I will probably keep updating this list as I think of things, and please comment with your own suggestions!
(In no particular order.)
Preparing for Surgery:
Get in shape. (Ok, THIS tip is in a particular order. In my opinion, most important.) I fully believe that my quick and easy recovery is due to my physical health before surgery. While I wasn't at my ideal fitness level, I was the strongest and healthiest I'd been in my entire life. So if you're not exercising regularly and eating healthy, whole foods, start now. If you are exercising, amp it up.
Stock your freezer with homemade meals, especially ones that are great for the crockpot.
Get into therapy. Whatever kind suits you - a licensed therapist, religious counseling, reiki, or just some good friends. Take the opportunity to voice your hopes and fears about surgery and recovery.
Know that surgery may get postponed/cancelled. It can be a lot more devastating than you think it will be. Try to mentally prepare yourself for this.
If you've got little kids, reconsider. My youngest is three, and we did fine, but I don't think it would have worked well if he were much younger. My boys were okay with me not picking them up, and being careful while snuggling on the couch. A toddler may not be as happy with the arrangement.
Drink lots of water.
At the Hospital:
If you have nausea when taking narcotics, talk to your anesthesia doc about it before surgery. Make a plan for it BEFORE you are actually nauseous. After asking me some questions about my nausea (such as "Can you read a book in a moving vehicle?"), my doc decided an anti-nausea patch would probably be best for me. And, unless for some reason this time my body decided not to be nauseous, it worked really well for me. (And, when they tell you to wash your hands after taking it off, they really mean after touching it in general. I rubbed it while putting my hair up, and then rubbed my eyes. My eyesight was off for days!)
Wear your own clothes. I changed out of my gown once my catheter was out. You'll feel more comfortable and more like yourself. I wore sweats with loose waistbands and tshirts.
Ask questions. Any that pop into your head. "When can I get this 'just in case' IV out?" "When can my catheter come out?" "When can I eat?" "What are these pills you just handed me?" "Why do I need that?" "What happens if I don't take that medicine?" I asked a lot of questions, because I wanted to know exactly what was happening and what medications I was taking and why. I refused some of them. I nagged and probably got my 'extra' IV out sooner than usual. I nagged and got to eat real food sooner than usual (because I was feeling up to it). I nagged and got a shower in sooner than usual. (I really wasn't nagging, I was politely asking, but I was clear in what I needed and why.)
Get up and walk. Even if it's just five feet the first time. It'll get easier each time.
Drink lots of water.
Set up a mealTrain, or have a friend set one up for you. It is SO NICE to not have to worry about getting a healthy, hot meal on the table each evening.
Plan on wearing loose-waisted pants/skirts for awhile.
Have friends/family come over and help you with dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc.
Find a walking buddy, or buddies, to go around the block with you a couple times a day. It'll keep you accountable and it's more fun.
Fill your Netflix queue. I have been watching a lot of 30 Rock.
Drink lots of water.
Have cough drops handy. My throat was all scratched up from being intubated, and for several days I had a 'tickle' in my throat. And of course the more you try to hold back a cough the more you need to cough, so sucking on cough drops was really helpful.
I keep forgetting to post updates, which shows that things are really getting back to normal. I've been feeling normal in my day-to-day routine for a couple weeks now. Carrying laundry, groceries, etc.
Last Monday - so, about 4.5 week post surgery - I went back to the gym doing regular workouts. I am not using as much weight as I used to (about half my normal weight), but everything feels great and it's hard to NOT go up in weight. I still feel much slower than I used to be and I don't have as much endurance as I did, but that is coming back. I'm going to start training for an upcoming Spartan Race soon.
The nerve damage I felt on my left thigh is gone. I have a little numbness just above my large incision. I still have quite a 'bulge' just above the incision, which I was hoping was just swelling, but now I'm thinking it's just belly fat re-distributed in an unfortunate manner. Too bad he didn't just scrape some of that out while he was in there!
