Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Am I? Great! Still Gonna Whine Though!

Ok, I've now been home a week now and I think my progress is good! How am I doing? I'm doing fine...thanks for asking!!

I have some home care nurses that visit me at the house. They dropped by three times this last week to make sure I was doing ok, I think they'll come twice this coming week. They check my incision, make sure I do the injections properly (I have to give myself daily injections of a blood thinner for 35 days) and just generally make sure I am alright. They really stress the importance of the 'pooh' medicine too....I mean they're almost fanatical about it!! Needless to say, I take the stool softeners and the laxatives daily. Toilet still looks like a mess of Slim Jim's when I'm done...but I'm pooh in'!! Nice ladies actually!

As far as resting goes, I still have yet to find a spot I can sleep in without getting all crampy or sore, but I do find that I'm sleeping for longer periods of time. I have a gazillion pillows that I have formed into a trench along both sides of my bed...I sleep in this 'trench' and this prevents me from being too active while I sleep. In the morning, my belly feels and looks very bloated. Once I get out of bed and am sitting upright, I have to wait for the gas to pass before I can stand. Waiting for the passing of the gas is an event, and a skill I am proud of! I still have some trouble walking upright as well, but that will get better.

Also...I'm lovin' my shower!! When I was in the hospital, I didn't feel safe taking showers. Not that I would fall or anything, I was just afraid of the ''germ'' factor. In any case, when I got home that first night, we put a fold able step in the shower so I could sit and shower instead of standing. Let me tell you's the only way to go! When I get really old, I'm getting those rails put in the bathroom and a tilting seat for the toilet and a craft-matic adjustable bed! And to think I used to laugh at those commercials! Seriously though, the chair in the shower has been really great.

My incision is itchy...really itchy. I try to wear really baggy shirts so the material doesn't rub...but it rubs and makes it itchy-er! The steri-strip are falling off and I think I only have like 5 left on. It's healing really good though. I have bruises all over my arms and legs from IVs and injections, but they don't really hurt.

My taste buds are all screwed up still but the appetite is coming back! I only lost about 8 lbs during this whole ordeal so I can't wait to start eating all the foods I had to stop eating before the testing!! I have my first follow-up appointment on the 30th next week so hopefully everything will be progressing nicely. One thing is for sure...I'm bored! ~sigh~

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wednesday September 16, Confusion Abounds - Part II

So here's me and my transplant coordinator Cailin going out for a little walk. Out of everyone I have encountered along this journey at Toronto General, I am still the most amazed by this woman. In any case, it was important to do these little 'laps' down and around the cooridors of the floor. The more you walk, the better it is for your breathing and cirrculation. The walks aren't long, but they feel long and they drain you! All the compression fittings come off before the walks though, all other lines stay in and travel with you! I'd do many more of these little walks over the next few days, but not till the lines were all out.

This is Dr. Lesley Adcock visiting with me. She's my aftercare doctor and a sweet angel. I'm pretty sure she's questioning me about the comfort of my sassy new stockings. (The chicks really dig them!)

As I said earlier, I don't remember very much of this was all confusing and I finally realized I had to just go with the flow. I eventually did make it to the 7th floor where I would stay until discharged. I know I woke up in a room on the 7th floor, and since I was free of all my lines and IV's, I decided to walk the halls.

As I understand it, it is on this floor where all transplant patients recover. Heart, lung, kidney, even liver. It's hard not to want to know the stories behind every door on this floor....and yet all I am allowed to do is walk past door after door. Faces in beds peer out at me, just about everyone of them smile, some are blank. None are empty. The entire floor is alive with visitors and nurses alike. I crawl back into my bed and fall asleep. This place works miracles!

On Friday Morning, I was visited by the pharmacist Julia. She went over a bunch of my medicines and made me a chart on how and when to use them. She then gave me a paper to take to the pharmacy on the main floor so I could get all my medications. Once she left, Cailin came in to give me a course on how to inject myself with the needles. As we sat and chatted, another nurse dropped by for some vitals. I'm not sure exactly what she did, but she left and came back with another nurse, soon Cailin left and the nurse took some of my blood. Both nurses started questioning me about my breathing and what my pain number was....then they took off. Next thing I know, a team of Doctors and nurses are in my room checking out my charts. One guy from the surgical team asked if I really thought I was ready to go home on Saturday. Of course I said yes and they all left my room to chat in the hallway. A nurse stuck her head back in the door and said they would be back, but I fell asleep before they did and was awaken by a food tray being placed beside me.

**EDIT: I'm just reminded that my mom called me that Friday to make sure everything was clear for me to come home the following day. As we were talking on the phone, I had a little coughing fit which may have started a bleed at my insicion site. Not a really bad messy bleed, but a squirty one. The nurses were called and new steri-strips applied.

