Friday, June 25, 2010

Where to start?

This post's title is really how I feel when approaching this blog. I put off writing yesterday because I really had no idea how to use words to encompass what has happened over the last several days. I suppose the longer I put it off, the harder it will get to summon words of an exact nature, so here we go...

Rene and I were both mainly excited going into the surgery. Our friends and family did (and are doing) such a good job surrounding us with love and positive thoughts. Even down to the wire, they were thinking of things to do to care for us; all of Team RenJen was able to get together for a last minute dinner at Barb and Jean's house the Monday night before surgery. Great food (well, I had to put a hold on eating at 5, so my "great food" was a wine glass full of magnesium citrate--but everyone else seemed to love Jean's cooking) and much laughter was had, followed by an exchange of beautiful words of support and love while we all held hands, basked in the Boston sunset.

I was at the hospital at 5:45 the next morning and Rene followed shortly after at 6:15. We were in separate wings of the massive Mass General campus, so we exchanged a few texts while we both waited, but I was carried away to the OR by about 7:00. I'd say this was probably one of the hardest parts for me. I had to chill out on the stretcher in my OR's induction area (the area right outside of the operating room where they usually anesthetize people) for about an hour and a half before I was put under. It was here that my fear really began to grow and the tears couldn't be held back. Luckily, the nurses in the OR were wonderful, and they all took turns sitting with me, comforting me, and giving me tissues. My experience overall with the nurses at MGH was an extremely positive one, and only makes me want to pursue my own career in nursing even more.

I was finally wheeled into my OR around 8:30, after being given an injection of an anxiety medicine through IV. I tell ya what, if we could all have an injection of that at stressful moments, the world would be a better place! It felt more like I was being wheeled into a magic castle than a place where my organs would be shifted around and one removed. I was moved onto the operating table, I looked around the room a bit, was told I'd start to feel sleepy.....

And that's it! Apparently my surgery ended around 12:30 or so and I was in the recovery room of the hospital for a few hours before they wheeled me up to my room. I only really remember the last hour of being in the recovery room. Maybe this is better, as the things I do remember include telling the nurses I thought I was supposed to be waking up in New York (???), profusely apologizing about not being able to open my eyes to look at the people around me, crying even though I didn't know why--but explaining to the nurses that "My mom said this might happen," and asking in disbelief if the surgery was really over (it felt like 5 minutes had gone by!).

Finally, around 3:30 or so, I was wheeled up to my room on the transplant floor of the hospital. Another embarrassing crying story here: the transporters originally took me to the wrong wing and when I realized this, I started crying. They rushed over and started asking me if I was okay, if I was feeling nauseous, etc, etc, to which I responded "I just wanna see my family!"

It was incredibly good to see my mom, dad, and little brother. I don't think I've ever been so glad to have them by my side. The first day after surgery was a hard one--I was, of course, in pain, the pain medicine they gave me kept giving me hot flashes, and I was pretty nauseous for a bit. But having my family with me made it feel one hundred times better.

This is also when I first learned that Rene was doing great! She had been in a lot of pain upon waking up, but was feeling better by the time I got to the floor and was already experiencing a nice amount of urine output from her new kidney. Along with having my family with me, this news made everything seem easier to deal with.

The days I was in the hospital got easier as they came. The first walk of the day on Wednesday was a hard one--only allowing me to get to the door of my room and back. But by the time my dad got to the hospital later in the morning, he was able to help me walk all the way down to Rene's room at the end of the hall. We both started tearing up a bit upon seeing one another for the first time--but both held back real tears, as any jolt to the abdomen is still pretty tender. By Wednesday I was also off the pain pump and taking pain meds orally, my catheter was removed, and I was freed from the blood-clot preventing leg contraptions they put on me.

On Thursday, Rene beat me down to my room for the first visit of the day! She was walking incredibly well (better than I was, I think!), was still experiencing generous urine output, and all of her numbers were only getting better. I was able to take my first shower (I needed a little help from mom to get dressed again), and then I was able to blow the joint around noon!

So I've spent the last day and a half recuperating at "my new house" in Cambridge. Dad and Ryan visited last night before leaving today. Mom continues to be my best nurse until Sunday when she leaves. Rene should get to leave the hospital tomorrow. Then I go back for a checkup next Friday and should get to leave for home afterward.