I have not been doing a very good job of remembering to do my scar massage. I have gotten some resources for cesarean scar care and need to do that on a more consistent basis.
Teddy seems to be doing well, you can read about him on his mom's blog.
Well, it's been four weeks since the surgery! This week I've been a little...frustrated? I'm not sure that's the word, but we'll use it.
I think in the last week I've made the transition from lack-of-energy-due-to-surgery to lack-of-energy-due-to-not-moving. I feel sluggish, and was getting bored/annoyed at my workouts, because I feel like I can do more. Part of it is my fault, I think if I had been running more I would probably feel better, but I've had a hard time finding time to run since my kids are always with me, or it's late, or I'm working....the usual excuses.
I was getting frustrated at not being allowed to carry baskets of laundry around, carry groceries inside, etc. So, I admit, I've been 'cheating' since Monday. Not carrying really heavy things, but more than I'm 'supposed' to. I've picked my three-year-old up a couple times. And, next week, I plan on doing full workouts. Not using my usual weight, but more than I have been. (I'm being honest, and if later I develop a hernia or something, I'll admit my mistake!)
I'm pretty good at listening to my body, and my body is saying "Get back into it!"
I'm still a little swollen just above my large incision. I have been wearing jeans that were just a tad loose before surgery. They are pretty uncomfortable right out of the dryer, but Monday I wore them for eight hours before I felt like I needed to unbutton them! Other donors have told me their swelling took several months to go away, so I'm not concerned about it, just a little annoyed.
The 'sunburn' feeling inside my left thigh from nerve damage is 95% gone, I'd say. I'm not sure when it really diminished, but I just thought about it today and noticed it was all but gone.
People have been asking me if I am back to normal now, and I usually say that doing my day-to-day stuff, yes, I feel normal. Only occasionally do I move a certain way and feel a twinge in my abs. And no, I can't tell that I'm missing an organ. :)
It's 2+ weeks from surgery, so what now? For me, life goes on as it was. I'll gain back my strength and energy, will go back to work, and - besides a few sports to avoid (probably no rugby in my future) and more detailed annual physicals - will live my life like nothing happened. I am already starting to forget (Maybe "forget" isn't the right word. More like "not think about it 24/7."), and have to stop and think for a minute when people I haven't seen since surgery are SO interested to know how I'm doing.
I probably won't post here much anymore, except for specific kidney-related updates.
My short chapter in the story of Teddy's life is coming to a close.
But just because this transplant is complete, doesn't mean that Teddy doesn't continue to need support. Your support.
Sarah recently posted an answer to the continuously-asked question, "Is he all better?"
As she explains, Teddy will have doctor appointments and medications for the rest of his life. He'll be monitored daily. He'll need to avoid certain activities, foods, environments, people.
And as great as Lefty might be, it won't last the rest of Teddy's life. Transplanted kidneys last about ten years, usually. He will need another kidney someday.
So, as the excitement of transplant wears down, remember that Teddy and his family still need support. Consider donating a few bucks to his account at the National Foundation for Transplants. Bring a meal for his family. Leave a caring note on his Facebook page. Support other families dealing with CKD through donations - monetary or your own spare kidney! Be a registered organ donor and make sure your family knows your wishes.
If you are considering being a living organ donor, feel free to ask me any questions, and I will answer them the best I can.
Two weeks after surgery, and not much to report - that's a good thing. I am feeling better every day. Went to the gym again yesterday and even jogged halfway around the block. A very, very light jog. I was expecting to feel like my insides were sloshing around, but nope. My plan, for the next couple weeks at least, is to be at the gym three times a week, doing workouts created by my trainer. Will increase my walking/jogging at home.
I am definitely tired. Sometimes, exhausted. I haven't been napping this week, partly because my kids won't let me, and partly because the last few days I did nap, I then wasn't able to fall asleep til 1am or so. So by about 4pm I'm tired and cranky and my kids are driving me bonkers. Very, very grateful for the meals people have been bringing for dinner!
|A Kidney Donor's Journey||