Sunday, October 18, 2015

I should shower now

So I'm just over four months out of transplant surgery now and, all in all, things really couldn't be better. It's good to be alive! My recovery hasn't come without a few hurdles here and there, but when I look back at where I was four months ago I realize just how far Megan and I have come. 
About two months after transplant we found some abcesses in my liver that contained infected fluid and caused me a few problems. We figured the infections originated with the complex surgery and how transplant livers shouldn't be on ice for the 25+ hours that mine was, so with the difficult placement of the new liver, or graft, some infections likely developed. 
On top of the wound vac I was already hauling around 24/7 to aid the closing of my surgical incision, I was now treated to two drain tubes inserted just to the left of the lower part of my sternum that hung down about 2 1/2 feet into a plastic bulb that looked like a small hand grenade and collected infected fluid that I would empty a few times each day.  To treat the infection, I was running antibiotics through an IV picc line in my right arm almost all day long. Two of three medications were run once a day while the third was run every six hours. I was also having to use saline syringes to flush or irrigate my incision every three hours round the clock to keep the wound moist and aid it's healing process. This routine continued until the middle part of September. It was not fun but I knew it was necessary for me to do in order to retain this gift from God of a new liver. So while I moaned and groaned about it almost daily, my beautiful wife and amazing son kept my spirits high, reminding me that I was alive and should be grateful for that. You can imagine my elation when I was finally relieved of all these "connections," and it turned out that it happened all at once, which I wasn't expecting. One morning I awoke with a fever. I had dropped Megan and Miles off at the airport the day before as they were joining Megan's mother Diane in San Diego to spend time with Megan's brother Ryan's family. I knew from past experience that a fever in my condition almost assured me a trip to the hospital, as fevers can be a sign of any number of terrible things, that can lead to even more terrible things. So, as sure as bears doing their business in the woods, I was called into the hospital. I had assured Megan before she left that I'd be fine at the house alone and that she didn't need to worry about a thing, so I didn't really look forward to my phone call to her alerting her of my staycation in the hospital. While it caused her some worry, when everything checked out fine in the hospital, she was relieved that everything was ok and that my parents had been there to help me get to the places I needed to go and get the help I needed. In fact, the fever that got me checked into the hospital was the only fever I recorded, but the trip to the hospital turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 
As they tested me for every possible infection and illness associated with my fever, all tests came back negative (which is usually good in the medical field). While testing and scanning for potential problems, we found that not only were the abcesses almost completely gone, but my body and the antibiotic treatments had been effective in completely erradicating the previous infections. So they were able to remove the drains! But hold onto your seat cushions, it gets better. Since I was already in the hospital, Dr. Alonso wanted to get a good look at her beautiful incision, and develop a plan to close up the wound permanently, so that I could hopefully ditch the wound vac.
The original plan was to possibly use a skin graft to close up the now dime-sized hole in the middle of my torso. A plastic surgeon at IMC, Dr. Ferguson, joined Dr. Alonso in my room and we discussed these plans, and that I would go into surgery to have it done. Given the many surgeries I had gone through during the last three months, particularly in the month of June, you would think that the idea of another surgery would send my anxiety levels through the hospital room's ceiling tiles, but that's why I love my docs. I have complete condfidence in them and their abilities, and I know how much they care about me, so when Alonso assured me that it would be quick and easy, I knew it would be. 
