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  • Writer's pictureToni O'Connor

Adventures in Waiting...

Two years ago in July, my husband Adrian underwent a kidney transplant at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Adrian is a newspaper man here in Winchester and besides being the editorialist, he writes a weekly column. The column is about local stuff, or history or our travels or whatever. While he was in his 9 week recovery period, I wrote his column. (Except the first week when we were both occupied with other things!) This ran in the Winchester Star on July 25, 2016.

Many of you know the usual author of this space had a kidney transplant on July 14 at UVA hospital. What you may not know is that the transplant has been years in the making.

Adrian had a kidney biopsy for known and suspected problems in December 2005. At that time he was diagnosed and told a transplant was inevitable. In fact, his local kidney specialist felt it may be necessary in 18-24 months. We were advised that a living donor would be the preferable method.

At this point the waiting begins. His numbers were too high to be placed on the “list,” but the search began for a compatible donor. Many folks stepped forward to volunteer, myself included, but most fell by the wayside as the wrong blood type or other preventative conditions.

Three folks matched well enough for further testing with one proving to be an excellent match. This donor was cleared early in 2006.

We thought that once a match was found the transplant would be performed. But, more waiting as his own kidneys had to run their entire course. Even with an excellent match there is still the possibility of immediate rejection. He must use his own until they were totally worn out.

So, for the last 10 years, we have waited as the kidneys deteriorated. His local doctor managed through medication changes and a renal diet to keep him going and keep him off dialysis. Initially his function numbers rose on the new medications and the renal diet.

Ah, the renal diet. I was responsible for much of its administration. This diet is low potassium, low sodium, low phosphorus and low fun. Restrictions of foods included: potatoes, oranges, tomatoes, nuts, brown sugar, dried beans, whole grains, processed meats, and CHOCOLATE to name a few. (Did I mention it was no fun?)

So for 10 years whenever my husband accompanied me to the grocery store he lamented loudly as he looked at the loaded shelves, “I live in the land of unhappiness!” My reply: “If you were truly living in the land of unhappiness, you would weigh a whole lot less.” Thus, I shopped alone for the most part.

The next adventure in waiting began much more recently. In January, Adrian reached the required level for transplant. Testing for him and the donor began again to make certain both were healthy enough and still a match. Both passed the necessary tests by the end of May.

The fated day came. We were to report at 11 a.m. More adventures in waiting. Two hours in the surgical waiting room before being called to pre-op. He was wheeled away around 3 p.m. and I returned to surgical waiting.

The team assures people they will call the waiting room every two hours to update the family- Adrian’s sister Esme, her husband Pete and me. They called after anesthesia had been administered and again two hours into the surgery. Adrian’s surgeon came to talk to us about 6:15. He told us everything went as expected.

Then, nothing. No calls, still listed on the screen as in surgery. The lady at the desk provided some answers.

When I mentioned that the surgeon had spoken to us an hour before and he should be out of surgery by now, she said, “Oh, honey, the surgeons don’t close. The TEAM closes.” Alrighty then.

By 7:30 he was listed as out of surgery but not in recovery. For over an hour. At 8:00 the surgical waiting room closed, and we were kicked out into the main waiting room. Where was he? In the hall? Recovery? Cold storage?

At 8:40 the lady at the information desk could only tell me he was out of surgery but not yet in recovery. Noting my obvious distress, she called the recovery room and was told he had recently arrived.

Some minutes later, the recovery nurse did call my cell phone. He was going to the floor shortly and we should wait (again) in family waiting on the surgery floor for a nurse to come get us.

We finally got to see him at 10:15, and he was in rare form. More on that next week.

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