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What is it like to be a living donor?

posted Apr 8, 2011, 10:24 AM by Becca K.

This post will contain graphic images.  Consider yourself warned.

God, in heaven, I yearned for the knowledge that would prepare me for the surgery of a lifetime.  I searched high and low on the internet.  (OK, it’s the internet – a there is no high and low, but you get the point.)  I was able to find one place, it had a message board and lots of people just like me were looking for answers to my question too.  I am thankful to the few posters that returned to http://www.livingdonorsonline.org/ to share their stories.

Last night I found my surgical report.  I received it a week after transplant, but never read it.  It was an interesting read.  To hear about my surgery, that I have talked about spiritually, described in technical, medical jargon. 

I learned that I was intubated.

I learned that I stayed in the hospitals only 2 days.  I have always thought it was 3 – medical fog combined with repression, I guess.

I learned that they “returned my colon into my abdomen” yummy.

I learned that they fed the JP drain through a “stab wound.”

I learned that I “tolerated the procedure well.”

I learned that I did not require blood during the procedure.

 

Here is my recap.  Done one year post transplant.  It reads just a bit different.

My mom and I arrived at the Northwestern Hospital early that Ash Wednesday morning.  We had slept the night at the Kohl’s house and a CMH security van drove us to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  We had all arrived the night before, and Jason and Natalie had spent the night at Children’s.  I didn’t want to leave them there, alone the night before the surgery; that much I remember. 

It was snowing and still dark as we left for the hospital.  The snow was those huge flakes and glistened on the window of the security van.  The hospital was just starting to wake up as my mom and I arrived.  I’d been to this hospital before, when Jason had knee surgery and all the waiting rooms look the same.  There we sat; I think that there was another couple in the room.

And then they called my name.  I went into a room to change into a gown.  It really wasn’t a room, there were 3 walls and a curtain, and a TV, it was more of a pod.  Anyway, I changed and then we walked with another patient to a surgical prep area.  I laid on a gurney staring at the dry erase board with doctor and patient assignments.  There I was, “Dr. Abecassis 0730.”

 

After what seemed like an eternity, an IV was placed but no medication was started.  I was looking at the clock.  What was taking so long?  Didn’t they know that I needed to have surgery start at 7:30?  Didn’t they know that my daughter was counting on me?  My mom stepped out of the room, to call my dad I think, where was she?  What was taking so long?

Then Dr. Abecassis came into the room.  He held him thumb at my xiphoid process and his finger at my belly button, lining up the incision area and asked, “Do you still want to do this?  You can say no at any time.”  Without hesitation I said, “Sure” He stopped in his tracks and turned again to me and said, “Becca, don’t take this decision lightly.  You may die from this.  Are you sure?”

 

I sat for what couldn’t have been more than 10 seconds, but it felt like a lifetime and the warmest feeling came over me (I say again, they hadn’t given me any medications yet).  It felt like all the love I’d ever experienced in my life wrapped around me like a blanket.  I turned to my surgeon and said, “Yeah, Jesus and I are cool.”

 

What follows is a blur at best because soon after they started the sedation medication, most likely Versed. I remember being wheeled down a hallway and then waking up 6 or so hours later, feeling, well sore doesn’t begin to describe the pain.  A doctor, whose name I never learned, squeezed my arm and said, “You’ve just reserved your place in heaven.” 

The picture that you see of me was taken just hours after the surgery by my loving husband when he arrived to check on me.  He stayed at Children’s Memorial for most of the day, trying as best as he could to “bounce” between the hospitals.
 
This was taken one year after the transplant.
 
 
 
And that’s what it is like to be a living donor.
 

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