(Martha wrote her first post before surgery which you can find here.)
Reflections on being a Living Kidney Donor at three days post-op:
First, thank you to everyone from this group, Kidney Donor Athletes, for all of your support, prayers and well wishes. You have helped me be confident and reassured going into my donor surgery.
Now, as I am just three days post-op, the experience is still very fresh in my mind and I want to share this experience with those who are already one-beaners, but even more so with those who are considering being a living donor or are already approved to donate and are awaiting surgery.
My surgery was at the University of Michigan, and I can not say enough about the medical staff there and the amazing care that I received throughout my stay. In short, I was treated like royalty! Surgery was scheduled at 8:30 AM; my check-in to pre-op was 6:30. Pre-op was an almost constant flow of different members of the medical staff introducing themselves and explaining everything that was happening. I had one hiccup in that I had originally consented to a Left Nephrectomy, but through the Paired Kidney Exchange, my kidney was to go to Baylor University and they requested my right kidney due to the extra vein from my left kidney making the transplant into my recipient more complicated. So one important part of my pre-op was to update my consent with my surgeon, then he initialed my right side to confirm that it was the location of my surgery.
My anesthesiologist was amazing and really helped me stay relaxed so I did not need anything for anxiety prior to surgery. I told him right away that my goal was to be completely lucid going into the OR so I could absorb everything that was happening. My nurses had already gone over what would happen when I was wheeled into the OR, so there really were no surprises: Transfer to the operating table (it’s not so comfortable, kinda lumpy). Warm blankets so I don’t get chilled. Introduction of each member of the surgical staff. Anesthesia mask placed over my face. Take seven deep breaths, and from there I drifted off and my next memory is being in recovery.
OK, right here, I am not going to lie. Coming out of anesthesia is scary and disorienting. I had been told this, so once I got a grip on where I was and what had occurred I was fine. However, initially, as I was slowly waking, I had no clue what had happened and where I was, in a word it was frightening. I was allowed two hours in recovery, and my husband was able to be there for the last 45 minutes or so. By 2:30 I was being wheeled to my room.
I must have won the lottery because I was given a private room!! There are very few available on the transplant recovery floor. Once settled into my room, I think the reality of the surgery began to set in. I was so immobile! Hadn’t I just run five miles the day before? Just completed a pump workout with squats and planks? Now, I couldn’t hardly move without assistance. It wasn’t that this surprised me so much as it was the realization that this was my reality now! I asked for a belly binder – best decision I made – The binder really helped to give me the support I needed to take my first post-op walk around 5:00, then to take another about 9:00.
Sleep that first night was non-existent. I don’t sleep well in noisy places, so just the opening of doors and voices in the hall kept me awake almost all night. Also, my appetite was non-existent. I really had to work to get some nutrition in me to get some energy. My advice here is to ask for medication for nausea. It made a big difference for me. It wasn’t until after I received Zofran that I was able to eat some mac and cheese, then a little soup. It helped me greatly to prepare to leave the hospital, which I did at 4:30 pm the day after my surgery.
Once home, I had more anxiety about how I was going to get comfortable. Lazy-boy chair plus pillows to stabilize my body made it possible. There was no way I could have laid in my bed that second or even the third night. Also, make certain you have someone there that can help you get up, and to make sure you have what you need. My husband and my daughter were absolute lifesavers for me!!
I know that each day I will be more mobile, will be more comfortable, and will be gaining my strength back. But I believe it is important for possible donors to be completely aware of the commitment necessary to go through this procedure. It is absolutely a big deal, a major surgery. However, watching my recipients improvements (he looked better than I did post-op!), seeing his lab results improve with each day, and getting a visit from his family and children to thank me for saving his life? PRICELESS!!