Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas (Party) Story, And Then Some

Okay, so picture the scene: A beautiful, charming, stylish, and incredibly witty young woman enters a Christmas party. Let's just say (purely for the sake of argument, of course) that she is pretty much exactly 6 months out of a double-lung transplant for cystic fibrosis. She is also, it goes without saying, very humble and modest. Obviously.

At some point during this little get together, an old friend approaches. He smiles at our heroine and strikes up conversation. And then, having gone through a few basic courtesies, he launches right into the million-dollar question. "So," he says, eyes twinkling, "what have you been up to for the past couple of years?"

Wow. Are you sure won't settle for a detailed explanation of the laws of physics? Because I'm guessing that would be simpler, and take less time.

Okay, fine. I guess the simple answer to that question is right there on the left sidebar of this blog. After all, this is where I've been chronically my journey for the past 2 years, so what better place to look for a neat and tidy little explanation of the transplant experience? And right about halfway down is the handy little "blog label cloud", which proves that the 3 biggest topics discussed here have been the following:

Transplant, IVs, and Life.

Yep, I think that about sums it up. Thanks, label cloud!

The last year and a half of my life -- starting in about May or June 2009 and continuing right up to the present -- have pretty much been dominated by the idea of transplant, and for good reason. Actually, if you want to get technical about it, transplant started taking over way back in January 2008, which is when I first started the referral process for my evaluation. Because I gotta be honest here: once someone suggests that you might be better off ripping out one (or two) of your organs and replacing them with parts taken from a dead guy, well, let's just say it gives you something to think about, to say the least. I think, though, that for me in particular the idea of transplant really became kind of front and center in mid 2009, if only because that's when I officially left my job, asked my mom to move into my apartment, and got officially listed for new lungs. In other words, that was the time when transplant moved from an abstract concept that hovered generally in my future to a more concrete medical step necessary to save my life from end-stage cystic fibrosis. Wow, what a ride.

And, coincidentally enough, June 2009 is also the time when the topic of IVs hit center stage for me. Don't get me wrong here -- I was on IVs more often than not throughout most of 2008 and definitely the first half of 2009 (not to mention at least once or twice a year, every year, starting at about 16 years old), so they were already a well-established part of my life before that pivotal month. But it was in June of 2009 that I began, while on a boat trip off the Turkish coast of all places, to experience the fevers and other symptoms that heralded the impending demise of my first implanted port-a-cath after 9 years in my upper left arm. And it was, in turn, the death of this first port (and the systemic infection that accompanied it) that marked the official start of over 1 year of continuous IV antibiotic use. Oh, sure, I've had two or three short breaks -- with a definite emphasis on the "short," since none so far have lasted more than a week or two, tops -- but the fact remains that they have been few and far between, to say the least. In fact, this morning my transplant doctor examined my port and commented that it was a bit red. My response? "Give the poor thing a break." It's been working non-stop for a year (which is when I got port #2 placed, by the way). It is very, very irritated, and you know what? I don't really blame it.

Of course it goes without saying that I am grateful. I am grateful for the advancements made in transplant and the donor who offered his organs to save my life. I am grateful for the option to have a double-lung transplant, as I know it is a privilege that some never get to experience. I am grateful for there are IV drugs that still work and for the new, infection-free port that feeds them to me.. I am grateful for the doctors, family, and friends who have seen me through all of this. All of which is NOT at all to say that I'm not a little irritated with the whole process at this point. Because, just for the record, I totally am.

On the other hand, every minor (or even major) irritation along the way seems to come with a payoff now, and I guess that's where the whole "Life" thing comes into play. Because the last year and half -- and in particular the last 6 months -- have been, in many ways, more filled with life than I ever dreamed possible. I have been absolutely elated at new possibilities and tragically sad as I mourned the loss of my old lungs. I have been terrified of death and exhilarated by the hope and faith that everything would turn out as it should. I have triumphed and I have failed. And, more than anything, I have loved and been loved a million times over. Which is, in my mind, kind of what makes life worth it anyway -- and it definitely reinforces the idea that "Life" has made a up a very pivotal part of my journey. I hope that continues to be the case far, far into the future.

All of which the young woman briefly considered explaining to her friend before finally giving a huge smile and opting for the far more succinct: "well, it's been one hell of a crazy miracle, but I'm extremely grateful to have been given the chance to come along for the ride."

And I couldn't have said it better myself.


Speaking of Transplant, IVs, and Life, I had my 6-month check up today at my transplant clinic. Overall, things are still going great with these beautiful new lungs. My FEV1 continues to hover at about the 78-80% range for FEV1, which is pretty darn impressive when you consider where I was just a few short months ago. I am having some very minor symptoms, which led to a nasal swab to check for viruses and a bronch -- likely scheduled for later this week. I'm at peace with the plan, in part because I still feel pretty fantastic and in part because i still really trust my doctor and care team. As tough as transplant can be sometimes, they seem wise, compassionate, and capable in their approach to dealing with any issues that arise. And as much as I hope that the bronch doesn't lead to more IVs (because come on, let's face it -- I.DESERVE.A.BREAK.ALREADY!), if that does, in fact happen, I know that I'll deal with it and move on. Because IVs, while admittedly super annoying, are really just another part of Transplant when you get right down to it. And that, my friends, is just a fact of Life.

Enjoy the season, beautiful people.


  1. So what happened to the twinkle in his sayin

  2. Piper, I love your retrospective blog posts. :) Best of luck with the new bronch results. I'm hoping and praying for an end to the IVs for you! Merry Christmas! {{{hugs}}} ~Juliet