Saturdays breakfast! More juices, some huigh fibre cereal, a piece of banana bread and a slice of cheese. (Bear in mind that since Sunday night, September 13th, I have not had a pooh yet.) Shortly after, Dr. Adcock came by and asked if I wanted to go home. I said yes as this was the plan from Friday. She said she would check everything to make sure I could leave and she would be back. While I waited, I ate the cereal and soon after, my mom and my sister in law came to pick me up. Most of my stuff was ready to go and then Dr. Adcock dropped the bomb. No leaving for me this day. They wanted to take some x-ray and check out my cough some more. Denied!! I was promised I could go home Sunday though. Dr. Adcock felt bad but they wanted to make sure I was safe and would have no problems. Needless to say, Saturday was the longest frickin' day of my life!! They took the x-ray and found a small problem in my right lung. Nothing big, but a concern nonethelesss. I also couldn't sleep, play music or do anything!! When my mom left, she took half my stuff with her...mostly medications and clothes.

On Sunday, my brother and his wife came to get me and this time they let me go home! It didn't take long for the nurses to get all my discharge papers in order and I was skipping my ass out thye door!! Before I left, I gave hugs to my nurses and some of the floor staff. We made our way down to the parking garage and we were off!!

There's no way I could have done any of this without the support and encouragement of my family. My brother Ken and his wife Val are still dealing with the after effects of the tornando that whipped through thier front yard a few weeks back and yet they were always at the ready to bring my mom down to Toronto for a visit and sit with me. My other brother Rick was in the states for some computer training the same week I was having surgery..but the support was there also. Thanks everyone.

Ok, I need a nap, I'll post later tonight or Sunday!

Wednesday September 16, Confusion Abounds - Part I

<--My Room.

So I wake up Wednesday morning and it's still dark out. My head is still pretty fuzzy and I have the most wicked heart-burn I have ever felt! Not only that, but the inside of my mouth feels like someone let me chew razor blades, then jammed my cheeks full of cashmere! Bleeh! So. as I'm pulling huge gobs of torn skin out of my mouth, I realize two things.....first, I'm still in my old room, (not on the 7th floor as previously thought) and second, Marc is fussing with the connections on my compression stockings. I knew it took me a few seconds to get my bearings right, so I'm wondering to myself if I dreamt about the room change or what! This is where I thought I have to start making notes because I can't remember a frickin thing when I'm fully awake let alone gooned out on pain medicine! I tried recording notes on the voice recorder, but as I listen to them now, I can't comprehend anything I am saying! My saving grace?? My sister in law took pictures when she and my mom visited!

The liquid diet! As you can see, it consists of 2 containers of acidic apple juice, 1 serving of acidic cranberry juice, some hot water for tea, some soup broth, a portion of rice pudding and a can of fizzy ginger ale! Lots of water and ice chips too. Now, since my catheter is out, they have to keep track of what I drink as apposed to what I 'expel'. The liquid diet was Monday to Thursday afternoon, I think they gave me a tuna-fish sandwich Thursday night though. Friday was Raisin Bran for breakfast, liquids for lunch and supper Friday night was a hot slice of turkey meat with way too many vegetables. Saturdays menu wasn't too different. The blue hose thing on the right of the table is my spirometer. It's a tool one uses to practice breathing exercises.

This is Marc, a very unassuming fella, with a heart of gold and a genuine care for his patients. Always there, always helpful and a huge part of my recovery. When I did actually get moved to the 7th floor before they discharged me, I never got to say thanks to Marc for all his help. So with that being said, I have a few follow-up appointments at Toronto General so you can bet I'll look for him....if for no other reason to say thanks.

This is by far one of my most favorite photos. Not only does it showcase my bloody, steri-strip covered scar, but it also shows the assortment of IV lines that are sewn into my neck and back of my hand! Yes, it even shows me decked out in the sexy white compression stockings and some fine looking open robes! The compression stockings are these really tight, open at the bottom stockings that one would wear to prevent blood clots from forming in your legs while laying down for extended periods of time. Once you have them on, they slip these 'air-cuffs' around your legs which are then hooked up to air lines. Air is then forced into the 'air-cuffs' where the cuff compresses to squeeze the blood from ones legs. Whew! These cuffs are loud, they compress all the time so sleeping is kind of difficult and they are warm as all shit! To be honest, at first I wasn't a big fan of the white compression stockings. Not a comfortable piece of clothing for a guy to wear...unless that guy is appearing in a '' commercial. Needless to say, I did become use to them and I ended up wearing them the entire time in the hospital. Nurses laughed at me, children pointed and heckled me, but damn them all!! I love them and wear them proudly to this day. As a matter of fact, there will be more photos of my beloved stockings to come. They really are warm too!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday September 15, ICU Recovery

Before I went into the hospital, I made sure I had some notebooks and my voice recorder with me so I could make note of what was going on at any given time. I knew the day of my surgery would be a write-off, but the rest of my time in the hospital I could document. Yah right!! More on this later.

I remember very little about Tuesday. The most prevalent memory is the pain! Now I did have the analgesic PCA pump at my side ready to deliver that shot of pain medication at the press of a button.....but I guess 'my' system didn't like it. Needless to say, my pain pump was set to flow rather than to inject.

