Just installed Plex on the iPad, its totally awesome. So much improved compared to the version I first installed a year or two ago. I’m also posting this from the Tumblita, a Tumblr app for the iPad, again vastly improved compared to its version 1.0 release. Day by day, I’m finding the iPad to be more and more useful as a productivity tool, and not just for content consumption.
Four days ago, I donated my left kidney to my Dad; this has been the first day that I’ve had the energy to post again on my blog.
When last I wrote, just before the operation, on the reasons for donation, it was perhaps premature. I had not yet undergone the operation itself though it was imminent. Now, in the immediate aftermath, I’m taking this opportunity to write as a cathartic one as well as to re-examine whether I now feel any differently.
On the day of the operation itself, the experience was much as I see it portrayed in movies. I remember the trolley they wheeled me down on, the refrigerated sterile environment of the urology theater and the reassuring voice of my surgeon. My anaesthetist was a Mauritian man who had trained in the United Kingdom; we chatted amiably about our shared experiences while his assistant prepped me for the general anaesthetic. Then I remember a transparent facemask held by some faceless person being clasped over my face, followed by an injunction to breath slow and deep. Then nothing at all.
When next I woke, I remember voices around me, talking about me and my Dad. I wasn’t in pain; at most, it felt like I had a bad stomachache. I also felt a strange sensation that I later discovered was the urinary catheter they had inserted while in theater. It was cold, piercingly cold. Apart from that, I remember the persons around me saying that they were waiting for my Dad to come out of theater before they would take me up. I dozed fitfully. Eventually, they brought me up; I never did remember if I saw Dad or not.
On my first post-operative day, I was warded in the high dependency unit and I discovered the two companions that would stay with me for the next forty-eight hours. The first was pain, and it was a strangely kind companion. It only prodded me when I moved too much, or provoked it with some incautious, ill-advised maneuver. The second companion was nausea, and it was much worse. It was constant, spirit-sapping and wearing. It soaked into my consciousness no matter what I did and it was often all I could think about. Together, they were my Scylla and Charybdis; I could make the one go away by using more or less or the painkillers they gave me, but in so doing, I risked the displeasure of the other.
On that first day, my spirits were still high. I remember Laura, a fellow registrar who visited me tripping over my urinary catheter. It was an acutely painful experience but I could still laugh at the incident and messaged her later saying that I was bleeding from the catheter.
But as the hours wore on, the incessant nausea sapped my initial optimism. I didn’t dare use the painkillers in case it worsened the nauseas; I couldn’t get comfortable and couldn’t find a comfortable position. I became emotionally raw, flittering from my normal speaking tone to a sullen slow speaking pace I couldn’t control. I was tearful at times, and wallowed in self-pity though I knew intellectually I would get better.
I then discovered some truths about being in a hospital. First, hospital was not and is not a place to rest. At night, the monitoring equipment beeped constantly, nurses bustled to check my urine output and nudged the catheters; patients were wheeled in and out of th ward while doctors roamed around. The fast saline drips they infused chilled and numbed my left hand. During the day, I had the mixed blessing of a constant stream of visitors and well wishers; I was of course happy at the people who had turned out to wish me and my Dad the best, though after the fourth of fifth such visitor, I had to really concentrate to say anything meaningful. At most, I slept for a couple of hours at a stretch.
Second, I discovered a kindly staff nurse by the name of Nurhul. She looked after me on my first post-op day. Of course, my mom and sister were with me, and they did look after me as well. But Nurhul was a stranger, yet she did everything gently and really made me feel like she cared. When I left the high dependency ward the following day, she took me to my new room, cajoling me to do my incentive spirometry. It was mostly because of her that I tried to inflate my lungs with that little piece of yellow and white plastic with any regularity. When I am better, I will try and find her again to let her know that on that day, for me, she really was my Florence Nightingale and a true credit to her profession.
Right now, its the third post-operative evening, and I’m feeling a lot better. Overall, I can say the experience was a lot harder than I expected. Now I can feel myself slowly mending and my spirits lifting. I hope the experience will make me a stronger person, and a more empathic and caring doctor. As for whether I would have donated had I known what the true experience of giving a kidney was going to be like? Now that I’m through the most difficult part, I can say yes, though it was hard to hold on to that thought on the second day.
For any potential kidney donors out there who read this, I hope what I’ve written might be of some interest to you. It has been a soul searching time for me, and I wish now I had someone to share the experience beforehand. If I can be that person for someone else, I will be only too willing to try; my email is email@example.com.
I haven’t posted for a while. Partly, its been because I’ve been a bit too busy.
Well, I have some time now. The next few days will mark a new milestone in my life. On Wednesday, I’m scheduled to be the donor in a renal transplant operation. The recipient is my father.
This post is about why I decided to be the donor.
At first, I decided to do it just as a matter of course. I didn’t really think about it; it just seemed like a natural thing to me. It was the gold standard treatment, I was blood group compatible - of course I would donate. It never occurred to me otherwise.
But during the transplant work up process, I was asked repeatedly “why? why do you want to donate?”
Well, last week, my father began dialysis. The catheter insertion process was straightforward. But then, they scheduled him for his first dialysis. That night, I went down to the dialysis center to see him.
Now, I had been to the dialysis center many, many times in my professional capacity as a cardiology registrar. But on that day, that night, walking there to see him, I opened my eyes and really, really looked around - not just at the one patient I was scheduled to see, but at everyone there - the nurses, the patients, the equipment. I looked at their faces, at what they were doing, and I looked at my father.
He was lying in bed, looking quiet, pensive. He was pale; the dialysis had made him feel sick. I was later told this was common for someone just beginning dialysis. More importantly though, this wasn’t the man I knew as my father. The man I knew as my father was active, in control, someone who knew what he wanted out of life and what he was doing. This wasn’t the same person.
It made my realize what my mother had always said - health is something you only really value when you don’t have it anymore.
Although on some level, I know that my parents are getting older and they won’t always be fit, and eventually they will pass on, I’m not prepared for that yet. I want my father to be the man I still picture him to be. I would never say to him that I love him, because I wasn’t brought up to be open with my feelings - but I think that if I do, then it means nothing unless I am prepared to back it up with action.
And that’s why I want to be his renal donor.
I also want to use my experience to urge everyone who reads this to think about transplantation, and in countries where transplantation is “opt-in”, to carry a transplant donor card. Because some day, you or someone you love may need a transplant. If so, you may end up being being grateful for the kindness of a stranger who consented to give their organs to help you.