Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Big day of the operation

After months of tests, planning and John's commitment and drive from day one, the day of realisation has arrived. Surprisingly I managed to get a good night’s rest, probably also due to Monday's early morning hour dialysis and again on Monday night I managed to rest after using some ear plugs for the night.

I was awakened from a good nights rest early Tuesday morning by my wife Lizelle stroking my hair and it was so wonderful to see her and my mom by my bedside. John was already awake being prepared for his operation and I rushed over to his room still half asleep to see how he was doing. I could see that John was nervous but so brave, a man who has never spend a day in hospital before due to his impeccable health. After wishing John the best we decided to wait outside his room with all the Doctors and nurses now attending to him. As John approached we all gave him a high five wishing him the very best all with emotions running high and tears in our eyes.

For the next few hours John was in our minds every second, visioning his progress; John is now on the operation table; he might now be in recovery; he is probably on his way back etc etc. As always Natasja was calm and collected awaiting her husband’s return sitting patiently by my bedside. Grant my dedicated and ever helpful head nurse was also very busy getting me ready and before we knew it I was in my "gown". First my friendly anaesthetist ("my person" as Lizelle described her) arrived to ask me some standard medical questions running through some of the expected preparation procedures for the day. I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet my surgeons Susanna assisted by Hector which provided finer details around the procedure. I was very impressed by my surgeons and felt a sense of relief that I was in such professional  hands and lucky to have such skillful people taking care of me. I felt calm and relatively relaxed being very positive for what lies ahead and knew that everything was now in God's hands and that I put all my trust in Him, the Surgeons who He would guide during our operations.

Thank you to my wonderful wife Lizelle for being such a strong person standing by my side and never to let go throughout the years, by my side never faltering under the immense pressure and stress xxx

Saying our goodbyes I gave Lizelle and my mom a big big hug, Natasja was there wishing me well and the best news was that we just received feedback that John's operation went brilliantly well and he is recovering. On my way Les and Brenda our dear friends was awaiting me in the hallway also wishing me all the best for the operation, was such a wonderful surprise seeing them there so full of happiness and emotion, even Grant was getting emotional :) It was so wonderful being surrounded by so many friendly and helpful staff until the last minute, even arriving in the prep room the anaesthetist, her assistant and nurse made me feel relaxed and comfortable (without the drugs yes).

Before I knew it I was awakened by a voice in the darkness as I could barely open my eyes saying it all went well and John is doing fine - a moment filled with such overwhelming emotions of relief, happiness and excitement although still half asleep battling through the grogginess. I was also constantly being reminded to "press the button" as some pain was now settling in. As soon as I was half awake I was wheeled off to the ultra-sound to ensure that my new kidney whom I now christened "Johnny" is doing well which was a very uncomfortable trip with every bump and turn resulting in excruciating pain, a dry mouth that I could barely get a word out. As before Grant was by my side encouraging me every step of the way even bringing me water and taking care of the pain which I'm so grateful for - thank you Grant.

As far as I can remember I was on my way back to my room shaking and recovering from the pain but within a few minutes Grant had things under control and I was able to see Lizelle. A wonderful feeling of relief and happiness which was all made possible by John's own decision to give me an amazing gift of life, which I'm convinced was part of God's plan to unfold this miracle in front of us never to be the same and appreciate life in a whole new way.

Thank you John!


The Operation

I was woken up at 06:00, and had my heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels measured. The saline drip that I was attached to during the night to hydrate me was removed and I was asked to take a quick shower and to return to my bed in only my hospital robe.

The next two hours was a sensory overload. I had so many nurses and doctors asking me procedural and medical questions, had more blood taken, and more injections I can't even remember what for anymore.


The reality of it all was starting to set in. I never hesitated for a moment, but I was definitely anxious to have my first operation done. I was so happy to have Natasja, Pieter, Lizelle and Pieter's Mom, Marietjie by my side. They tried their best to keep me calm and positive, and it certainly helped. And knowing that I had my family, friends and colleagues wishing me all the best gave me great comfort.

Just before I was wheeled off to surgery I had to endure another 40 minutes of pain for the trial experiment. At least it made me focus on something different than what was about to happen. There were so many people around my bed by now, including Ray, Lilly, a few doctors and nurses. I felt really well taken care off and in extremely good hands.