""Patient controlled analgesia, (PCA) is a method of pain control that gives the patient the power to control their pain. In PCA, a computerized pump called the patient controlled analgesia pump -- that contains a syringe of pain medication as prescribed by a doctor is connected directly to a patients intravenous (IV) line.
In some cases, the pump is set to deliver a small, constant flow of pain medication. Additional doses of medication can be self-administered as needed by the having the patient press a button. Other times, a patient can control when he or she receives pain medication and does not receive a constant flow.""

Another thing I remember, was a constant stream of ice chips being fed to me. I couldn't drink or eat anything, but I remember them giving me ice refreshingly cool! I'm also reminded of the 'Lip Balm' incident. Apparently I was so out of it that while trying to apply lip balm to my cracked and sore lips, I put on quite a show to every ones may even have been taped!

I like to think I was very aware of what was going on around me, I just didn't have the faculties to respond or make note of them. I know I kept looking down at my chest because it felt like it was on frickin' fire! I kept looking at my watch for the time, but of course it wasn't on my wrist. I was also introduced to a nurse named Marc who was pretty cool. He seemed to be there every time I woke up and was helping me to do things I tried to do, before I even started doing them! I know that doesn't make much sense, but it's the only way I can describe him. This was a guy who either knew his job that well, or my mind was just that hammered.

At one point, I was sat up so they could do an x-ray. As I was being shifted to what I thought was another bed, I got my first glimpse of the thin orange hose snaking it's way from my wiener! Gaaaa!!! Not cool, not cool at all! My catheter!! As I studied it, I noticed it was attached to a transparent hose that was taped to my thigh. The very instant I saw it, I was very aware of it. I wanted to touch it, but was afraid to for fear it would I just starred at it, marveling at how it got there, why it got there, how much do you pay a guy to put it there? I poked at it, I made my wiener move just to see if the cathter would move....and it did! I pointed at it and showed it to Marc. I was fascinated! Marc's reply? 'Good for you" I looked at Marc and said 'Guess what, I'm peeing'. He gave me a look like I was new, shifted his gaze to the urine bag attached at the base of the bed and said, 'No your not, it just feels like you are.'The one thing I feared the very most, and it turned out to be the coolest part of my day!! After the x-ray was taken, I was reclined again and dozed off.

Shortly after, one of my buddies from work dropped by. I greeted him, but let him know I wouldn't be too chatty. He didn't stay long but I appreciated the visit as I listened to him talk of his vacation plans. It was very strange because as I was watching him, sound started to echo in my head and it appeared foggy. Next thing I knew he was gone. In talking to him later, he told me he knew I was gooned-out, so he wasn't offended. I never showed him the catheter though. LOL!

At some point, it felt as if I was on the move. I could feel my bed moving, but had no idea who was pushing it, or where I was going. Doors opened and I was wheeled through a waiting room.....wait a second, I know this place. I was in the medical imaging unit of the hospital. That however, is all I remember! The next thing I knew I was back in my old room and Marc was fussing with one of the monitors I was hooked up to. He got it working OK and I remember being wheeled out again.

Every time they would wheel me somewhere, it would make me feel nauseated. Not sure why, but it would. This time they put me on an elevator which only made it worse. Turns out I was wheeled to another room on the seventh floor. This would be my last room change, and what a room it was! Very spacious and it had a huge bathroom!! They positioned my bed, set up all my monitors and someone gave me my glasses!! This place was very quiet and I fell asleep fast....then the music started.

Stupid monitors, when they malfunction, they make this a 3 or 4 note tune that drives you crazy!!! It never just happens once either, one will start a tune and then two more start, then one from a room down the hall starts and it goes on and on!! I know one of mine was making such a racket I finally turned it off. A nurse checking my vitals later that night just about shit her pants when she noticed my monitor was turned off. She really laid into me for it too! Sheesh!! I guess they had to restart a whole new line and everything because I turned it off. It was also at this point, I noticed my catheter...was gone!!! I checked the sheets to make sure it didn't fall out, but yup. It was gone. As this new team of angry nurses worked around me, I realized I wouldn't see Marc anymore. I'm so tired all I can think is how am I gonna get to sleep.

""Come sweet slumber enshroud me in thy purple cloak""
~Max Headroom~

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Special Report

Turns out my Mom kept a journal of her own the night before, and the day of my surgery.

September 13,09 7:00pm

It is the evening before Chris becomes a living donor of his liver. Valery (sister-in-law) is driving us to Toronto and we will be staying in a hotel so it will be easier for us to get to Toronto General by 6:00 am. Valery managed to get us there safely through detours, single lanes and very fast traffic.
After Valery dropped us off, Chris was able to get us a room at 'Day's Inn' @ Carlton. We had a nice room on the 18th floor, Chris tried to watch some T.V. for a bit then set his watch alarm...then lights off. I think I was up seven times for a pee that night! The watch alarm went off at 4:00 am and Chris fell back to sleep. I waited for the next alarm --- thought an hour may have passed, but it turned out it was 5:30 am!! Chris said ''that can't be right.'' It was and we hurried to dress, went down to check out and did a quick walk to the hospital. We went to the second floor admin where we waited about 1/2 hour. Then, we went into a very large room lined with many hospital beds and Chris was instructed to remove his street clothes and put on the 'double robes'....he was then escorted to one of the beds and things got a little crazy.

