The Man With 3 Kidneys

It’s the middle of the night and you wake up to your partners phone buzzing around, he misses the call and you almost fall back to sleep when the damn thing starts buzzing around again. I have no idea what time it is and I’m extremely annoyed at the drunk guy on the other end that feels the need to tell us a story in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, August 13. Jay answers and the voice on the other end sounds similar to that of a telemarketer. I try to roll over as I hear Jay say, “Is it the one?” Then I shoot straight up, I’m awake now and this mysterious voice has both of our attention. This “drunk” has called at 3:00 am to tell us that there is a kidney for Jay. Jay hangs up the phone and tells me that we need to be in Edmonton for 8:00 am. Very few other words are spoken, I have no idea what to do with myself and I attempt to catch some more sleep before we have to leave in a few hours. I’m trying not to weep as I’m wondering if this will be the real deal or just a cold call. We’ve never received one of these calls and I’m trying not to get over excited. They say you should have a bag packed and ready to go so that you’re prepared for “the call”. The bag wasn’t packed and we weren’t prepared for that call. We gather our things, wake Pyper from her slumber and pack into the 4Runner. Again, conversation is minimal all I can focus on is choking back the tears that are flooding my eyes.

We arrive at the hospital, head to admitting as directed and they send us up to 3G2. The Inpatient Transplant Unit and Jay’s home for the following 7 days. There is no bed available but fortunately a lounge area where we can pace around and impatiently wait for surgery. They draw several vials of Jay’s blood to run a cross match and whatever other tests are required prior to receiving a transplant. They may have told us what tests were being conducted but I was far too spaced out to absorb much information at that point. We meet in a private room with 2 members of the transplant team. They proceed to go over the procedure, surgery details, recovery and whatever other information is required in that conversation with the recipient. Both doctors are quite positive (except the big guy that could use a lesson in people skills) and seem very pleased with the kidney that Jay will receive. “A strong, healthy kidney,” is how they repeatedly described it. The transplant team seem very excited about the upcoming surgery. I guess I would be excited if I had a hand in giving someone a second chance at life. Through these two doctors yammering on all I hear is the risks and my mind is overtaken with thoughts of fear.  By 6:00 or 7:00 that evening we’re exhausted, tense and agitated. I take our Pyper home and decide to wait there for the surgery call. I’m annoyed until I realize that I am most likely waiting on a family to say goodbye to their loved one and ultimately waiting for someone to perish so that my daughters father can have their kidney.

Surgery was “set” for 7:00 am Friday, August 14. I left Pyper behind as my mind was far too absent to even parent. Surgery was delayed as they often are but I had more time to spend with Jay before he went under the knife. Mostly I stared at him, studying every inch of his body. His face, his hands and his skinny little renal ankles. I got right into his hospital bed and cuddled him for as long as he let me. The National Championships were underway in Ontario and provided a much needed pre surgery distraction. Jay’s blood pressure was elevating as his team scored 17 runs in the top of the 7th inning. I suppose the nurses believed we were crazy as we watched little squares run around on the game changer app. At 12:30 the porters came to take Jay to surgery. I was fortunate enough to chat with a nurse friend of mine as she was coming out of a surgery. She told me that Dr. Todd was a great surgeon. Her smile & confidence helped ease my anxiety as I waited to send this beardless man off into the hands of the butchers for 3-5 hours. “Any questions?” They asked. “Yeah, are you going to update me on the status?” was my only question. “No, but we will call you when he is out of surgery,” they replied. Not the answer I was looking for but what was I to do.

My friend Sarah came to the hospital soon after Jay went into surgery. We went to the healing garden located on the 4th floor of the U, sipped on teas and tried to talk about anything other than what was going on. Thank you for the distraction my dear friend, I am forever grateful. As 4 hours passed my brain started to remember what was actually going on and I needed to get back up to the 3rd floor and investigate. He wasn’t in his room and no one had called yet. I went across the hall to another unit and sat in a rocking chair that I positioned perfectly so that I could see the entrance to 3G2. I’m still surprised the chair didn’t collapse underneath me as rocked manically and I’m positive I scared the geriatrics that passed me by. Sometime after 6:00 I saw the porters rolling a bed down the hall and I flew out of the rocking chair. It was him, he was out and he was ok! My entire body was alleviated of all stress at that point. There were no tears, only smiles. Jay was hooked up with morphine and flying above the rest of us while providing slight comic relief. The Oilmen were playing again and we sat around the phone staring at the squares moving around. The following day the Oilmen went on to win the National title. Jay threw up a quick fist pump and said, “It’s over, they did it!” Normally it would have been followed up with a Woooooooo but he wasn’t quite feeling his normal self and wasn’t willing to blow a couple staples. Within a few minutes of the victory Jay’s phone was buzzing again – it was Bubba this time. “On 2,” Bubba said. “JAY,” you could hear the whole team shout. Second best phone call that week! Bubs – I hope you’ve recovered from the dong picture.

Jay received a kidney from an 18 year old girl and I am forever grateful to her for choosing to be a donor. I am also grateful that her family upheld her wishes. I will never know this young woman and I will probably never know her family but I will hold them all close to my heart. The kidney started working instantly! Jay’s CVC that was used for dialysis has been removed  and only a scar remains there. There is a large incision across his front abdomen that is healing well, staples will be removed in time and only a scar will be left as a reminder. Jay wakes up to a plate full of pills (21 to be exact) as time goes on these doses will decrease. Blood tests are run 3 times/week to watch for rejection and adjust medication. He is consuming over 2L of water each day which is completely opposite of the dialysis regimen. Sugar is consumed with caution as some of the medication increases Jay’s chance of developing diabetes at this time. Jay still suffers from high blood pressure and must continue to watch his salt intake. There is a 50% chance that the disease (IGA Nephropathy) will resurface in the new kidney and a 10% chance he will lose the kidney because of it. These next 3 months are crucial and so our newest adventure has begun. What happened nine days ago is nothing short of amazing and I am still in complete awe that Jay was able to receive a kidney 7 months exactly after he started dialysis.

I tried not to turn the greatest story I’ve ever told into a tearjerker.

Everybody’s got a story that will break your heart.

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2 comments

  1. Colleen Vogel · August 25, 2015

    Dear Kelsey. Thanks so much for sharing,we were wondering how you guys were doing. Of course we all couldn’t be there but we were in thoughts and prayers. We think it is so amazing and we too are saddened by one families loss but over joyed by another’s gain. Our prayers for you and Jay and Pyper are for a long and healthy life. Again thanks for sharing, hope to see you all again when we come out Edmonton. Love Auntie Colleen and Uncle Ray.

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  2. Jody · August 25, 2015

    As usual, very well said my beautiful daughter. Right from your heart and soul. I have felt every piece of this story before and each time I am amazed and thankful for the donors and their families. Organ donation is soooo important!

    I wept in silence for Jay as I felt I needed to be strong for you and Jay..crazy action I know, but I’m a little nutty! Blessed and thankful hardly seems adequate for this gift you all have received but right now words fail me as my emotions have taken over in silence once again!

    I continue to pray and hope for a wonderful recovery….I also want to thank all our family and friends that have been there for us and continue to support us! To Jay’s ball families you people are freakin amazing and I love and thank each of you from the very depths of my heart!

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