i'm awake and at home - discharged directly from the ICU around 10 am this morning after coming in from the OR around 2:15 am. i will try and explain what happened (although it's hard for me to wrap my own head around, i fully admit!), but please keep in mind that much of this is what lawyers call "hearsay" -- meaning i heard it from someone who heard it from someone else, and possibly the line goes back even further. suffice it to say that it went more or less kind of sort of like this:
the harvest team had already examined the lungs and was ready for the operation, and the lungs were very close by to columbia so i had to be put out before transport so i could be ready by the time they arrived. donor hospital made a last minute decision to allow the liver harvest team to resection the liver FIRST (contrary to most every hospital which allows lungs and heart to come out first). somehow i still got put under b/c the liver operation was supposed to take less than an hour. liver operation took 4 hours during which time the lungs (and i believe the heart) were lost due to no O2/blood, or possibly b/c of debris or a clot from the liver.
they don't know all of what happened. after it all the lungs never even made it to columbia. one doctor said he believed that it was the first time in 15 years someone at col pres has been put out only to NOT receive their lungs. almost everyone who treated me was crying. i awoke and asked if i got new lungs and they very gently told me no -- after that i was so confused i don't really remember much. i know i asked for my family and was told they were on their way. i know i felt a very weird sense of disbelief and numbness. i think i was just so focused on breathing at that point too that nothing else even really registered.
i'm still confused. i trust god and know that this must have been right, but how? and at the same time, i have NO FEAR about this surgery anymore. is that weird? it's also true. i've done my part. i've made it all the way to the OR and i've endured it all and i've felt that moment of being put under ready to give up my lungs and receive new life. true, it didn't work out as planned, but i also know that i did it. the parts that were in my control, at least. and that's all i can ask of myself, so i know i can do it again.
** NOTE: PLEASE understand that this experience is crazy out of the ordinary -- even bordering on the absurd. although i recognize transplant for the deeply personal and individual decision that it is, please think long and hard before allowing a fluke like this one to put you off of the concept. if i had to go through all of this twice over to get new lungs, i would. i am happy to correspond with anyone who wants to talk about this, and contact info is to the left.**
so here's what i know:
1) i still have my CF lungs -- and NEVER, EVER let ANYONE tell you that CF lungs aren't amazing. because mine survived intubation and general anesthesia at a time when their work should have been over, and they RECOVERED enough to let me come off the vent (apparently without any incident) and make it home. thank you, lungs. i will miss you when our time together is over!
2) i have a transplant team willing to refuse bad lungs even at the last moment, and to face me and look me in the eye to tell me their decision. they are compassionate, caring, competent, and -- above all -- discriminating when it comes to PERFECT lungs. i am so grateful that the first (cognizant) words that i said to my surgeon were "thank you for not giving me bad lungs." he laughed and shook my hand. i was serious.
3) i have a CF doctor with enough insight to get me on the list and to make all this happen when i am still strong enough to endure all these dry runs and even this -- the ultimate in "damp runs" as i am calling it. again, forever grateful. i will always, always be an advocate of working hard to delay transplant, however i will also always shout from the rooftops the importance of going into this process STRONG and not too sick or emotionally fragile to function. this is without a doubt the biggest challenge of my life, and to be able to continue to live through it, and live with it, is a blessing beyond words.
4) i have tiffany christensen's book sick girl speaks, which is the ONLY point of reference i have found to date of a similar experience. i am so grateful to her for putting her experience out there for others. i thought about it and told my mom her story as i recovered in the ICU this morning.
5) i have faith. god is in control of when i get lungs. the universe is unfolding exactly as it should.
6) i have so much light from all of you. i love you all. thank you.
- I am a 33-year-old wife, sister, daughter, friend, law school graduate, CFer, lifelong student of public service, blog writer, patient, Sagittarius, reader, Top chef fan, double-lung transplant recipient (twice!), and dog owner living in Colorado's beautiful Mile High City. I love all things colorful, funny, inspiring, or needlessly sarcastic. I share my city with about 2,500,000 other remarkable people, share my disease with 70,000 other beautiful souls, share my life with some unbelievable family and friends, and share my apartment with one very handsome guy and one really fat mutt with a kick-butt personality. We make it work.
About This Blog:
This blog is about me, my life, my sometimes craziness, my disease, and my current journey as a double-lung transplant recipient. It's also a celebration of everyone out there with CF (and other chronic illnesses). It's for you, inspired by you, and dedicated to you -- the community that keeps me writing, living, and breathing.
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