I wanted to give a more complete update about the last 24 hours and the whirlwind we like to call a “dry run.”
I got the call at 1:42AM and without asking too many questions I said, “Yes!” to accepting the lungs. They were from a young(er) male, known IV drug user and he had tattoos, this made him “high risk.” I tried to get more information about his age and where he was from but no one would give me that many details. I do know he was from out of my region. The west coast region is very large. I know Stanford sent a team of doctors and residents on a plane to determine if the lungs were satisfactory. After initial tests pointed to yes, further tests gave more and more disappointing results that could have resulted in me being hospitalized with sub-par lungs for months and maybe recover, maybe not. They recommended I not take the lungs and I respect the doctors at Stanford so I agreed. In reality, I don’t think I had a choice.
What a dry run looks like:
We arrived to what seemed like an empty hospital at 5AM on Saturday morning. No one on the phone told me where to go. I asked if I was to use the main entrance and he said yes. So I did, but no one was there. I walked and walked around until I found somebody in the emergency department. They were able to look my name up and see that I was supposed to go to the area of the hospital called C1, which is a hall of rooms specifically designed for pre-op, and post-op, if you’re going home the same day. That would not be my case, of course, if I had the surgery. I would have been headed to the North ICU.
I put on a hospital gown immediately and was asked my allergies to medications and asked for a list of my medications. There was a lot of confusion about drawing my blood, as I told them I have a medical port-a-catheter implanted in my chest for a reason, they are going to have to draw the blood from there. I knew it would be a lot, and they wanted to place a regular peripheral IV instead. I insisted they access my port first. It turned out to be a good thing.
The Fellow Cardiothorasic Surgeon assisting in my operation was Dr. Choi. He came to talk to me and had me sign consent forms. He said he’d be operating with the attending doctor, Dr. Ha. I had never met either surgeon, and never did get a chance to meet with Dr. Ha in the operating room. After taking my blood and doing some usual things like an EKG (testing my heart) and a skin check to check for redness or wounds all over my body they raced me in a wheel chair down to xray, because the OR was ready for me.
We got to xray and they had to call someone because we couldn’t find anyone. It was still so early in the morning. After the xray, some of the OR staff picked me up in my wheelchair and I was raced to the OR. They brought me into the OR and gave me some drugs to relax me. Me, being me, the drugs didn’t do anything. We have a theory that because I’m a redhead I need to be knocked out like a heavyweight champion. So they gave me some more drugs and that made things a little floaty for awhile. That’s when they got started on my arterial line. I’ve had many arterial blood gases but this is an IV line directly into an artery (not a vein) in my wrist. It’s a very sensitive area, but thank god, they do numb me first.
The anesthesiologist used ultrasound guidance to try and find a vein for my IV (the one they wanted to put in earlier). Even with the ultrasound she had a really hard time but she was able to do it in about 30 minutes. Then it was hurry up and wait. I waited and waited, they turned on music for me. They didn’t want to put me to sleep until they were sure the lungs were on the way.
After about 2 hours, around 9AM, we were told the lungs were not suitable for transplant and I was going to be going home. I went to recovery for about an hour, where they fed me some crackers and juice because my blood sugar was a little low, and they did more tests. My blood pressure was really low, but that’s normal for me after having narcotics in my veins. I wasn’t dizzy at all, so they removed all my lines, flushed my port, and led Paul to the room with my clothes so I could get dressed. I was escorted out around 10AM and we stopped to eat after that whirlwind of an 8 hour morning we just had.
We got home around 1:30PM to find my mom had finished all the laundry from Paul and the twins’ trip to the UK. What a super mom! Paul and I drew the shades in our room and passed out for three hours. We were tired.
But we are ready. We are ready for the next go, whenever that may be.
I can’t thank my donor today, enough, and my donor’s family for making the choice to donate organs. What an amazing day it was. It just wasn’t my right “Breath Day.”