This man should be the principle of a middle school in someplace like Fairfield or Vacaville and not a janitor…Enjoy.
I love the Louise character in Bob’s Burgers. When she’s not homicidal, she’s just a plain variety psycho.
The Beatles were always nutty and loved a good laugh. Their humor – especially John Lennon’s – could be very sharp-edged. I think you’ll enjoy this:
As some of you might know, I lost my beloved wife suddenly and unexpectedly on October 9th, 2016. That has been the primary reason you’ve not seen much of me here or on my other blogs.
If the truth be known, whatever is going on politically, economically, musically or comically has taken a drastic drop in my list of important things or the things to pay attention to in my life.
While I’m still dealing with the loss of my life-partner and dearest friend in life, I am beginning to pay attention to happenings around the country. Having just spent what would’ve been Laura’s 56th birthday with my children: it was a turning point. The only way, I have come to accept (reluctantly), to climb out of disastrous loss, is to crawl towards the light.
So you’ll now see more activity here and in my other blogs in the future, However, you’ll find well-articulated truths from the conservative/libertarian bent, more than mere opinions here. I am not the same person that started Facebook’s ‘Pushing Back‘ or any of my blogs here at WordPress. So, I guess we’ll find out who I am in the coming months together, OK?
Thank you all for your kind words and good wishes to my family and myself. Thank you for ‘tuning-in’ to this page and my other blogs. You’ll see a more steady flow of facts and arguments from every one of my “outlets”.
- Day 1 (a Thursday): My Wife’s recipient surgery
- Day 2 (a Friday): My donor surgery
I think donors & recipients both can benefit from my experience. I know it’s a long read but I’m trying to compress several days in the same number of paragraphs…cut me some slack. <smile>
DAY1: THE VERY DEFINITION OF SURREAL
My Wife’s surgery
It’s 4AM and time to get into military mode… The mode you get into when you just know a difficult assignment is coming up and you have a checklist. A lot rides on what will transpire in the next couple of days.
- Bags: packed
- Computers: off
- Windows: locked
- Cats: fed and watered
- Fear of the unknown: Pushed to subconscious.
So now we wait. My wife’s parents are going to pick us up in just a few minutes.
A kidney disease runs through my wife’s family. All of my wife’s siblings have the same polycystic kidney disease. My wife is the 2nd person in her family to receive a kidney; the first being her father. My wife has been going through dialysis for six years now and it has taken its toll on her body. But my woman has never quit doing everything in the arsenal to be ready for this day. Oh sure, every once in a while she’d sneak some potatoes that weren’t dialyzed… Every once in a while some ice cream or an artichoke. Sometimes they’d “catch” her with a blood test; receiving stern looks from her dialysis nutritionist (aka, ‘The Cheese Police’). But, for the most part, she disciplined herself so that she could be ready for this day. Her kidneys lasted a long time on minimal efficiency using diet, willpower & discipline. Laura wasn’t going to let this beat her; she never gives up. And everyone at the DaVita Dialysis Clinic in Cordilia, CA, Kaiser Permanente, Vacaville, Vallejo & Sacramento, CA, Kaiser’s partnership with UCSF and all of my colleagues at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, where I work, have made this journey with her. Time, massive amounts of money, and many times, super-human effort to keep the love of my life alive for this day. And say anything you want about the University of California…Laura & I have enjoyed expensive but incredible medical benefits from our employment there. We owe them our lives, literally.
My wife’s parents are walking up our walkway in the darkness of the morning. Is this really happening? We’ve done this dance so many times before: going to UCSF for test after test after test. It just seems normal to spend the day at UCSF. We pack things into the back of the SUV and off we go. A casual conversation ensues. It’s like we were just going to the park or beach or something. But I imagine that my wife’s dad had a lot going on in his mind. Almost 30 years ago he received a kidney at UCSF from his sister. I remember someone saying that 12-16 years was the average time expected for his kidney to work. It may been a different number of years but it was not even close to 30 by any stretch of the imagination. And now my wife’s dad – 30 years later with the same kidney – was driving his daughter to receive the same miracle he received at the very same hospital. I have no idea what’s running through my wife’s mind…After 37 years of marriage, I’ve learned to stay out of that head…dangerous territory!
The traffic: Horrible even though it’s 5AM. We grew up in this area so the traffic isn’t unexpected but Geez-Louise, why today?
