A year ago I was lucky enough to have a kidney transplant and to be released from the treatment of dialysis, which I was lucky enough to have had to prevent death from Berger’s disease.
Every day I think about the whole episode, burned on the amygdala like a crazy film fluttering through the gate so fast it’ll burn into flames, so slow the voices are distorted.
February 11 2015, at ten pm, came the call. The call that froze us to the spot. We hadn’t expected the call for years. Our lives around calls. The call for our adopted boy. The call for a new kidney. The calls.
“It was around 10:20, we were watching a non-descript but fairly interesting program about a world war criminal in France, Marcel Petiot. We were getting close to the end, when , unexpectedly the phone rang, my mobile. I didn’t get to in time, cursing at the lateness of the call, worrying it was a collegue for the next day or a cancellation, or bad news from our families.
It wasn’t any of those things. It was the 11th and the Dr said “we have a kidney for you, a nice match, you’re number one on the list, and you need to have a light breakfast and come to the hospital tomorrow with your latest prescriptions and the latest results.” My legs turned to jelly, I wrote things down, but after I couldn’t read them, my hands were shaking so much. I stood, paralyzed in the middle of our house, unable almost to move . My wife was white, shocked, as was I. Finally we hugged, after thanking the doctor. Then my wife got a bag ready, I got the paperwork ready and we tried to sleep those fretful sleeps. I texted all my colleagues, I wouldn’t be at work tomorrow.
The night was long, and we rose early. Our boy was with his grandparents, one less thing to worry about. We got our stuff together, washed, those mundane things. We drove off to Angers, I can’t remember the trip, but I drove! I parked in the car park and we went to nephrology. Then to the dialysis, I would need dialysis and then a big blood test to check everything, and some cross matches. In many ways your lizard brain takes over.
The kidney was in a red cooly box, waiting for me. (My wife says blue, it’s strange how memory tricks you) The dialysis over, waiting for the last test. The serum test. Nail biting. I tell my wife to phone family and friends. We hadn’t done that the day before, as we knew they’d need a good nights sleep and to worry them. They sit, crying, waiting, and hoping. The last test comes in, it’s all systems go. I hug my wife and am wheeled off. The psychologist looks after her. She goes home, to wait.
Off I go through the labyrinth of corridors. The guy has trouble pushing the trolley, I offer to help!
Into a box, waiting. Then surgery, after very little wait. I am injected with a cool liquid, and then… sleepy time.
I wake, in pain. I always hate the gagging from the tube, and then I’m transferred to intensive care. I lie for 3 days, every hour my vitals are checked, blood pressure, urine quantity, temperature.
I’m washed, but unclothed, looked after. Incapable of anything else.
Nurses trot round, doctors too. Another dialysis is needed, but it’s normal. The kidney seems to work.
Then after three days, and tubes everywhere, and being naked off to the “normal” hospital where you are not naked anymore.. or are you? Slowly, tubes get removed, I take anti rejection pills and have THE strangest, strangest dreams ever, and am a bit tired and sore. Operation was Thursday, today is Tuesday. I can walk again.( Or can I!)”
“Post transplant dreams
I have a strong sense of a young woman, beautiful, firm, with round thighs, full buttocks and firm breasts ; She seems perhaps dark, or perhaps where she is is dark. I can see water around her lips, her round face. She seems very artistic, I see paintings, and wish I had that talent to do them. She seems to have electric tattoos, tattoos that light up and change on her. I see trees, vegetation stretching to the sky, animals from wildnerness places, and dust streaming into the sky.
I have strange marketing ideas, Mr Bean Ice cream, and the mascot which starts out large and gets smaller to entice people to buy the ice creams , as if they’ll make you slimmer. Also fast food ideas, that people would be prepared to spend more on fast food if it was better quality, the subway argument, I see an old man refusing to listen, wanting more per sandwich!
The art really is of exceptional quality.
I see dance, movement, cat like and agile. She shows me her body, she writes backwards in a mirror, or in a language where I’m too slow to understand or don’t know. Her fingers write like electric lights in the sky!
I have a name, Delphine, but Is it this? I try to reassure her I’ll keep her as safe as I know.
Thanks to the generous gift of someone I’ll never know, I’ll get another chance to live, a life away from dialysis and the weekly grind that entails. Someone died, and the family, or even the donor gave me the gift of a kidney. What a lucky boy!
We’ll never know who, or what, or why. But we can say thanks. And that we feel their loss.
Next week I’ll start some therapeutic education and learn what pills are what. The kidney transplant isn’t a cure, just a treatment, and the average life of a transplanted organ is around 20 years. Its not as hard as dialysis, but it’s no pleasure trip either! I’m not rejecting the gift, I’m grabbing it with both hands, but I don’t want people to think “that’s it” now, as it’s just the start of another journey! ”
The journey took 6 week of hospital treatment and 6 months of convalescence at home, I finally went back to work on the 1st September, but only part time. I still work part time.
My results are “ok”. I’m doing well, and sailing along.
I saw a fellow dialysis patient then, in the shops, bag in hand, bags under eyes. I told him my news, after he asked me how I was. I asked him how things were, but it’s not so good. He didn’t need to say.
In hospital I had two embolisms in my arm and also I had a rejection problem, and needed plasma treatment. It wasn’t easy, but it seems to have worked.
I think of those who wait their turn, I hold my hand to you. I think of those who waited and died, I hold my hand to your family. For you and for me life is new now. I live fully, fuller, full. Loads of projects, things, contacts. Connecting
For the families that say yes, thank you.To the medical team, thank you. To my wife who came 100 km there and back every day (or almost) to see me, thank you. This ends up like an Oscar speech, where you say thank you to everyone, but it’s true, thanks to all those friends, family and collegues who came, prayed, hoped, laughed and sang.