The big moment we've been waiting for 4 months finally happened. I was wheeled off to the surgery theatre, to be held in a waiting area. I remember Natasja, Pieter, Lizelle and Pieter's Mom gathering in the hall and I gave them a round of high-fives. Lilly was so kind she waited in the waiting area with me for about 30 minutes, keeping me company while the theatre was readied. We said our goodbyes and I was taken to a small room adjoining the theatre where I was met by the Anaesthesiologist and an assistant. She again asked me many health and medical question such as allergies, previous reactions to anaesthesia etc. I was asked if I had any questions, and all I could muster was: "Be gentle, and don't let me wake up during the operation." She snickered and promised.

When done, she gave me an injection, supposedly 1 of 3, and an oxygen mask was placed over my face to "help me relax and breath better". Thanks doctor I heard all these tricks before I thought, waiting for injection no. 2.... Well I don't know if it ever came, and the next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room.

It felt like I had woken from a very deep sleep, very disorientated, but no pain which was a relief. I was told that the operation was a success and had gone extremely well. I was so happy and relieved it was over. For me anyway. I thought about Pieter, saying a quick prayer for him, and dozed off.


The rest of the day was just one big blur as I slept most of the time, and when I woke there were always very happy and relieved faces staring back at me. Natasja told me at some point that Pieter's operation also went extremely well. The surgeon called it a "beautiful kidney", and it started working almost immediately!


With all this good news I decided to call it a night and let the morphine do it's work, while I started my healing process.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Pre-operation

With nervous anticipation Natasja and I made our way to the hospital this morning. It felt so surreal sitting there on the train, thinking tomorrow is the big day we've been looking forward to for so many months.


When we arrived at Ward 9F of the Renal Unit at 11:30 I was told they were waiting for a bed to become available as they are full. We were told we could go visit Pieter in the meantime. When we got to his bed Lizelle and his mom Marietjie were there. It was so nice to see them all and especially to meet Marietjie in person. Until now we had only talked through emails. She is the same lovely, kindhearted and caring person I had imagined from her emails. She jumped up and gave me the biggest hug and started crying with happiness and grattitude. I was so touched by her emotions and again realised what this means to Pieter, his family and friends. It's such an amazing ability to bring happiness and hope back to these wonderful people. And to now be a part of the wonderful family.

As we sat there casually talking and getting to know Marietjie, Sister Lilly came to say hello. It's always nice to see her. She explained to us that we will have some blood taken, chest X-rays taken and an ECG done during the course of the day.



We also opted to volunteer for a trial experiment during which they restrict the blood flow from one arm for 5 minutes and release it for 5 minutes, which is done 4 times. This apparently forces the body to release a chemical aimed at protecting the arm from a perceived trauma. These chemicals in turn protect the major organs too, keeping it safe during the transplant process. This will be done once again in the morning before the operation.


At 15:00 my bed was finally ready in the room next to Pieter's. Natasja kindly unpacked my suitcase while nurse Jacky took my blood pressure, measured my weight etc. and checked my medical background. When this was done Natasja, Lizelle and Marietjie went home, leaving Pieter and I to sit and reflect on this huge miracle which has finally come to reality.


Pieter left for his very last dialysis at about 18:00, and I received my dinner shortly after. There is a nice selection of food, and I opted for Cornish pie with sweetcorn and mash, and a toffee yoghurt for dessert. Before I was able to start my dinner my surgeon, Dr Roberto Cacciola arrived to run the procedure by me again and for me to sign a consent form. He was again very kind and helpful and I'm very pleased that he will be performing my operation.

An hour later another doctor came to do a quick check-up with some medical history questions. After that I was sent to the X-ray department for my chest X-rays.

At 22:00 I finally had my ECG. Now I can finally get a good night's sleep before the operation. I have to get up at 06:00 to shower, get prepped, arm pressure experiment, see my loved ones, and get wheeled off for the operation at 08:00.




I would like to thank my amazing wife Natasja for all her love and support, she is my rock, and without her it would've been a much harder path. Also to my family, friends and colleagues who have supported me in my decision from day one. You are all amazing. And off course to Pieter, Lizelle, his family and friends for all their love, advice and kind words.

I know this transplant will go amazingly well and that Pieter and I will live full, healthy lives. I'll be doing a post operation post soon!










