Saturday, August 18, 2007

Donating a Kidney: Part II

Two days ago my kidney was removed. Two hours after it was removed it began to filter blood and produce urine for a fifty-year old man who I have never met. We live in strange times.

My first post stated that my surgery was for Friday, but unexpected cadaveric donations came up and pushed my operations to Tuesday. Of course, one should be happy that more transplants took place and at the same time, cadaveric donations also inevitably signal death. A mixed of macabre and miracle; something thoroughly Christian in it all, too.

Of course the change in the surgery wasn’t a problem for me, because I had already taken two weeks off from work for recovery, but it meant my girlfriend Amanda would not be able to stay with me during my overnight stay at the hospital after the surgery. If I rescheduled I wouldn’t have time to heal before school started so the date was set for Tuesday, August 7, 2007.

The day before the surgery Amanda and I had a quiet day reading and cooking. I felt little stress, and was looking forward to my operation. In the evening I stopped eating solids and at midnight I stopped drinking liquids. It stormed most of the night, and though ominous I felt at peace with my decision. I awoke at 3:30 in the morning not being able to sleep any longer. At 4:30 we took showers, dried and dressed. We left at 5:15 and arrived at the Surgery Reception Desk at 6:00.

After signing a few medical forms I was escorted, with Amanda, to a pre-op room. There I was asked to exchange my clothes and bracelet (that I never take off) for a flimsy gown that made me feel pasty, weak, and emaciated. While I changed Amanda, who is a nurse, looked innocently at my medical records, and accidentally found that the recipient’s name, age, and gender. Later, she would tell me that she saw his family in the waiting room, being told that the retransplantation would begin.

Back in the pre-op room there was thirty minutes of doctors, nurses and attendants who kept asking the same ten or twenty questions; What is your name? Any medical allergies (yes, Keflex), Who are you donating you kidney to? Every time I answered the question by stating that I was a non-direct donor they would respond, “Oh, how, um, generous.” Then I was given an IV line and kissed Amanda goodbye. During the entirety of the procedure I felt qualm, sure about my decision, happy that my year of contemplation was coming to fruition. The last thing I remember was entering the machine-laden operation room and placed on the table, being strapped down and then… …

I awoke peacefully. There was almost no pain. The recovery room was loud and I sensed it was large though I couldn’t tell because of the curtains that surrounded me. My nurse, Kim was talked with in bursts of sentences; “How are you? Doing well? I am giving you a pain medication. You will get a private room soon.” Then I was alone. In front of me was a nurses’ station, and I continually and groggily kept smiling and waving at nurses and passers-by. Finally, Amanda came back to the recovery room. I proudly, if not dumbly, lifted my gown aside to show her three incisions. The larger one cut across my lower abdomen and was no less than five inches. My surgeon; doctor Baker came in to tell me that the operation went well. My kidney’s renal artery was naturally split in two (which isn’t uncommon) and she had needed to do some work to splice into one, but that that too had been successful.

A new nurse took over for Kim, her name was Faye. She had just been married in Israel, and through honed skills of deduction I surmised she was Jewish. We talked about Jews weddings, which after seeing one at the age of fourteen always found preferable to protestant, though not Catholic weddings. After arriving in recovery at around 10:00, I finally was wheeled to my hospital room at around 2:00 p.m. Still groggy, and beginning to feel some pain, I made a number of calls to family and friends to inform them that I was still alive.

In the early evening I began to reel. My friend Krista came to visit – bless her heart; and by bringing me flowers concurrently took a personal stand against gender stereotyping. Yet, as the anesthesia began to wear off I felt discomfort and pain. The anesthesia led to dry-mouth and nausea, and Krista had to watch me reject a lovely serving of apple-juice and Jell-O (She’s quite a good friend). That evening I had to ask for more pain medication because I couldn’t fall asleep. Around 4:00 a.m. I finally was able to rest.

The next day another friend, Ted, came to visit and by 1:00 in the afternoon I had taken a shower, eaten and was urinating normally. These were three goals before being discharged, and soon I was being driven to Indiana by my brother John. After arriving at Amanda’s house I promptly fell to sleep.

Today I have taken things slowly, as I shall do for the next three to four days. On Monday I have a check up, and will return to work on Tuesday if I continue to improve as expected. Ultimately, the experience was a positive one. In economics they call these types of transactions Pareto-efficient, meaning that all parties ended better off than how they started. Perhaps the old adage is true: It is better to give than to receive.

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