Before I launch into this epic post, I want to remind everyone about a post I wrote back in December called “The Ring Theory of Comfort.” If you’re not sure what to say when you speak to either of us, just remember the mantra: Comfort In. Reading it again was a good reminder to me that Derek and I are at the epicenter of something profound. We both need comfort and the permission to be honest even if our thoughts are not always positive. We also encourage all of you to find someone to tell your fears to, someone to talk to about all of the thoughts that are rattling around in your heads. We are strong, but we need your strength to help us get through the next few weeks. Thank you.
On Monday, Derek and I arrived at Lahey before 8am in order to get some blood work done. We walked down to the basement and got sequential numbers: 99 and 00. After the blood tests, I went with Derek to his pre-op meeting. He described the appointment very well in his post, so I won’t go into that, but I will say, as the anesthesiologist described what kind of shape Derek will be in when he leaves the OR, tears welled up in my eyes and I swallowed hard. Breathe, Logan. Just breathe.
Once that meeting was complete, we went our separate ways. I had an appointment with my surgeon and my friend Emily came along for support. Dr. Akoad was pretty excited to show us the scans of my liver, so we left the exam room and went straight to his office. He opened the file on his computer and I proceeded to make my now standard joke: “Pretty nice liver, huh?” He turned in his chair, gave me a big smile, and said, “It’s an amazing liver.” I want Derek to have the absolute best he can get, and apparently, my little liver is a fine choice.
Everyone’s liver is a little different: they come in different shapes, sizes, and how they hook up to the rest of the plumbing in your body can vary, a lot. That’s why they have to take such comprehensive scans of the donors: they don’t want any surprises and they want to know exactly what they’re dealing with before they open the donor up. My liver happens to have an anomaly that means that Derek’s surgeons will have a little more bile duct to work with than they normally would when they hook my liver up to his body. I’m obviously over simplifying things, but the good news is, my liver is a very good specimen.
Dr. Akoad went over all of the risks again, he looked me in the eye and went over all the risks and potential complications. He then asked to see my abdomen again and traced a line where they would make the incision. They will cut from the base of the sternum, down the abdomen and then make a curve around my belly button. I asked if he would tidy up in there, maybe remove my appendix. He rolled his eyes and told me to shut it; I deserved that. I signed the paper saying I understood what was going to be done, we shook hands and then Emily and I left to eat a snack.
My next appointment was with the blood lab. They take a unit of my blood and keep it in the fridge for me. If, during the surgery I require a transfusion, they will take my blood first. I needed to eat first and drink a bunch of water so that I wouldn’t get light headed; having a unit of blood drawn dehydrates a person. Midway through our snack of peanut butter and banana on a toasted bagel, I got paged over the loudspeaker. We rushed back to the hepatobiliary department because I read my itinerary wrong. I had a quick appointment with the person in charge of a study the hospital is doing to investigate live donors and their response to pain medications. It basically means I’ll have to answer a questionnaire 48 hours after the surgery. I’m all for it. Anything I can do to help others is fine by me. I signed a few papers and then we went down to the blood lab.
Emily and I sat in a big room and chatted with the phlebotomist while we all watched Let’s Make a Deal. I looked away when she put the needle in my arm and then proceeded to very slowly fill a pint sized bag of blood. One of the contestants got Plinko which is my favorite and we all cheered when he won $10,000. It was nice having Emily there to pass the time, and the phlebotomist was so easy to talk to. She did a great job of putting me at ease and after it was all over explained how everything worked. Then she took the bag filled with my B neg blood and put it in a refrigerator right next to me. It will stay there until I need it, and if I don’t need it, it will be disposed of.
I stood up and felt fine, and then Emily and I went back upstairs for my next appointment, the family meeting. This meeting was pretty similar to my tour from the other day, but the nurse went into much greater detail. Emily took notes so she’ll be able to fill my mom in on what will happen on Monday.
I had a little time before my next appointment and I was hoping to go to Derek’s family meeting. Unfortunately, the MRI was backed up and I had to go to my pre-op meeting before he even made it back to the office. I went to my pre-op meeting alone and proceeded to wait an incredibly long time for my appointment. I finally made my way back to the nurse and she went over my surgery. It was a different conversation then they had with Derek. Partially because I am a different person, but also because my surgery, while complicated, is not as complex as Derek’s. The nurse advised me to stay as hydrated as possible leading up to surgery and made sure to tell me to use my inhaler just prior to surgery and then give the nurses my inhaler to keep for me. A hospital is a closed ventilation system, similar to a plane, though a hospital has a vastly superior filtration system. It can be problematic for people with allergies and asthma to be in that closed system and she said it’s always good to be prepared. I was really thankful for that advice, I wouldn’t have thought to bring my inhaler.
My last meeting of the day was with the same anesthesiologist that Derek met with in the morning. He briefly went over what would be happening to me the day of surgery. They will give me an IV before I am wheeled into surgery and they will also give me an epidural. Yet another bizarre similarity to child birth! He asked if I had concerns and I mentioned that I have very dry skin and I am prone to scratching myself raw, even in my sleep. He made a note and said they would be careful with the narcotics since those often cause a lot of itching. Then he told me what the worst part of my surgery will be.
“They are going to wheel you into recovery and wake you up. You’ll be awake enough to realize that you are out of surgery and that Derek is not. You will be upset. You need to know this so you can mentally prepare for that moment. It will be hard to wait for him to get done with surgery, but we need you awake so we can make sure you’re ok.”
I thanked him while blinking back tears. He was so direct and honest and it was very helpful for me to hear. Before we were done, Derek was brought back to the office since he was finally done with his tests as well. We finished up the meeting and the doctor shook both of our hands and wished us luck.
Derek and I left and we quickly briefed one another on the day’s events. I was pretty upset that I missed Derek’s appointments with his surgeon and his doctor. Even though his parents were with him for those, I would have liked to have been there for him too. But he told me everything he remembered and I could tell he was absolutely raw from all the information he’d received. My heart broke for him, I saw the fear in his eyes and I wished more than anything I could take it all away.
We started this blog because we wanted to be able to share what we’re going through with all of you and maybe even with other people who have to go through this. The reality is, writing all of this down is good for both of us. It’s cathartic to relate our experiences, and it helps to share what we’re feeling so it’s not just rattling around in our heads. It may appear that we have it all together, that we are strong and that we both have a great attitude. And for the most part we do. But please remember to be gentle with both of us when we tell you our fears. Right now we need all of you to be strong for us, even though we know you’re all scared too.