I know this post isn't extremely "deep" or thought-provoking, but I thought I would at least let y'all know some of the details of the last few days. It has been hard for me to wrap my head around all of this now that it's done, and, as you could suspect, I've also been very tired--which hasn't left me in the best place for writing. But as I start to "come to" more and more, I promise I will post more meaningful stories about the surgery and about what has come out of it. Hopefully Rene will do another guest post, too, focusing on her surgery experience. I'll also post pictures once I get back to North Carolina.

For now, thank you all so much for your support and love. We needed it more than you know!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Post-op. Both doing great!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pre-surgery days

Wow-does that countdown clock really read 4 days?! Amazing that after almost a year of planning, this thing is finally happening in less than a week!

I just thought I'd take a moment (or a few moments--I'm currently on a bus to spend my last 'two kidney weekend' in NYC) to fill you all in on the happenings in Boston over the last few days.

It was great to see Rene and Nancy again upon my arrival to Boston Monday night. They really have come to feel like those kind of friends that you can go a long time without seeing and then when you do, you fall right back into place with one another. After they picked me up from the airport, we headed straight to Jean and Barbara's beautiful home, where Jean had a delicious dinner prepared and I also got to meet Harold of Team RenJen.

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday discovering more of Boston. Jean has done a wonderful job of showing me around town--she even took me on a bike ride to Harvard's campus...with a stop at Longfellow's house along the way!

Wednesday was Rene's turn to take me on a tour, but this was after I sat with her for a bit at her dialysis appointment. I was glad I got the chance to do this, as I think it was important for me, as Rene's donor, to more fully understand what living with kidney disease is like for her. Now I also understand why her profile stood out to me the first time I saw it. It was somewhat overwhelming to sit with Rene in a room full of so many other visibly sick people. It was also humbling to get a better sense for what happens for Rene three times a week for three hours. I mean, imagine doing your least favorite activity every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6:30 in the morning until 9:30. Got a good picture of what that would be like for you? Now imagine doing that same thing while in the hospital hooked up to a machine that's taking all the blood out of your body, cleaning it, and putting it back in. And you can't call in sick to this job--your life very literally depends on it.

Back to Rene's profile standing out: I can't believe she has been able to do this for five years and remain as positive and full of life as she has. There are more days in the week than not when I'm pretty bitchy for a good portion of the day just because I didn't want to wake up as early as I did. Imagine what kind of raging bitch I'd be if I also had to go to dialysis on three of those days out of the week. Maybe that's why G-d didn't give me kidney disease and why I owe Rene a kidney. :)

Wednesday and Thursday were also very cool because I got to spend them (sleepovers included) with Rene and Nancy. While I feel like I've known them forever, I've really only met them once before, so it's been awesome to do 'normal' things with them--shopping, watching trashy TV (along with Team RenJen member Douglas), and going to puppy classes.

Thursday was spent (by both of us) at Mass General. I think I had more physicals in one day than I've had in all my life. We also both had blood drawn, an EKG done, and met with different members of the transplant team. Being at the hospital made Tuesday seem much more real for both of us, and while we're both feeling a little nervous about surgery, we're also excited to have it finally happening.

I think we're caught up! Family members arrive Sunday and Monday, I meet with my surgeon Monday, GET to (I'm trying to look at it positively) stop eating and (stop reading now if you don't want to enter TMI zone) take a laxative at 5 pm that same day, and then we're both off to the hospital as the sun comes up Tuesday!

I'll definitely be updating the blog as soon as I'm feeling good in the hospital...or maybe I should try to blog from the recovery room...I'm sure that would prove to be the best post yet! :) Until then, thank you all for your continued support. Please be thinking about us as you wake up Tuesday!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Schedule

Readers: please pronounce this blog's title as a British person would. You know: "shedule." I think it adds a hint of dignity to my writing. :)

Anyhow, sense of humor (oh, maybe I should stick with the theme and spell that the British way: humour) aside, I thought it might be nice to know what the next week or so holds for Team RenJen.

Tomorrow: I arrive in Boston at 7:15 p.m.
Thursday: Rene and I both have pre-op appointments for the day at Mass General.
Friday: Rene has more pre-op.
Sunday: Russell and Phillip arrive, as do my dad and brother Ryan.
Monday: My mom arrives and I have more pre-op at MGH.
Tuesday: Rene and I both arrive to the hospital around 5:30 a.m. and surgery is scheduled to begin around 8 a.m.

