Getting Back to Normal: Recovery at Home

As Diane of the National Kidney Registry suggested, my wife and I had a pillow in the car for my return home the day after the surgery.  Placing it between my abdomen and the seat belt helped smooth out the bumps.

In fact, over the months leading up to this, Diane’s checking in with me and offering advice and info on what to expect has helped smooth out much of this whole process.

It was great to get home and see the kids again, assure them in person that I was fine, and show off my four little bandaged scars.  I was also eager to post at least a short update on my blog.  Looking back on my April 4 entry, I see it was a little too short.  I had neglected to include thanks to everyone here for your prayers, support and encouragement.  Can I blame my state of still being a bit drugged up?  Anyway, thanks are certainly in order.

Even writing a short blog entry was a big effort for me that day.  Naps, rest, and taking it easy was the main agenda, along with an occasional Percocet, as prescribed for the pain.  I took my last one the next day, and then took Extra Strength Tylenol for a couple days after that.

This handled the pain, which was especially in my shoulders.  I had been told to expect this, which for some reason was a consequence of the gas that had been injected into my abdomen to enlarge it and give the surgeon room to work.

There was one time when apparently I didn’t take the medicine soon enough and experienced so much shoulder pain that I didn’t think I’d be able to lay down.  But after a lot of maneuvering, I managed to.  And then, just as quickly, the pain left.

The days before and after surgery I also took Milk of Magnesia.  This was to minimize constipation from the pain meds, which actually continued until the fourth day after surgery.

What I never took was aspirin.  My discharge instructions emphasized that, after kidney donation, one should avoid aspirin and all “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs” such as ibuprofen.  An exception can be made once in a while if nothing else is available, but generally I am to stick with Tylenol (acetaminophen) for the rest of my life.

The first night at home, even though I still could not sleep on my stomach, I did get a good night’s sleep.  I slept in so late the next morning that Mary Beth said she would have brought me the paper but figured I should at least get up and eat breakfast.

It was our 26th wedding anniversary.  I told her how much I appreciated how she had dealt with my desire to do this donation:  her honesty in expressing her reservations and yet her acceptance of it, and most of all, her support for me.

As the days went by, I gradually did more work in my home office, including blogging and finishing my tax returns.  I felt a little stronger, a little more my usual self, each day.

On April 11, I enjoyed getting out of the house, driving myself the seven miles to my local hospital in Hackettstown for blood tests.  They were needed in preparation for my follow-up visit with the surgeon on April 16.

Since the surgeon was at Saint Barnabas, 30 miles away, Mary Beth insisted on driving me.  My test results were fine.  My creatinine level which measures kidney function was up to 1.5, but should come down in coming days.  Dr. Geffner removed the bandage strips and proclaimed my scars healing well.  The sutures are internal and will dissolve automatically.  He explained no contact sports for me now.  No problem.  I can still zipline.

I could finally see the actual size of the incisions.  Sure enough, the longest is only two and a quarter inches!  The other three are between three-eights and three-fourths of an inch in length.

Follow up care beyond this visit can be with my usual local doctor.  The transplant center will monitor test results and doctor visits at six months, one year, and two years.

So this might have been my last visit to Saint Barnabas, a total of eight visits in all since last September, plus three visits for testing at my local hospital and one to the donor advocate.  Many if not most transplant centers concentrate the tests over fewer days, requiring fewer visits.  It was fine with me however, to spread this process out.

One thing I continue to maintain is daily afternoon naps.  Diane had emphasized how much fatigue I might experience, even for many weeks afterwards.  Becoming tired in the afternoon is now about the only consequence of the lingering recovery that I feel.

Last Thursday was the one day so far I didn’t happen to take a nap.  I got through that day well enough that it encouraged me for this coming week.  Tuesday and Thursday will be the days that I need to resume the part of my work that is done in New York City.  It involves commuting by train and bus more than two hours each way.  But naps on the train are possible.

I’ll try to remember Diane’s advice as much as possible:  go slow and take it easy.

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About Ray Mueller

Husband, father, Christian, pro-life, kidney donor, video producer & editor
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7 Responses to Getting Back to Normal: Recovery at Home

  1. Terry Spinowitz says:

    Ray – I am a friend of Sarah Macario. In July 2011, my husband was placed on peritoneal dialysis and is currently being tested to be placed on the transplant list. Sarah told me that I might enjoy your blog, and she was right! All I can say is God Bless You. I hope my husband is able to get a kidney soon – my daughter wants to donate, but we are not sure she will qualify. It is people like you who are far too rare in this world. Good luck with your continued recovery. Terry Spinowitz

  2. Ray Mueller says:

    Glad you enjoy the blog! Please note this: if your husband gets on the list and your daughter or any other potential donor qualifies medically but does not match your husband, they can still help, if they are willing to donate on his behalf, by joining the National Kidney Registry. It creates kidney chains of matching donors and recipients. Then if your husband would get a kidney from a stranger through NKR, she would “pay it forward” to the next pair in the chain. This would reduce the usual waiting time from several years to an average of eight months. Tampa General Hospital is a part of this registry, http://www.kidneyregistry.com.

    • Terry Spinowitz says:

      Glad to hear back from you. We already know of the “chain program” at Tampa General as that is where he is going for the testing in the Lifelink program. They have informational meetings and have discussed in depth the living donor program available. My daughter has a bit of a weight problem and is trying to lose weight so that she qualifies, but otherwise is in great health. I will keep you in my prayers for what you have done for four people and countless others who will hear about you and also donate. Regards, Terry Spinowitz

      • Ray Mueller says:

        That’s great, Terry, that you’re already involved with the chain program at Tampa General. I’d just encourage you to confirm that the chain will be through the National Kidney Registry. It’s my impression (although I’m not certain) that some medical centers in the registry also try to arrange chains within their own hospitals themselves. I believe going through NKR, which has the largest pool of donors and recipients, tends to result in the quickest and best matches. Thanks for your prayers. I’ll keep all of you in mine as well.

  3. Pingback: Called to Give, Blessed to Receive | Ray Mueller

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