Hi, my name is Christian Brazier and early 2011 I donated a kidney via the non-directed altruistic route. My name’s Christian, I’m 26 years old and work full time in Brighton and Hove. I live with my girlfriend and flat mate. I recently ran a marathon and play football regularly to give you an idea of my health and fitness levels. I thought I’d write an honest account of my current experiences so that anyone thinking about going down this route can get another view / angle on post op life.
1 week post op
It’s been 1 week since the operation. One word to sum up the post op experience? Strange. I’m sure it varies for everyone, certainly reading Michael’s blog has made me feel extremely lucky to be as healthy as I am one week on. I had a minor complication during the operation. A small hole was accidentally burned into the sack that holds the organs away from the kidneys. [EDIT : A while after operation when I saw the surgeon he made it clear that the hole that was burned in the sack was NOT a minor complication or mistake. It is part of the sugery and we should not have been told this. ] This allowed a tiny amount of air and blood to leak into an area of my chest where they should not have been. The consequence of this was tightness, a general all over pain in my chest allowing me to only take tiny breaths at a time. (Some of this may also have been a side effect of the anaesthetic) On the day of the op I didn’t really notice this pain as I was falling asleep constantly and on a morphine drip. The day after the op I came off of my drips. This is when I felt the general pain, not just in my chest but also my abdomen. That night I was wheeled for chest and stomach X-rays not really knowing why I felt the pain. When I got back to the ward I was told I had a perforated diaphragm by a ward nurse. They retracted this soon after because I think the doctor had spoken to my surgeon to gain some clarity about why I was in pain. I was put on tramadol for the pain but the day afterwards, had to come off of this as I felt I was hallucinating when I closed my eyes and felt nauseous and light headed. The staff were trying to get the right balance between pain killers, anti-sickness tablets and laxatives which was a bit of a struggle initially. I say laxatives because the staff were very keen for me to pass wind and solids before I left the hospital. This was quite difficult, although given that I ate absolutely nothing for 24 hours on the day of the op and then struggled to have an appetite, I probably didn’t have a lot of ‘goods’ to pass through. So, leaving the detail to the imagination, 2 suppositories and 1 enema later, I was the happiest I had ever been to flush a toilet.
Other incidents of note are as follows:
Day 1 (Day of Operation)
4 hours after I had been operated on, a pigeon found its way into our ward and walked under my bed. I pressed the button for a nurse, terrified that this bird would flap and pull my catheter out. When the nurse arrived she told me that I should only really press the button if something has happened to a person. (my mum knew by the look on my face how angry this made me)
I was given a blood pressure tablet by a nurse. I queried this as my blood pressure had been good and strong. She reiterated that I needed to take it as it was doctors’ orders before clarifying whether or not my name was Gary. No, he’s sitting opposite I replied.
Got to go home! That night I had been waiting for an hour for the doctor so decided to go for a part discharge so that I could leave. This is where a ward nurse officially discharges you with the doctors blessing and the doctor sends through relevant letters to you later. The bumps in the road were a bit tricky so I recommend having a pillow underneath your seat belt. I managed to keep down a double cheeseburger from a well known dirty food chain, which I had been craving for ages. Tasted great but didn’t have room for the second one, which is unheard of for me.
In my own bed I managed to get a relatively good night’s sleep for the first time in days. The hospital ward was so loud at night with various people shouting. It meant that on average I would get maybe 4 hours sleep in little bits. Getting out of bed was tricky as Di mentions in her blog and tiredness of course was a big issue. Washing myself in the shower made me feel so tired. I learned from Di’s mistake and remembered to take my paracetemol regularly which helped the remaining pains. This day was spent indoors apart from one trip to the garden which was an adventure in itself. My girlfriend was amazing in looking after me and topping up my water bottle etc. I would have really struggled without her.
We drove to Devil’s Dyke to have a walk, a very small walk. It was on this day that my mood dipped and I started to feel quite low. This was mainly a feeling of guilt around the worry I had put my girlfriend and mum through. I don’t think anything could have prepared them for this week. They were there every day without fail. I think there’s a real shock to seeing a loved one with tubes coming out of them barely being able to keep their eyes open. Some of the hospital experiences probably didn’t help make them feel too assured either. We have been told that the recipient is doing well but the overriding feeling at the moment is one of guilt. I had about a 2 hour sleep after the walk. My girlfriend says that apparently a side effect of anaesthetic is some slight depression.
Managed to walk to the post box and back. This usually takes me 3 minutes but probably nearer to 15 minutes today. But I am noticing that things are becoming a little easier each day. However, I have now sneezed twice. This was something I was warned about. I was told to put both hands over the main incision, apply pressure and then sneeze. However, both sneezes came out of nowhere and the pain this caused was acute. It faded after about 5 minutes though. I am also developing a little tickly cough. Every time I cough to clear it, it hurts and doesn’t quite hit the spot. It affected my sleep last night in that every time I felt like I was about to drop off, I coughed and woke myself back up.
This is the first day without my partner around as she had to go back to work. I managed to make lunch and write the majority of this blog which shows I am getting my energy back still more. I had to sleep in a separate room yesterday for a bit as I could not stop the coughing. I am getting a bit of a burning sensation just above the incision and it is still numb and bloated. The sensation in my lips has now fully returned. They had been quite numb after the operation due to the tube that was put down my throat. My walking is still small steps but I am feeling a bit stronger in that respect. Not sure I will be going out today though as I am feeling pretty tired.
Reading this back and reflecting on my experience, it sounds as though I am slamming the hospital. I don’t intend to. The majority of staff were absolutely brilliant, kind and caring. Even when I was having an enema they were great! But I want to give an honest account and these things did happen. Emotionally I am feeling better than I did on Day 5. The feeling of guilt is still there. At the end of the day I put myself at risk without needing to. If you love someone then that is a hard thing to accept and I can understand the mixture of emotions that family and friends are left with. Though on the surface this is a generous act, there is a selfishness to it that you can not ignore. No matter how much you prepare loved ones for the experience they are still going to worry and be upset. I know that some of the closest people to me were not keen for me to go ahead but I did it anyway. I’m not saying that they did not support me because they did, amazingly so, but I could tell that they would rather I didn’t do it. I could write an essay on the pros and cons of doing this and the emotional challenges for family, friends and donor. However, right now my eyes are starting to close so I will maybe put that idea on the back burner.
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