08 January 2009

16 days post-transplant...

I realized today that I feel better than I have in years.

When I first suffered kidney failure in 1989, it happened almost immediately. Within about 2 weeks' time I went from young, fit Army veteran to dialysis and breathing on a ventilator. I didn't really have time to feel ill. But the failure of my first transplant I can literally trace over years. The first sign, I believe, was when I came down with chronic gout about 10 years ago. Gradually over time I became less able to deal with minor illnesses, my blood pressure became uncontrolled, and eventually it came to the point that I had to be hospitalized just for the flu. I lost anything resembling an appetite about 2 years ago. I began to experience panic attacks about two years ago, followed by full-on anxiety disorder, insomnia, and depression. It's been so very gradual, though, that I barely noticed it and/or simply accepted these things as signs of "growing old".

Then this morning I woke up after a refreshing, deep night's sleep. I was in no pain. You have to understand that I've suffered from chronic pain for the 10 years that I've had gout. I also, obviously, just had major abdominal surgery a little over two weeks ago. But no pain today. Normal appetite. Healthy metabolism. Nails, hair, skin growing. Most importantly, brain no longer fuzzy.

So I got up, shaved, showered, dressed, and scooted off to the clinic for my biweekly blood draw. At the clinic, the phlebotomist (who's seen me every week for the past couple months) commented that I looked well, and asked how I was feeling. "I'm feeling good," I said, and then upon a sudden epiphany I added, "Better than I have in years, in fact".

To be sure, I've some ways to go. My incisions are still healing. I'm still in danger of certain complications. I have serious work to do to restore my muscles, which have wasted away due to the abuse my entire body's been through. My heart has also experienced some damage due to my kidney failure. As soon as the doctors let me, it's back to the Y every day, and back to hiking on the weekends.

But boy do I feel, well, normal.