18 December 2008

Here we go again...

In four days, my good friend Shark and I are going to be admitted to OSU Hospital, whereupon doctors will render us unconscious, remove a kidney from him, and then insert it into me in the wrong place. Which is exactly what I've been hoping for for many months now.

I have Goodpasture's Syndrome. It's a blessedly rare disease which, in short, causes your body to completely destroy its own kidneys as if they were foreign bodies; while it's killing your kidneys it's also attacking your lungs. Its cause is not entirely known. It struck me quite suddenly when I was a young man of 22. I was on dialysis for 2 years after that, then in 1991 received my first kidney transplant from a very young man who had died in an automobile accident.

During dialysis I continued my classes at Michigan State University. After the transplant, I graduated; somewhere in between those two things I married the most wonderful woman in the world. After I had my first transplant, I fathered three children, traveled the USA and the world, and embarked on a successful professional career. Life with a kidney transplant freed me from the shackles of dialysis and allowed me to live a completely full and normal life. Although my transplanted kidney had declined in function gradually over the years, it still served me very well for 17 years, longer than the original owner who tragically died at 16.

In May of 2008 my monthly blood work came back with bad news: the transplanted kidney was no longer working well. Subsequent testing proved that the kidney was on its last, um, legs. Doctors told me that they could keep me going for a few more weeks to maybe months, but that I would need a new kidney again, and soon.

In May I had few symptoms. But by June I began to become very ill. The kidneys filter toxins from the body, regulate blood pressure and electrolytes, balance your fluids, and produce hormones that control red blood cell production and parathyroid function. All these things began to go wrong in me. I lost 10+ pounds very quickly, and became extremely weak and anemic.

In September I started dialysis. Since then I have undergone dialysis three times a week for 3+ hours each session. This treatment has greatly improved my health and helped make me ready for surgery. However, dialysis is very rough on the body and is not a good long-term treatment compared to a transplant.

When we found out I needed another kidney, a number of friends and family graciously offered their very flesh to help me. After an interminable series of invasive and annoying tests, my friend Shark persisted and is considered to be the best candidate. Surgery has been scheduled for Tuesday.

After Tuesday, my #1 job is complete recovery. Years of kidney disease have wracked my body; I suffer from arthritis, muscle wasting, brittle bones, and an enlarged ventricle in my heart. Once I get the transplant, my regimen of getting back into the peak shape of my life begins. I figure if my friend is good enough to actually give me an organ, the least I can do is make sure that the organ lasts as long as possible.

So on this blog I'll keep the world posted on my surgery, recovery, and progress toward my goal.