Recovering from nephrectomy

By Michelle Rogers
Kidney donor

Yesterday marked the one-week anniversary since my nephrectomy as I donated my kidney to my boyfriend’s sister, Nancy Noble. I came home on Saturday and the last five days have been pretty uneventful. For the most part, I’ve stayed in bed, keeping entertained on my iPhone. Today, I decided to pull out my laptop and finally write an update.

Jim Walsh, my boyfriend, has been serving as my caregiver, which basically means he’s making my meals and taken on all the household chores — for now. I don’t think this is going to last much longer as he has seen I am pretty capable of doing all of this myself, I just haven’t felt like it. I feel a bit lazy, but I keep telling myself I have every right to milk this as long as I can because, after all, I just donated a kidney to his sister.

My pain has been relatively light. I can take hydrocodone every three hours, so up to eight a day, but I’ve been taking two or three per day.

This incision looks worse than it feels. It's about 4 inches long and was closed with surgical glue.
This incision looks worse than it feels. It’s about 4 inches long and was closed with surgical glue.
My incisions, where the surgeon cut my torso for the laparoscopic surgery, are healing fast, but don’t look very pretty. I am glad the doctors went with laparoscopy because, from what I’ve read and experienced, the amount of pain medication required, time in the hospital and time to return to work is significantly shorter, and cosmetic results are supposed to be better.

I have my first follow-up appointment with the doctor on Tuesday. I think everything is going pretty well. I haven’t had a lot of pain and the incisions are healing fast. I don’t expect there to be any problems.

For having undergone this major surgery just eight days ago, I am surprised to feel almost totally back to normal. I want people to know this wasn’t a big deal. Yeah, it’s a little more involved than donating blood, but probably equivalent to giving birth, maybe even easier — and you don’t have an 18-year commitment ahead of you.

Please consider the gift of life.

Full days and fresh air as kidney recipient recovers

By Mark Noble
Husband/caregiver

Yesterday Nancy and I took two walks outside. We went two houses down one side, then back to our house and two houses the other way. This way we would never be far from home, so to speak.

Nancy “worked hard” during these walks. They were slow, slower than a grandmother in a walker. But that’s the speed Nancy needed to go, and it was her first foray outside since coming home on Sunday.

Nancy also took a two-hour nap today and has professed to do so each day.

I helped Sarah with her homework and continue to prepare all the meals. I’m exhausted, but I keep going. I did take a break today to go for my workout, which was a struggle because I was so tired, and I followed it with a swim, a hot tub and sauna. I think it was the shower at the end that woke me up.

I brought Nancy a hummus wrap for lunch, and dinner was our leftovers from school (Thanks Liz it was delicious!).

Today I planned to wake up Nancy before 9 for blood pressure, temperature and medications, and then make her breakfast as I did today. Perhaps later I’ll go back to bed, who knows? I might slip away to Nip and Tuck to see Becky and the crew for breakfast and coffee. That’s my biggest vice, but I love going there.

I have a social event for a few hours, but I’ll have to prepare dinner before I can go. I’m going to search Facebook to see which of Nancy’s friends wish to come over for a few hours to help keep an eye on things while I am out.

Each day is a long day — for both of us, I am sure. But, I’m glad to have them. I’ve forgotten all about my job, because I’m too busy to think about it. I can’t get a breather in except a moment here or there. I cleaned out the garage yesterday because I needed a break. I’ll do more today, probably that’s when I can drag trash out to the curb.

I tried to start my motorcycle, but it needs a new battery. I think I’m going to need a jumpstart myself soon, maybe a massage at Trim or my club.

More to come as I return to work soon.

Kidney recipient glad to be back home

By Nancy Noble
Kidney recipient

It’s Monday afternoon and five days past the day of my kidney transplant. First, I want to say that the staff at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak was outstanding! The nursing staff was incredible.

I went in for surgery last Wednesday earlier than predicted — at about 11:30 a.m. — and I believe I was done by 3:30 p.m. I had a hard time waking up, so they had to keep my breathing tube in, which was a little scary and unexpected. Wednesday night is a blur and most of Thursday, also. On Thursday, I did get to start eating and I was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit. I was able to see my donor, Michelle Rogers, for the first time since the transplant later that day. She looked incredible! She was walking around and looking as though she just come back from the spa, except she was in a hospital gown.

All my labs have come back great and my new kidney is working great. There are not many side effects from the medicine, really, just pain near the incision site. During my first visit this morning at the clinic, things went well.

Thanks for all the well wishes and the incredible support from all my friends and family.

