At the last entry on my medical history I was recently out of my first big surgery in January 1983 when my two original kidneys were removed in anticipation a planned transplant two weeks later. The kidney was to come from my Mother and as with all great laid plans, things were about to go off track. As I already discussed in the last entry, dialysis, although temporary, was on the schedule, and was a shock in many ways for me at the time. It was only to be 10-14 days of this then the transplant at the Cleveland Clinic, but right before the surgery, and as I recall, right on the day of surgery, it was postponed due to a low grade but troublesome fever I had developed. At the time there was a real medical mystery as to the source of the infection. Tests were done and results were not clear. I was treated with antibiotics and it was felt we were back on track. During this period I was allowed back to my home in Toledo, Ohio where I underwent dialysis as an outpatient in what was called back then the Medical College of Ohio. Everything back then was a new shock for my young self and my family who was experiencing all this for the first time as well. In addition to the pain and discomfort of the recovery from the surgery, the adjustments and fear associated with dialysis, was the fact that my family was going through tremendous personal stress apart from all the focus on my situation. My father had been disabled the year before due to a severe back injury, he was unemployed, and was back to school training to become and Nurse. My sister was felt abandoned and put to the side, unfairly, due to my parents spending so much time and worry upon me. She was, during this period, watched by my grandmother, who would stay in our home during times when my mom and I were in Cleveland. My grandmother did this even though she was working full time herself and commuting everyday back and forth from work. Looking back there were so many family, neighbors, and friends who were there for me and my family to support and to encourage in so many ways.
Anyways after about month of dialysis and a fever that would not go away, it was discovered what the source of the mystery infection was. The recently sutured area from the kidney removal turned out to be the culprit as it was discovered that one of the stitches had become infected, or a sponge was left in, that became inflamed. A small procedure was done, where a square inch of infected flesh was taken out a stuffed with gauze and disinfectant. I was sent home for more dialysis, and instructions given to my parents to change and clean the wound until it appeared all could be cleared for the transplant. I recall the whole wound was as shocking as it was gruesome. My parents were taken back by the elaborate process of cleaning and dressing the wound everyday. This went on for a couple of months until we seemed to be in the clear for surgery.
Besides all that dialysis went on, and as I have discussed in previous entries, it (dialysis) was very different than it is today. One of the most important changes is the development of Epogen, which is a hormone produced by the processes of a healthy kidney which then tell the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Important for many reasons, not least of which is the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. If not produced regularly, one will be extremely lethargic and overly tired. Back then there was no way to replicate the healthy process except through blood transfusions to a dialysis patient. Today the hormone is injected during treatments (at an astronomical cost). The point of discussing all this was that I was getting blood transfusions during this period, and it turned out that I received some blood from someone other than my Mother, the donor of the soon to occur transplant procedure. It would turn out to be the fatal error later on in the rather quick rejection of the organ that coming summer.
The transplant did eventually happen in late April of 1983. I recall the newness of it all, the relief at the time with the feeling that we had been through it all an where it was all headed for me. Looking out my hospital room the trees were just beginning to bloom for spring, construction cranes working on a cutting edge medical technology (MRI) building outside for the Clinic, and what now appears the dark ages of transplantation was occurring inside my room.
Back then Horse Serum was given for anti-rejection of the organ after surgery(painful with terrible sickness), massive amount of predisone, with its heavy duty side effects, and the whole newness of using my bladder for the first time. I recall asking the nurses with all sincerity,"How do you know how to go to the bathroom?" It was exciting and scary all at once. The new spring would be different and strange in ways I could never imagine.