One Month and Three Kidneys Later…

Waking up in ICUJust got my wings. Time to learn how to fly.

The lights were quite dim and I could only hear slight voices in the far distance, something about lungs.

lungs…

right lung…?

slow…?

collapsed…?

While I sat there racking my brain, didn’t I have a kidney transplant?  What lungs, whats going on?

eyes closed.

Pain.

More pain.

I was drifting in and out of consciousness up in the highest room of the hospital, the ICU (intensive care unit) which is where all transplant patients are sent to spend their first few hours bonding with their new organ. When I was 17 and I had my first transplant I slept through this entire process. I couldn’t remember anything except the darkness of a room and shadows walking up and down next to the bed. This time however, things were different. For some odd reason I was unaware of where I was, delirious but yet I was awake and alert, trying to see what was around me and not miss the action. *Heads up, if you ever go in for some type of abdominal surgery never try to sit up as soon as you gain consciousness not only will you experience an intense stabbing pain, you will be forced back down and drugged till you stop screaming.

I realise I make my hospital experiences sound like a glimpse into the inner workings of a torture chamber.. but truthfully it’s not that bad when the drugs kick in, in fact I myself have grown very fond of some of the cocktails my doctors have mixed for me. These days being at home I’m missing my IV fentanyl like crazy. It saddened me to know that for a long time this may be the last time I would have such morphine-like opioids.

Speaking of drugs, let me tell you what happened that fateful night in ICU..  there I was alert but only because as drowsy as I was from the general anaesthetic I was so sure the pain medication was not entering my blood system. I mumbled over and over..”pain”.. “machine not working”.. “help..” I knew something was wrong because the last time I was here I was completely out of it- so something was different. The nurses kept telling me that the machine was working and that they could hear and see the white substance entering my needles and I was getting adequate pain relief, I was so sure they were wrong but I couldn’t fight it I sat there mumbling away till I saw some light….

What is the date Miss Chetty?

“Uhh Sunday? Monday?.. Last Saturday?! *giggle*”

The date?

“Huh?…”

Who is the Prime Minister of New Zealand?

“Barack Obama”

No, Miss Chetty, the Prime Minister of New Zealand?

“Oh! John Key”

Uhh.. It’s Bill English Miss Chetty 

“Fuck!”

Myself in a daze in ICU - accepting I look horrid
Myself in a daze in ICU – accepting I look horrid

Next I could see paints of red going down my right arm, my arterial line had split open so I was bleeding through some bandages, it was enough to make me giggle I couldn’t believe it was bleeding so much yet I felt absolutely nothing.

6am shift changes, a rush of doctors and surgeons- a team laced in green scrubs. Turns out I was right, the pain pump was running the whole night but the fluid itself wasn’t draining out of the bag meaning I was getting no pain relief since the surgery. I knew something was wrong.

They replaced the machine.. increased my dose and away I went…

Goodnight Miss Chetty. 

“Night Night Caroline”

My name is Charlotte.

“Okay Carol ….”

 

Waking up on the ward:

So after a good 24-26 hours in ICU, if everything is alright, transplant patients get to go back to the ward usually in isolation. This is because our immune systems have to be severely lowered so that we do not attack our new organ. The process involves high dosages of steroids and other intense immunosuppressive drugs that I have since struggled to deal with. I was connected to a catheter (the worst part about hospitals) and since the time the kidney was connected to my bladder it was working hard cleaning my disgusting blood. Within the first 4 hours of having this new kidney, I found out I had already peed a total of 8 litres (this is compared to the 0 Litres I peed before the transplant). I’m having trouble writing about what happened when I got back to my room purely because since my pain pump was fixed I was dancing with leprechauns and kissing Gerald Butler. I have a very slight memory of what it was like those first few hours other than being totally blissful in a state of euphoria. I do NOT condone drugs/drug abuse but I am a strong believer in just what the doctor orders and any person with chronic pain and illnesses such as myself are more than welcome to run with the fairies.

Measuring my urine output (this shows that the kidney is doing its job)
Measuring my urine output (this shows that the kidney is doing its job)

I did, however, find out what the LUNG talk was about. I had an oxygen mask on for a while and then oxygen tubes in my nose because as it turns out during surgery my right lung decided to collapse, then my left somehow I had stopped breathing only for a short while and eventually my left lung went back to normal. I saw an x-ray and I kid you not the doctor was pointing to a deflated balloon and calling it my right lung.

I painfully asked how Leah was doing and found out that she had a traumatic experience with pain herself but was doing okay since that previous morning.

First go this kidney had at my weak body- good luck fella
The first go this kidney had at my weak body- good luck fella

I remember clearly lifting up my top and staring down and a large bulge on the left-hand side of my abdomen (I’m not gloating but bye bye went my Kayla Bikini Body ). There it was..  my new kidney, my new little baby that I had to protect. It was huge! I put my hand over the top of my stomach and inside I could feel movement, the rushing of blood. The kidney was so huge that it was sitting right on the surface, doing its job. Out of one body and into another – a working machine. I couldn’t tell you what this moment felt like only to say that I imagine being pregnant felt something like this, except 9 months later I would never get to meet it. I can only say it feels surreal, you wait almost your whole life for this moment and there it was.. my life saver.

For once it looked like things may be okay.