I promised in the post on receiving my liver transplant (please read that post first before continuing on with this one) that I would elaborate on the circumstances of getting the call for the transplant, as well as the hospital stay after the surgery. I'm a man of my word, so here it is!
Receiving the call was a bit of an unexpected experience. I was already in hospital when the news came through. I had been admitted into hospital the week before the transplant for an infection in my liver, and had already spent 4 nights there getting treated for that.
That Sunday afternoon I had been given a 'day pass'. In-between IV antibiotic rounds (i.e. around 10am-8pm), I could go home and spend with the family, and have a shower etc. (not to mention using my own toilet! 😉 ).
I had arrived back at the hospital at around 8:30pm, and had just gotten out of the bathroom after brushing my teeth, when the hospital phone next to my bed rang. It was weird that phone was ringing, because everyone always called me on my mobile. The person calling was a DonateLife donation coordinator, and said she had already spoken to Des because my mobile had rung out, and that they were really confident they had a good liver for me. I was going to be prepped to have a transplant in the morning.
I had always imagined getting the call at home and sharing the news with Des, so it was weird being in hospital alone and having Des find out before I did.
Des and other family members came by that night to spend some time with me, and Fr. Andrew was awesome coming in late at night for me to have communion, too.
Surprisingly (probably because I was still recovering from the infection), I slept ok that night.
In the morning, after some more family visits, the prep began. Mostly it was just fasting completely, but also the interesting experience of completely shaving the front of my torso. Considering my substantial fleece, this did require a bit of effort.
I was eventually rolled into theatre around 12:30pm, where there were easily the most people I've ever seen present in a room for a procedure (probably at least 7-10).
Waking up choking with something in your airways and having a tube pulled out is never fun, but my first few days in ICU was surprisingly decent. I spent a bit more time there than expected because there weren't any available beds in the transplant ward. In ICU you have one-on-one monitoring by a nurse, so it was nice having someone always there looking after me.
The first day in the ward was fine, but things took a turn for the worse the next night. Apparently my digestive system wasn't moving along, and things were starting to back up into my stomach. After a scan, it was decided that I needed a nasogastric tube to get the backed-up contents out of my stomach.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that having the tube inserted, and then dealing with it in my oesophagus for the next three days was probably the worst experience of my life. I can deal with pain totally fine (e.g. I was fine dealing with the pain from the surgery, wound, drainage tubes, etc.), but I'm very sensitive with all things to do with my throat. The sheer consistent discomfort of having something in my throat constantly pressing up against my larynx, and having to constantly suppress the urge to gag, was something I never want to experience again. I literally burst into tears of joy/relief when the doctor told me the tube was coming out, and just eating jelly afterwards was a blissful moment.
After that drama, things settled down, with only some low haemoglobin numbers causing some concern. I was given two rounds of blood transfusions to try to lift them up, but because I was asymptomatic, the doctors were happy to see if it would increase on its own. I was eventually discharged 15 days after the transplant.
Since I've been out of hospital I've been slowly regaining my strength. I'm progressing pretty well, and the doctors are happy with how the new liver is going. My blood tests and doctor reviews have been scaled back from being daily, to now being weekly. I've gotten to the point where I feel like I am ready for a lot of 'normal' things, but my body has other ideas when I try and start them. I still have to remind myself to take it easy and curb my enthusiasm a bit.
I have been getting a few things done that I've put off for a while, so there might be a few blog posts about those before I end up restarting work and getting back to a regular routine.