13 July 2009

Halfway around the sun, and a coincidence?

Six months ago, snow was on the ground, the nights were dark, and the Earth was halfway around the sun from where we are now. That's when I had my second kidney transplant - December 23, 2008, here in Columbus, Ohio. It truthfully seems like a different world to me now.

The full story is elsewhere on this blog, but I'll recap the highlights of what has come before:

I have a disease called Goodpasture syndrome which ruined my kidneys 20 years ago. I spent 2 years on dialysis waiting on "the list", then had my first transplant at University of Michigan in 1991. That organ served me well until 2008, when it finally succumbed to the effects of chronic rejection and the medicines. My doctors told me I'd need another transplant, and an old and close friend ("Shark") volunteered his flesh. I returned to dialysis from September until December while undergoing all the tests required for the surgery. It was performed on my son Paul's 10th birthday, and I was home by the New Year.

Today was my six-month post-transplant checkup. The checkup itself was not a very intensive visit - they weighed me, drew half a dozen tubes of blood, took my blood pressure, and asked how I was feeling. The blood work is really what gives them all the information they need: the kidney controls most of the composition of your blood. It manages the fluid level, the electrolytes, the acidity, the minerals, the level of toxins, and even the red blood cells. Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow, and the kidneys make the hormone that stimulates the marrow.

We met with my nurse and my surgeon. It went well. The nurse called me "the poster child" for health after a transplant. The surgeon looked me over and declared he doesn't want to see me again for six more months, and as a matter of fact I could reduce the dose on one of my many medicines.

So here's the upshot:
  • Blood pressure normal. In fact, it's better than yours.
  • Blood tests all normal. Indistinguishable from a human!
  • My gout and the associated joint damage (feet, ankles, knees) is rapidly disappearing. The doctor says this will continue to improve. This has been one of the worst effects of my chronic disease, and I'm glad to see it go. I can even run again!
  • My anemia, which I've had for years, is officially gone. This means normal strength and energy, and that I no longer need to take weekly shots of blood hormones.
  • I'm still going to the gym 2-3 times a week, concentrating on building muscle and reversing atrophy. Weightlifting, swimming, and the arm bike!
  • My daily dose of steroids has been reduced by 1/3. Steroids have horrible side effects, so this is great news.
  • My brain is working at full capacity again. Uremia (the effects of kidney failure) affects every organ system, including the cranio-nogginal system.
  • I feel about 110%, maybe 120% now. This is the important number.
My family is ecstatic that hubby and daddy is back, and I'm ecstatic to be back with them. Our lives are returning to the state of barely controlled chaos we call "normal". This has been a whirlwind for all of us, an extended cyclone of experience that threatened constantly to blow us away. But Monica and I have spent years weatherproofing our lives, preparing for the inevitable gusts of poor health. We were lucky enough to find the eye of the storm: self-sacrificing friends and family; caring and professional doctors, nurses, technicians; great insurance coverage(!); a work environment allowing lots of flex time; and living in a society, country, time, and location which cultivate miracles like this. I'll drop some names of the otherwise faceless and unsung organizations that nearly always go unappreciated: remember, all are made up of real people. Thanks to Ohio State University Medical Center, DaVita Dialysis Dublin, Riverside Nephrology, Riverside Methodist Hospital, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care insurance, Sophos, Knightsbridge Internal Medicine and Cardiology, and many more that I've forgotten.

And thank you for reading this. It really matters, you know? The point here is not really about me, you see; I'm doing great. Just do me a couple favors: Understand, support, and communicate the real-life impact of organ donation. Know and believe that - with love, will, and sacrifice - it's possible to overcome the seemingly insurmountable.



Addendum: And then, a coincidence happened.

Hey! So I walk into the clinic this morning, and walk up to the receptionist's window to sign in. I recognize the name above me -- our old and good friend Matt B__ (Facebook types, you probably know who this is). And indeed, he was sitting right behind us .... with a potential donor! Matt has been suffering from kidney failure and is on dialysis as well, and like us, he and his wife have three young boys who need a healthy daddy. I'm so excited that a potential donor has stepped forward. Bless her with many blessings! They're still early in the process, so please send prayers, wishes, vibrations their way. Monica and I met Matt in college, and he read the scriptures at our wedding 17 years ago.

What strange karma that he's living down here in Ohio and seeking a transplant as well! There are no coincidences.