reads this blog). As I learn new details, or go through a range of emotions, I'll do my best to articulate what it is like as a pre-op donor. I hope people gain some insight into the experience.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

And time stands still...

Though I am not a fan of his work, Salvadore Dali painted surreal pictures of clocks melting in time. That is how I feel now, as the calender turns to May and I am still without a recipient for my over-achieving kidney. This blog is really boring with posts every three months. I apologize for the lack of content, but I am extremely frustrated with this whole process. Patience is a virtue, but this is getting quite difficult. I'll call the coordinator again tomorrow to see what the story is...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Time is not quite of the essence...

So, it's been over a month since my last post. While I am a lazy person, don't attribute this lack of posting to my laziness. The truth of the matter is that nothing has happened in over a month. I was approved to donate by the transplant team in December, but we still have not found a recipient. The hospital is trying to maximize my donation by setting up several simultaneous "paired" donations. While this adds complexity to the process, in my opinion it shouldn't take over a month. A conversation with the transplant coordinator, while pleasant, implied that the wait will continue.

I'm in no rush to just hand my kidney over to the next person I meet. I am more than happy to wait for the hospital to help as many people as I can. However, I can't help but feel like time is being wasted. In addition, the wait fosters a slight bit of anxiety in my brain, like knowing that something big is going to happen in a perpetual tomorrow. Patience may be a virtue, but the delay is wearing on me...