Shoutouts again to Barb, Jean, Diane, Jan, Douglas, Harold and to Rene's and my families for all they will be doing to make the next week a smooth one for us. And shoutouts to all of you out there sending us positive vibes!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Believe

Nancy and Rene

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a warm welcome to the newest guest writer for The Adventures of TeamRenJen blog: Rene!

Just like everyone on this blog, I have enjoyed reading Jen’s journey as my donor, but I would like to take a moment to tell you how our journeys merged almost a year ago.

As many know, I have been living with Renal Disease for over 10 years with the last 5 years on dialysis 3 times a week. In January 2009 my wonderful friend Shereen gifted a lifetime membership to to me, a membership I thought of doing for a couple of years, but just was not ready to do. The timing was right and I submitted my profile to the website. The writing of my profile flowed so easy for me that evening! I wrote about how my kidney disease was a part of my life not my entire life!

My profile:

Greetings! My name is V. Rene Miranda I am the mother of an amazing 16 year old son who is the joy of my life! I have been living with the challenges of End Stage Renal Disease for the past 8 years, with almost 4 of those years on dialysis. I have dialysis 3 times a week for 3 1/2 hours each session. Although my renal disease is a big part of my is not my entire life! I worked in the Development field for the last 4 years in the higher Ed arena until I had to resign my position due to my health. I stay active by volunteering, spending time with my son, and just trying to stay healthy until I receive my transplant. I have been cleared for a transplant, but I need a donor and I hope that will be you! My donor needs to have O blood type negative or positive and be healthy. I am a very upbeat and positive person and I will continue to be hopeful not only for myself but for my wonderful son Phillip. I promised Phillip after I receive my kidney transplant we will go to Paris and see the memorial site of Jim Morrison (Phillip is a huge 60's Rock and Roll fan). If you are interested in being my donor, please contact me at the information listed. I hope you will consider giving me the gift of a healthier life. Peace and abundant gratitude!

After my profile was posted, two months later I heard from a kind gentleman here in MA who tested to be my donor, but due to family difficulties it did not work out. I have to admit I was disappointed, but decided to go back to the site and try again. On August 21st I received an email from Jen Denis. The moment I read her email it just felt right! We bonded even more after that great exchange. So following several more emails and getting the joyous news that we were a match, it was time to finally meet in person!

Meeting Jen!

In late fall, 2009 my partner Nancy and I picked up Jen from the airport; it was a moment I will never forget! The moment I saw Jen it felt as though I had known her forever! We hugged and she had this beautiful smile and warm eyes that just put me at ease. I told her the moment I saw her I wanted to turn her around and point to the kidney I wanted and she actually thought that was funny! That’s when I knew it was a match made in heaven! Jen and I spent the next day at Mass General Hospital where she began a 2-day round of testing. I kept looking at her thinking how blessed I was to have her in my life and how in less than 6 months she would help restore my life to normal again! Jen Denis is my earth angel! Over the past 6 months we have communicated via phone, email and facebook and finally she will be here Monday!

In eleven days the surgery will take place. I am filled with excitement, happiness, and just a touch of fear. In 11 days the most generous, loving, funny, smart, beautiful Jen will become a part of me! I often wonder how I can thank Jen for such a generous gift, and I realize the best thank you is to live a healthy life! Jen you are a part of my family now and we love you tremendously! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!

This blog entry is called I Believe, a song by Fantasia Barrino, my theme song for my life with kidney disease. You see I believed that I would one day receive a kidney and that day has arrived…June 22nd! Thank you Jen for helping me believe. Thank you to my partner Nancy who has been such a source of strength for me! Nancy is one of the main reasons I have survived so well with this disease; she has really been there for me and I love her with all my heart. My dear sweet Russell has been my source of true laughter! And he is an amazing father to our son Phillip. Last but not least, our son Phillip, it is Phillip who has provided me with the courage to deal with my kidney disease. Phillip is my heart and soul and I am so proud to be his Mom. Thank you to all my family and friends who have been there for me! And finally a very special Thank you to Douglas Brooks, we are one, I love you!

Peace and Love


Russell and Phillip