Hello and Happy Sunday!
I typically don’t post on Sundays, but I’m making an exception today because it’s a very important day for our family. Today, September 22nd, is Chris and Justin’s two year kidney transplant anniversary! I can’t believe it has already been two years. This is a very important milestone and a day we will celebrate each year!
If you missed my previous posts on this topic, you can read them here:
This post is going to be a recap of kidney transplant surgery day. It’s a little long, but I wanted to reflect on that day and remember as many details as I can. They are already getting a little fuzzy. And if I can give a little insight to anyone preparing for a kidney transplant, then that’s a bonus. I had no idea what to expect and would have found a post like this helpful.
I remember the day before the surgery being a little chaotic. I went with Chris to the hospital that morning for the last of his pre-op appointments. We met up with Justin there and they both got lab work done and met with their doctors. We were given the official green light for surgery the next morning and I think it was very surreal for all of us. It definitely was for me.
We had breakfast afterward then went our separate ways. Chris and I went home to pack our bags and get our dogs ready for a little vacation. We knew Chris would be in the hospital for 5-7 days so we made arrangements for Lyssa and Levi to stay with family during that time. We dropped them off then headed to our hotel in downtown Dallas for the night. The hospital is about 50 minutes from our house and we had to check in at 5AM the next morning, so in the interest of sleep, we decided to stay closer to the hospital that night. Although, I don’t think anyone got that much sleep. It’s hard to sleep knowing the next morning is a truly life changing day.
The next day we were awake bright and early and checked in to the hospital at 5AM. Chris and I sat in the waiting room with Justin and his girlfriend, Codi. We got to see them for a little while before Justin was taken to pre-op and Chris was taken to a room to wait for his turn to go to pre-op. In a living donor kidney transplant surgery, the donor’s surgery starts first, then the recipient’s surgery starts later once the donor’s kidney has been removed. So, Chris and I hung out in a hospital room for a little while.
We got word around 8AM that Justin’s surgery had started. At that time, they took Chris down to pre-op and I was so glad I got to stay with him until it was his turn for surgery. Lots of people were in and out of the room checking on us and telling us exactly what was going to happen. We saw the nurse, nurse anesthetist, anesthesiologist, and surgeon. It was a whirlwind. When no one was in the room, Chris and I sat there quietly, each lost in our own thoughts.
I think it was around 9:30AM when they came in and told us it was time for Chris’ surgery. I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him and I would see him afterward. I surprised myself by being able to hold back my tears and keep up a collected front. It was an exciting day, but a scary day too. A kidney transplant is major surgery and my emotions were all over the place. I can’t even imagine how Chris and Justin had felt that morning.
After I said goodbye to Chris and they wheeled him away, I went to the waiting room and sat with some of our family members that were there. It was very comforting to not be alone while waiting for news. There was a very strategic way families received updates on their loved ones in surgery. A hospital volunteer sits in the waiting room at a desk with a phone. Whenever someone from an operating room calls up to the waiting room with updates, the volunteer answers the phone and calls out the name of the patient. Then their family member(s) can pick up the phone and hear the update. Every time that phone rang, I listened anxiously for “Morgan”. But that was funny because we had 2 Morgans in surgery at the same time, so we weren’t always sure who the update was about: Chris or Justin.
Around 10:30, “Morgan” was called and I heard from the nurse that they had officially started Chris’ surgery. She told me it would be a 3 hour surgery from that point so I knew to expect another update around 1:30. A little while later, we heard “Morgan” again and this time the update was that Justin was out of surgery and in recovery. His surgeon came to speak with us a little bit later and told us everything had gone well and Justin was waking up. It would be awhile before anyone could see him, but it was a relief knowing that he was ok and his surgery had gone well.
The next several hours went by very slowly. After awhile, they told us Justin was in his room so half of the family went to see him and the other half waited with me. 1:30 came and went and I started getting very anxious for news on Chris. Every time the phone in the waiting room rang, I perked up, hoping I would hear “Morgan”. My family joked with me that I was going to leap over the chairs when they finally called his name. At 2:30, we got the update that Chris’ surgery was over and it had gone well and he was in recovery. Literally one minute later, his surgeon came into the waiting room to talk with us. He showed us pictures of Chris’ new kidney (Chris had requested he take pictures and send them to us) and explained how the surgery had gone. I cannot even tell you how much of a relief it was to know that both Chris and Justin were out of surgery and everything had gone well. It had been an incredibly long 6 and ½ hours of surgery time.
After an hour or so, Chris was in his room in the ICU and I was allowed to go see him. I practically ran to the elevator and couldn’t get up to the 4th floor fast enough. When I walked into his room, he was sleeping, had an oxygen mask on, and was hooked up to all kinds of monitors. It was hard to see him like that, but I could already tell how much better he looked. His color had started returning and the nurses assured me his kidney was making lots of urine, which is what they wanted to see. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I sat with Chris for awhile and he woke up here and there, but mostly slept for the next several hours. I was eventually convinced that I needed to eat, so I went down to the cafeteria to get some dinner while another family member stayed with Chris. I was probably gone 30 minutes and when I came back Chris was alert and talking, go figure. I had to leave the room for him to wake up, ha! We talked for a little bit before everyone left for the night and it was time for bed. Spouses are allowed to sleep in the ICU so I stayed in Chris’ room with him and settled into the couch that would be my bed for the night.
The next day Chris was doing so well he was moved out of the ICU and into a room down the hall from Justin. They took turns walking to each other’s rooms and it was so nice to see them together.
Three days after surgery Justin got to go home and Chris went home two days after that. I can’t believe it has already been two years since their surgery. It is so emotional to think back and remember what that day was like. I think I experienced every emotion under the sun in the span of 24 hours: hope, anxiety, fear, nervousness, excitement, happiness, relief.
Looking back at these pictures reminds me of how sick Chris really was. I’m now used to seeing him healthy and it’s hard to relive everything again. But it makes me even more thankful for where we are now. I am so happy to report that both Chris and Justin are doing great! Justin’s incredibly selfless act of donating a kidney to his brother saved Chris’ life. And that kidney is functioning perfectly! Chris’ kidney numbers are the best they have been in many years. So many prayers have been answered!