As I sit and reflect on how my life has changed since the end of last year and how blessed I am to wake up to each new day… I have the biggest smile on my face and so thankful…every new day is a gift and I will always treat it that way.
Here I am 6 months post transplant and I am amazed how the last few years are already a distant memory and how strong and healthy I am feeling… I feel like a new woman!
I am sorry I have not posted for a while, I have just been so busy since I returned to work full time and to be absolutely honest, I have been living life to the fullest and catching up on everything I have missed out on over the last few years. I feel so liberated and am living life with a new pair of eyes!
Some time has passed since the transplant but I promised I would share my experience with you of the day, our recovery and life post transplant.
It’s quite a different approach to a transplant as the recipient and the donor. The recipient is looking forward to regaining their health and being well, not being on dialysis and getting to live a normal life, and at the same time nervous about the operation but also feeling guilty about the donor having to go through major surgery. The donor is looking forward to the recipient being well, but dreading the operation and how losing a kidney could impact them. Both are very different experiences. I am going to focus on my experience of the transplant as the recipient.
Transplant day had arrived. Tuesday 29 November 2016. We checked into Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg and were welcomed by the wonderful transplant team. We were taken to a private room and soon it was like a chaotic train station filled with doctors, nurses and family coming and going, all attending to Laurie and I. Hundreds of forms to fill out and sign, final cross matching and blood tests being done, dressing changes to my dialysis catheter, scrubbing up for surgery and getting dressed in our sexy theatre gowns…with matching lingerie. Lots of prepping for our big debut which was about to go down.
The plan was for Laurie to go down to surgery first and then I’d go down a little while after her. As Laurie was wheeled down to surgery I whispered to her, “I have something for you”, and gave her a note to read after the op as I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to see her after surgery. She whispered back to me, “I have something for you too Sis”, and she patted her side indicating her kidney.
Once Laurie had gone into theatre, it hit me….I realised what was about to happen. I was about to get a new kidney, my life was about to change. It suddenly became very real!
As I was wheeled into theatre, with my husband, Jason, by my side, I was calm and at peace knowing that Laurie was fine and things were going well in her theatre, I had spoken to my parents on the phone, I knew Jason had his family there to support him, and I was about to have a nice long sleep, while the best transplant team in the country worked their magic and I would be waking up with a brand new functioning kidney…I was ready.
During the transplant, the anesthetist sent messages to Jason keeping him updated on the surgery and how it was going. Kim, our transplant co-ordinator was in theatre with us both. She was by my side, holding my hand as I drifted off to la la land. She came out of theatre during the op to update the family and even had photos to show of Laurie’s beautiful big kidney being placed into my body. The team were incredible in constantly ensuring our families knew how things were going in the two theatres.
When I woke up that afternoon in my glass isolation bubble in ICU, the first thing I wanted to know was if Laurie is OK and if everything had gone well. It was such relief to know both surgeries were a success and Laurie was fine and my new kidney was producing urine…like a racehorse…for the first time in 2 years! Apparently the new kidney started working as soon as it was connected inside me. The hours that followed were a bit of a blur but I do remember the physiotherapist coming into my room to say he will be coming back later to get me out of bed and go for a walk! You can imagine what I told him to go do!
Once the pain had eased off and I was over the effects from the anesthetic, I started to feel great. I felt strong and I realised how tired and weak I had been feeling for years. My new kidney, which is located in a space created within the abdominal cavity, was working like a dream and over the next few days my levels started to normlise. I went from a GFR of 4 and creatinine of 1800 to instantly improving over the days post transplant to around 80. Below is a table of my blood levels over the last few months.
|49 – 90||< 8.4||> 90||12 – 15|
A week after the transplant I had my dialysis catheter removed from my chest, and the next day I was discharged from hospital and headed home to begin my new life. But before being let out into the big wide world again I needed to do 3 months in isolation at home because I was taking high doses of immune suppression medication to avoid the body rejecting my brand new kidney. The dosage reduced over the 3 months and soon I was given the all OK.
It has now been 6 months since the day I got my life back and life has just been incredible. I love every minute I get to spend with all the special people in my life and never take these moments for granted. They are real golden moments.
Laurie, you are such a beautiful soul who has not only touched my life but so many others, including those who haven’t even met you. Someone said to me the other day that even though they hadn’t met you, if you were to need anything, they wouldn’t even hesitate to give to you knowing what you did for me. You have made such an impact on so many peoples lives and your bravery and selflessness shines through that beautiful smile of yours. I know Dayne would be so proud of you and I will forever be grateful for him bringing us together and connecting us. But most importantly, without you I wouldn’t have such an exciting life ahead of me.
Thank you to the incredible team at Donald Gordon Medical Centre who took care of Laurie and I and made it possible for us to embark on this incredible journey. I was so impressed with the level of care, professionalism and attention to detail shown by all involved in the transplant. Thank you to our kidney Mom, Kim, who co-ordinated every single step of the journey, was there for us both (especially on her birthday which was the same day as the transplant) and who is still a huge support for us.
My husband, my rock…thank you for being by my side through every step of this journey and for being so patient over the last 5 years. I know this has been hard on you yet you have embraced it with such positivity, strength and perseverance and I will forever be grateful for that. I am really looking forward to the next chapter we have ahead of us and living life to the fullest with you by my side.
And finally to our families and friends who have been there for us through it all and supported us through the tough times and celebrate and focus on the good times. Thank you to everyone who sent such amazing, encouraging messages, visited us both in hospital and at home during our recovering and spoilt us with your time and love.
Laurie, thank you for giving me the chance of many more tomorrows and changing the course of my life by giving me a second chance to live a full life, to create a family, and the chance of making my dreams come true. I am feeling so blessed, so grateful and so strong and healthy with a renewed sense of life… ready to live life in abundance and never take anything for granted.