Questions were being asked by several people at once, rubber bands were being tied to Chris's upper arm, needles were being inserted in order to freeze his wrists (yes, both wrists) for intravenous lines. Two gentlemen appeared and introduced themselves as the team that would be putting him to sleep and monitoring all concerns after Chris would be put out. Blood pressure was taken, blood samples were drawn, the IV lines were in both one point, there were seven people at his bedside.

At this point, Cailin Macleod, the transplant coordinator, showed up and said she was very upset. Apparently it was discussed that only ONE wrist would have a line in it. She was ""cross her arms"" angry!!

Cailin said for me to expect lines to record blood pressure, heart monitors and body temperatures. She also said once Chris was asleep, another line would be placed into his neck and sewn into place. She also said there might be tubes placed down his throat if he had been throwing up and that he would also have several lines giving him fluids and medicines hanging from his bed. She told me "don't be overwhelmed Elaine because all of it is normal. She then asked us why Chris wasn't wearing the compression stockings. One of the nurses said they weren't ordered. This didn't please Cailin too much either and at this point, Cailin started to put the stockings on Chris herself. Believe me, it was an art form the way she managed to get them up over his knees without a struggle or a wrinkle!. Then they started to move your bed out. Someone said give mom a kiss, and Chris said no kisses and away he went. He really had a shocked look on his face, I think he was as overwhelmed as I was with everything.

Cailin then took me to the third floor waiting room, it was now about 7:30 am and the room itself was quite dark. She said I should go to the far side of the room because it wouldn't get as noisy there. She took Chris's glasses and said was she sure he would do well. She also said a nurse would come tell me when all the tests were complete and that Chris was asleep. She gave me a hug, then left.

Now, there must have been 40 to 50 upholstered chairs in this room, but no sofas. There were only nine other people here besides myself...there are two walls with large windows and I am watching the comings and goings in the lobby below. I am so pissed off right now because I left my papers in the waiting room upstairs. Cailin told me I should stay in the 'West Wing' of the hospital, she said to go to the "L" floor from the elevator, then up the stairs to find the Tim Hortons, so at 8:30 am, I went to get a coffee, muffin and took my own medications.

A gentleman just came to me, asked me my name and then looked at his clipboard. He said I see his surgeon is Dr. Cattral..he is the best of the best! He also said a nurse would be coming to tell me that surgery has started and that in 4 to 5 hours later, the doctor would come to speak to me. He also asked if Chris was giving to a family member and I told him it was an anonymous donation. Hearing this he had that look about him that we have seen a 100 times since this journey started. I can't stop crying just now, and I think it's because I haven't heard anything yet...I'm working on it, it's hard though. Everything has to work out, it just has to!

It's now 9:10 am and the pre-op nurse came to tell me Chris is asleep. She stood at attention to show me how he was positioned. She said all tubes are in place including the central lines sewn into the neck, all monitors are connected and that Dr. Cattral will now be making the first incision. They will check all the bile ducts and if everything checks out ok, then the surgery continues. This is all just so overwhelming!

10:45 am and it seems as though I've been here for 8 hours. According to the transplant schedule, it's close to the time the recipient is to go into the OR. I hope all is going well. One of the transplant coordinator people just went outside with a coffee and a smoke. Seeing him out there now I want a smoke too!! Also, there is a very large blue bus coming and going. It is the shuttle bus for Toronto General, Toronto Western, and Princess Margaret Hospitals.

Ok, it's noon and I will be watching for Bob Cheeseman. This room has really filled with people and I have no chairs around me because other people have moved them away. Hopefully, some of these people will leave so Bob, myself and Ken (brother) will be able to sit together.

Bob showed up at about 12:30 and we went down to get coffees. When we got back, Ken was there and I was so very glad to see him! Bob kept us entertained with the story of his transplant.

At 3:05 pm, Dr. Cattral came in said everything went very well. there absolutely were no issues and there was minimal bleeding. He said Chris would be in the recovery unit for the next three hours and that someone would let us know when we could see him. All of this is good news, and yet I cry again. Soon after, Ken went to pick an item he should have picked up over a year ago in Toronto. While he was gone, Bob continued with his story. It is remarkable that he is here to share his story with anyone!

Cailin, the transplant coordinator, came back at 5:00 pm. She said Chris did very well and that he was feeling a lot of pain. She also said the recipients family was in the waiting room on the 10th floor, very near Chris's room, and that we must now wait until 5:30 or 6:00 pm before we go up. Also, on our way there, we must not talk about transplants or livers just in case the recipients family would be near! She also said for the next few days, Chris's pain would be almost unbearable! At 5:30 pm, Ken called up to the 10th floor to ask if we would be able to visit and they responded not until 9:00 pm.

