Monday, March 23, 2015

Kidney-shaped Footprints

I thought for SURE this blog wouldn't be around anymore. I guess there's no real time limit in cyberspace. No one to nag me and tell me that I need to write more often. It's a shame, really. Then again, I really don't like being told what to do. I've thought about this blog a lot. A lot a lot, not just a little a lot. You know what they say about the road and good intentions...

One of the big dates of importance over the past two years is March 28, 2013--kidney transplant! A very cool story accompanies the transplant experience, and is yet another witness to me that Heavenly Father really is the one in charge.

Sometime late 2012, my sister Lindsey was approved to donate a kidney to me. She had lost a lot of weight in order to be eligible to do so, and was feeling great. Her kidney wasn't SUPER ideal, but it was going to work. The only issue was with one of the transplant nephrologists. She thought that Lindsey only lost the weight to give me a kidney and that she would put it all back on again afterwards. That is a concern because overweight people tend to have higher blood pressure, which in turn damages the kidneys. We had to wait a few months so she could prove she was still losing. We finally had a date set for the beginning of April.

March 27 rolled around and I got a phone call at around 7 am. It was my nurse coordinator telling me that they have found a kidney for me that is a perfect match. I was puzzled, and questioned why this kidney, as my sister was ready to fly here in a few days to donate. The nurse put the transplant surgeon on the phone, and he explained to me that this is THE kidney we've all been waiting for. The right type, good arteries, etc. By the time I got off the phone, I was shaking...I couldn't believe it.  I was worried that Lindsey would be sad, and I think she was a little, but it was also a relief. It would have been a challenge for her to go home and be a mom to four little ones after the procedure.

Over the next several hours, I was able to find out that the kidney was coming from a woman in her early fifties, who lived in Pennsylvania. I didn't know how she died, or if she had been on life support or any other circumstances. One of my "good intention" things I need to do is to find out how I can contact her family. I've thought about this a lot over the past couple of years. How do you thank someone for saving your life?

We stayed in Phoenix on the 27th so we'd be close when it was time. They wanted my blood completely clean before the transplant, so I had one last dialysis treatment before the surgery. During the treatment, I couldn't help but smile, as I realized that this was my LAST treatment. I ended up waiting a while after the treatment, but finally went into surgery around 10 pm on the 28th. The surgery went well, I am so grateful for the incredible doctors they have at Mayo. We all knew going in that I was a high-risk situation, but Dr. Reddy (the surgeon) was my biggest cheerleader. I woke up from the surgery so happy and grateful. I remember smiling so big and just saying over and over again how happy and grateful I was. (Of course, it could have also been the pain meds...) :)

I was in the hospital for four days following surgery. Everyone was so happy with my kidney function. Sometimes you even have to have a few dialysis treatments after transplant to jump start the kidney, but mine worked like a charm from day one. It was funny to hear everyone get excited about how much urine I was putting out. I was a little anemic, so I had a blood transfusion before I went home, but other than that, things were shaping up well.

I went home with what seemed like a million prescription bottles. This would become my new routine...a set of pills at 8 am, another set at 8 pm. There were some meds I would be able to get rid of after a few weeks, but I've been on five or six pretty regularly since. Every time I get labs drawn, they check my counts to see if they need to adjust my medication. This was done frequently in the beginning, but now I only have it done every six weeks or so.

About a week after transplant, I attended a class for newbies on the "care and feeding of your new kidney." Basically, we learned that we're now highly susceptible to infections and sicknesses of every kind, we have to be very careful where we eat and if they've used proper food handling procedures, and we MUST take our pills. I have to say that I haven't really noticed that I've been more susceptible--in fact, just the opposite. When my husband and kids were sick with a bad cold this winter, it never affected me. I'm also not a super touchy-feely kind of person, so I'm sure that helps.
They said to avoid buffets, which isn't a problem for me as they gross me out. Who knows how many people have sneezed/coughed/drooled on or touched your food before you serve yourself. Ewww...
One of the guys in the class was super bugged that he couldn't eat brie anymore--something about soft cheese or bacteria...whatever...get over it! You've got a new kidney for crying out loud!!

So the kidney has been working well for me. I've had some other health issues I'll get to in another post, and these issues have affected my kidney function a bit, but it's always reversible. Ultrasounds and a biopsy all show that it's happy as a clam sitting there in my right hip pocket.

When I received the kidney, it had been VERY long 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days since my first dialysis treatment.  While I was in the thick of things, it seemed like I was in hell, and there were some days I was sure I was. I wondered if my Heavenly Father had forgotten me, I wondered if I'd be on dialysis forever, and I wondered why this was happening to me. Looking back, I still wouldn't wish that time on my worse enemy, but I am so grateful for what I have learned and experienced. I have never been closer to my husband, my children, my brothers and sisters, and especially my Savior. I've always thought the "Footprints" poem was kind of cheesy, but I do know that there were times when He carried me.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
             Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
                  In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
                       Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
                           other times there were one set of footprints.

                                  This bothered me because I noticed
                                that during the low periods of my life,
                             when I was suffering from
                         anguish, sorrow or defeat,
                     I could see only one set of footprints.

          So I said to the Lord,
      "You promised me Lord,
         that if I followed you,
             you would walk with me always.
                   But I have noticed that during
                          the most trying periods of my life
                                 there have only been one
                                       set of footprints in the sand.
                                           Why, when I needed you most,
                                          you have not been there for me?"

                                 The Lord replied,
                          "The times when you have
                  seen only one set of footprints,
          is when I carried you."
                                                   Mary Stevenson