Laughter and Tears, Surgery Day for a Kidney Donor

The few days leading up to the procedure were a total roller coaster.

Even during my appointments the day before I had a melt down in front of one of the nurses for a good 45 minutes. She told me I had to start fasting at 4pm, even though the materials that were mailed to me said midnight… which meant I wouldn’t be having my dinner with the handful of close friends I was planning on. Those dinner plans were my anchor, my last hurrah before I put myself in the most vulnerable position ever. The nurse tried to be empathetic, but she clearly didn’t know why I’d cry so much about fasting at 4pm.

I looked irrational. And I didn’t care.

The transplant coordinator gave me a nice bag with goodies, including Life Savers! Get it? Life saver? šŸ™‚
Dr. Foley’s drawing of what he had planned for me. (It turned out WAY better than this.) šŸ™‚

The morning of the procedure I was extremely ready to get it all over with. The anticipation of planning something for more than a year takes a toll on a person, and I just wanted to be healing already.

Last moments in the waiting room before being officially called into pre-op!

In the last half hour before getting wheeled to the operating room I was crying again (very convenient that you aren’t allowed to wear make up when going under the knife so I didn’t have any raccoon eyes to think aboout). As if right on my cue my surgeon walked in the room. I was relieved to see him and it only took a few sentences from him to make me feel at ease again. Well, that and whatever kind of drug they gave me that morning to help me relax.



I remember kissing my sweet boyfriend goodbye with a nurse saying ‘awwww’ as she stood and watched, then telling doctor Foley ‘let’s go save a life!’ followed by a fist bump or something.

Then it was me on a bed getting wheeled to the OR with what felt like a posse of really cool people. I was DREADING this moment, thinking it would be so scary, but with the help of the drugs already in my system I felt like I was going off to a private party with a bunch of really cool friends. They were all making it so much fun for me!

In the OR I tried to help the best I could to easily get myself onto the operating table and not freak out when they tied the strap across my legs. I was curiously looking around the operating room and said ‘hey guys, is there a Cousins next door to this? This feels like a Cousins store room to me.’ I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, other than there were some metal racks that I thought would be perfect for holding fresh baked bread.


I did my best to look around and compare the actual OR to all the episodes of Greys Anatomy I’ve seen when I remembered that some surgeons like to listen to music when they operate.


Me: ‘Hey Doctor Foley! Do you listen to music when you operate?’

Dr: ‘I do sometimes – you want some music on?’

*I was just aware enough to notice the staff and Dr Foley smiling as he asked this question*

Me: ‘Yeah!”

I remember hearing the music that I think was Journey or Boson or something like that, and I was laying on the table tapping my feet and smiling thinking ‘how freaking cool is this moment right now’ when a hand with a mask came over my face.


LIGHTS OUT

What felt like 5 seconds later I remember my eyes opening in a dense fog in the recovery room. I could hardly open my eyes, and I remember a person asking if I felt nauseaous. I said yes, though I’m not even sure I was, and they promptly gave me what looked like a blue plastic windsock to puke in if the occasion arose. (I didn’t need to use it, but it served as a good security blanket.)


I also obsessively checked to make sure my teeth were still in tact because I was certain they would break on the breathing tube. (They didn’t, but I still checked them probably 100 times.)

I apparently spent about two hours in recovery, and I remember maybe 3 minutes of it. Flash forward and now I’m in my room, and I’m thinking to myself how pleasantly surprised I am that the hospital bed is so comfortable, and in walks my boyfriend.

After that I have only four memories of the rest of the day.

1 – A work friend leaving after dropping off a great care package and a beautiful purple orchid, and Chad saying ‘Laura was just here’. I felt guilty that I wasn’t a good host in the hospital.

2 – Trying to stand on two separate occasions with the help of Chad and some nurses. It didn’t work. I was too doped up to walk on my own the first day.

I had no clue what the hell I was doing.

3 – Dr. Foley stopping in, and Chad asking some specific questions about an incision of mine, and the doc drawing it on the whiteboard.

I would have lost a first grade spelling bee after surgery.

4 – Tying to Snapchat and being surprised how blurry my vision was.

I’ll blame the vision and drug combo for more stellar spelling errors.

I didn’t have any pain, though I had an awareness that things were tender. My brain was faded enough that there was no fretting, over analyzing, or obsessing. I’ve never been a bigger bump on a log. And it was a blessing.

There was so much anticipation around this day, the procedure, and the unknown. To be on the other side of it now I really am amazed by modern medicine, and how easy the process was. It’s unreal to me that such a big event can happen to my body and I only remember about 20 minutes of the day post surgery.

I’m so thankful for the surgical team, and my amazing surgeon. I was so anxious and nervous about this day, and they made it incredibly easy on me. More updates to come on the rest of my hospital stay and my recovery!

2 thoughts

  1. Tracey – you are amazing!! Thank you so much for donating your kidney to a stranger. Two months ago my little sister donated one of her kidneys to me. Her selfless decision has given me a second chance at life. I’m determined not to waste it and I’m focused on becoming happier, healthier and more productive. I’m sure your decision has had as remarkable a change on your recipient and his / her family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Like

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