It was about 6:00 pm when we decided we were going up, all they could do was kick us out! It wasn't hard to find Chris, but it was hard to watch what he was going through. He kept saying 'pain' in a very weak voice. It seemed to me he was feeling for the pain relief pump button but it wasn't there! I finally went to the nurse stationed just outside his room and asked the nurse if Chris should have the pain pump button. She said they had to take it away because his stats were going crazy!! His heart beat was way too high and I said mine would be too if I was in so much pain!! She calmly stated that Chris would have the pump back by midnight or 2:00 am!! When I went back into the room, I tried to explain to Chris why he couldn't have the pain pump and all he said was ''it hurts''.

Ken was taking a lot of pictures and at one point asked Chris for a thumbs up. Remarkably, he quickly gave it for him. Chris also asked if Bob Cheeseman had made it there, he said 'I'm glad' when we said yes. Bob actually decided to stay behind when we came to see Chris so we could have the privacy. He did however come in about 1/2 hour after us and Chris told him thanks for sitting with mom. In the hour we were there, Chris probably mentioned the word pain 15 times!! He couldn't sleep and the nurse said his pain pump was set at .01. Just then the big guy came in! The doctor with a huge head of hair! He laid his four fingers over the top of Chris's hand and silently looked at all the monitors, the pumps, (there were 3 of them) then bent a bit to look at the bag for urine...which at this time had only teaspoons full in it. He then asked if we knew why he didn't have the pain management button. We told him they took it because of the stats. He looked at all machinery again and said Christopher needs this pain pump. He went to the nurse outside of the room and both he and the nurse returned together, reset some buttons on the machinery, placed the pain pump button into Chris's hand and watched as Chris's fingers walked their way to the top and pressed the pain release button. I cried. A short while later, he was trying to open his eyes, he turned his head towards the doctor and said 'recipient', the doctor looked at me at I told him Chris wanted to know about the recipient. He took Chris's hand, looked him in the eye and said it was remarkable how very quickly his (the recipients) color improved. as he talked, Chris's chin began to quiver and tears rolled down his face. He did what he had set out to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday September 14th, OR Prep

Ok then...time to pick up where I left off.

Last Sunday, (September 13/09) the plan was for my brother and his wife to take me into Toronto and drop me off at a hotel. This way I could get a good nights sleep and not worry about traffic issues in the morning. The plans changed as fast as I was making them and as it turned out, my Mom decided to go with me on the overnight-er so she could be there first thing in the morning and throughout the day for the entire surgery. This was also beneficial for if there were any problems or questions while I was under anesthesia, someone could be my voice.


Now, I've had many excursions to Toronto over the past few months...had several stay-overs because of tests being done so I've learned a few things along the way! Toronto General Hospital has partnered with just about every hotel in the downtown core to offer a 'Hospital Rate' or a discount of some sort if you have paper work from the hospital stating you're having a procedure done. I have taken advantage of this 'discount' several times over the past little while with no problems ever...until Sunday. Well, I phoned ahead to make sure the hotel would in fact have a room that I could reserve, they did. All my information is already in the system there due to my past dealings with said hotel. Seems the Toronto Film Festival is in town and even though hotels have empty rooms...there are no discounts or special rates because some greedy, suit-wearing 'hand-job' needs to make a profit. No big deal really, it's the principle of the whole thing and I blame Oprah!! Turns out Oprah was spotted orbiting down Young Street, hotel rooms jump $50.00 a night. Bleeeh!

OK, rant over! End result, me & me mom shared a large double room. I kind of slept ok, but Mom had a serious case of 'Jimmy Legs' and didn't sleep very well at all. At 5:40 am, we headed for the hospital to prep for what would be a very long day.

At the hospital, I was already checked in. So we were led through some doors to a waiting area. Here they gave me some empty bags for my clothes, I was also instructed about the pain pump I would be connected to and how it worked and then was told I should send anything I value home with my mom. (Not that Toronto General is rampant with thieves, it's just best not have valuables.) Now, all I really had was my old Casio watch, my Visa card, a Tim's Card preloaded with $40.00, my cell phone and my MP3 player. I wanted to bring my laptop, but figured I'd be way to out of it to use it anyways, so it was agreed before hand that my brother would drop it off for me later in the week.

Next I was shuffled into a change room where I was given the entire pain pump instructions, a blue hair net, set of blue bootie slippers and 2 of the crisp-est, brightest open front robes were handed to me...I was ordered to strip down and put on the robes. Like ya had to ask me twice!! I kicked off my clothes and slipped on the robes! Freedom and sway age! Giggidy! As I was stuffing my street clothes into the plastic bags, in walks this guy and announces:

He: Hey man, scootch up on that table, I gotta shave you.
Me: Sorry, say again?
He: Ya man, I gotta shave gettin' surgery right?
Me: Ummm, No, I'm just here for the back acne trials.
He: What? Back Acne? (goes to door and grabs my chart)
Me: Sorry man, I'm just f**king with you, you aint really gonna shave me are ya?
He: Sorry man, just doin' my job. Believe me, it aint the favorite part of my day either.

