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living donor

Breanna's Journal

Saying Bye to My Left Kidney

It’s been a couple days now since my surgery took place, but I wanted to give everyone an update and let you all know what it was like for me to be a kidney donor.

Wednesday July 26th I arrived at Northwestern Hospital in downtown Chicago at 5:30 in the morning. This is when the nerves started to kick in. Up until this point, I thought everything would be fine, I’ve seen the statistics and know that there is barely any risk involved. But what if? What if I don’t wake up from the anesthesia, what if I woke up during the surgery?

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Once I made my way to the 5th floor of the Galter Pavilion, I was swept off to my pre-op room where I changed out of my clothes and into the dreaded hospital gown and non-slip socks. I gave them a urine sample + an IV was then placed into my left forearm, about an inch above my wrist (this would stay in until Thurs AM). All my vitals were taken and I got to meet with the surgeon, physician assistant, anesthesiologist, and his assistant. They came to explain to me what to expect during surgery and immediately afterwards. Everyone was very friendly which helped calm my nerves.

At 7:30AM the physician assistant came to wheel me off to the operating room. Josiah + I said our goodbyes, and I was headed off to surgery. The ride there was nerve wracking and as soon as I got into the room anesthesia was put through my IV and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the recovery area.

As I opened my eyes, there was a nurse standing right next to me. He had exactly what I needed, pain medicine. My abdominal area felt as if I just did a million sit ups and I had gotten stabbed in my stomach. Greg was my main nurse while in recovery & he was always there when I needed him. He provided me with pain & nausea medicine + all the ice chips I could dream of. From 11:30AM when I awoke to 1:30PM, I was in the recovery area. They didn’t have a clean room ready for me yet, otherwise I would have left at 12:30PM.

My ride from the recovery area to my room was very bumpy. It seemed like the CNA who moved me got joy out of hitting every bump she could and she wasn’t very skilled at maneuvering the bed. Once we got to the room I was in too much pain to move myself from one bed to another, so they used a transfer board. The CNAs who moved me could definitely use some more practice at transferring patients. It seemed like I was a learning experience for them and I didn’t appreciate it. Josiah could have picked me up and put me on the other bed by himself and it would have caused me less pain.

I wish I could say my pain got better, but it didn’t. I had denied pain killers down in the recovery area, so I could see Josiah quicker. If I would have taken them I would have had to stay another 20 to 30 minutes, so they could watch my reaction. I figured as soon as I got to my room I would be able to get some. But I quickly found out that I was not in the system yet for unknown reasons and they had to track down my doctor to see what medicine I could take. Also, my stuff, including my backpack, clothing, and pillow was lost in limbo somewhere.

All I wanted was some painkillers.

Eventually I did get the painkillers and nausea medicine I needed, & every couple of hours my nurse would promptly come in and give me more. I have to say that the nurses that I met during my visit to the hospital, were extremely nice and gave me wonderful care. Whenever I used the call button, they were eager to help & they never acted as if I was bothering them. My second nurse Susana was nice enough to walk several laps with me around the hospital floor after Josiah had gone home. She made me feel like I was walking around with my best friend.

For the rest of the night I was on a Clear Liquid Diet and surprisingly they were very accommodating about my vegan diet. I had veggie broth, apple juice, tea, and 2 lemon italian ice. The next day I was able to eat regular food for breakfast and lunch. I had a fruit plate, applesauce, and apple juice for breakfast. A veggie burger, italian ice, and fruit for lunch.

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That night for some reason my nausea medicine made me feel well, nauseous. I stayed up past midnight feeling like I was going to vomit any minute. Eventually my nurse had the on call doctor came in and he administered a patch behind my ear to help with the nausea. The doctor then helped me from the chair to the bed. All day I had been too weak to swing my legs up onto my bed. This time was no exception, not only did it cause abdominal pain, but also intense shoulder pain after laying down. I was told the pain was from the positioning I was in on the operation table. For the next several days I would be nauseous and have intense shoulder pain.

During my hospital stay I was in a lot of pain. Most of the time I was an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Every time I moved, shifted, laughed, or burped, my abdomen felt like it was going to explode open. About 7PM the first night I was well enough to get up and start walk a couple laps. While doing laps, sitting down, and standing up I held a pillow up to my abdomen which really helped stabilize my abdomen.

I left the hospital Thursday at about 2PM. I was excited to leave, but sad to leave the nurses I made good friends with behind. Overall, I had a great experience at the hospital & couldn’t have asked for better care. Even the doctor who came to help me at 12AM the previous night was happy to help. They helped me in and out of bed, gave me updates about my father’s condition, and brought me everything I asked for, from a clean gown to pitchers of water. To anyone who is considering transplant surgery, I would recommend going to Northwestern Memorial Hospital as they gave me extraordinary care.

Hopefully this helps others know what to expect when getting kidney transplant surgery at Northwestern.

XOXO Breanna