Sunday, 25 November 2012

Preparation

It was a tough week in preparation for the operation where I had to start my immune suppression medication with some side effects, but the excitement of having a new life and John and I staying in regular contact kept us both motivated for the big day. I also made a visit to the Renal Outpatient clinic during the week where Ray was able to take some blood early in the morning to confirm that my levels were at the required level prior to the transplant. It turned out that I was over medicated and was happy to hear that the immune suppression would be reduced which would help with some of the side effects.
Furthermore my mom also arrived on Saturday the 24th November in London from South Africa. Unfortunately I could not join Lizelle on her journey to Heathrow obviously avoiding big crowds possibly complicating things further due to exposure to viruses or bugs. It was however wonderful to see her once they arrived home and we had an opportunity to catch-up. My dad could unfortunately not join us due to illness and difficulty to travel but was in constant contact with us in the days to follow.
I had to check into the Royal London hospital on Sunday afternoon but left it till the last minute to pack my bag, possibly just soaking up the home environment which I was sure to miss in the days to come. Finally the moment has arrived and we were on our way where we were greeted by some friendly staff and shown to the high care unit where I would spent the next 10 days. Sunday was mostly devoted to administration and some final blood test to ensure that my current blood levels are in line with the requirements prior to the operation. Unfortunately my potassium levels were a bit high and after the painful reaction of a glucose and insulin drip due severe pain in my arm in an attempt to reduce my potassium levels which could be harmful to my heart I had a 2 hour dialysis session in the very early morning hours of Monday.

We were looking forward seeing John and Natasja on Monday morning. As they arrived John's bed was not ready for a few hours but everyone pulled some chairs together around my bed which ended in some good conversation and even a few laughs which definitely helped. John was obviously also eager to settle down and getting ready so we were happy to hear late that afternoon that his bed was ready which gave him the opportunity to get some rest and settle in for the night. The rest of Monday evening was dedicated to my FINAL dialysis session which was one of my longest sessions but I made sure to complete my full 4 hours until the last second as this was my LAST dialysis session!


An exciting day which gave John and me the time to reflect on this miracle that was about to unfold in front of us. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Final blood tests before the operations

This morning Pieter and I had to go to hospital for what we hope were the last blood tests before our operations. They want to do a final cross-match test to make sure everything is still perfect, and I assume a few other tests judging by the 12 tubes of blood they took from each of us! Usually it's only 6-7!

When we arrived we were met by Ray Trevitt, who took us to his office. We had an informal chat with Ray about the upcoming operations, and he gave us some paperwork containing what to do/ expect before, during and after the operations.

We were also asked to give MRSA swabs to make sure we don't carry the disease. One from the nose, another from the back of the throat, and finally as Ray put it: "Any dark crevice between your legs". Say no more.

After our meeting with Ray we had our blood taken. Strangely enough I'm getting used to it, as long as I look the other way that is! But the nurse was so good that I hardly felt a thing. Poor Pieter was a little shaky before he even arrived, as the last dialysis he had was on Friday, so to give so much blood really takes its toll on him. But with Pieter being Pieter, he shook it off and carried on. What an amazing person. It just makes every other problem I have that I think is big seem insignificant.

Ray then took us for a tour through the Ward where we will be staying in a fortnight. It was all new, modern and clean, with wide corridors and large rooms. For the past two weeks I've been very tense and anxious over the operation, largely due to the fear of the unknown. But after seeing this I feel much more at ease. Especially seeing how friendly the staff are and how well patients were treated.








Tired, hungry and a little light headed we decided to have something to eat and drink in the hospital restaurant. Wow! We were both pleasantly surprised at how nice it was! It's so modern, bright and spacious, with a great selection of food and drinks, and such a nice atmosphere. We immediately looked at each other and said Natasja and Lizelle would love this place while waiting during our operations. We had another great chat, contemplating the before and afters, and agreed this is such a blessing and amazing event unfolding.






 


We both need to stay fit and healthy before and after the operations, which means we have to avoid public transport and unnecessary contact with strangers. So the next time we'll see each other will be on Monday 26 November, the day before the operation, when I will check-in, so to speak. Pieter needs to be there on Sunday 25 November as there will be a few more tests to be done on him. So until then we just have to wait patiently and calm the nerves.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

A huge thank you

I would like to say a huge thank you to the management of PRP Architects for all their support and understanding over the past few months while I underwent all the compatibility test, and for letting me take the recovery time after the operation as company sick leave, even though it's a voluntary operation. Thanks also to my colleagues for your support and comfort, it means so much to me.

PRP are always supporting charities and those that contribute to them, setting a great example for others.