Humbled in a hospital gown: One week post-op

My husband shaved my legs for me today.

I bet when we were saying our vows a year ago, he never thought “in sickness and in health” would include helping me to the bathroom, lowering me on the commode, washing me up in my hospital bed and making sure he was so careful with my Venus razor as to not cut my ankles… but all of these things make him my knight in shining armor.

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Right after an IV was put in each hand and the “loopy drip” began. Just before heading into the OR to donate my left kidney to Cheryl.

Dr. Borreson (surgeon) showed up in my “surgery prep” room on Monday, July 18 at about 7:30 a.m. and told us that there was a deceased kidney donor that came in at 1:30 a.m. The OR was backed up and my surgery would be delayed by about 45 minutes. I remember my anxiety about my own surgery was smothered by the excitement and heartache. One person woke up in the middle of the night to a call that there was a kidney waiting for them… Another family got a call that their loved one wasn’t coming home.

I got to see Cheryl and hold her hand right before I was given drugs through my IV to relax me in the prep room. That really put us both at ease.

Doc said it wouldn’t be long and we would get started… but not before he marked the spot for surgery. I lifted my gown and he put his initials on the left side of my abdomen in permanent marker where the left kidney would come out and immediately be transferred to Cheryl who would be in an adjacent operating room. There were six of my family members in the prep room — all with anxious looks on their faces. I needed to break the tension–and quick– so I looked down at the scribbled initials in black marker, looked up and said

“Hey doc, if this all turns out well for me and Cheryl, I’ll get those initials tattooed.”

[wink] Laughter from everyone…kisses from Neil… and I was rolled into the OR.

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Dr. Borreson and I at one of my pre-op appointments. Take note of his overly large hands… more on that later.

They told me I probably wouldn’t remember anything inside the OR, but I do. I looked over at the nurses prepping the “instruments” and I got a bit woozy. I looked up at the medical lights and the geniuses standing over me dressed like smurfs and said: “I feel like I’m on Grey’s Anatomy.” They laughed and said: “Not quite as much drama… or sex here. Now breathe into this mask.” *Lights Out*

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Cheryl’s and my family in the waiting room at St. Mary’s.

Surgery took about 3 hours. I felt like a million bucks after leaving the recovery room. I was groggy, but I specifically remember the guy that wheeled me up to my room leaning over like an old friend saying “Abbey, my name is [I can’t remember]. I just wanted to say I saw your story on the news and thank you for what you’ve done. You’re an inspiration.” When I was wheeled into my room. I saw my whole family standing in the hallway smiling and waving at me like I was floating through the center of the famous Rose Parade and right on into room 812.

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Don’t remember this photo being taken, but it was right after surgery as you can tell by the look on my face, the meds were goooooood.

Cheryl’s new kidney started working right away.

The social worker prepared me weeks ahead of surgery to make sure that I would be mentally OK if the kidney didn’t work. Most of the time they start working right away, sometimes they take a day or two to kick in and very rarely the recipient still needs dialysis after surgery for a while.

I got worried (as worried as you can when you have an IV of Dilaudid hooked up to you) when they said Cheryl wasn’t waking up out of the anesthesia like she should. She stayed in ICU for the next 2 days, and I felt like I wasn’t being told the whole story, but I had confidence that she would be OK and she was. By Tuesday evening she was moved up to the same floor I was on.

When I was (mostly) coherent again. I had the family gather over me and we thanked God for bringing Cheryl and I through the surgery, for all the people who were praying for us (SO many people!) and for the surgeons and nurses that had taken care of us. It was a really a happy and emotional time and I truly felt the presence of the holy spirit there with us.

To be frank, the next 3 nights were difficult.

I won’t go into the details, but I will say the pain meds worked against me (itching, nausea, etc.). The nurses did their best to keep me comfy, but I was progressing slower than the average person, and they got to know my anatomy more than I ever imagined they would… but I was up and walking on Tuesday morning. Neil was my co-pilot and coach (and may I say he is the best coach on the face of the Earth.) My donor transplant team gifted me a giant green kidney pillow to help splint my abdomen where the three small incisions (for cameras and instruments) and one 3″ incision (for Dr. Borreson to stick his hand in and grab the kidney.) I must say, that kidney pillow is the best invention probably ever. I have used it for everything! Cheryl and Terry (Neil’s dad) gifted me a smaller kidney pillow that was also very helpful for sleeping.