Donor leaves hospital but recipient stays behind

By Mark Noble
Husband/caregiver

Granted, Michelle deserved to leave the hospital yesterday, and I’m both thankful and happy for her. However, Nancy still remains.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, I’m by my wife’s side. It’s fairly quiet, too. We went for two walks down the halls. We ate dinner together. We’ve been chatting, looking at each other in bewilderment, and I’ve played nurse helping her around the room, in the bathroom, moving things around, etc.

Nancy had swollen ankles, but we learned that is also normal.

I ran over to Rite Aid and picked up the eight or so medications that were ready. Thank you, Verizon, my employer, for a great health plan. There’s one more to pick up, along with two generic blood pressure meds. I initially worried about the cost, but this had to be done, and the greater cost of not doing it would have been unbearable.

Anyway, half our hospital story is over. Michelle has departed and is in her own bed now, and Nancy remains. We are hoping for release today, which can only truly mean one thing: I’ve got a lot of house cleaning to do.

It’s time to get to work.

Kidney donor getting out of the hospital today

By Michelle Rogers
Kidney donor

It has been a wonderful experience donating my kidney to Nancy Noble through Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. We’ve had lots of attention with more than a dozen visitors, several floral bouquets, presents and even a TV news crew and songstress, but it’s time for me to move on.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the story reporter Lauren Podell produced of us for WDIV Channel 4 in Detroit and here’s a link to Berkley High School student Jenna Apostle singing to us.

Lauren Podell (front right) and the videographer from WDIV pose with me and Nancy Noble in the hospital Friday after reporting our story.
Lauren Podell (front right) and the videographer from WDIV pose with me and Nancy Noble in the hospital Friday after reporting our story.

My doctor said I could be released today, just three days after the transplant took place. Everything went great. We were done early with surgery and I was up and walking about 10 hours after surgery. There has been no nausea and my pain has been under control. The only hurdle was passing gas, and I am happy to report that happened at 5 a.m.

So, I’ll finally get to order some delicious real food off Beaumont’s rather extensive and impressive menu before heading home for some rest and relaxation, or what I like to describe as my vacation. I should be back to work by the end of the month.

Tomorrow I’ll share a link to our interview with reporter Lauren Podell of WDIV Channel 4 and hopefully video of the high school student who sung for us. I am using my iPhone to make this post, so I wanted to make it short.

I want to thank everyone for their support. We’ve had a lot of feedback on Facebook. Nancy will be in the hospital another day or two for anyone who wants to wish her well. Hopefully, she will have an update soon.

I just wanted everyone to know that the surgery went well and I am breaking out of the hospital after just a brief stay.

And please consider either giving the gift of life soon through live donation or after you have passed through the donor registry.

I almost lost it today after the kidney transplant

By Mark Noble
Husband/caregiver

As I approached Nancy in intensive care, and saw her breathing tube and the pain she was in Wednesday, I almost lost it.  I didn’t expect to find her in this condition, especially after hearing how great Michelle had been.

Nancy had some questionable blood PH factors, among other things, and a decision was made to leave her on the breathing machine.  However, I could see and sense how painful it was, so my very first “real” advocacy kicked into high gear.

First, I asked the resident for her care what the status was.  Next, I inquired with the respiratory care person and then a nurse.  I started to share the “pain” she was in, and they decided to run another “breathing test” to make sure Nancy could indeed breathe on her own.  Meanwhile, I got them to give her more pain medication, including something to calm her nerves as she was clearly upset.

The breathing test took 30 minutes. During that time, Nancy was tested on her breathing, her ability to breathe on her own and whether she was taking enough breaths combined with how often the ventilator had to kick in. My observations were bringing me to tears, honestly, because she was not doing well, but all around me they kept encouraging her.

When this test was completed, the original surgeon came in and offered his opinion, which was to remove the tubes. He said it was up to the ICU physician, who thankfully concurred on this recommendation and that of the resident physician. I couldn’t wait to tell Nancy, and I left her for about 10 minutes for the procedure.

The nurse came to get me. Nancy couldn’t speak, but I could see a small bit of joy in her eyes having no longer to breathe through tubes. She wanted to tell me something but couldn’t get it out.  She asked for a pen and paper, but I couldn’t find any. Lots of clipboards were around, but they all said “do not bring into patient room,” so I thought that wouldn’t be sterile.  I presented an iPhone and said “do your best to tell me what you need.”

Her answer was “change channel.”

Apparently, the TV show wasn’t to her liking.  It was then, at that moment, that I knew everything would indeed be fine.

