Thursday, Feb 25: The day of the transplant

Recovering from surgery
Recovering from surgery

This was a day of frustration, waiting, anxiety, waiting, thirst, waiting, hunger, waiting, and finally, a transplant.

As directed, we arrived at the hospital just before 6AM. Dan got checked in and we were led to the Short Stay area. They got Dan settled while Charlie and I scoped out the hospital and got some breakfast. We were initially told that Dan should expect the surgery to start around 7:30AM. Then we got word that the airport was fogged in and the airplane containing the kidney and the surgeon couldn’t take off. That was the last news we had for a really, really, long time. We waited and waited and finally learned that the fog had lifted and the airplane had been cleared to take off. Yay! We were energized again. The flight was only expected to last about an hour, maybe a little more. So we waited. And waited some more. After more waiting and lunch for Charlie and me (none for Dan), we found out that the reason for the delay this time was that they were having trouble rescheduling the operating room and coordinating surgeons and anesthesiologists. One of the difficulties was that the surgeon had come back with both kidneys from the deceased donor, and they were coordinating two transplants to be done pretty much simultaneously. Which was good news for the two kidney recipients, but bad news from a scheduling perspective.

Let me just break in and mention that all of the nurses and the housekeeping staff from Short Stay are pretty much fabulous. They watched over Dan for hours, and helped make our stay as comfortable as possible in a place that most patients only use for an hour or two. One of them even let Charlie try her stethoscope. Imagine a curtained area wide enough for Dan’s bed and a chair, with an extra two chairs that were sort of in the hallway. No TV, no radio, no play area for the kids. No ice or drinks for Dan, even though he was parched. Just a lot of time for Dan to THINK about surgery. Luckily, I had Charlie to manage and distract me from too many worrisome thoughts. We explored the wonderful Healing Garden that they have just outside the lobby area, and Charlie ran and walked 16 laps around the garden, which equaled 1 mile according to the little sign. We toured the gift shop, played a stepping game where we could only step on the black floor tiles, and then the brown, and then the white. The big green tiles were elevators, where we would pretend to go up and down, to the amusement of several nurses. We planned ahead and brought the portable DVD player, where Charlie watched his set of Pokemon videos until the battery died. He played with his Nintendo DSi until he got bored with it. I didn’t even think that was possible. We thumbed through the pages of an educational toy catalog and picked out all the things we would buy. I even got to the point where I was searching my purse for makeup so I could let Charlie turn me into a clown (left the makeup at home).

Through all of this waiting, Charlie was a super star. He was quiet and patient, and was a great listener. He amazed me, he really did. He started to lose his cool a little at about 2PM, which is when we decided to get out of the hospital and explore the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry for a while. That is simply spectacular for a kid who got up before 5AM and had to wait in a hospital (one of the most boring venues a kid could ever imagine) for HOURS. Wow. (Or as late-night talk-show host Craig Ferguson would say, “I KNOW!!!!”)

On the way back from OMSI, I get a call from the Short Stay nurse, who basically said that we needed to get back right away if we wanted to say goodbye before they took Dan to surgery. We made it, with time to spare, because there was still a bit more waiting in store. This time the wait was worth it, because they finally found an anesthesiologist and he just happened to be the Chief of Anesthesiology. Score! So we had a great OR nurse who used to live in Denver, a great anesthesiologist who promised that Dan wouldn’t remember a thing, and a great surgeon, and a great nephrologist (the transplant program has done almost 700 kidney transplants — and the nephrologist is considered to be the best in the country). What an awesome team!

The anesthesiologist added a little Versed to Dan’s IV line, and Dan felt it right away. “You should have given that to me six hours ago,” he said, a little woozily. We said goodbye and gave Dan hugs and kisses, and then the nurse pushed him down the hall and around a corner.

I took Charlie home, took care of dinner, and asked my mom to stay the night with him while I returned to the hospital. (Thanks mom — you’re the greatest!)

By the way, the hospital is exactly 19.5 miles from my house, one-way. I’m kind of already wishing I had an apartment or hotel room close by. But then who would take care of the dog and cats? Too  complicated. I’ll commute. :)

I waited in the surgery waiting room, and just about 3 hours later (as advertised) the surgeon came out and told me that everything had gone well (yay!) and Dan would be in recovery for another hour, and then would stay in the ICU for perhaps two days. Once they got Dan all situated in his room, I was allowed in. He was really groggy and woozy, and I didn’t think he’d remember I was there (he does remember). He had some pain (“about a 5″, he told the nurse) and was holding on tightly to his morphine clicker. By this time it was about 10-10:30PM. Dan was now “The Man With Three Kidneys”.

Welcome to Kern Critical Care
Welcome to Kern Critical Care

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