Now, I'm a bald guy to begin with, and when I did have hair, it was blonde, thin and very sparse. Even my armpit hair is short! Other than that, I keep everything else 'tidy'. Honestly, I was scared to death! This guy didn't look gentle. So I sheepishly open my robes up .....

He: Oh man, you don't need shaving, your alright to go!
Me: Really? Nothing?
He: Yup, You gots a smooth belly. Take all your gear to the desk and wait for the nurse.

Whew!! Dignity for another day!

At the nurses desk, I met up with my mom, a nurse tied my clothes bags shut and stuck labels on them which I had to sign. We had a short conversation about valuables and were led down a long narrow room. Once again, I was instructed to push the button on my pain pump to get pain medicine. I think I heard this story at least 30 times this day.

Now, for pain management, they hook a central line into your neck. They actually sew it right to your neck! One of these lines is part of an analgesic pump that will deliver a shot of pain killers to your system once a button is pushed. This is your pain control system. You control it. You press the button, it delivers a measured amount of pain medicine. You can't overdose because the machine is set by limiters, but you do control it and this is pounded into you every second before the operation so that once you wake up, you'll know how to get pain relief.

The holding area was cold, it smelled funny and along each wall were gurneys, like 10 on each side!! I was led to one of the beds in space "H". A nurse helped me get into it and covered me with a really warm blanket. Literally, right out of this oven! Mom sat at the foot of this bed and we just started talking about what was going on when out of no where, techs were hoovering all over me. Charts, monitors, IV's, my poor mom looked horrified. After a few minutes, I spotted Cailin, my transplant coordinator. As soon as I saw her, I knew everything would be ok. She was talking to the nurse who led us in. Now, I'm not sure what Cailin said to the nurse, but everything got very orderly and very quiet the second she showed up!! She gave me a wink and a smile and soon I was being rolled off to the OR. Cailin noticed I was missing my compression stockings and told the crew to take me back so I could get fitted, the nurse muttered something about there being no request for compression stockings. So while Cailin actually fitted me for the stockings she schooled the nurse on operational protocol! Me and Cailin joked a little about my sexy new stockings and she walked with me as they rolled me into the OR.

I don't remember much after being wheeled in. I know some really big guy was laying out trays and trays of surgical instruments, the room itself was cold and I had to scootch onto this really thin table. Some guy put a mask on my face and told me to breathe deep. As I did, some other guy was putting IV lines into my hand. Next thing I knew, I was being told I had to press my pump to get pain relief.

Everything sounded so loud, my head was cloudy but I knew I was awake. As I tried to focus, I did recognize my surgeon near me, a lot of people in white coats wearing masks and I know I saw my brother Ken at the foot of my bed. Suddenly, it felt and sounded like someone stumbled over something...I looked to my left and saw my Mom...I think I said 'easy mommy' thinking she had stumbled over the chair, but she tells me later she didn't stumble. I looked down at my chest and saw the scar...trying to focus on the steri-strips that held the incision together and thought to myself...Holy shit! This really happened and everything went ok. I asked how my recipient was doing and was told he was doing great. They told me they noticed a remarkable difference in his health even before they started to close him up! I felt tears rolling down my face...this just happened, this was real and everything I was going through will actually help someone live a better life. I drifted back into my sleep.

At some point, I was again awake and noticed that my Uncle, Bob Cheeseman, was in front me. I know I shook his hand and he asked me how I was feeling and how I was doing. Seeing Bob in the room made me calm, he promised he would be there and he was. This is all I remember of this day.

Bob Cheeseman received a liver transplant in 2006 after his literally shattered. Very early in this year, I had heard through a family member that Bob might be having trouble with his new liver. After much self debate, I decided to call him and get the scoop on his condition...I was completely ready to offer him a section of my liver. Turns out he was having a bit of trouble with some medicines he was on, but wasn't back on the transplant list. Whew!! Bob didn't need a liver!! Turns out we wouldn't have been a blood match anyways, but it was this phone call that brought me to where I am today. So many people are waiting for organs, I may not have been a perfect match for Bob, but I know I match up with someone.

Home Again!! The Quick Update!

Holy Shit, what a week! Well, after a very successful transplant surgery, I'm home and recovering! I went under the knife Monday, September 14th and was discharged Sunday, September 20th. Some things I remember, some I don't. Yes, I'm sore, I can't stand or walk completely upright just yet and my appetite isn't anything what it used to be....but I am on the mend! It feels like I have creatures marching around my abdomen, my stomach growls and gurgles constantly and I take a fist-full of medications every morning to prevent this and to heal that. I also have 35 pre-filled syringes to inject myself with to prevent blood clotting. Here's a picture of some of my stash!

