Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Amazing Progress!

What an amazing few weeks and as you can see John's determination has progressed things so quickly that I can barely keep up - thank you John.

After the weekend and still recovering from the amazing news from John to offer me his kidney I contacted The Royal London Hospital first thing on Monday morning. I called at 8:00am while still getting dressed for work hoping that I might get hold of someone and to my surprise the phone was answered by the Matron (can you believe it, it could have been the cleaner at that hour of the morning). I briefly explained the situation to her and asked what the next steps might be to proceed. She ensured me that one of the Renal Coordinators would give me a call during the day to explain the process. After the call I sat on the couch still trying to come to terms with the amazing news. Lizelle was also on her way to work by then and gave me a kiss goodbye.

I sat sideways on the coach for a minute almost lying down in a state of shock and just fell asleep there and then. Around 10:00am I was awakened by my mobile phone and it was Sister Lilly, one of the Renal Coordinators returning my call. I shared the wonderful news with Sister Lilly which I knew from previous consultation just before my dialysis was about to start and she just asked that John would give her a call to arrange the necessary procedures. Still I could not get off the couch and probably just sat there for an hour or two or three with millions of thoughts rushing through my head. Just after noon my phone rang again and it was John confirming that everything was organised and that his medical file has been requested and is on its way to the renal unit. Furthermore John's tests was scheduled for the 30th July '12 to dertermine his blood type...

With all the excitement Lizelle and I was on our way on holiday a few weks later (31st July '12) which we were looking forward to for a considerable time. We arrived in Santorini and just parked the car to find our hotel. Lizelle recalled the comments of some previous guest feedback as she always very diligently research our holiday destinations; someone commenting on the footpath, so down the footpath we went. Almost there my phone rang and it was John with the first good news that we were the same blood group, O+!  By now we were just entering the hotel and were standing on top of the cliff with the most amazing view and Lizelle gave a big scream of excitement before giving me a big hug & kiss to celebrate the wonderful news. What an exceptional start to our holiday...

It's a match!

I received the call we were all waiting for today from Ray Trevitt from the Royal London Hospital; Pieter and I are an exact blood type match!

I never had any doubt that it would be, given how we met, but it's nice to hear it from an expert.

Ray told me that in addition to this, my kidneys look good and healthy from the test done so far. There needs to be more test to make sure my kidneys are both in good working condition so that each can function properly on it's own within Pieter and I. The next crucial tests will be the tissue match and cross-match tests.

Matching donors to recipient by type of tissue is desirable. The better the match, the greater the chances of the kidney transplant lasting a long time. A perfect match, however, is not essential.Tissue type is usually determined by looking at 6 different proteins in the body. Different people have different versions of these proteins. Since the number of possible tissue types is much more numerous than for blood groups, the chances of finding a perfect match is less than with matching blood groups. Doctors will usually consider doing a transplant if at least half of the donor's tissue-type proteins match the recipient's.

A cross-match is a blood test to ensure that the patient's antibodies doesn't reject the donor kidney. The test is done by mixing a sample of the patient's blood with cells from the donor's lymph nodes or spleen. If there is no reaction, the transplant can proceed.

I'm positive that this will all be a formality as we move towards getting Pieter back to good health. In the meantime he and Lizelle are away on a well deserved holiday, with very good news and Lizelle's birthday on Thursday to celebrate.

Monday, 30 July 2012

First round of tests

After much anticipation and waiting impatiently, I finally went for my compatibility tests at the Royal London hospital today.

I went to the Renal Unit on the 9th floor and reported to reception. At first the young man was very never mind, but he noticed on my profile on his computer that I'm a living donor. His attitude changed immediately and he became friendly and polite. He summoned a nurse and gave her the necessary paperwork to have the urine sample and blood test done. The nurse gave me a urine sample cup and told me where to put it to use, and where to leave it when I'm done. Luckily I drank a lot of water on the tube on the way there as I was fasting from 9pm the night before and starting to long for my breakfast. Let's just say I'm glad I have such a good aim!

Afterwards she told me to take a number from the ticketing machine at reception and wait for my number to be called to have my blood taken.