Arrival: 400 Parnassus Avenue
So just like a million times before, we park the car and go get the prerequisite blood drawn for my wife. As usual, we’re very early so we have to wait for at least a half an hour before the place opens. Eventually my wife gets her little tag and she is A0001; the first blood draw of the day. Cool …I like being first in everything. <smile>
Blood drawn, we head out the door and across the street to the hospital. We go to admitting and a few other people are there looking around and I realize that these people must be part of the same 9-way chain. I’m just not quite sure what to think about it. I noticed that a lot of people were curious and wondering out loud where their kidney was going to come from. I was thinking, “Why would it even matter?” Okay… Paperwork done: it’s time for ‘hurry up and wait’.
We go to the waiting room and we find a chipper little girl by the name of Christine running the place. This young lady kept everyone’s spirits up. She is perfect for her job. She’s a female Patch Adams. Just imagine it: all of these people are staring down the barrel of a gun and she had this magical laughter and love in her voice. I know very few people like her. I always wonder at first if it’s a façade. But I’ve learned that you can’t keep that energy up long unless it’s coursing through your blood. This girl was the real thing.
So, hours pass… And then suddenly, it’s time to go upstairs to pre-op. OK ladies & gentlemen…this is where the shit starts to get real. My wife and I are doing a lot of nonverbal communication by staring into each other’s eyes. We both know it’s going to be a long day. We both know there’s going to be a lot of pain. There always is. My wife has gone through so much pain. And even though it occasionally gets the best of her, she’s never used it as a crutch. I never knew real bravery until learning it from my wife. In the back my mind during my wife’s pre-op I’m thinking “I’m going through this tomorrow.”
They wheel my wife out of pre-op heading toward the operating room. We say our ‘I love yous’ at the “kissing corner” (the turn into the operating room) She’s in!
I go back downstairs for more of the waiting game. I lean back in a seat and get my serotonin fix on Facebook by telling all of our friends, relatives and coworkers that everything is going great that she’s in the operating room. And at the 2 hour point I get a call from somebody in the operating room saying she’ll be one more hour in the operating room and things are going well. 2 1/2 hours later: no more word on how she’s doing. So finally we ask somebody to check on her condition. “Oh, she’s been out of the operating room for quite some time now but we don’t let anybody know about visiting for quite a while after.” My inner voice says, “You tell us from the operating room she’s got an hour left but you can’t tell us that she’s in post-op or give us an ETA on visiting her?”
My wife’s parents – no longer in their 20’s <smirk> – are completely exhausted and I personally have to rest before my donor surgery the next morning. But, none of us are leaving until we see my wife. So we literally barge into post-op and ask where she is. They tell us only two people can go back there. We’re not listening or obeying. We say, “Hey, we’re only going to be there for a minute because we all have to leave but we’re not leaving until we can see her, OK?” Yes, we’re being assholes but we’re all tired and frazzled…this should be excused; and it was. UCSF have an amazingly understanding staff. So about 40 feet later, we turn the corner and there she is. I come up to her and I touch her arm and I tell her, “Its Brian…I love you baby. I’m here and mom & dad are here as well.” She gives us a futile attempt at a smile but it’s enough to indicate that she knows her fan club is here.
There’s a nurse staring intently at all of her vitals. I see all these tubes sticking out of my wife. So, of course, I ask in my usual, smart-ass manner, “Has she peed yet?” The nurse says, “She’s peeing now!” It’s at this point that everything that has ever happened to my wife: 6 years of dialysis, all of the surgeries, all of the pain, all of the anguish, all of the disappointments, all the exhaustion, all the hopeless days and nights came rushing out of me in the form of uncontrollable sobbing. It surprised the hell out of me. Up to this point I was Mr. Rock-O-Gibraltar. I guess it must’ve surprised my father-in-law too because I turned around and put my head on his shoulder and he put his arms around me as I cried…all the while trying desperately to stop. After a minute I got a hold of myself, apologized and went over to my wife and told her I loved her and that “It’s my turn now baby! It’s time for you to rest… Your mom and dad need to go home. I’m going to go rest and I’ll do my thing tomorrow.”