Two days later, I went in to surgery, joking with the anesthesiologist as I drifted off to sleep. I awoke in a recovery room that I had been in several times before but never remembered. After being wheeled to my room, I saw my dad waiting in the recliner by the window. The surgery had gone better and more smoothly than expected. No skin graft was needed. They merely pulled the lower flap of skin over the top and sewed it shut. I was finally freed of the wound vac! I sat talking with my dad for a few minutes, and after he had left my hunger started to consume me. I hadn't eaten for over 24 hours. Prior to that I had been eating almost non-stop throughout the day, every day. I was needing to take in at least 4,000 to 5,000 calories per day, just to maintain my weight and aid in my recovery. I remembered that the ICU docs really push post-op patients to get up and move as soon as they can after surgery, as it speeds the recovery process immensely. Since the surgery to close my wound hadn't been too big of a deal, I decided that I needed to eat. Thanks heavens for the hospital cafeteria and their being open 24/7!  As soon as I decided that the anesthesia had worn off enough, I made my way down to the hospital's main floor, grabbed a sandwich, chips, some candy, and my staple yogurt parfait, and stumbled back up to my room to indulge. I did it all a free man! No drainage tubes dangling between my knees, no man-purse attached with long tubes to a wound vac slung over my shoulder, no picc line running from my bicep. I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. 
It's now been about a month since I've been free of all those attachments, and I still find myself stopping by my bedside to grab a wound vac that isn't there. I would have liked to bury that wound vac at sea, or water-ballon launch it from the top of Mt. Olympus, but that's an expensive piece of equipment that may save another's life, so I returned it. I'm in no condition to climb Mt. Olympus anyway. 
Now, the recovery continues. I am still on a fairly hefty dose of anti-rejection meds and other treats that suppress my immune system. I have no timetable yet as to when this will end. My docs are being very cautious, and taking things very slowly, and understandbly so. So far my blood test look perfect, and the liver is happy where it is. So we are moving forward, happy to be alive, and grateful for the many miracles we have been a part of. God truly does love each of us. I understand that it can be very difficult to see His love working in our lives sometimes. I have days where I struggle to get out of bed, because I don't know what the day has to offer me. I forget to realize what the Lord may have to offer others, through me. We each fight so many battles on any given day. I look around at people in public places and think how each one has trials and difficulties in life that nobody knows, or will ever know about. But I know that through faith in God, and trusting in His plan that is individually tailored for each of us, we can conquer every one of those trials, and find true happiness every day. It is not easy, and nobody says that it's easy. But how can we expect the greatest of all gifts to not come with a price?
I was thinking the other day that I really haven't needed my experiences with health issues to solidify my testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. I have always known that I can live with Him and God again by following His teachings and doing what is right. I haven't required near-death experiences to gain this testimony. But it has taught me so much more, and continues to teach me everyday. I have learned more about compassion and understanding our brothers and sisters here in this life. I have learned the importance of not sweating the small, trivial matters in life. I have learned the invaluable power of a positive attitude as I have been surrounded by positive, happy people who want what's best for others. I have learned and know, without a doubt, that no matter how difficult or hard or painful life is at times, there is always someone who knows exactly what we may be going through, and that is Jesus Christ. And why does that knowledge bring me comfort? Because when you are lying there with your hands tied to your bed in the dark ICU room, unable to sleep, drink or eat; listening to the unending hums and beeps of the medical equipment around you; unable to speak because of a breathing tube shoved down your throat that feels like you've swallowed a No. 2 pencil; and the only rational thought you can come up with is just how alone you feel at that moment, it's eternally comforting to know that you are not. 

Well I've said a lot. That basically catches you up on my situation over the past few months. Megan has been going back to work more, which has been fun for her. Miles is busy with school, gymnastics, swimming, and soccer up until about a week ago. He scored his first goal in the last game of the season so we were pretty stoked about that. Bode is still here. We bid farewell to our Subaru which was bittersweet. Miles was pretty shook up about it. After all, it was the car we brought him home from the hospital in! She was a great car but just had some recurring issues, very uncharacteristic of a Subaru, that we got sick of dumping money that we didn't have into.
So our lives move on! It's a beaufitul Sunday. It's 11:30 AM and I haven't showered in two days. It's about that time. 
Thank you for your prayers and support! Peace out for now!

2 comments:

  1. Glad to hear that you are doing well and good to see you in your Yankees hat!

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  2. I was so excited to see this new post! Thanks for sharing! Love you guys and your beautiful positive attitudes and testimonies.

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