Surgery Prep

by , on
2021-07-11

I scheduled this post in advance to go live while our liver transplant is happening (on September 15th). So as you read this, please pray for my cousin and I in surgery! I’ll talk about the past few weeks and what I expect to happen in the next day or so.

Preparing for Transplant Again

Having done this once before, I realize I feel a lot less on top of it this time. I began taking a bile thinner 1 week before the transplant, but accidentally took one or too extra at some point? Last time I had weened myself off coffee and quit dairy and most meats. This time…I’ve just greatly reduced consumption but…that’s about it.

With three days to go, I started taking a daily stool softener. Apparently your bowels go to sleep in surgery and it takes some time for them to wake up. If you don’t want a painful traffic jam all up in there, you start clearing out the riff raff early.

Mentally, I’ve felt unfocused. 

Because we’d been here before in August, I’d already completed and gone through with most of my pre-transplant to-dos. This past week I’ve had a lot less to worry about. Therefore, I’ve been thinking a lot less about it. Therefore, it’s been hard to shake the feeling that I’m not prepared. If that makes sense. I’ve been watching my fantasy football scores and canning.

The last time we were days away from the transplant date, all the uncertainty was an excellent reminder that this is and was always God’s show. Instead of coasting in to the finish line, we’ve had to rely even more heavily on Him; to follow His lead and trust His timing and plan.

I can micromanage my diet and exercise all I want,
but I’m still not in control of the outcome
of this transplan
t for me or my cousin.

Coming back from the postponed transplant trip, my husband and I decided to run the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon Relay. It was something to look forward too when we were disappointed to be coming home. Just one of the few extra things from these past few weeks that became a pleasant surprise.

Checking in to UCSF

So, this is the plan for the transplant. We’ll fly to San Francisco on Thursday (9/14) morning. At 3PM I’ll check in to the main hospital at UCSF Parnassus. I’ll get some blood drawn, an IV port put in and go on a clear liquid restriction until midnight. Check my Instagram. There is probably a post or two already.

I’ll visit my cousin’s room down the hall. I already gave him the card signed by my church family and a personal letter as well. So this time I’ll probably just talk with him about how awesome my fantasy football team is and he’ll probably not give a flying poo. Haha.

Before Surgery on Sept 15

At 5AM our families can see us before we go into pre-op. I have a notebook I hope they will write in while we’re in surgery. Things they’re thinking about or what updates the nurses gave them. I also have two “waiting room” letters, one for my husband and one for my mom to read.

My waiting ends when I go to sleep.

However, for my husband and mother, they have 6 to 7 hours of stressful waiting before it is over for them. I hope the letters and notebook will help make that time easier.

Once we go into pre-op, only one person can be there with each of us until we are wheeled into surgery.

Surgery Will Begin at 7AM

Living donor surgery is unique in that two different surgical teams in two different (but nearby) operating rooms are working at the same time. It takes a lot of people, expertise and equipment to pull this off.

I get to start first. Around 7:00 AM or so I should be in the operating room, dreaming away. I’ll get a breathing tube and urinary catheter. The surgical team will make sure everything looks good before giving the recipient team the go ahead. I also have a disposable camera so some observing medical student can snap some photos of me for me. I know…it sounds weird but, I think I’ll be glad for the photos later? Probably.

Then my cousin will go under the knife, about an hour later. His surgical team has to remove his bad liver and make sure everything looks good on his end.

My gall bladder will be removed. Then the right lobe of my liver will be cut out and sent over to my cousin’s operating room. Then I’ll get stitched back together.

My surgery will take 6 to 7 hours. However, my cousin’s will take longer. Taking something apart is never as easy as trying to put it back together.

I’ll Recover in ICU

I’ll be in ICU for 24 hours. They say I’ll wake up but I won’t remember it. One visitor can come in at a time, at the nurse’s discretion.

My cousin will still stay in ICU for 2 or 3 days. It can take some time for his new liver to wake up. If at all possible, I’ll visit him while he is still in ICU. My donor mentor said you can hear the liver rhythm on the monitors, like a heartbeat, but a liverbeat!

Hospital for 5 to 7 Days

On Saturday evening/Sunday morning I should wake up in a recovery room on 9 Long. I’ll have a button to give myself pain meds. I’ll take liver enzymes to help my remnant liver grow. They’ll want me up and walking right away. The better I am at getting a move on, the quicker my recovery will go.

I’ll have a catheter for a couple days. I’ll wear slip-proof socks as I walk circles around 9 Long. If I do 12 laps, or something, I get a t-shirt. If I do 43 laps I’ll match my donor mentor’s total distance. He and his wife plan on visiting on Sunday and do a few laps with me.

If I get a private room, J or my adoptive mom can stay the night with me. They’ll take turns caring for the kiddo while the other one is resting or visiting me. I may not get to see my baby for several days (which makes me tear up).

Once my cousin is out of ICU, he’ll also be in 9 Long for 7 to 10 days.

That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see if it matches reality once I’m through it and on the other side.