Sunday, August 1, 2010
My New Roller Coaster
Roller coasters are generally thought of as entertainment – fun, exhilarating rides that delight children and adults alike. To many however, these same piles of steel symbolize danger and evoke great fear. I think all of us can relate to the ups and downs experienced on a roller coaster – the mounting terror as we slowly ascend the biggest hill, followed by the excitement of the free-fall and then the relief of safety. I think a lot of life can be related to a roller coaster, but post-transplant life seems to provide an even closer metaphor.
The first few days post-transplant were no fun at all. Forget the roller coaster, I felt terrible. I was exhausted but too jittery to sleep. I was weak and thirsty but too nauseated to eat or drink. I was in a lot of pain, and I was terrified that something had gone wrong with my surgery. And I had some moments of serious doubt, wondering if I had made the right decision. Fortunately, this period of misery and despair was short-lived, thanks to the responsive care of my physicians and nurses and the constant reassurance of my parents.
A couple of days after transplant, the roller coaster began. I had a great couple of hours one day, followed by a miserable night. I had a good full day, followed by many hours of pain and discomfort. I have struggled to appreciate the good times for fear that another bad period will soon arrive, but I’m trying to get better about that, trying to stay positive and to appreciate the ups for what they are. I expect weeks, maybe months, of these major ups and downs. But fortunately, I seem to have turned a corner in the last couple of days – I’m definitely spending more time on the up parts of the roller coaster and less time on the downs. And for now, that’s good enough for me.
To be clear, along this roller coaster, I have also made great forward progress. To illustrate, I’ll include a couple of pictures below. The first is when I first came out of surgery and was still intubated and hooked up to twelve different IV medications, the second is when I was up in a chair the next day talking to my surgeon (still with many of the drips but breathing on my own), and the last is my first or second lap around the nurses’ station in the ICU (unhooked temporarily from my last one or two IVs). At this point, I am better enough to be too self-conscious to plaster my picture online! Maybe once I lose these 10-15 pounds of fluid…