November 7, 2011

My Harvest

It is day three of my recovery from being harvested at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.  The experience has been interesting and while I'm not 100% mentally, I think I'm close enough that I can go over the experience so far.

During the process...well, not the surgery itself obviously, but a bit before and after, I had my wife Carolyn take some photos.  Some of the more graphic ones were specifically for me to be able to see things I couldn't view first-hand and others were me just joking around.  Don't worry, I'm not going to share them all with you.  You don't need to see the wonderful bruises I'm starting to develop, although in a couple of days they might turn pretty impressive.

I will warn you though, I'm not nearly as good looking as I am in my head.

Wednesday we dropped our dog Tessa at the kennel because we had to pack still and our flight was early enough that a Thursday drop-off wasn't an option.  This is important only for the fact that my wife's cat immediately knows something's up and by the time we get to packing, she's far from indifferent.  All I needed was some sweats, an extra change of undies, and some toiletries.  I was impulsive and tossed in my Thrive, cell phone, and my charging cables.  Anytime I can pack for a trip in just a couple minutes I'm able to start things off on a good note.

We got to the airport an hour earlier than we needed to, but if we had slept in an hour we probably wouldn't have made it in time.  Funny how that always seems to work out.  The flight was uneventful and before we knew it we were at the hotel.  Thankfully they checked us in early and we were able to go check out the mall for a lunch before my pre-op appointment.  Lunch was a very unimpressive meal at Rumbi Island Grill.  We really should have just gone with the Machine Gun Sandwich at Bruges Waffles & Frittes.

This won't hurt a bit!
Trying to impress the Mrs.
We killed time until my appointment, which was very brief.  Basically they just went over some of the procedure stuff and made sure I was well enough for the surgery.  While I was in my consultation I received two phone calls from the hospital.  They called twice to try and get my "demographics" and to get my insurance information.  All I needed was my show-time for the procedure, which of course the person on the other end of the line didn't have.  I was less than chipper when dealing with these low-level hospital flunkies.  They didn't seem to get that a) I was already at the hospital speaking with the doctors that had my demographics and that b) I'm not coughing up my insurance information.  I'm not paying for this procedure, the NMD Program is.  Not that it has stopped the hospital from sending me a couple of bills already.  I finally just tell them to call the BMT department on the 8th floor.

Afterwards a quick fitting of my gown and some general probing and I get to go home until 7:30 AM.  I have to fast starting at midnight, which isn't a big deal.  We grab a late dinner at Boca di Beppo with some friends and end up staying until they close the place.  We all went back to the hotel and just stayed up chatting about gaming until about 11 PM.  It was nice to be able to visit with friends on the eve of what could be an ominous day.

Morning comes far too soon, as it always does.  I throw on my sweats and we take a cab to the airport to get this thing going.  Our first stop is Same Day Surgery on the third floor.  As soon as I check in I'm asked for my name and insurance card.  Oh hell no!  I explain, yet again, that this procedure is being paid for by the National Marrow Donor Program.  They ask for it again, "just in case".  I have to be very adamant that they are not getting that information because there is a greater than zero percent chance they'll try to bill my insurance for all this stuff.  A supervisor takes care of the "problem" and I'm given a few forms to sign.  I'm disturbed that I'm listed as the surety for the bill should the NMD Program not pay the bills, but I've got to get poked with a crapload of needles, not argue what-if scenarios with a minimum-wage data entry clerk.

Have they given me the "good stuff" yet?
My name is quickly called and we are put into a hospital room where I get to put on my gown and these awesome little socks with rubberized texture on the top an bottom.  Someone designated as "my" nurse comes in to draw some blood and get my IV going.  That poor lady had to stick me three times to get what she needed.  These people do this stuff everyday and when they are surprised about having to draw 12 sample vials, that says something.  The sheer amount of sample blood causes the issue sticking me so they go right for the big vein in my elbow.  The stick in my wrist burns like they injected me withabanero sauce and all I can do is laugh about it.  I'm not being brave, I just cannot start swearing like a sailor and beating the shit out of stuff.  I know the nurse feels horrible about having to stick me thrice and I see no benefit making her and my wife upset.  Eventually the burning subsides and I'm back to normal.

Normal for me is complaining a little and being a sarcastic dick.  I'm told I was a bit more jovial than that.  Since I haven't had any meds yet I don't know what that means.

