16 January 2009

"Normal"



Ohio State University has an online service called TransChart. It allows all their transplant patients to view their complete history of lab results. Patients can also input their vital signs (I take weight, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature 4 times a day) so that the nurses and doctors can keep track. They use it not only to communicate with patients but to collect and track massive amounts of data on thousands of transplant patients, their labs, medications, and vital signs. By correlating all this data they gain a better understanding of what techniques, medications, etc. work better and which don't. It's the kind of thing that a research university is ideal for.

That's all in the aggregate, of course. But it has a very personal, even intimate, connection for every individual patient, in particular me.

Over the years my first transplant declined in function. From a medical point of view my body has not been "normal" in a good 5-10 years. What I mean is this: I've lived with a certain abnormal level of toxins in my body, with a reduced amount of red blood cells, and with unbalanced electrolytes for a long time. It never stopped me but it was never a good place to be. I had to take shots and get transfusions for severe anemia; I developed osteoporosis even though I'm not an elderly white or asian woman of short stature; I'd get swollen legs; and lots of other not-fun symptoms. This was simply because I had only one partially working kidney and it mattered.

Today I got a most pleasant shock. I accessed the TransChart system for the first time and looked at my bloodwork from yesterday.

Every. Single. Lab. Value. Was. Normal.

Three weeks ago they put a new kidney in me, and three weeks later it has rendered my body essentially perfectly healthy.

I mean, sure, I'm heavily medicated in order to maintain this healthy state. I have to follow the rules, take care of myself, and eat right. But that's not the point. My creatinine (the primary measure of kidney function) is better than it has been in 20 years. It's indistinguishable from a person with two healthy working kidneys.

To celebrate, I went out to my first restaurant meal since my surgery. Cheese manicotti and Sicilian chicken soup. Buono appetito!