We all then made our exit from the hospital. I said my goodbyes to mom and dad and told them I was walking to the AirBNB-booked room, a five minute walk away. I set my Google Maps to find the address and I start walking. I get about half a block when Google maps tells me I’m going in the wrong damn direction. I laugh to myself, “I guess I’m just not thinking clearly right now.” So I turn around and I walk down the hill on Parnassus to a little place belonging to someone called Zoe. After following the directions on how to get into her house, I get in & get a glass of water in the kitchen because I know I’m getting close to the time – it’s almost 8 PM at this point – when I can’t take in anymore water in until after the surgery. The room is there waiting for me with the lights on. Nothing fancy. It’s like staying at your sister’s house; very comfortable and quiet. There was nobody there. In fact, Zoe emailed me that nobody would be there until well after midnight so, I took a shower, went to bed and watched a movie on my phone trying to sleep.
Okay …I’m not getting much sleep. But at some point I drift off and wake up before my 4AM alarm. Then something interesting happens. I get this really wierd, quiet feeling all over me. Something I hadn’t felt since I flew in the Air Force. The feeling that that this shit is real and it’s time to step up to the plate. My wife has a “Certified Pre-Owned” kidney and now somebody else is going to have mine. I keep joking with people that whoever gets my kidney will be able to drink crude oil and piss glacier water. But in my mind I’m really not joking. I was blessed with very good health my entire life. I took another shower, gathered my things and quietly exited Zoe’s cute little apartment; never having met Zoe or her partner. 😦
DAY2: MOMENT OF TRUTH
After carefully exiting Zoe’s place, I turn left and I go back up the hill; I immediately see “street” people. I’m from the ‘burbs, so, now I’m thinking to myself, “Wouldn’t it be fun if some jackass tries to beat me up and take my stuff? I’ve got my wallet and everything on me: wouldn’t that just be bloody GREAT!” But I put one foot in front of the other and BOOM …before I know it, there I am: waiting for admissions to open. This young security guy asks me why I’m here I tell him I’m having surgery this morning. He tells me to wait in the waiting room. While I’m waiting, the security staff eject one or two “street” people that have just wandered in. I remember being surprised at the politeness of one of the guards when he told one of the homeless, “Sir, please don’t enter the building unless you have business here.” He said it in such a way that it sounded like both a kind suggestion from a friend and a command from a 1st Sergeant. The cadence in his voice was really quite remarkable.
5:30 AM: admissions is open! So I grab my bag and I wander in. So here I am …I’ve got this aura of calmness that seems really strange given the fact that they’re about to cut open my body and harvest an organ. <grin> I begin to think that last night’s events had such a profound impact on me that there was only one thing to do: be brave, be uncomplaining, and just never let ’em see you sweat, so to speak. Because anything else would have been counterproductive and destructive to the whole situation at hand. Yes… This is the crap that’s going through my mind as I’m waiting for my surgery, LOL. So there I am, in the admissions waiting room waiting for some paper-jockey to call me in to sign the final paperwork. I look up at the TV set and there’s a channel X news piece about the very same nine-way transplant chain I’m part of.
Now, anyone that actually knows me, knows that if I have an opportunity to act like a jackass, I’m going to take that opportunity and run with it. So I pump up my hands and yell, “Woo hoo! That’s us!” Then strangely, the entire mood of the room changes. My ‘being a jackass’ gets people to start talking and we find out that the rest of us are going in for kidney surgeries as well. Some part of the chain, some not but that didn’t matter: we’re all family now. It’s a weird feeling, being part of the human race once in a while, isn’t it? <smile>
Well now, everything that happened to my wife yesterday happens to me. And I’m not even thinking about it: I’m just doing it. It’s like nothing is really a big deal. I’m waiting for a bus or train. Not a big friggin’ deal at all. So, finally, I find myself in pre-op. Now, the one & only thing I hate most starts to happen: they poke my skin with needles. The needle thing is the only thing I know I’m going have to work through mentally so I immediately go into ‘Bravado-Jocular Façade Mode’[tm]. I notice that time is starting to compress and what was probably a lot of time passes QUICKLY as they prep my sorry ass. Then finally I get to meet Chris Freise, MD. I’ve heard a lot about Chris Freise; all of it good. He has this quiet confidence that is so damn reassuring that once he talked to me, I knew everything was going to be just routine. So he marks me up with a surgical pen where he’s gonna cut me and then describes the procedure. He asks me if I have any questions. And I – still in “bravado mode” – say, “Let’s yank this thing out of me, Doc!” He shoots me a confident smile and then says, “I’ll be in the operating room waiting for you!” Now the only people I haven’t heard from is what I call my “gas passers” (anesthesiologists). These people are always part of the ‘supporting cast’ in the operating room. But I know enough to realize that if the ‘FIT hits the SHAN‘, having a good anesthesiologist on hand can mean the difference between life and death. So I’m going to be paying attention to these folks big-time. Finally, two guys come waltzing down: one apparently is a student and is receiving instruction from the main guy. I wish like hell I can remember their names but at that point I was processing too much information (time compression). I was lucky to remember Dr. Freise!