I also have a huge scar across my abdomen and if you press or poke my feels like pressing a bag full of squishy wet sponges! I'm not very active, I tire easily yet sleep sporadically, this is mostly because I have yet to find a comfortable position to sleep in! When I do sleep, I have the strangest dreams ever!! Vivid strange dreams. Oh ya, I also have the smell of 'hospital' in my system that I can't seem to get rid of! All this aside, it's good to be home! I should start feeling better by week three, or so they say. For by day is my motto!

My recipient? Well, the very first thing I asked when I woke up was, how was my recipient. My surgeon patted my hand and said..''He's doing great Chris, we didn't even start closing him up and we were noticing a huge improvement in him". I know I sobbed at this news, everything turned out perfect, it was all worth it...It wasn't till later in the week I thought to myself 'wait a second, my recipient was supposed to be a young female adult!' What happened??!! I'll explain it all later, for now everything is great.

Actually, there is so much to write about I hardly know where to begin!! I would like to say thanks to everyone for all the well-wishes and letters of support and encouragement, they really helped. (When I checked my email Monday night, I had 53 new emails!!) I also need to say thanks and give praise to the many doctors, surgeons, techs and nurses at Toronto General Hospital. We all bitch and complain about our health care system, but when all is said and done we have one the best health care systems in the entire free frickin world!! No questions asked! Anyways, I need to nap but will post more tonight.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ok, so here it is the night before the transplant. In about 30 minutes from now, my brother & his wife will drive me to Toronto where I'll get a hotel room for the night. This way I won't have to worry about traffic issues in the morning!

I doubt I will post anything for at least the next 3 days, maybe even 4. Be sure to check back though. I am off!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nurses / Doctors / Staff

I can't let this go. When I first started this blog, I tried to keep the doctors and nurses I encountered nameless....kind of a privacy thing. Now, I need to introduce them as they have become such a huge part of life and will continue to be forever.

Cailin Macleod - Transplant Coordinator:

I can't say enough great things about this incredible woman. Cailin is a tireless worker and always looking out for her patients. She's always available for questions and really knows her stuff...she won't tell you what you want to hear, she tells it like it is. Such a sweet angel too. As an aside, Cailin loves chocolate and eats her steaks rare!! I had a dream Cailin was feeding me those wee little pickled corn on the cob things while we sat on a gurney out in a field....very weird...I would and must marry this woman.

Blood Work Department:

The women here need to be praised. Throughout this entire process, I have had tons of blood drawn for various reasons at many offices, labs and hospitals throughout the GTA and the women at Toronto General are the best! No pain, no bruising, they smile, make you smile, they're gentle, and really know how to put you at ease. Thank you ladies for being so fantastic!

Dr. Paul D. Grieg - Director/Surgeon:

Dr. Grieg conducted my first surgical consultation, he mentioned there could be pain involved with this type of surgery....then explained there would be pain involved. A wonderful, straight forward - to the point surgeon. I watched him order coffee once at The Second was mesmerizing! It should also be noted that Dr. Grieg has freakishly soft hands.

Dr. Lesley Adcock - Medical Director - Living Donor Liver Transplant Program

When I first met Dr. Adcock, I was kind of taken aback as she looks way to young to be a doctor...and yet, she is my aftercare Doctor! I called her on the age thing too...she claims she's old enough. Dr Adcock doesn't sugar coat anything, she takes no shit and doesn't give any either. Oh ya, she also helped me through a wicked bout of sinus infections. Very smart and very kind. Dr. Adcock also assisted Dr. Levy with my liver biopsy.

Dr. E. Elliot - Psychologist

Thinking of volunteering to undergo an eight hour operation in which your gallbladder and a huge section of your liver will be removed? You are? Great! You won't get paid for it, as a matter of fact, it's a huge financial hit, there's also pain involved and no medical benefit to you at all! Still sound good? Did I mention the catheter? How about the fact you'll have to give yourself needles for the next 5 weeks as well, you'll walk funny for about a month and did I mention the pain?? Still in?? If so, they send you talk to Dr. Elliot to make sure you're not odd. No tests, just talking.

Dr. Gary Levy - Director Multi-Organ Transplant Program

Dr. Levy is just as I imagined him to be. Soft spoken, huge hairy head full of knowledge, and very to the point. He performed the liver biopsy on me way back when. A very classy gentleman as he apologized in advance for any pain or discomfort I might feel. Came across as very genuine...hellish soft hands too. Must be a surgeon thing.

Dr. Anand Ghanekar - Transplant Surgeon

Very suave looking dude! I would never have guessed this guy was a surgeon, lawyer maybe, but not a surgeon. Dr. Ghanekar conducted my second surgical consult. After meeting with him, I would trust this guy with my life in the surgery room. He knew things about me medically I didn't even know!! He also mentioned something about pain...and yes, soft hands.

Olive - Nurse

Olive will always have a special place in my heart...we were close, maybe too close. You know, she rammed an 8 inch Q-tip up my anus...she also swabbed my genitals in the slickest swooping action I have ever felt! Good times. In all honesty, I needed the awkward smiles and laughs we shared this day. There was a lot happening and it really took the edge off. So thanks Olive for being such a sweetheart!

