Last Saturday was tough. Really tough. Kristina and I have been very optimistic the past few months, but the day just seemed cast in shadows of fear, doubt. We both had issues going on, but nothing big enough to place a finger on why we were so distressed. We both cried on-and-off throughout the day and I ditched out on family time just to be by myself for awhile. I then went to bed.
I woke up to my dad standing in front of me, and got very annoyed — I had been having the best sleep in weeks. It was about 1:30 a.m. I thought he was just changing out my IV medication, but then I realized my mom was also there, holding a computer. I knew what it would say and I was paralyzed. All I could do was sit and shake while reading the words on the screen over and over. They had a lung offer for me.
We prayed and I Facetimed Kristina, who still hadn’t gone to bed because she was in such a bad mood. Her wide, wet eyes on the screen matched mine.
I tried to get packed and get a treatment in while my hands shook so fiercely. Eventually, I just gave up and climbed in the car with a small bag of possessions. On the road, I prayed so hard. And I found myself calming down, down, down. I was suddenly the most mellow I’ve been in weeks.
At the hospital, I talked to Kristina some more and even told her where to find my final wishes if things went south. But I was so relaxed that I was beginning to think this would just be a false alarm and I would be sent home. My family sat in the ward and since I didn’t have my bipap, I couldn’t sleep most of the night. The doctors kept pushing back the surgery time but eventually I found myself in the hall outside the OR. Still thought I would be sent home — that’s happened to people before, they get sedated, then find out the lungs aren’t suitable. The goodbye to my parents and girlfriend was surreal. It was just too calm. I thought I would be in tears when this day came, false alarm or not.
I was lying down awake on that operating table for 2.5 hours, beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday. Strapped down and not able to move, I could only see a huge light above me and the occasional surgical mask as people moved around me getting me prepped. I could feel the alcohol swabbing my body, sticky sterile papers and surgery hoods being placed everywhere, the sting of the doctors shoving a catheter into my wrist. I was mostly just thinking, “Man, I’m gonna have to redo all this when I get the real call later.” I was mostly singing The Eagles and worship music in my head while lying there. Didn’t really think too much about the situation.
But then the surgeon said the surgery was a go. An oxygen mask was placed on my face. “Hey. You guys have fun, okay?” Written on a board: “We will. Go to your vacation place in your mind.” I felt a cool liquid going into my wrist. The light above me was so bright.
It was bright when I woke too. A white paper had the light reflecting off it, revealing the words:
I didn’t have a huge reaction, at least not one I can remember. There was something big in my throat distracting me — the ventilator. I’ve had friends stuck on the ventilator for weeks, so in the midst of the drug haze, I felt terrible for them. I was very lucky and had it ‘ripped’ out of my throat within hours of waking up. Then the bipap for four hours. Then breathing on my own. Just like that. I was still pretty unaware of things, as sedation messes with my head big time.
Kristina and Shelby both dropped everything and flew out to support me. This had me more excited than the lungs at first! But yes, eventually it dawned on me that, wow, I really did it. I really have new lungs after only waiting for about five weeks (we were told to expect four to seven months).
I have been incredibly blessed. I’ve exceeded expectations in nearly every test done so far and the doctors have repeatedly said how excellent I was doing and that this is one of the best recoveries they’ve ever seen. And it really has been a lot easier than I expected. It’s painful, yes. But I’m really doing it. I like to think God is giving me a break after all I’ve been through lately.
I’ve been taking fairly long walks and testing the new lungs’ limits. My heart rate is 2/3 what it used to be and my O2 sits at 99-100%. Amazing. Once the pain from the chest tubes is gone, I think I’ll be walking miles in no time. It takes a few months to get to full lung capacity, so it’ll be hard training from here. And I’m stoked. We will be in the ward a few more days, then transition to a hotel for about six weeks, as we have to live within 30 minutes of the hospital for that time. There will be almost daily appointments and plenty more bronchoscopies and whatnot. And again, I’m stoked.
The big concern we are dealing with today is I have too much fluid in my body so my feet are swollen. Each toe looks like the Michelin Man. When my doctor was tsk-ing, I laughed because, heck, I was dying a few days ago and now we are worried about marshmallow feet.
A man or his family chose to donate organs. Those organs saved my life, and maybe others. Please visit organdonor.gov.
I’ll write more soon! Just thought the blog needed a little updating, even if it’s written under some fierce painkillers. Thank you so much for the immense outpouring of support. You have all been so good to me. I’ve been all smiles the past week and a lot of that is because of you.
Keep strong, keep the joy!