While they were discussing procedures with each other, in walks mom and dad: my in laws. I told them the day before that they needed to stay home and rest but apparently they didn’t listen to me and they came anyway. Typical. Mom gave me a hug. I’m not quite sure why, but that hug surprised me with what it had in it. My own mother – having passed away many years ago – had her arms around me at the same time; what a powerful boost she gave me with that simple hug! Shortly after, they then gave me the pre-op drugs and it all starts to blurr. All I remember is waving to the others I had met earlier in admissions & the waiting room as I passed them in enroute to the OR. I was telling them “See you later”, “God bless”, “Good luck”. I even let out a “Woo-Hoo! with my patented JazzHands [tm] just like I did in admissions! A jackass all the way into OR! <smile> My very last recollection is being wheeled into the operating room; everything else is a blank.
The next thing I remember is waking up in post-op with somebody talking to me about drugs and apparently believing I was actually listening. As you can imagine, this is quite a hazy time. You’re not feeling any pain but you’re feeling kind of uncomfortable like somebody’s been rummaging around in your innards. This goes with the territory; deal with it. So, you’re all drugged up and not quite “there”. I know I was in post-op for a few hours because I kept being told that they were still waiting for a bed to become available on the ninth floor, the place I now know as “9 Long”. Eventually I’m in a room on the ninth floor and a young nurse with a very kind and gentle voice speaks to me and tells me all about my little pain button. I wish I could remember this young lady’s name because her voice and cadence was just what I needed to hear; it was so reassuring. She told me about “The Device”. I know this device very well from all of the operations my wife has had in the past. It’s basically a narcotic PEZ dispenser. You hurt? Push the button and you get some “candy”! I hurt only at the point of the incision along my belt line. I haven’t had any significant pain anywhere else even though they punctured four holes on the left side. I don’t even feel those and sure as hell don’t feel where the kidney was harvested. Isn’t that weird? That night is a bit of a blur but I remember waking up when it hurt, pressing the button and then passing out again. But, always saying to myself, “you need to get up soon as you’re able so you can work through this on your feet. So the first time I managed to get up with the help of young man named Rommel. He helped me up using my rolling IV stand as a walker. “Not bad, this is gonna be a breeze!” I’m thinking as I’m walking out the door of my room. I turn right and take about 20 steps then tell Rommel, “Man, I think I am going to seriously HURL.” He didn’t seem worried at all because he knew what I had forgotten: there was literally nothing in me to hurl! 20 steps. 20 whole steps. FAIL! It’s that point it dawned on me that the narcotics were not doing me any favors. I was gonna have pain whether I liked it or not. So, the first thing I needed to concentrate on was weaning myself off of those narcotics ASAP, I started asking for Tylenol. 1000mG, every 6 hours. And stopped pressing the button. After that first attempt, I sat down in my chair for several hours just sitting there, looking at the beautiful view of the city. Everything and nothing went through my mind while I waited for the nausea to subside. Someone eventually told me that my wife was just a couple of doors down and I said to myself, “boy… You need to get off your ass and try this again!” My thoughts kept going back to sage advice my wife bestowed upon me before her operation about the two things that are going to get you discharged:
- Walk: walk as much as you can
These are the two magical things that will get you out of the hospital. So, those two things became my focus; walk and poo. My next attempt at walking was way more successful. I had been off of the narcotics for about two or three hours and I had gotten up and I told Rommel, “Let’s try it again!” And before I know it, we’ve made a full lap around 9-Long. Yes, it’s more painful without the narcotics but at least I didn’t feel like I was going to hurl. This is a choice every donor will have to make. No pain and wanting to hurl vs. tolerable pain and no nausea. I’m in the ‘no nausea’ camp. Of course, I’m not so naive to believe that these drugs have the same side effects on every person, so your mileage may vary. You’ll also need to weigh what you’re body is telling you with what your care-givers are telling you.
