Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Bearded Lady

While heart transplantation offers a good prognosis for a bright future, it comes with some drawbacks. I’ll have a long scar down my chest. I’ll have to go in for frequent heart biopsies afterward, causing innumerable additional “vampire bites” on my neck. Perhaps the biggest drawback is the array of medications I’ll need to take for the rest of my life, since like all medications, these come with long lists of side effects – some far more unusual and graphic than others. Some of the standards are nausea, diarrhea, unusual weight gain, hair loss. Fine, we see these on every pharmaceutical advertisement these days. No big deal. But let’s explore some of the more exciting side effects…

Excessive sweating: This one isn’t too far off from my everyday life. My temperature comfort zone is very narrow, so I often find myself either shivering or sweating. A little extra of the latter shouldn’t cramp my style too much.

Mood swings: These will likely be more uncomfortable for my poor mom than for me. We’ll see how long she sticks with me after surgery. I hereby apologize to everyone that experiences one of my mood swings post-op.

Hallucinations: Yikes. I had some very strange hallucinations in the hospital from a combination of what they call “ICU Psychosis” (from being in bed in the same room for weeks on end) and taking Ambien without subsequently being able to sleep. I would look around my hospital room, certain of things that just were not real. There were babies sleeping in nearby cribs and sometimes in my bed with me, causing me to fear rolling over and smothering them. One morning, I was waiting for a pizza my dad had ordered outside a take-out restaurant. My dialysis dressing (a blob of stuff swaddled on my neck) became my parents’ new puppy sitting on my shoulder – and what do we do with a new puppy? We talk to it and pet it, of course. And once around Halloween, I saw a very skinny man in costume perched across my windowsill. Needless to say, I’ll be happier never having hallucinations again.

Puffing of the face (“moon face”): Awesome. Add this to the list of lovely physical changes. Did I mention I’m in two weddings in September? Sorry girls…

Unwanted hair growth: This is the kicker, the king of all side effects for a girl in her late twenties. I read about this on one of my favorite blogs (Helen. With the heart, written by a woman who had a heart transplant several years ago). She said she basically put her waxer’s children through college! Wow. Well, I guess if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. So if (when?) life gives me a beard, I’m going to explore joining the circus. I hear the bearded lady gig pays pretty well.

Just for fun, here are a few other good ones:
• Vomiting material that looks like coffee grounds
• Fat deposits around the waist and back of neck
• Gout
• Gum overgrowth


  1. Just wanted to let you know that we donated to the Organ Donation Awareness Fund in your honor!

  2. Andrea, loved this post!
    At least you'll have a good excuse for your accoutrements! It could be worse; you might come them naturally :o)

  3. I accept your early apology of your post-op mood swing :)
    (to be honest, I'm looking forward to it, it's so funny when you get punchy)

  4. I'm with Dawn on the mood swings -- certainly livens up the mood when you're punchy! And speaking as the half Italian American that I am, there are, in fact, worse things than facial hair. Nothing that a little laser hair removal can't address!

  5. Hey, at least getting involved with vampires is super-trendy these days . . .

  6. Hey I had transplant in November 2009. I have had most of these side effects, but they have all been totally worth how good my heart feels! I hated having the PICC line with a dopamine drip-so annoying. And before transplant I could barely walk-so see what you have to look forward to-lol!