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First walk around the floor. On my way to Cheryl’s room.
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Cheryl had just gotten out of the ICU. She doesn’t remember this photo.
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The care I received at Mercy Health St. Mary’s was top notch. Nurse Abbie and Lisa (GVSU nursing student) were my faves. This was taken the day I went home.

I had several visitors; my family, my best friends, my pastor, my co-workers and even strangers stopped by to thank me. I wasn’t the most social patient but I was so grateful.

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My buddies signed my kidney pillow.

And flowers… so many BEAUTIFUL flowers…

I was able to come home on Thursday… 4 days after surgery. Cheryl went home on Friday. Since then, neither of us have had much of an appetite, and I haven’t had a full night’s sleep yet, but otherwise all is well.

My flexibility and stamina are a fraction of what they were before surgery. Standing in the shower is just as exhausting as running a marathon these days, and bending at the waste with about a dozen stitches in four places is about as fun as having to call the cable company. While my body will be weak for a short time, I’m watching Cheryl grow stronger every day, and that takes away any pain. Terry (Neil’s dad) has seen me at my worst over the last week. He asked me today if I would do it again.

I would do it again in a heart beat.

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Cheryl is on 19 medications during recovery. Everything from anti-rejection to heartburn meds. She’ll slowly reduce the Rx’s over the next 6 weeks.

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Cheryl walking for the first time after surgery. She has to wear a mask because the anti-rejection meds weaken her immune system.

This surgery was supposed to be a blessing for Cheryl, but God is certainly showing blessings to me through this gift. My relationship with my husband is stronger, I have made so many connections with other donors and recipients through this blog and Cheryl and I together are bonded in a unique way with a story that will hopefully inspire others.

My recovery may be over soon, but there’s still so much more to share! I hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading.

P.S. If you’re reading this mom and dad… that tattoo isn’t really happening. 😉
P.P.S. Pics of the scars coming soon.

#LivetoGive

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I turned 31 on July 23, 2016. Two days after coming home from the hospital. My hubby brought me home a mini torte from my favorite bakery.

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Humbled in a hospital gown: One week post-op

  1. Hi Abbey,
    I worked with Cheryl in dialysis for many years.
    Thank you for donating the gift of life to a wonderful lady!
    I’m so happy your both doing well!
    Wishing you a speedy Recovery!
    Laurie McMillan

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  2. Hi, Abby,
    I don’t know you or Cheryl but I wanted to commend you for what you have done. Your story was of special interest to me as I have just been approved as a kidney donor for my husband. However, we were not as fortunate as you and I am not a match for him, so we are anticipating the paired exchange. I’m sure you have heard of that because you went through the whole evaluation process as I have, with the transplant team at St. Mary’s. Don’t you love Dr. Borreson???

    I will continue to pray for you and Cheryl as you recover. My husband is just getting ready for dialysis so we’re hoping for kidney matches for both of us are not far in the future. Of course we would like this right away but we know it’s all in God’s timing.

    God bless you!

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    1. Cheryl,
      Thank you for sharing your story! I hope things are progressing and your husband is feeling well. Dr. Borreson and the entire transplant team at St. Mary’s were wonderful. I’m two months post-op today and I am nearly back to my old self! Please keep me posted on how your paired exchange goes. I am so inspired by your willingness to give despite not being a match with your hubby.

      Keep shining!

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  3. Hi Abbey,

    I feel it was a blessing to find your story when I did. I have been testing to be a donor for my dad since March this year. I was in the final stages of the approval process when I found your story on Fox 17. Today I found out I am going to be donating to my father at Mercy Health on Nov 28th. Reading through your blog today was great to see your recovery and what you went through during this process especially after the surgery – Thank you for sharing your story. What a remarkable story to be able to save a life. God bless you and your mother in law. I hope for the best for you all in the days and moments to come.

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    1. Hi Christine!
      I’m so thrilled to hear that the blog has helped you! That was my hope. Please reach out if you have any questions or want to connect. I will be praying for you and your dad, and I want you to know you are in good hands — with Mercy Health St. Mary’s team, and most importantly our Heavenly Father’s.

      Like

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