Life Immediately Post Surgery

The day after surgery I groggily opened my eyes, noticed the early more light streaming in through my hospital window, appreciated how silent the room was, and then noticed my sweet boyfriend sleeping on the recliner. I was surprised to see this, as we previously talked about him staying at my apartment instead of the hospital so he could get good quality sleep.

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What I didn’t remember was that the night before there was a bit of a scare with my red blood cell count, and he chose to stay because of that.  (Everything ended up being fine.)

I smiled as I began to remember the day before, exhaled a sigh of relief because now I could just focus on recovery, and pulled out my iPad to quietly watch a movie while Chad slept. I still didn’t have a whole lot of brain function going on, so I basically just stared at the screen while You’ve Got Mail played, but it felt good to do something somewhat normal.

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I had some soreness in my incisions, but my cocktail of pain meds and anti-nausea meds worked wonderfully. They took my catheter out early in the morning. (I was pretty freaked out about this before surgery, but it was a total non-event. I never felt it, nothing hurt or was the slightest bit uncomfortable.) The nurses also took me off of my IV a couple hours after that.

My sweet nurse Janell helped me get cleaned up with a makeshift bath of wet, warm hand towels and I was finally able to put on my own clothes.  A baggy t-shirt and loose fitting pants never felt so good.

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After my makeshift bath I saw that Doc Foley wrote on my leg to show which side to pull the kidney out of!

I had been asking for solid food for a while, so with taking me off the IV I was able to order hospital room service, which I was very excited about. I have no recollection of what I ordered, but I know there was jello, and someone had gotten me a skim cappuccino from the hospital coffee shop.

Now it was time to start my regular walks around the hospital floor. I was quickly able to get out of bed on my own and navigate the halls without having to hold onto the railings that line the floor. Don’t get me wrong, I was slow as can be, but I wanted to do it under my own power, not holding onto anyone (unless I got dizzy of course).

I had done a handful of laps around the floor when my friends Sarah and Jason came to the hospital for a visit. This was a big deal to me because Jason had donated his own kidney to his sister just over two years ago. It helped a lot leading up to surgery to be able to talk with someone that had been there, and could speak from experience.

Sarah slowly popped her head in my room and right away I was borderline yelling ‘heeyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!’ to which Sarah quickly tried to calm me down – she had no idea I was already feeling so good and was already so mobile! It didn’t take long for me to ask Sarah and J if they wanted to go on a walk with me. Chad was there too so the four of us were going to hit the halls together.

I propped myself up on bed and transitioned to standing, with all three of them holding out a hand to help, which I didn’t take. I then slipped on my shoes and walked out of the door of my hospital room to hear Jason say ‘What the, really? You can get out of bed on your own already, and you don’t even need the railing in the hallway?’ Our walk was filled with laughs about how well I was doing, and how surreal it was that the experience had finally come and gone.

Sarah had the great idea to take a picture of Jason and me under the Transplant sign to commemorate that we were both in the ‘donor club’. 🙂

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I couldn’t even believe it. It was starting to sink in that something that was in my body just over 24 hours earlier was now successfully working in a totally different person’s body, someone I had never met, and may never ever meet. Even today it is hard to wrap my head around that.

The rest of the day was laced with different visitors, naps, more flowers being delivered, sweet nurses, and everything going very smoothly.

The next day I got ambitious (of course). I was awake early, and wanted to get my own cappuccino from the hospital coffee shop. I put on new clothes, cleaned myself up a little in an effort to look more ‘normal’ despite my two IVs still in my hands, and set off for coffee. About half way there I started to second guess my great idea to do this on my own as it was a pretty long walk compared to what I was doing just the day before.

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As I walked up to the line at the coffee shop I was breathless but proud. I made it! I was so aware that I was a patient in a line of ‘normal’ people, and I had visions of getting busted for doing too much too soon, for escaping my floor, and of being punished in some way.

Thankfully it took a little time for the barista to make my skim cappuccino so I leaned a against a railing and gave myself a pep talk. ‘You can make it back up to the 6th floor. If you need to rest there are chairs everywhere. You GOT this.’ Exactly one year earlier I was celebrating having run the fastest marathon of my life and qualifying for Boston. Now I was psyching myself up for a ten minute walk that included an elevator ride.

I shuffled my way back up to the sixth floor, didn’t get in trouble by anyone, and quickly settled back into my hospital bed to celebrate my mini-achievement and rest.

The day was met with more wonderful visitors, flowers, and celebrations with people. I was actually released that afternoon and was about 50% excited to get home, and 50% nervous about it.

Chad helped gather all my flowers and gifts and put them on a cart we could roll outside with us. I didn’t want to be put in a wheelchair, so I enjoyed having the cart to push.

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Leaving those front hospital doors was a little emotional. I was so aware that just three days prior I was walking in there with two kidneys, no scars, and a ton of energy. I was leaving with one kidney, 5 scars, and total exhaustion. But I was savoring it.

The event I was planning for more than a year was now over, and I could go home. All I needed to focus on was healing. I still struggle for finding the words to describe how that felt. It may be a long time before I do.

So how did I decide to commemorate that occasion? By making a stop at Dairy Queen on the way home for an ice cream cone of course. 🙂

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More to come on the road to recovery once I got home.

One thought

  1. Congratulations on making it through Tracey. And thanks again for donating your kidney to a stranger. I’m almost at three months post-transplant (my sister was the donor) and my life is better than I ever could have imagined.

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