So it’s been 16 days since surgery and both Katherine and I are doing great! I received another call from the transplant department, and I mentioned that this has been such a positive experience. She asked if I would be willing to speak with other possible donors in the future – sometimes, when a possible donor meets with the social worker they ask to speak with someone who has donated before. I immediately said, “Absolutely!”
Some people like to know exactly what they are in store for and others don’t want all the details. This post is for those who want to know everything. If that’s not you, you may comfortably discontinue reading now. 🙂
There were many things that I expected and even more things that I wasn’t exactly expecting or prepared for. First of all, the pain for those first few days was way worse than I expected. I knew the worst of the pain would be from the gas for laparoscopic surgery, but yeah this non-pill popping girl was really happy for pain meds. That’s another thing, the pain meds work! Not being a pill popper, I don’t have a lot of experience with drugs of any kind so I was happily surprised that the pain meds worked so well! I’d say the same for the anti-nausea meds, which I highly recommend. I refused it initially and suffered for 6 hours unnecessarily. I finally called the nurse and said ok give it to me and within minutes I felt better! So I definitely recommend the pain and anti-nausea meds while in the hospital!
My incisions were not in places I expected, but the “extraction point” incision was only 2 inches and that made me very happy! I have 2 small incisions in the middle of my abdomen and then one on my side. Incision pain has been negligible. I didn’t expect that either – I actually thought that would be the majority of my pain after coming home. Nope. No pain at any of the incisions. 🙂
I’m surprised at how quickly I feel like myself…and yet I’m unable to walk at a reasonable pace. This probably has me the most shocked because I expected the pain to give me boundaries, but since there is no pain I am easily tempted to overdo things. Normal things like going up stairs, cooking dinner and just staying awake all day make me breathless and weary. Given that I feel so well physically and mentally, it seems so odd that I am so limited with my daily activities. I am learning every day to listen to my body and rest more…no matter what, rest more.
Another somewhat interesting effect has been a lot of gas! Fortunately for me and others, it comes out on the topside. I have been belching like a dude for 2 weeks now. It’s completely embarrassing and not at all like me! Actually, it has settled down now, but I had my family cracking up for quite some time! It was ridiculous. That seems to have passed just like the docs said it would.
I was also surprised how well I could do stairs and get out of bed the first day I got home. I expected to need help for both of those activities when I first arrived home.
One huge thing I didn’t even think about…abdominal swelling. Yep, my belly got a lot bigger and I haven’t worn a real pair of pants with a zipper and button since the surgery. Extra size leggings and sweats have been wonderful! I can actually tell you my abdomen was 1.5 inches bigger for 2 weeks. Now it is down to only 0.5 inches larger. And if you are wondering, I work with a trainer, and we use measurements to gauge progress so I know where I was prior to surgery. Everything in my lower abdomen is still pretty sore to touch so I’ll probably stick with my leggings for a while now.
Another thing I didn’t think about is FOOD! I know that’s a shocker for those of you who know me, but I didn’t realize how this surgery would affect my food intake. First of all, silly me was expecting to eat as soon as I got out of surgery. Um, no. Actually, I couldn’t eat the entire day! Definitely didn’t see that coming! Oh wait, not only no food, but I still couldn’t have anything to drink either…until 12 hours after surgery. And then it was only liquids. My husband and I laughed because they gave me apple juice (which I strongly dislike) and I kept saying, “This apple juice is so good. I don’t even like apple juice, but this is just so good.”
So continuing on this food topic, I was barely able to consume any volume of food for about 2 weeks after surgery. I would take 3 bites of something and feel full. Perhaps my insides were so swollen that there wasn’t much room in my stomach. I found I easily refused some of my favorite foods and just wasn’t all that interested in eating. I ate because I knew I needed food for healing. Now that we are 16 days out, I am eating normal quantities, but certainly much less than before surgery. My workouts have stopped so the nutrition demand for my body is much less. It will be interesting to see how resuming workouts in 2 more weeks will affect my appetite.
10 Day Follow Up
My “10 day follow up” was actually 13 days later due to the holiday weekend. I was feeling great and it was my first day driving. I hadn’t taken any pain meds since 4 days after surgery and I felt great, so I drove to the hospital for that appointment. I had a list of questions (like the embarrassing gas part) and they checked me over. They again thanked me for what I did, reviewed my labs, and sent me home with all my medical records and a 6 month recall appointment. That’s it! As far as they were concerned I was done and only needed follow up check-ups at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. Done!
As I reviewed my labwork at home (cuz I’m that kind of a geek), I looked at my creatinine levels prior to and following surgery, and I had a brief moment of sadness. My creatinine levels were slightly elevated after surgery and are likely to remain there for the rest of my life. (Normal #s are 0 to 1.1 – My post surgical level was 1.15 which is barely high) My GFR had decreased as well (now abnormal). Both of those were expected and fully disclosed in our very first meeting with the doctor, but somehow seeing it in black and white affected me a little more. In the grand scheme of things, it is insignificant, but I had this “oh no I’m not normal” feeling. It passed and I’m over it but it was a little strange.
So here I’m including 2 photos of my wounds. There are 4 incisions. The large one, aka “the extraction point”, is just inside my left hip. The photo on the left is 2 days after surgery and the photo on the right is 16 days later.
I’m hoping that slight lump just above my hip is from the stitches and will disappear as I heal completely. And I’m rubbing Vitamin E on those scars to help the appearance as they heal.
All things considered, I am completely thrilled that I had this amazing opportunity to give a marvelous gift to a wonderful person. Yes, the experience was traumatic, and yes, the experience was miraculous and wonderful. I feel like it is much like childbirth – talk about traumatic! But just like every momma could talk endlessly about having her babies no matter how long ago it was, I will remember this gift, and I will enjoy sharing this miracle with anyone who wants to hear about it.