On Monday, August 25, 2014, just as I was packing it up and getting ready to go to bed, I got a phone call. Even though my wife and I didn’t recognize the number, we both instantly knew what it meant. Within an hour I was admitted to Stanford Hospital with a double lung transplant scheduled for the next day.
Tuesday afternoon I was taken down to the OR for prep and then… well, I remember being told it could be a few more hours waiting and I could pick the music we’d listen to in the meantime. I said classic rock, someone turned on Pandora, and the nurses started doing their chatting idly and gathering supplies thing. I don’t remember falling asleep or being told I was being put under — I don’t even remember meeting the anesthesiologist. All the same, everything after “Carry On Wayward Son” is lost to me.
I don’t totally remember coming to, but I remember having this thought: “Oh, good. I’m not dead I don’t think. The surgery worked. Wait, what was I having done?” This must have been Wednesday morning, shortly after the 10 or so hour surgery was completed.
Things apparently got even more interesting after that, though you’re going to have to ask someone else for details. I remember a lot of alarms and sirens and people screaming at me and me grabbing the bedrails because I thought I could turn off the alarms if I could find the Snooze button. I don’t remember being able to physically see anything during this time. I also had an odd sensation of being upside down and underwater.
What I’m told is that the cocktail of painkillers and sedatives they put me on didn’t agree with me, and I flipped the fuck out, trying to yank out IVs and stuff. I was apparently restrained to the bed for a while. Monica said when she looked in my eyes she could see Bruce Banner in there but the Hulk was having a hard time letting go.
The first thing I have an actual memory of was sometime on Thursday, I guess. My mouth was super fucking dry and I was desperately trying to ask for water but I couldn’t get any sounds out. I could hear the nurse who was supposed to be watching me laughing in the hallway. Eventually she and a couple other nurses came in, realized my mouth was so dry as to not be functional, and then told me I wasn’t allowed anything to drink. Eventually I managed to croakily negotiate my way up to sucking on the end of a wet stick.
After that was a parade of doctors asking me how I was, what I could remember, if I knew where I was or what day it was. I was still pretty out of it, but I was at least present, which was leaps and bounds over earlier. They kept taking down drips and drugs and I kept becoming more and more coherent and steady. They had me on some low levels of oxygen for a bit — standard practice — until the tubing came loose. I was doing so well, my vitals didn’t even sneeze and no one realized I had been at room air for a few hours. That was pretty much that then, and so I was moved out of the ICU on Saturday.
While all this was going on I had these five plastic chest tubes jutting out from my insides to a couple high-tech buckets on the floor. They were there to drain all the excess fluids and blood and what-have-you from my body cavity. I mention this not to gross you out, but because the man in charge of removing these tubes from me — Dr. James T. Kirk, let’s call him — was the single coolest doctor I’ve ever met. Aside from getting along really well, it turns out he lives in Albuquerque too. I felt better anytime he stopped by, even if it was just to say hi, and that’s huge in those first few days.
Anyway, on Labor Day I had the Star Trek marathon on and just as Wrath of Kahn was starting, Dr. Kirk came in to suture some stuff up and take out the last of the chest tubes. Let me tell you, it is a sight to see a doctor forcibly removing things from your body while going, “This is it! This is the best part! KAAAAHHHHNNNNN!!!!”
With the chest tubes out, there wasn’t much more reason to keep me around the hospital, so I was discharged on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, a week to the day after my transplant surgery.
We’ve been back to the clinic twice already to tweak stuff and make sure nothing’s being rejected — as well as pay our respects to my dear old, diseased lungs. This whole recovery thing is in the very early stages. Hell, I won’t even be over the antiobiotic-induced diarrhea for another day or two, and my feet will probably be swollen for the rest of the month at least. Still, I’m feeling a whole hell of a lot better already, even if this is just the beginning.
We’ve got to stick around Stanford for a few more months at least — the aforementioned twice weekly clinic visits, pulmonary rehab, tests and x-rays and all that good stuff — before they give us the OK to go back home. Sooner would be better than later, obviously, but, you know what? We’re not stressing either way. A weight has been lifted and we are extremely grateful — to everyone. Our friends and family, the doctors at Stanford, the donor, everyone who has donated money or time, everyone who has fundraised, all of you everywhere. We wouldn’t have made it this far without your help.
Anyway, that’s been the last two weeks for me. How are you?