This time, the call came at 10:36 AM. When you get the call, you have 60 minutes to respond. Mom was working, and didn't check messages when she left work. I'm sure it would not have made any difference, because I'm not confident in her ability to get Voice Mail from a Cell phone.
Mom got home at 11:27. She checked messages and it was their transplant coordinator. She called back with 6 minutes to spare. The coordinator was in a meeting, so as it happens, the adrenaline that was pumping through her veins was unwarranted. The coordinator told her it would be several hours before she knew anything, but to be prepared.
At 6PM Mom and DearWife notified me that it was a go. It was good news, and I made plans to be at the hospital with Mom at 8:30 the next morning for the surgery. In the meantime, I had a Fantasy Football draft to attend to...
My grandmother came over to my parents' house to bide the time. They played cards. Mom gave Grandma all the food in their house that might spoil in the 2 weeks they would be gone. After several games of pinochle, Grandma left.
She called back 30 minutes later. "Are you sure you're ok to get to the train?" "When is the surgery?" and then..."Can I toast this bread you gave me?"
The midnight train ride was interesting to my parents. There were the latin looking fellows who were drinking, talking in Spanish and swearing in English. Every once in a while, one would blurt out "MOTHER FUCKER." And then, as my mom told me, there was a guy that was wearing sunglasses....at night...
In the morning, they were prepped for surgery in a semi-private room. The roommate was unseen, but they thought it was an older man based on the voice. The medical people were asking questions.
"How old are you?"
"I can't hear you"
"HOW OLD ARE YOU?"
"I WAS BORN IN 1925!"
"Are you allergic to any medication?"
"YES. I AM ALLERGIC TO MERCURY."
"How do you know you're allergic to mercury."
"WHY DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?"
"M'am, there might be more than one kind of..."
"FINE. MY HUSBAND GOT A CASE OF THE CRABS IN THE FORTIES."
That set a great tone for the rest of the day. I got there just after he went in. They told my mom that they might stop out and let us know how it's going. They didn't. It was 6 hours later when the doc came out and said "He's doing fine. The organs are working. His blood sugar went down as soon as the pancreas was in."
3 years of declining kidney tests. 40 years of diabetes. And in a 30 second speech, it ended. It was about another 2 hours before we could see him. He was obviously high on drugs, and he knew it. But he still remembered everything up to the surgery. He made a joke with the ICU nurse "Nurse, in the OR, they told me what happens in the OR stays in the OR. Does that go here too?"
The nurse laughed uncomfortably but heartily for about 30 seconds. He was out of ICU the next day. He sat up and walked that same day. Each time he walked he added more distance.
All tests were good. His nurse wanted him out of there on Monday - 3 days post surgery replacing two major organs. Un-freaking-believable.
Right now, he's sitting in a hotel room, watching bad TV. My mom is worried sick about being out of the hospital with a transplant patient 4 days removed from surgery. I can't blame her at all. I still can't fathom that jus a week ago he was on a diet that restricted basically everything but white bread and turkey, and now he's eating pizza and cookies.
They'll be at the hotel near the hospital until the end of next week. That's a lot of time away from home, but a very small price to pay.
It's really remarkable how well this has gone. And how sudden it was. I don't think I really understood how much this was hanging over my head (and everyone's) until the surgery was over.
Just now my Mom told me a story of another pancreas/kidney transplant patient. She had the same surgery the day before Dad did. She had several miscarriages before her two kids, 2 and 4. Her husband chain smokes.
She was 110 pounds before the surgery. She too was removed from ICU after a short stay (short by my uninformed standards).
But her pancreas was lost after the surgery. She has gained 90 pounds from the fluids they gave her. Her skin is blistering from the weight gain. And my first thought was...thank god that wasn't Dad.
Still, she's in my thoughts.