More to come post-ICU.
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While preparing for kidney transplant, family and friends offer help

By Mark Noble
Husband/caregiver

I promised myself I would take Nancy out each night for about a week before her surgery so she could enjoy any meal her heart desired.  We went to Andiamo’s Royal Oak, Andiamo’s Bloomfield Hills, Meriwether’s, Salvator Scallopini, Steve’s Deli and The Avenue, where we met my side of the family. I think there were a few others, probably Olga’s and somewhere I can’t remember at this moment.

Tonight’s meal was a little rougher for Nancy. She had a stomach ache from her anti-rejection medication that she started a few days ago and clearly was not enjoying it.

I realized during those moments that there just might be a tough road ahead. If the medicine is a problem now, what will it be like later when there are five times as many medications? Will she always have these or similar pains?

This past Friday night, I took a few hours to myself and it wasn’t long before Nancy had asked me to come home. She was having what I would say was a medication-induced anxiety attack. She couldn’t sleep and we were essentially up for about three hours, again with her stomach bothering her. I gave her TUMs and a laxative. A few hours into our long night, her mother, Maureen, called asking for her last rites. Thank god, she was NOT dying, but she too was confused having built up a whole lot of worry for herself and probably just needing to hear Nancy’s voice.

I guess I am saying that in these last few days prior to the surgery, there has been angst, confusion, worry and real pain.

Today I did the morning routine for our daughter, Sarah, by myself. It’s not that difficult, but waking any teenager I expect has to come with a rule book of some sort. Whatever strength I had came to bear, and I was able to complete my mission, get her motivated to get up, do her routine, eat and leave. I had packed her lunch the day before, got it ready in the morning, and ensured she went to school on time. She even had time to listen to our favorite morning show, “Blaine and Alyson in the Morning” on 96.3 (OK, shameless plug for our friends there.)

To complete the day for myself, today was my last day of work. I was able to speak to the person who will be managing my business affairs while I am gone, ensuring that everything would continue to hum while I am out. I will be away from Verizon for the first half of April, and then after that intermittently as I take Nancy to and from physician visits and blood tests.

I’m also starting to get “notices” that people will be bringing meals over. I’ve never experienced that before, so this should interesting! Karen, who lives in the house we are renting out in Birmingham, said she’d deliver our first meal on Saturday. Nancy’s school, I am told, will deliver a meal every Monday afternoon until June. Now that’s commitment. My mother and sister have promised meals of various types and frequency. I’ve even talked to Jim to ensure he would have a plan to take care of Michelle’s meals. I’m sure someone will send something over to her, too.

These acts of kindness harken back to “yesteryear,” when neighbors would come together to help one another. It could have been building a barn or taking care of loved ones while someone went off to work the fields, or even taking in a cousin from a land far away. In the olden days (1800s), things were different, and while I didn’t live in that era, I can only imagine that what I am feeling is much like my ancestors who reached out to help their neighbors in time of need. It’s almost overwhelming, but welcomed.

Thanks for following our blog. Without interested readers like yourselves, no one would have an opportunity to understand how we feel and are affected by kidney transplantation.

Are you nervous about donating your kidney? Not really

By Michelle Rogers
Kidney donor

I’ve been asked by nearly everyone I encounter whether I am nervous about the surgery donating my kidney. My answer — to their surprise — has been, “Not really.”

For whatever reason, I am just not sweating it. I think it’s my personality type — possibly my astrological sign (Virgo) or blood type (O). And I am not sure whether it’s a good thing or not.

I tend to look forward and envision the future, and not live in the moment (or the past). My friend Trena Erskine would say this is a personality flaw. She reminds me to enjoy the process and live in the moment. And I should probably listen to her.

I am not nervous about the surgery. It will be a vacay!
I am not nervous about the surgery. It will be a vacay!

When I am on vacation, for instance, I am always looking at our itinerary and thinking about what’s next, getting there on time, what to wear and what we will be doing, while I am supposed to be experiencing the joy of today.

But in this case, I think it’s serving me well. I am not worried or nervous about the surgery because I don’t even picture myself in the operating room or recovering in a hospital bed. I already see myself resting in the comfort of my own bed — encased in my down-filled comforter and in my pajamas, with a drink on my nightstand table, a drawer full of snacks and a bell that I can ring to call my boyfriend/caregiver when I am ready to be served breakfast, lunch and dinner — and, of course, foot rubs.

I envision a vacation at home, where I get to catch up on my reading — assigned as part of a new reading group at work — and watch all of my favorite TV shows. I can surf the Internet, read all of the Steve Buttry and Thunderdome blog posts I’ve saved in email and play with digital media tools (but not actually work, because I am on medical leave).

Maybe I am in denial or too optimistic, or maybe I am just excited for the next step forward in my life. Whatever the case, I am not nervous. I am ready for my vacation.

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