Jeremy Donates to his Dad
I believe that it is easy to say that you will do something as courageous as risking your health to save another person, but the reality of doing it is very difficult to confront. When thinking about my Dad’s physical condition as the result of Hepatitis C, there is no doubt that donating part of my liver to him was the right decision. However, arriving at that decision to donate a portion of my liver to my Dad was not easy. Ultimately, the decision to go though with the operation and donate a portion of my liver to my dad wasn’t possible without the tremendous support of my family, friends, co-workers, and the organ transplant team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
My Dad found out he had Hepatitis C when he went in for a doctor’s visit. My dad isn’t a person to visit the doctor’s office for anything small, so there was a feeling that his health was getting to be a problem. By this time, my dad had a distended belly from aceties, due to liver failure. Over the next few months, his complexion became lighter, almost ghost-like. This is when I decided to begin the tests to find out if I could save his life. These tests involved various blood tests and scans to make sure I was a compatible and suitable donor for my dad.
My account beings the night before the surgery, on February 6th, 2008. I took the day off from work to complete the final preparation (blood labs, anesthesiology, and pre-operative routines) for the surgery. I spent the rest of the day “taking it easy” and trying not worry about the surgery (since I did plenty of that leading up to that date!). I also wanted to make sure I had plenty of sleep, since I knew the recovery from the operation would not be easy.
The day of the surgery, February 7th, started with an early 5am wake-up call. I slept pretty well considering my fear of the liver donation surgery. Although I was a little bit scared before the surgery, the full realization of the surgery didn’t occur to me until I arrived at the hospital. Even with all of the donor tests and information the transplant team gave me, I was still afraid of the uncertainty of the surgery and my Dad’s fate. I was close to terrified once I arrived at the hospital.
From the hospital waiting room, the pre-operation routine began about 7am. They let my wife into the room, but they limited the number of people that went with me. The nurse prepared me for the surgery by putting an IV into my hand and cleaning/marking the area on my stomach where the incision would be. The Anesthesiologist then prepared me for the surgery, and as soon as I knew it, they asked Brandy to leave the room and I was asleep and ready for the operation.
After the surgery, I woke up in a hospital bed, connected to a bunch of tubes with a variety of doctors and nurses around me. I do not remember falling asleep for the surgery, but I knew that I was back to life because of the pain I was in! The pain was result of muscle cramping from being on the operation table for multiple hours. This was the most painful point during my recovery. The doctors gave me some pain medicine and some fluid in my IV, which made the pain a lot more manageable. However, I was still in a lot of pain (about 8.5 of 10) as they moved me to ICU.
I was in ICU Thursday and Friday night (A little more than 24hrs). The operation nurses put IVs in my neck and hand, a tube down my throat to help me breathe, and boots on my legs to prevent blood clots. The nurses in ICU were very attentive and nice, and they checked on my regularly (every 15 minutes or so). I couldn’t drink or eat anything immediately after the surgery, but they gave me a styrofoam swab to keep my mouth and lips from getting to dry.
Once they took the tube out of my mouth and I could breathe on my own, they moved me into a regular hospital room, where I stayed for the next four days.
The next four days in the hospital room had its ups-and-downs. I got out of my bed on the 3rd day and began to walk with assistance. The first time I got up to walk, I traveled about 20 yards or so. Every subsequent time I managed to get out of bed, I traveled a bit further. Eventually, I was able to walk around the hospital floor without any help.
I was sick on the 2nd and 3rd day of my recovery in the regular hospital rooms. I wasn’t eating very much, since I didn’t have much of an appetite as a result of the surgery. On the 2nd day in the hospital room, I became very sick from the pain medicine. I continually needed to run to the restroom and I couldn’t keep any solid food in my stomach. I eventually ate apples, oranges, and other light foods to get my stomach back to normal. By the time I left the hospital on the 4th day, I felt pretty good.
There were many “ups and downs” in my recovery, and there will continue to be for my Dad’s recovery from Hepatitis C. However, there is no doubt that I would do this all again for him. There isn’t anything in the world that compares to the feeling of giving the gift of life to another person, especially someone that you care about and love.
This entry summarizes what I went through as a liver donor, from the morning of the surgery, until my release from the hospital six days later. I’ll enter future journal entries to document my recovery after the surgery.
Month 1 after the surgery:
It’s been exactly one month since the liver donation/transplant surgery and everything is going very well! My dad is making a great recovery. He makes routine visits to the hospital daily/bi-daily for blood tests, to make sure his medicine dosages are correct and to make sure his health is good. He stayed in the hospital for a few days last week because of an infection, but it was mostly for precautionary reasons.
The doctors say that recurring hospital visits for the transplant recipient are a normal part of the liver recipient’s recovery and most visits are not too serious. My dad has a long journey to travel before he fully recovers from the transplant,, but all signs point toward the transplant and recovery being a success!
As for me, I feel physically and mentally well. I spent a little more than three (well needed!) weeks at home recovering from the surgery. I didn’t need very much help with my recovery, other than carrying objects greater than 20 pounds and doing other strenuous activities. My main concern during my stay at home was about becoming sick while my liver and body were recovering. But, I’ve been lucky to have had nothing more than an average cold.
Other than that, I’ve been a bit sore, but I haven’t been in very much pain. I take regular walks and do exercises that the physical therapist at the hospital gave me. These activities, especially walking and back exercises, have helped me regain strength in doing regular activities and decrease the amount of sourness I have experienced.
It is the one-year anniversary of the donation/transplant surgery, and everything is good! My dad is recovering well from his liver transplant surgery. My dad has regained most of the physical strength and general health he had before he lost his health. He still gets sick occasionally, but his visits to the hospital are infrequent and they are not nearly as urgent. In addition, the amount of medicine he takes is much less than the wide array of medications he took following the surgery. Now, he manages his hepatitis C virus by taking a variety of medicines to protect his transplanted liver and anti-rejection medication to prevent donor liver rejection. Other than that, he maintains a low-sodium diet, is active, and he continues to regain his health.
I believe that I have made a full recovery since the liver donor surgery last year. I still have some soreness on the right side of my stomach and occasional stomachaches, but I feel nearly as healthy as I did before the surgery. I’ve also regained all of the physical strength I had prior the surgery. I do the all of the exercises I did before the surgery, such as weightlifting and rollerblading, without any problems and I maintain an active, happy lifestyle!
Since the surgery, my dad has taken multiple vacations with my mom and he spends nearly every weekend playing with his grandchildren. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to give the gift of health to my dad. With his recovering health, he can continue to appreciate his life, his family, and people that love him!
I do not know if there is any gift you can give to another person that is more rewarding and worth the expense than the gift of health. The transplant has made my family closer than ever before, and I know that if I have extended my Dad’s life for any additional amount of time, every part of the journey was worth it.