I meet the doctor and the PA doing the procedure.  They explain most everything again, but this time I learn that they have a very tight timetable for the harvest that is imposed by the NMD Program for donor safety.  The docs will have to rush like madwomen to get their quota.  I get to choose the music playing and I ask for some Dropkick Murphys.   I figure a little ass-kicking music will help.  We have a little time before the procedure, but eventually I have to see my wife off to the waiting room and I'm wheeled to the operating room.  My designation is 4.2, which means operating room 4 for the 2nd procedure of the day.  While waiting outside the OR, a nice woman comes to talk to me.  Evidently she is "my" nurse for the procedure.  Who was the last lady then.....I thought she was my nurse?  The anesthesiologist stops by to chat and I learn that this guy has donated a kidney to his brother-in-law.  Not his wife's brother either, but his wife's sister's husband.  What are the odds of an "anonymous" donation to such a close family member?

Everyone is ready and I'm wheeled into the OR.  The anesthesiologist gives me a shot as we are wheeled in and I'm out in about 20 seconds.  The last thing I remember is some nurse telling me they have my music streaming on Pandora and me thinking, "You are so full of shit, I don't hear anyt......" Yes, my memory actually stops in mid-sentence.  I'm sure the music was just being buffered.

Channeling Buddy Jesus
I was put under just after 9 AM and come to at about 12:20 PM.  I know this because I was facing a clock when I awoke and I tried to figure out everything I could.  I recalled the facts of the situation at hand, but I needed more.  For some reason I really did not like this recovery room.  There were lots of other gurneys here, with people moaning and groaning and I wanted out ASAP.  I was in the recovery room until about 1:30 PM when they finally wheeled me into a private room where I could see my wife, and "my" new nurse Brian.  I tried to eat and drink some and sleep when I could, but all of that was hard.  My hips hurt and between that and the blood pressure cuff that kept inflating to check my pressure I couldn't rest like I so wanted to.  Between the anesthesia and the IV fluids I was quite swollen with liquids and more was coming in faster than I could get it out.  After a visit from the doctor and the PA I was released to go home.  Carolyn snapped an "after" picture just before I got dressed.

Roughly 8 hours after the harvest
Getting dressed was comedic.  I'm not used to having to have my wife dress me and I felt like I had aged 40 years in one day.  I was also to weak to put up much of a fuss.  They did not give me back the units of blood I donated over the previous weeks, so having two units and a surgery within 15 days, I'm down a couple pints.....literally.  Steak....I need red meat, and lots of it.  We have the cab take us to Tucanos Brazilian Grill for dinner instead of going back to the hotel.  I do my old man shuffle and my wife carries my pillow in a bag from the hospital.  As she puts it, I look like an escaped mental patient.

Bedtime understandably comes early for me and I start taking my prescribed medication...the so-called good stuff: Oxycodone.  I can't sleep for more than about 15' at a time before having to painfully shift my position.  The bandages make me feel like I'm wearing a diaper.  I take my pain meds on the prescribed schedule, but something just isn't right.  I feel much worse than I did after the surgery.

We limp home the next day with me in a zombified daze.  Luckily I insisted on wheelchair assistance or I don't think we would have made it back.  I'm really fuzzy on what went on that day, so it doesn't get much of a mention.  I do miss my afternoon pill deliberately and I'm already starting to feel better.  As soon as we get into the house I try to call the doctor and report my problems, which are basically every side effect of oxycodone except addiction.  I never get a hold of the doctor.  I call twice and some low-level tech from the BMT clinic does call me back to say that they cannot get a hold of anyone, but I should be ok if I drink some caffeine and take some Tylenol and Benadryl in addition to my pain meds.  Eff that noise, I'm just going with Tylenol.

Now it is day three after my surgery.  I'm pretty sore, but the pain isn't too bad.  Today I was slowly able to dress myself.  My worst complaint is that I cannot really sleep.  During the day I feel chilled and at night I'm just roasting.

All in all the process was...."meh".  I wasn't very impressed with LDS Hospital.  The individuals I met were fine people, don't get me wrong, but the only people I dealt with more than one was the BMT receptionist and their lab tech.  I had three different people claiming to be "my nurse" for the procedure and they made a big deal of my earlier visit being necessary so I could meet "my doctor" who wasn't even in the room for my procedure.  Follow through is just abysmal.  I truly felt that they were simply done with me once they got what they wanted and I was safely off of the property.

I don't know, maybe things would be different if I was Mormon.  Yes....I went there.

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