So, I’m finishing my first lap. Remember: I haven’t seen my wife since her post-op. As I approached her room, I sucked it up and put on my best ‘this is no shit whatsoever’ face and waltzed into my wife’s room like I owned the hospital. I got a smile from her and I said, “Hey baby, how you doing? That’s when she told me about not being able to walk on her right leg (a common post-op symptom). Yes, I was concerned about that leg but what I really noticed was that she was coherent. In the past, she had always come out of anesthesia with dementia. This time: no dementia. And as I’m taking in the scene I suddenly realize, “Ahh… Kidney!” The new kidney was helping her recover! Tears immediately start to well up in my eyes; I can hardly hold them back. After a few words, I tell her something she already knows… That I love her. And I returned back to my room & my chair, awaiting the next opportunity to take laps around 9 Long.
To the best of my recollection I took two other one-lap journeys before retiring that evening; this being the Friday evening, the day of my surgery. At some point, somebody was telling me that if I did 12 laps around 9 Long, I would get a T-shirt because that was a “mile” by their estimation. I’m thinking, “Oh hell yeah: competition!”
DAY3: PAIN MANAGEMENT AND POO
I had discovered on my first day of recovery that the more I walked, the less the incision hurt. So, the next morning, this being Saturday morning, the day after my surgery, I set my goal to do three laps every time I got up. I was in my WWAD? (What would Al do?) mode. Al, one of my brothers and my very own personal super hero, was the voice in my head saying, “just put one foot in front of the other, Brian.” And I thought, I’m going to get that damn T-Shirt if it kills me. <smile> After getting up from bed, I sat in the chair just meditating, looking out at San Francisco for a while (a very therapeutic thing, BTW) and then off I went, without any help or assistance. I didn’t even ask. This must’ve driven the staff nuts because I’m sure there is a lawyer around every corner in this building. But, I was steady and I did notice that every nurse on the floor was watching me very, VERY closely making sure that I was steady; which I was actually. For all I know, one of ’em was behind me, ‘just-in-case’. I was only on Tylenol at this point. It was decided once & for all: no more narcotics – PERIOD. I asked them to remove my PEZ dispenser. So, whenever I first got up: ouch! After I started walking after about 20 or 30 steps the “big” pain wore off and I was left with what I called the “little” pain.
I knew I would be fine as long as I got through those first few steps. I didn’t quite make three laps in the morning but after the second lap I stopped at my wife’s room, sat down and we talked for a good long time. She was concerned about her leg and she was in a lot of pain. But I could tell she was relieved and happy and she was again being the bravest person I know.
It was only Saturday, but I knew one thing was clear: She wasn’t going to get out of the hospital at the same time I was. And this depressed me. Because I drew on the strength of knowing she was in the same zip code as me. But, I pushed that depression aside and concentrated on being ready for her by getting my shit together ASAP.
So, to review, Day 3 was:
- A liquid diet
- No appetite to speak of
- The pain of getting up from my chair but then
- Walking THRU the pain; realizing that after a few steps it’s subsided and
- The final realization that my decision to stop taking the narcotics was a good one (for me).
My nausea had gone and it became one less thing to deal with. I was visited by the Renal Team who recommended that I go on solid foods at dinner. W00t! Dinner that night was actual solid food! Although I still didn’t have an appetite, when I did eat the solid food, it was satisfying in a weird kind of way. I’m not sure I can explain why. It was like my brain didn’t have an appetite but the rest of my body did. One thing the solid food started: my gut. My roommate (a retired Coast Guard NCO) and I were now having fart competitions. I’ll admit: He won on tone and length. No poo yet but with the gas, I’m seeing poo at the end of the tunnel. Nice ‘word picture’, eh? <grin>
Before Day 3 was over, Serghei, my nurse, had given me my T-Shirt. He had also taken out my catheter.
As an aside, just want to note that I was scared to death to have that thing pulled out. Because it was incredibly uncomfortable while it was in and as every guy knows, that is one hellofa intensely sensitive area. So I was expecting a rather horrendous extraction. The expectation was greater than the actual event. Relax, breathe, it’s over in a second, shut up.