Renal Unit Reception

I was number 13 and there were only 6 people waiting before me. It went really fast as there were 3 cubicles utilised for taking blood. I waited a mere 5-6 minutes before my number was up. I entered cubicle number 3 and was greeted by a very polite but formal nurse whose English wasn't too good. I wanted to ask a few questions about how many tubes were needed and how long it takes, but she shrugged them off and asked for for my documentation. On it were attached 7 bar coded labels which she started peeling off and applied them to blood tubes with different coloured caps. She asked me to roll up my sleeve, make a fist, and in went the needle. No words or reassurances, just very professional. The tubes were all filled in under a minute, she applied some dressing to my arm and with a smile I was told that was it. I was very relieved that it went so smoothly and without pain or dizziness.

From there I decided to go outside and have something to eat just in case, as I never has so much blood taken before and I didn't know how my body would react. Luckily I had no side effects during the day, apart from a little fatigue. So I went up to the Imaging Unit on the first floor for my chest X-ray and kidney ultrasound.

As with the Renal Unit, the Imaging Unit is located in the new extension. I love the design, it's so modern and felt more like a hotel than a hospital, which made me feel more at ease. I find traditional hospitals very intimidating and depressing.

Imaging Reception

Imaging Reception

I handed the lady at reception my appointment letter and told her why I was there. She initially told me to go to the second floor for the X-rays, but after looking at my records on her computer probably noticed those magic words: "Living donor" and told me not to worry about going to the second floor, they'll just do all the scans right there. I started to feel like a mini celebrity! I was asked to take a seat and wait to be called. I barely sat down when I was called for the X-rays, being bumped right to the top of the queue! The male nurse was extremely polite, asked me to take off my shirt, remove any metal objects and stand in front of the chest X-ray machine. He returned to the safety of his booth, took the X-ray, and politely told me that was it, I can put on my shirt and return to the waiting area. I was very impressed with the efficiency of this hospital!

Chest X-ray machine

While I waited for my kidney ultrasound, I let Pieter know I was almost done. The plan was to go for a meal afterwards to catch up and celebrate the first step in the transplant process. After 10 minutes I was called by nurse Janet. She was so nice and reassuring, and told me exactly what she needed to do. She asked me to lie down with my shirt unbuttoned, and applied gel to my abdomen and sides to start the scans. I had to inhale deeply and hold my breath several times for every image taken. She was so compassionate that without realising it, inhaled and held her breath with me every time. She kindly gave me feedback after every image and told me her initial assessment was that both my kidneys were healthy.

 I then had to go empty my bladder and return for further scans to determine my bladder function. Again she told me that both my bladder and prostate were healthy a functioning well, which is always good news! 

She also showed me on the screen that I have a second partial spleen, which is very unusual! My immediate question was: "Can I donate that as well?". I had no idea what a spleen does, so I Googled it: "The spleen has an important role in the body's ability to manufacture antibodies that help resist infection. It also removes harmful microorganisms from the blood and gets rid of old blood cells. Before birth, the spleen manufactures red blood cells until after birth when the bone marrow can take over this process. In Chinese medicine, the spleen is considered a vital component in making chi and blood." This explains why my immune system is so good and I seldom get ill.

Ultrasound station

When my Ultrasound was done, nurse Janet wished me well, assuring me that I would certainly go to heaven for my good deed!

When I returned to reception, Pieter was there waiting for me. The look on his face was priceless when he saw me walk in. He looked very happy to see me, and very thankful that I was there to have the tests done. I'm sure in the back of his mind he must have wondered how committed I was, and if I would go through with it. Hopefully now all doubt will be gone.

We left the hospital, and decided to go to the Spur Restaurant at the O2 arena for a meal. Pieter insisted that I take a very large steak "to replenish my iron" as he put it. What a great guy! He has such a positive attitude, and even though he felt poorly from his dialysis from the previous day, he was still friendly and upbeat. It's so inspiring. We had a very nice meal and chatted for a long time about health, the purpose of life and everything in between.

Thanks for being such a great friend Pieter, and for guiding me through the whole process.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The ball is rolling

After offering to donate a kidney to Pieter on Sunday, we decided to meet the following weekend to discuss the massive undertaking. However that whole day Natasja and I felt waiting an entire week is a waste of time, when we could get the ball rolling by arranging for the test to begin.

Surely enough early Monday morning Pieter sent me a text message saying he spoke to the hospital and discussed the matter with them and asked that I get in contact with them to arrange for a date for the testing, as if he read my mind. We knew as soon as the shock settled Pieter would want to start the process as soon as possible.

I rang Sister Lilly at the Renal Clinic of the Royal Free Hospital, who took some of my details, including the name of my GP to request my medical records. She phoned me back today and told me that the tests have been scheduled for Monday 30 July.

The journey has begun.