Dr. Kathleen Bedrosian - Family Doctor

Dr. Bedrosian is my family doctor. I need to mention her because she supported me throughout this entire process in a number of ways....I won't say she gave me preferential treatment over other patients, but she did go out of her way to accomodate me when needed. She's the best-est!!

All kidding aside, I have no bad stories from my experience at Toronto General Hospital. The staff truly are fantastic!

Organ Donor

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pre-Admin - Name Dropping et al

Wow! What a week this has been! I'm not even sure where to start!

Well, September the 8th was my last round of appointments before the surgery, so I had my mom tag along with me so she could get a feel for the hospital, meet some of the doctors and just maybe get a little more familiar with the whole transplant process.

The drive to the hospital was horrible! We left in good time, but it was foggy out and just about every road we took had some sort of construction on it. Once we got on the QEW, the traffic just stopped. Of course I started freaking because I didn't want to be late for any of the appointments. ~sigh~ Out came the cell phone so I could call the transplant office to let them know I would be late. No worries they tell me, just follow the schedule when I do get to the hospital. Turns out we were only 5 minutes late, so we headed up to the Surgical Consult appointment where we find the transplant coordinators assistant, 'Bryan', waiting. (Turns out, they had already changed my original schedule days ago and never let me know!) It's all good though, Bryan lead us down to 'Pre-Admission' and that's where my day began....sort of.

Because of the screw-ups with the appointment times, I was sent in for blood work first..I think another 18 vials worth! I signed some consent forms then was led to a consult room. I should also note that apart from regular OHIP coverage, I have some coverage from my workplace that upgrades me to a semi-private room. No real big deal to me if I have to share a room. A few minutes later, this wonderful woman named 'Olive' walked in pushing a cart-load of nurse/patient supplies. She tells me she will take my blood pressure, temperature, height and weight then some swabs. Swabs? What kind of swabs?
She pointed to a poster on the wall.
(click on the picture to enlarge)

Gadzooks!! A swab of my anus?? The conversation went as follows...

Me: A swab of my anus, really.
Olive: Really! (she spreads out several packages of 8" long Q-tip looking swabs)
Me: A swab of my anus, really huh? (as she swabs under my arms)
Olive: Oh c'mon now Mr. Chandler, It isn't really that bad.
Me: You wanna do this now huh?
Olive: Whenever you're ready, yes.
Me: They aren't paying you enough Olive.
Olive: I've been saying that for years now.
Me: I love you Olive, be gentle. (pants go down, I assume the position)
Me: Is that your knuckle I feel Olive?
Me: Sooo, have plans for lunch Olive?

Olive was a real sweetheart and a great sport to put up with me, every time we saw her throughout the morning, she smiled at us.

The next visit was from a pharmacist, she went over the medications I was already taking and explained which meds I would be given before the surgery and during recovery....too many to list here though. She had me sign some papers and she left. Next up was another medical nurse to explain recovery procedures and to check my paper work. She also gave me a little map of where the check in for the surgery is. From here I had to go back up to the 10th floor for the second surgical consult. This surgeon, Dr. Ghanaker, was a very down to earth guy. He explained more of the surgical procedure and gave us a timeline of events. This surgeon won't be operating on me though, I guess they have a rotation and team up surgeons to certain patients. It was with this surgeon where I had to sign a bunch of consent forms. The really great thing was having my mom with me. Even though the doctors and nurses kept repeating the same information over and over to us, it was nice to have mom hear the same stuff from different people....kind of reassuring words. Know what I mean?

From here, we went back to pre-admin to meet with the anesthesiologist. He pretty much explained the procedures of his job and what to expect. Very technical stuff, kind of hard to understand but grateful he explained as much as he did. He also looked over my medication list and reviewed the results of my 'Pulminary' tests from a few weeks back. The only real problem I might have stems from this stupid sinus infection I keep getting. Other than that, I should be good to go.

My last appointment for this day was with 'Cailin Macleod', the transplant coordinator herself. She went over more procedures and gave me a bunch of paper work outlining the events of the days following surgery. She also told me what to bring and what not to bring. The information came at us fast and from so many different people, it was hard to absorb it all...I'm sure I forgot a third of what was said this day.

We left the hospital around 4:00 pm and went for some food. I figured if we ate first, rush-hour traffic could pass us by! With full bellies we headed home, stopping in Orangeville first to get some groceries. As we're pulling into the parking lot, I notice we had limited braking power! Yikes! A quick investigation revealed the main brake line rusted through causing brake fluid to leak everywhere! Sheesh!! We did make it home eventually, I parked the Ranger thinking I will fix the brakes after the surgery as I have my second car, the Golf, as my spare! Uh huh...coming home from work on Thursday night, the idler arm for the drive belt siezed up shredding the belts and screwing up the timing. When it rains it pours! Lucky for me, my brother came by on Friday to fix my brake problem. Surgery is 2 days away!

**EDIT** I posted this Friday, September 11/09. Why it says Thursday is beyond me!