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Feb 27 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010: Vague Recollections of the Past Few Days

I’m four days post transplant, and I have to apologize in advance that this post will be brief since fatigue seems to set in quicker than I’d like.

Monday was a relatively easy day with most of it under heavy sedation, with the exception of the early waking hours . We got up bright and early to pay one last visit to Alison and Curt (5:30am-ish) prior to her being wheeled down to pre-op and surgery. I followed about 2 hours behind and was immediately introduced to the anesthesiology team. I was doing my best to remain relaxed at that point since I knew they’d probably be sharing more details about the ventilator and breathing tube than I probably really wanted or needed to hear. For whatever reason I had managed to keep my anxiety in check all throughout the morning and I didn’t want anything to topple that.

I have absolutely no recollection of being taken back to surgery, but have vivid recall of waking up in the early evening Monday struggling with the breathing tube. I now know that something had gone wrong with the breathing tube — nothing life-threatening, but highly annoying and enough to trigger a constant gag reflect during the final hours while I was regaining consciousness from the anesthesia. Fortunately Curt was on hand to realize that something wasn’t right, so while I scribbled notes on a clipboard in an effort to explain what was happening, I was again sedated and the problem was fixed.

One of these days I’ll have to have Catherine jot down some notes about what the time was like in the days immediately following the surgery, since I have only flash images to draw from. I’m most shocked and pleasantly surprised by how little pain there is. The PCA pump remains by my side at all times, but there’s not been much need to use it unless it’s in anticipation of getting up for a walk, which I’m trying to do frequently. Catherine did share with me a picture taken by the transplant coordinator of the removed liver. It looked like it was time for that puppy to go. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve replaced a gigantic unhealthy liver with a smaller, healthier one, or the fact that we’ve had nothing to eat since Saturday night that accounts for the 16-pound weight loss since admission, but I’d recommend neither as a long-term diet strategy. I am looking forward to any kind of food, even though tomorrow I’ll be allowed only sips of liquids. Sounds great for now.

Alison’s recovery also seems to be going smoothly and she’s been up and down the hallway numerous times each day. We’ve each been blessed with wonderful nurses on every shift and can’t say enough about all of them.

The days are a blur of visitors explaining what the next weeks, months, year and beyond will look like. I’m encouraged that there are no signs of rejection so far, and that’s obviously a top priority for the transplant team. I’ll remain on heavy doses of antibiotics for several weeks while they remain vigilant about that. The other major milestone to cross is the report from the pathologist on Monday (if everything’s on time) letting us know if there were any cancer cells in the removed liver. Until then we just hold our breath and focus on the things we can have an impact on — following everyone’s directions, walking, breathing deeply, etc. It’s also been pretty remarkable to watch each batch of lab results as they come in. The liver enzymes that have been elevated for years started dropping with the very first bloodwork drawn after surgery and have continued to come down since then. The bilirubin score hasn’t dropped as rapidly as some of the others, but it is dropping. My energy level is also off the charts.

I’ve overwhelmed by how positively everything has gone so far and the glimpse of a different life that I’ll get to enjoy following recovery. Everyone should have an opportunity to spend some time on a unit like this and watch the overnight transformations that occur following a transplant. Yes, some have very complicated recoveries, or even face rejection, but the common theme is, “I can’t believe how much better I feel already.” It’s remarkable to witness what can happen when medical technology and human generosity come together like this.

I need to sign off for now, but will post some more pictures and news later. Bottom line, everything is going very well.

15 comments

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  1. Susan

    Whooooo hooooo! Thank you for the MUCH needed update!! Love you, hon, thanks for the pics and the story. Wow, this is exciting stuff! Sending you more love an dlight than you can carry in a mnivan! ((((((Bill & Alison))))))

  2. Janet Ulmer

    It’s still February 26 here in Sacramento, but I enjoyed reading tomorrow’s news. I’m glad you and Alison both are doing so well, and I know you will continue to recover. I’ve appreciated getting the reports, from Catherine and now, you.
    Janie

  3. Al Paulsen

    Bill,
    Thank you for the great update and photos. Your ability to report your progress so soon is truly amazing! It is wonderful to hear that you and Alison are recovering well and so quickly. We’re looking forward to more good news as both of your recoveries continue. Rest well and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Our best wishes go out to your families too, as they continue to assist you on this journey to full recovery.

    Al & Sharon

  4. Diana

    It’s such a delight to read your blog FOLLOWING the surgeries…when Allison and you are both on the mend. We’ve been keeping you in our thoughts and prayers and are so delighted to read this progress. Thanks for keeping us updated and best of luck in continued recoveries for Allison and you…and kudos to Curt and Catherine for all their love, patience and support!

  5. The McCarthys

    Bill, it’s so great to hear from you!! We’ve appreciated Catherine taking the time to send out updates. You and Alison are never far from our thoughts and prayers!!

  6. Bonnie Yancey

    I have been keeping all of you in my thoughts and prayers and will continue. Please thank Catherine for the updates. May God continue to Bless you and Allison in your continued recovery!!

  7. Kathy Hines

    THANK YOU SO MUCH Catherine for the updates and the pictures are soooo awesome!! I cannot believe how much Allison looks like you Catherine!! I had to take a double take with the NG tube-scared me to death-thought it was you! I have kept everyone informed as I get E-mails and you are all in our thoughts and our prayers. Thank you again for the updates and love to you all!

  8. Myra and Bob

    Great to get “the rest of the story” from your update. Glad to know you are up and about and causing some stir on the unit. Remember, the more you push, the sooner they realize they want you to leave.
    We continue to keep you and Allison in our prayers for full and rapid recovery. We can’t wait to see you back in “the burg”.

  9. Marvin and Michelle

    Bill…welcome to the Mercedes Benz club!!! Only the FINEST are blessed with a membership…and I do mean BLESSED!!! We have been praying for you (and Catherine, the kids, Allison and Curt). Please know that we are with you every step of this all-too-familiar journey. Hope to see you soon. Lots of love to you.

  10. Jeanie Stone

    Way to go Bill! I’m so happy for all of you that things are going so well, and your surgery is behind you. I’ve been thinking about you each day and all of the Varners, and glad you’re progressing so rapidly.

    Keep it up, and I’m sending lots of thoughts and prayers to all!

  11. Ken Burger

    Bill … AND Catherine — Thank you for great updates keeping all of us well aware of the progress, and super photos. Love those magic healing shoes!

    Your posts remind me of my recovery from surgery during the Olympics 4 years ago: kept nodding off while watching Curling of all things! I’m hoping your recovery will be much more exciting, but just as successful!

    God’s blessings are indescribably delicious.

  12. Ken Burger

    Oh, and just to re-assure you: your memory might be vague from the past week, but your memory of BAMA winning the National Championship is clear and accurate!

  13. Kim Hartless

    So glad you are doing so well. You will continue to be in our prayers!

  14. Heather May

    glad to hear things are going well for you and Alison! you guys look great. Alison makes an NG tube look glamorous–she still looks beautiful! nice battle wound, Bill. makes for a good shark attack story later. hope the rest of your journey goes well. thanks for the updates!

  15. Wally Spivits

    You’re going to have a gnarly scar Dude. Cool.

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