Was It Worth It?

It has been 21 days since my kidney transplant surgery,

It has been 10 days from my emergency exploratory surgery.

And it has been 2 days since my “one week” check up.

The first surgery, the transplant, went perfectly. I was progressing and healing at an average rate and was discharged after a six day stay. But after a few days of being home, battling fatigue and nauseousness, I called that Friday to let my team know how I had been feeling. At their request, I returned to the hospital and was immediately admitted into the transplant unit. My surgeon stopped by to see me and ordered for blood work, X-ray, and a CT scan to try and narrow down what could be going wrong. Saturday he returned to say that the CT scan revealed “free air” in my abdomen. The primary concern was that I might have a perforation in my intestines. Prior to surgery, my team had listed off every possible side effect and this was among them. However, I had pretty much always been convinced my surgery would certainly be free of any complications and hadn’t thought through that this could be a very real possibility. Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if there was a perforation, was to reopen my incision and remove my intestines for inspection.

I was desperate to stay away from the operating table and together with my team decided to wait 24 hours. Perhaps the symptoms would change. Perhaps there was a different answer. However, the only change in symptoms was a spike in my fever to 103. After another CT scan, my surgeon sat at the end of my bed that Sunday morning. He compassionately and firmly admitted that he was uncomfortable waiting any longer and that surgery was needed…NOW. He needed to get me into surgery immediately and examine the possibilities. Within fifteen minutes I was headed down to the operating room to get prepped to be opened up, yet again. They used the incision that had just been made twelve days ago and removed and inspected my entire intestine track twice. Miraculously, there were no perforations to be found and they were able to safely close me back up again.

We returned back to our hospital room for another six day stay. Six days of sorting out pain management (yet again) and working towards healing and recovery. We did a victory dance as we got the official OK that we could go home Wednesday afternoon.

Our experience at home could best be described as a roller coaster ride. One hour I’m feeling okay and the next I’m laid out from nauseousness or light headedness. My husband has been a rock star when it comes to my care! I don’t know where I’d be had he not been by my side, doing anything and everything he could for me these past three weeks. I am eternally grateful for him as well as everyone who dropped everything to come and take care of our kids throughout our two long hospital stays.

Monday, February 27, was my “one week” check up. I met with my surgeon and he said that my incisions look great and that I’m healing up perfectly. He told me that in his twenty years of being a surgeon, I was his first patient he has ever had to reopen for fear of complication. (Aren’t I the lucky one?)

I think about all of the pain I’ve had to endure. All of the mental anguish I had to face knowing that I wasn’t just going to need to heal from one surgery, but from two. I think about the complications and hardships we faced throughout this entire six month process leading up to surgery. And I ask myself, knowing all that I know now, would I do it again? Was all of this worth it?

And then we ran into my friend who had just finished up a follow-up appointment with her doctor. They had just finished telling her that she is a “rare case to be doing this well”. Her new kidney is functioning at a normal level (which is apparently extremely hard to achieve this soon after transplant). She has lost a total of 19 lbs. She has so much increased energy that she can handle being up and on her feet for hours at a time with no problem. She is no longer chronically cold- her entire body temperature has changed because there’s increased circulation. Her chronic high blood pressure is now normal without medication. She has been able to eliminate eleven blood pressure medications that she has been needing to take for the past year. And she no longer has to live with daily pain and fatigue that kept her from being able to live life to its fullest with her husband and four precious little ones.

At the end of my appointment my surgeon presented me with the Gift of Life Medal of Honor. It was such a humbling experience as he thanked me for my gift and reminded me just how valuable it was. He went on to explain that over 89,000 people with end stage renal disease (kidney failure) die each year. That even though dialysis can be a lifesaving treatment, it’s only temporary. That my friend’s life expectancy would have gone down 20% each year she had to remain on dialysis. That most patients only live 5 to 10 years once starting treatment.

Hearing him so passionately express these startling statistics reminded me that this was absolutely worth it all. Every single moment of it. That there’s no question in my mind that I’d do it all over again even knowing what I know now. This was literally a life giving experience that I will be forever grateful and humbled by the fact that God asked me to be a part of it.

He is faithful!

Celebrating being three weeks post op and healthy!

My surgeon presenting me with the Gift of Life Medal of Honor.