DAY4: A NEW CATCHPHRASE
Thanks to one of my nurses, Francis, I was able to get some decent sleep. She took such great care of me. I just love that kid to death! Anyway, I decided to celebrate by taking an actual shower. This is the point where I learned that every move I make has to be slow and deliberate. Honestly, it was almost comic the way I had to maneuver myself in the bathroom. They have no place to put towels, no place to put laundry and honestly – although I wasn’t in much pain – negotiating the bathtub/shower was a series of slow and deliberate actions because I was moving my body in ways I hadn’t done since the surgery…was this going to hurt?
Revelation: It’s sometimes the fear of pain and not the pain itself that limits you
The shower made all the difference in the world on this, the fourth day. It’s Sunday and after the shower, I sit myself down in my chair looking out over San Francisco. There’s heavy fog out so I can’t see much of the city today. But, what I do notice is that I see the 400 Parnassus building where all the kidney coordination happens. I’m thinking to myself, “Those people create miracles.” Thanks to “Saint” Francis, I finally now have my phone back from their Fort Knox-like security system. It basically took a nod from both CA senators and my representative from the 10th Congressional District to get my phone and wallet out of lock up. I immediately got on Facebook to let everybody know I was still alive and kicking, because the last thing they heard from me was that I was going into surgery. Then all my friends and family had was silence. The response to my Facebook posts was so overwhelming that I cried intermittently; doing my best to fight back the tears with every post I read. I’m blessed with great friends and family who have been both supportive and encouraging throughout this entire ordeal. I can say with certitude that I could have gotten through this without them. However, their support lifted my spirits so high & encouraged me so much it made what was to be my last day in the hospital, effortless.
After Facebook-ing, Pinterest-ing and Tweet-ing my ass off, I ate my (solid) breakfast and began my “routine”.
After breakfast, I got up and did three laps stopping in on my wife but she was having some kind of procedure done. So I went back and sat down, Facebook Facebook Facebook… Up again… Three laps, check on my wife: this time she’s free. A long talk with her. She knows as well as I do I’m leaving today and she knows I feel guilty as hell about it. The girl knows me better than I do. So we talked about her leg and the fact that she couldn’t get any physical therapy over the weekend because the priority for physical therapists on weekends was ICU, orthopedics, and then all others. We’re not overly upset: we understand that a hospital is a business and only the government believes you can keep costs down and then turn around and be all things to all people 24/7. Yes…the government is permanently stupid.
During my first and second walk I see the Renal & Liver Teams doing the rounds. Dr. Freise is on the Liver Team. As I passed him in the hallway I straighten up and make my walking gate & posture as normal as possible as if that would fool him that I was now completely pain-free. LOL! I’m such a fake! <smile> He’s busy discussing patients, so as I pass quietly, I look up and give him a confident wink. BTW…that guy is an incredible surgeon but even a more amazing DOCTOR. That guy saw me every day and would visit me AND MY WIFE (Not even his patient!) even though he’s incredibly busy and the Renal Team ‘had us covered’. How lucky was I to get this guy? As I said eariler, my wife had told me of his reputation and brother does he live up to it!
11 AM rolls around and The Renal Team says I’m good to go both literally and figuratively. So I give my mom and dad in-law a ‘heads-up’ call that I’m going to need to be driven home. Without being prompted or coerced, I gathered all my stuff, got out my sweat pants, lucky Beatles T-Shirt (FYI:ALL Beatles T-Shirts are lucky), socks & shoes. I got out of my gown and dressed in my civvies. I am officially “leaning forward”. The only thing left to do is pull the IVs out of my arms and do my discharge paperwork. So I take my bag and I sit with my wife and I talk with her; waiting for her mom and dad show up. I get up to take a walk to loosen up my pain and notice that even though the paperwork isn’t done, they’re already taking apart my side of the shared room getting it ready for the next patient. I walk in and say my goodbyes to my roomie (The Coast Guard guy) when the discharge pharmacist comes in with three bottles: one narcotic which I won’t touch, a stool softener and a laxative; two of which I probably will touch. LOL! Finally Christina, my day nurse (and as sweet & gentle a soul you’re likely to ever meet on this planet) comes back from her break and has my paperwork. I signed it and I’m officially free: hanging out in my wife’s room.
