Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A note from Nancy

Dear all,

I'm not going to spend a lot of time behind the computer today, but just to let you all know that I'm home from the hospital and everything is fine. I haven't even read any of my accumulated e-mail yet (unlike Jim, who was e-mailing the morning after the transplant). The plan is to veg happily and watch movies with the kids, which I think I'll be able to stand for about a week.

When we left Jim he was being relieved of yet another tube of his full panoply of tubes, IV-drips, catheters, etc. The big project now for him is to organize the administration of his own immuno-suppressive drug regime. But he's feeling great. And the kidney is a champ.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, good thoughts, cards, e-mails, and general positive energy. We felt as if we were moving within a web of love and support.

The staff of the AMC is fantastic. We have only good things to say about that impressive institution.

I'm not supposed to overdo it, so I'll keep it short.

much love,


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In April 2008, I found time to type out the entire journal I wrote out in my moleskin notebook while in the hospital.


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3 November 2007
(3 days after the transplant)

I don't think I could have written like this yesterday. Yesterday was Jim's 66th birthday, our 25th anniversary, and two days after the kidney transplant. It's taking a long time to get back into focus. Jim is going great guns. He began sending e-mails out on Thursday morning, the day after the operation! The new kidney is strong and producing enormous amounts of urine. And my remaining kidney is also being loyal, working hard to take up the slack and do all the work on its own.

We checked in to the AMC early Tuesday morning, coming by train, first class (which we never do, but we wanted to avoid the commuter crowds). Jim went to F5 noord (nierafdeling) and I to G5 noord (algemene verpleging). I waited in a patient's recreation room (living room with TV) for about 10 minutes until someone came to show me my room, 209. As I was unpacking, a young doctor arrived to hook up an IV drop which would fill my body -- and kidney -- with fluid and put it in an optimum condition for the operation. He then took me down to an examination room and gave me a thorough physical, taking down my medical history and profile as well. I was able to point out any aspects of my health that I thought were strange or suspects. Then back to my room. The appointment with the anesthesiologist with Jim was scheduled for 1:15, so I ready Harry Potter (5) and had lunch. The IV drip was making me feel very fit and very hungry.

At 1:15 I was taken to the office of the anesthesiologist, where I met up with Jim. All this time I was being treated by a very young nurse who had to keep chasing me around the hospital to replace the IV bag. Jolanda was her name, I think. Early 20s and really quite good. Also the surgeon stopped in, Dr. Ibu, whom the earlier doctor had praised for his skill. An Indian man with a warm smile. He said I would not wake up with a belly full of gas [which was the experience of a friend who had a similar operation]; they remove the gas first. I spent most of the day reading. Had dinner and went to bed and slept quite well.

I was awakened at 7:00 so I could freshen up. I washed my hair in the sink (no shower with the IV drop) and put on the surgical gown given to me by the nurse. No breakfast, of course.

Sylvia [head of the transplant team] dropped in at around 7:30 to wish me luck. The nurse gave me 2 paracetamols and a half of a tiny blue tablet to calm me down. Although I didn't feel nervous, my legs were trembling. I was taken to the verkoever (recover room), where the little blue pill calmed be totally and knocked me out. I have no recollection of being taken into the OR or of being anesthetized.

Next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room. A nurse by my side said all went very well, and that Jim was in an ICU just cattycorner from where I was in recovery. He was still out and would spend the night there.

The nurse also told me they had had trouble "entubing" me for anesthesia, so they ended up using a mask. Oddly enough, they had the same problem with Jim! She said they had written all this out in technical language for us. She also said it was a rare problem! For days I had a sore throat.

I was taken back to my room at about 3:00 (vague on the time). I felt pretty decent, but very sore and a little nauseated. Couldn't get out of bed. Catheterized, fortunately. I had another IV drip on the other hand with fluid and morphine, and a little device by which I could administer doses of morphine myself. I only did this a couple of times. The pain was not severe. I was assured that I could not overdose myself.

Slept a great deal. Visitors? Wendy and Anne -- so good to see their sweet faces. Silouan, Thomas. Slept OK considering.

Thursday was a blur of sleeping, having my catheter checked, trying to get a little bouillon down. Jim was wheeled down to see me! Obviously in better shape. He just sat there and cried. I couldn't read, couldn't focus on words.

Thursday night was bad. I had terrible heart palpitations and shallow breathing. Strange dreams.

In the morning I told the doctor about the palpitations. He ordered blood tests and an ECG. Later on a cardiologist came to talk to me and said the tests showed nothing, but if it happened again to call a nurse directly and another ECG would be done.

The catheter was removed and the IV drip as well.

It was Jim's birthday and our anniversary! I was able to read and move more comfortably and could get out of bed. I walked around the G5 ward, very slowly.

That evening, Dan, Wendy, Cait and Björn came for a sort of party. Wendy brought a huge fruit basket. They wheel-chaired me down to Jim's room, and Wendy hung up slingers. Dan took pictures and Jim showed us a sonogram of the new kidney, working beautifully. Silouan came, too, with Leonidas chocolates to pass around.

Saturday was a lovely day. Now that the catheter and IV were out I could take a shower. Wonderful! Went down to visit Jim (in a wheelchair). He was doing very well. Maria Faber came and brought a small icon of the Kazan Mother of God and CD of the choir form the Convent of the Kazan icon in Russia. She also brought a copy of the day's Trouw with a lead article about kidney transplants! Mostly about a Dutch man who had received four kidneys from his brother, mother, father and wife. Wendy also stopped by.

Nice evening. Watched a little TV and read. Had heart palpitations again and called the night nurse. He had another ECG taken. Showed no irregularities and my blood pressure is normal (124/71), but my pulse was irregular. He said it was probably an extra systolic beat, which is not an uncommon problem. The palpitations stopped after midnight. Saturday night was the first really normal night of sleep, partly due to the fact that I figured out how to adjust the bed properly, partly because I could sleep on my side without pain or discomfort.

Sunday morning I chatted for a long time with my roommate, who is here to have her thyroid removed. Lovely person, 39, two daughters, nice husband, good marriage, good sense of humor. Walked to Jim's room for the first time! He's doing fine and is learning how to manage his new -- very complicated -- medication regime. I tried to translate all the papers he got but could only do page 1. Exhausting!

Tomorrow I go home.

Tonight Dan and Noah came to see us! It was so great to see Noah. I just couldn't stop kissing him. We all walked to Jim's room and showed Noah the picture of the kidney in Trouw. Jim showed him the sonogram image. A lot for a little boy to take on board, but we tried to make him feel comfortable and appreciated.

The nurse said I would probably be able to go home before noon tomorrow.

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