by George Taniwaki

It’s one and a half weeks after surgery and I’m scheduled for a follow-up visit at the Univ. Washington Medical Center. This will be my thirteenth visit, and first post-surgical visit, to the hospital related to my kidney donation. (I’ve become a volunteer at the hospital, so I’ll continue coming here, just not as a donor/patient.)

I’m not supposed to drive yet. But my wife, Sue, is out-of-town, and it would be inconvenient for me to take a taxi. Besides, I’m been driving for short errands since last Thursday and have already gone back at work (and driving to commute) last Friday, only nine days after surgery.

As always, my visit starts with a blood draw for a CBC and serum creatinine tests and a urine sample for protein and assay. The tests are ordered stat so that results are ready for my appointment with the surgeon, Dr. Ramasamy Bakthavatsalam.

At my appointment, Dr. Baktha takes a look at my incision and asks me if there has been any bleeding (no) or any pus (no). He asks me if I’m taking any oxycodone (no) or acetaminophen (yes, 500mg 3x a day). He tells me that my incision is healing nicely. He advises me to start kneading the incision 2x a day to prevent my muscles from getting hard and lumpy. That sounds like good advice. I certainly want to look my best the next time I wear a revealing swimsuit.

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Next I meet with the transplant coordinator, Kami Sneddon. She gives me a thank you card signed by the staff at the Puget Sound Blood Center HLA lab. She also provides me with a slew of goodies. She gives me a pullover sweatshirt embroidered with “Got 2 Give 1 I’m a Living Kidney Donor”, two green ribbon lapel pins, and a UWMC Living Kidney Donor license plate frame. What great swag!

She also tells me that my blood and urine results are normal. My WBC is 5.3, which means it is now “normal”. Well, that really means it’s high. (For more on my low WBC, see this Jun 2010 post.)

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My final appointment for today is with Paige Kayihan, the living donor social worker. She’s concerned that I am overexerting myself and should have rescheduled my appointment to later in the week so that Sue could drive me. She asks me why I didn’t (I’m fine, really). She asks me how I’m doing (the surgeon says I’m progressing well, and I feel pretty good).

I do say though that reflecting on my experience, even though I was in a lot of discomfort in the hospital, having all those people doting over me and telling me what a wonderful thing I did was nice. It was sort of a letdown to go home and have to do more on my own. I tell her that I’m thinking I about donating my other kidney. She laughs. But how does she know I’m joking?

(Of course I’m joking. I know I can’t donate my other kidney. I would have to donate a lobe of my liver or lung instead. OK, now I’m really joking.)

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The next day, after Sue gets home, she takes a picture of me with my new gear (see below). In my hands is one of my kidney pillows. I had it signed by all the nurses, therapists, housekeepers, food service staff, doctors, and phlebotomists who visited me in my hospital room.

And check out the mustache and beard. I couldn’t shave (or bathe) while in the hospital, and was too woozy to safely shave after I got home. After a week, Sue told me she liked my new look, so I kept it. I haven’t had facial hair since I got out of college. Almost nobody at work mentioned it. Maybe they didn’t notice it. But more likely they were just too polite to say anything.

gtaniwakiPostSurgery

The new me, now with facial hair. Photo by Susan Wolcott

For more information on becoming a kidney donor, see my Kidney donor guide.

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