During my laps on this last day I met a couple from Chicago who I remember from Admitting. The woman was donating to a friend or sister and was not part of our nine-way transplant (like that even matters!). She told me she was in the admissions area when I was looking up at the TV and acting like a jackass with my arms up in the air going, “Woo-hoo that’s us!”. She said that when I did that, at that point, her fear subsided. She told me it made all the difference in the world to her. Her husband told me separately that it was truly a profound moment for his wife before donating her kidney. What do you say when somebody tells you that? I didn’t know what to say. I’m sure I had a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ kind of look on my face as well. But their words moved me deeply. I had proof positive that my M.O. of laughing in the face of the unknown and fear didn’t just help me: it helped somebody else. And THAT is powerful Mojo brother. Powerful.
Another theme that I had with interactions of all of the donors and recipients made me think of a new catchphrase for donors:
Love Makes You Do Some CA-RAAAZY Shit, Baby!
…and that goes for Reid Moran-Haywood, the ‘altrusitic donor‘ in our chain as well. His gift was a gift with nothing else to gain but the act of love itself.
My not so graceful exit
So, now about my ‘not-so-graceful’ exit. The time came when my in-laws finally showed up but they needed to go downstairs and eat. I said my goodbyes to my wife and told the in-laws that I’d meet them down in the cafeteria, 2nd floor. To explain: There are two sets of elevators: one designated Long “L” and the other designated Moffitt “M“. Now, the in-laws know that you need to use the M elevators to get to the cafeteria second floor. But I didn’t know that. So after saying goodbye to my wife, I take the L elevators down to the second floor only it doesn’t stop at the second floor. So I figure, “No problem, I’ll go down to the first floor and then take the stairs up! Brilliant!” Well, the second I went into the stairs the door locked behind me and now I can’t get back to the elevators. The only exit leads me outside. That door also locked behind me. So here I am, trying to get to the damn cafeteria and I’m locked out in the back of the hospital where all the receiving bays for trucks are. And all I could think was that some security guy was watching me do this on the cameras back there and laughing his ass off. So I walked all the way around the hospital to the front door then went up the Moffitt elevators this time to the second floor. Walked over to my in-laws like nothing happened. I am grace-in-motion. They, of course, wanted to go say goodbye to my wife so I told him I’d meet them downstairs. I waited for them in one of the waiting rooms telling everybody on Facebook that I was discharged. Once they showed up I said it’s really not that much of a walk, so let’s just go to the car; you don’t have to come and pick me up. I was feeling pretty good wasn’t in too much pain. And in fact, it was an easy walk to the car. Now I’m thinking this is going to be an easy ride. Oh no no no. I felt every bump and some maneuvers the car made had me imagining my guts spilling out of my incision onto the nicely carpeted floor of their SUV. For those of you donors-to-be reading this: that ride home is not going to be comfortable. Just be prepared for it. Don’t tighten up, try to relax and hold on. Put a pillow on your stomach if you can. I had about an hour drive to our house. That was one damn long hour.
POSTSCRIPT1: HOME ALONE
Well… after that horrendous ride, Mom & dad helped me into the house. Being exhausted themselves, they left me pretty quickly and I was left staring at my cats. As you know, most domesticated animals have this sixth sense that something is not right with you. They always seem to instinctively know that something is amiss. Not my cats. My cats are retarded. My cats are trying to figure out why I’m pacing the floor over and over again. I turned on some music and walked into every room probably 100 times trying to work out the pain of being in the car. Eventually, two Tylenol and a TV dinner later, I found myself doing movie marathons on Netflix. The movies were broken up with pauses while I walked about the house with cats staring at me and calculating dinner time in the back of their heads. Things are at least beginning to get back to normal. Except for one thing; my wife is still in the hospital. But I did get some good news just now as I’m typing this. She’s going to be released to a rehab facility for some intensive physical therapy. Her new theme song: REHAB!
POSTSCRIPT2: THE FIRST FOLLOW-UP
Since I wrote the last postscript, I had my first 1-week post-op appointment with the team at UCSF. I learned that my wife’s new kidney was working better than my remaining one. It will take a couple of weeks for my remaining kidney to figure out it’s flying solo. But what a period at the end of that sentence …my wife’s kidney was performing better than mine. That has to be the first time in my life I’ve ever been happy about someone doing something better than me.
POSTSCRIPT3: My Baby In Rehab (coming soon)