A few weeks ago, we introduced you to Lisa, our Donate Life Nebraska president, who was waiting for a heart transplant. We are delighted to announce that she has received her new heart and has shared this update to her blog:
Tuesday, November 13th
On Tuesday the 13th I went in for a right heart cath because I knew I was sinking fast. Waiting until December for the cath did not feel like the right option. I was having a hard time walking from the couch to the kitchen. Walking pretty much anywhere was a struggle. From what people tell me I was looking pretty gaunt. My procedure confirmed my fears that I was sinking fast and I was immediately bumped up to a 1A status. I was told that I would be staying in the hospital until a heart was available. Even though it was the week before Thanksgiving and my family was flying in from California, I knew I was in the place I needed to be.
Wednesday, November 14th
The next day was my first day of “living” in the hospital. I had a swan in my neck delivering medicine directly to my heart so my activity level was pretty limited. I hung out in bed, watched TV, signed paperwork (advanced directives and other approvals for future procedures). Nothing too remarkable. Then at approximately 6 p.m. Dr. Dumitru came into my room. She sat down on my bed and told me that my numbers were very bad. She repeated that they were bad. At the time I was thinking yeah, tell me something I don’t know. I knew they were bad and I was sitting in a hospital room but it wasn’t something I wanted to spend a lot of time dwelling on. She then told me that they had a heart for me! If I had the energy I would have been jumping up and down! I knew that there were still obstacles, after all you still had to have final approval of the organ from the surgical team but I had faith that it would all work out. I immediately called my husband and in between tears and stuttering, told him to get to the hospital immediately. My next call was to my Dad in San Diego. Again I could barely get the words out, “they have a heart for me”. My father-in-law then brought my son along shortly as well. I placed a couple of more calls and between tears of excitement shared my news. After our family gathered and they walked us through what to expect, I took the first sleeping pill in my life. They wanted me to have plenty of sleep for the surgery and that was next to impossible in my current state.
Thursday, November 15th
Surgery Day! I woke up in somewhat of a fog (thank you Xanax) and felt calm. Today was the day I would be getting my new heart! Sometime during the night it was determined that the surgery would be delayed until approximately 2 p.m. Since I had been through this experience with my sister, I was familiar and comfortable with the delays. As long as no one said there was anything wrong with it, I did my best to think positive. The only challenge from that day was being NPO (no food or water). Then I was introduced to these lovely green sponge sticks called swabs! You stick them in ice chips and rub them in your mouth. Bliss!
I felt so very fortunate to have my husband, son, father-in-law and friends with me, helping me bide the time until it was a go. Then, shortly before it was time to take me back my parents arrived from San Diego. I was even more grateful that I was able to give them hugs and kisses before I went in for the surgery.
My surgery lasted approximately six hours. From there I was moved to ICU where my family was able to visit me. I have no memory of the first couple of days post surgery. My first memory of coming out of the fog was that Saturday night.
The following week I was taken care of by some of the most wonderful, caring people I have ever met; the doctors, nurses, techs, etc. in the ICU at The Nebraska Medical Center. I spent a good portion of the week flat on my back due to a couple of procedures I had post transplant but still felt better than when I went in. Then at 4:30 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving, I was allowed to sit up! The following day I enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal from home including my favorite pumpkin cheesecake. I was never so grateful in my entire life!
Friday, November 23rd
On Friday, November 23rd, one week, one day post transplant, I moved from the ICU to The Cardiac Progressive Care Unit. That day was particularly busy, pulling the pacer lead wires from my chest. The pain caught me off guard, I requested pain killers for the removal of the second set of wires. By Sunday, two days later the pain settled down, but I was quite rattled at that time.
Friday was the first day that I saw myself in the mirror since my transplant. It was a very cathartic experience, sitting in a chair, bathing myself, inspecting my wounds. Wounds I could not be prouder to heal from. Head still spinning, what had transpired in the past week? How close to death was I? How close am I still? I cried, took pictures and thanked my donor again for their generous donation of life. How can one thank anyone for such a thing? Such a monumental gift? While I’ve been a registered donor since I was 16, and logically I’ve known what it’s meant, it never really hit me that clear until I received the gift myself. I don’t ever want to forget the thankfulness I felt at that point in time. I am in such a total state of gratefulness that I want to continue this mindset and pay it forward for the rest of my life.
I felt God’s actions throughout this entire transplant and recovery and want to continue to be reminded of his warmth. I am eternally grateful that my family was here for my procedure. That my recovery is moving forward so well and that I am finding the strength to put one foot in front of the other. I feel a special inner strength to carry on and stay positive throughout this recovery process.
Saturday, November 24th thru Wednesday, November 28th
I spent the next few days in The Cardiac Progressive Care Unit healing. I had lots of visitors between doctors, nurses, and people from so many different groups within the hospital that my head was spinning. There’s a lot of information to learn. You need to know what pills need to be taken, what they look like, when to take them, what issues to look out for, then they test you all on it regularly. You will not got home until they feel you know the necessary information inside out.
I also received visits from other heart transplant recipients that I had not met before. They were very special as they told me what I could expect over the next few months and years. While I have watched my sister go through this experience, it’s wonderful to hear other positive stories to reinforce what my life will become.
Once again there were so many awesome nurses and techs (in addition to doctors) who are truly caring, compassionate, and professional individuals. I could not imagine having a better experience anywhere.
On the evening of the 28th, two weeks and one day after I was admitted for the right heart cath, I went home. I was still in shock over how quickly everything transpired once I was admitted. It was strange being in a big room after two weeks of living in a hospital room. There were a few hurdles that I had not anticipated those first couple of days. The stairs were particularly tough because I lost a lot of my leg strength during the previous two weeks. All of that said, we figured it out, and I’m progressing nicely with my recovery.