Although it has diminished greatly, I remain in constant abdominal pain as I write this. I just ache. Every now and then, as my severed nerve endings begin to heal, I get eye-watering stabs along my incision line.
For now, most of the area surrounding my hip-to-hip incision is numb. People who've endured similar surgeries tell me full feeling may not come back for years. If ever.
My supply of the really, really incredible prescription painkiller, Percocet, is dwindling rapidly; I cherish every remaining pill like it could pay off the national debt.
My renal doctors in St. Louis have scheduled me for an ultrasound here in Champaign today to rule out the possibility of a blood clot in my new little kidney. Great. A few days later, my PD catheter, now a useless appendage hanging out of my side, will be removed in an outpatient procedure. More pain. More recovery.
My blood pressure, which had been kept artificially low at around 110/70 by medication prior to my Nov. 18 kidney transplant, is now soaring wildly out of control again, Today it was 165/90. The new cocktail of hypertension medicine I've been prescribed has yet to take effect.
Since it was high blood pressure that got me into this mess in the first place, I'm more than a bit frantic over it all. My current health care team doesn't seem to share my sense of dire urgency about the matter. The thought of surging blood relentlessly pounding my delicate, undefiled six-year-old kidney makes me angry and quite sad.
I'm taking more than 40 pills a day, or four times as many as I did on Peritoneal Dialysis (PD). I have become a pharmaceutical stockboy, constantly checking supplies on hand, making frequent restocking visits to my local pharmacy and calling St. Louis for transplant-specific drugs to be delivered by mail. The medications control my day. Half the drugs must be taken with food, the transplant drugs specifically on an empty stomach. I feel like the guy on that antacid commercial: "Eat now, pill now? Pill now, eat later? Wait to eat, pill now? Wait two hours, now eat?"
Until next March, my blood must be drawn every Monday to ensure certain levels are decreasing or maintaining on schedule. For as long as I have a transplant, my blood will be drawn for lab tests on a regular basis.
Did I mention that I can't stand needles?
I don't mean to sound whiny, and if I do, forgive me. I was told before the surgery that depression is frequently a natural post-op emotion, and I may be going through a touch of that right now. I know that ultimately, the pain will end, the medication regimen will become routine, my blood pressure will plunge. But I can't shake the feeling that in many ways, I was better off on dialysis. At least, I felt better. At the very least, I wasn't in pain all the time.
When I was on PD, I didn't worry about much. The daily routine just kind of rolled along, and I pretty much knew exactly what to expect. Now I find I'm constantly worrying about something – organ rejection, my lowered immune system and possible infection (my wife has a cold! Oh, NO!), taking my pills on time, the possibility of a blood clot.
On a conscious level, I know this is a transition period and if I remain patient, much of this will pass. But if having kidney failure has taught me anything, it's that you have to live in the now, that a healthy tomorrow isn't promised to any of us.
Well, I'm in the now. And now sucks.