Wednesday, March 2, 2011

a look back at surgery day

Well, it is now Wednesday - my third full day home and 5 days after my surgery. I'm still taking the Percoset for pain medication, but I am gradually stretching out the numbers of hours between doses. The biggest issue is that I still feel exhausted most of the time. But, despite being exhausted, I can't seem to get more than 2-3 hours of sleep at one shot.

Since not much else is going on today, I am going to try to take today to write up a post detailing everything I can recall about surgery day. Of course, I remember nothing about the actual surgery itself, and some of the time spent in the recovery room is a bit of a fog, but everything else I experienced that day will forever be part of one of the most special days of my life, so I better write it down somewhere before I forget it!

The last I posted on surgery day, I was about to check out of my hotel room. As planned, I headed over to 2 North to see Jeanne. When I left Jeanne the evening before, she was still in the recovery room, but plans were in place to soon move her into room 222. So, since I knew where she was going to be and I only had a few minutes to visit, I headed directly for room 222. Three steps into the room, though, and it was clear to me that the person in the bed was not my wife, or anybody's wife for that matter, as the person in the bed was decidedly male (a NYC firefighter, we learned later). A quick stop at the nurses station and I learned that she was placed into room 219 instead.

I found Jeanne awake and sitting in her chair watching television. It was good to see that she had been up and around a bit already - getting mobile as quickly as possible is the best way to start the healing process after surgery. I only was able to stay about 10 minutes or so, so we talked a little and then I gave her a goodbye kiss and was on my way over to the same day surgery area on the third floor.

This first stop of the day was very familiar, as it was pretty much the same process Jeanne had gone through just one day prior. David is the first guy you meet - he is responsible for collecting up your personal belongings for you, handing you the fashionable hospital garments you need to change into and getting you started with all of the final preparations before the surgery. As soon as I was done changing, Mary and Angel, the same two nurses who had worked with Jeanne the morning before, grabbed me and took me to a room for the final preparations. It was very comforting to have them take me through the process. They were very interested to hear how Jeanne was doing and I was happy to tell them that all indications were that this was going to be a successful kidney transplant and she was already on the road to recovery.

Once I had all of my vitals taken and the necessary paperwork completed, I was shuttled off to a waiting area to wait for the surgeon to arrive. By this point, Susie had joined me so she was able to keep me company during the wait. We shared the waiting room with a couple who had brought their little boy, probably no more than 5 years old, in for surgery (later Susie learned it was to remove a growth near the brain). It's really sad to see these kids so young have to deal with such issues.

After 45 minutes or so, Dr. Del Pizzo came in and we confirmed that he was removing my left kidney and then he marked my left side with a marker. After re-signing some paperwork that I had completed the previous week, he asked if I had any questions. My only question was "Do I get a picture of my kidney?" Unfortunately, he seems to be reluctant to provide me with any pictures, even though he admitted that pictures will be taken. I'll have to ask again during my followup visit in a couple of weeks. I can't imagine what his concern would be.

Soon after Dr. Del Pizzo left us alone again, an OR nurse came to take me away. What was unexpected to me, though, is that we passed all of the way through the holding area that Jeanne had been in the day before and I walked myself all the way to the operating room and climbed up onto the table. Somehow, I had figured I would be all drugged up before I ever saw the inside of the operation room. When I arrived, there were about 8 other doctors and nurses already there waiting for me. Immediately, they set to work sticking me with IVs, strapping me down to the table, stripping off my pants and asking me various questions. It all went by very quickly. The last thing I remember was them telling me to breath in this "Oxygen". I recall taking about three breaths in and that's the last I remember - something tells me there was something more than oxygen in there :-)

Of course, I don't recall anything for the next few hours, but I am told that Dr. Del Pizzo came out about 10:30am to tell Susie that the surgery was successful. Then, I was apparently being held somewhere while they waited for a spot to be made available in the recovery room for me to be cared for. When I first came to, I think it was around 11:30 or so. I do remember Mom, Dad and Susie all visiting me in the first few minutes as I came out of my sleep.

Once I became aware enough to notice any pain or discomfort, I was surprised to find that the pain in the area that the surgery was performed was pretty minimal. In fact, at first, it was only #3 on the list of discomforts I was experiencing. The most discomfort I was having was a huge knot I had in the middle of my back. I'm guessing that in order to perform the surgery, the doctors likely had my body twisted into some uncomfortable position on the stretcher, and my back was not happy about it by the time I woke up. #2 on my list was my eye. It felt like when a piece of sand flies into your eye at the beach - all watery and very irritated. Nobody seems to know what happened, but it did earn me a visit from an opthamologist right there in the recovery room. She diagnosed me with a scratched cornea and ordered me some eyedrops to help provide some relief. Neither one of these discomforts lasted very long. And, with help from the Percoset, even the pain from the surgery site was (and continues to be) very minimal. Most of that pain comes when I have to move myself around - either from activities like getting in or out of bed, or when coughing or burping jiggles up the abdominal area.

Pretty quickly after I was awake, I was cleared for removal from the recovery area and transfer to a hospital bed, as soon as a room was made available for me. At first, talk was that I would be going to the 15th floor. But, it seems that there were having trouble finding an available room. In fact the whole hospital seemed to be pretty full - a little surprising since I thought that generally they tried to get folks out before the weekend started. So, in the recovery area I remained.

Not that I minded much. Steve, my nurse, was giving me excellent care - helping to make my back as comfortable as possible, and giving me juice and pain medications as needed. Brenda, who was Jeanne's nurse from the day before, also was stopping by from time to time to check on me. And, various other doctors were stopping by from time to time to check on me as well. So, I was getting all of the attention I needed.

At some point while I was in the recovery area, I learned that my recipient was a "she", and not a "he" as I had been expecting from my last conversations with Marian. I also inferred that she must be roughly the same age as me, because some of the people who I was meeting with were getting confused and thinking that I was giving my kidney directly to my wife instead of us being involved in a kidney donor chain. All of the indications from the medical personnel were that the kidney transplant was a success and my former kidney was already working well in her body.

Finally, around 5PM or so, they found a room for me. And much to everyone's surprise, it ended up being the room right next door to Jeanne! This was highly unusual as the section that Jeanne was in is normally reserved just for transplant patients. But, given the shortage of rooms, this turned out to be the best available place for me, I suppose - unless someone was pulling some strings for us behind the scenes. So, when they wheeled me to my room, rather than leaving me in the hallway while they took care of the necessary paperwork, they pushed me into Jeanne's room so we could chat and she could see for herself how I was doing.

Once in my room, I found the hospital bed much more comfortable than the stretcher and that brought quick relief to my back. Marian stopped by not much later on her way out of the door to say hi. I told her everything went well and thanked her and the whole transplant team for making this all possible for us. My liquid dinner came about 8 and then I got up around 10 or 11 for a short walk and that was about it for surgery day.

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