Adventures of a Kidney Donor

August 20, 2011

My Big Kidney Adventure

Filed under: Kidney Donation,Medical — by anne315 @ 4:41 pm
Tags: ,

The picture at left was sent to me by my friend Mark. I love it!

Friday August 12, 2011.  3:30 am my sister Mary and brother-in-law Mike arrived to pick me up for the hour drive to University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor. I was nervous but had no doubts. In tow were a few personal belongings and copies of my living will and medical directives (I also had them on file with UM.)

5:30 am I went in for the prep.  My clothes went into a plastic bag and I got to wear one of those lovely hospital gowns. They give you socks to wear which oddly enough was comforting. My vitals were taken and IVs started. As usual, even though I was about to have pretty big surgery, I can’t look when they insert needles of any kind.

I met the anesthesiologist who told me what to expect.  He said that occasionally tubing will nick the inside of a patient’s mouth and my throat might be a little sore after.  He also talked about my nausea levels with anesthesia. I haven’t had much experience except for wisdom teeth extraction 30 years ago and I just remember it making me tired.  They administer some anti-nausea medication along with the rest of the drugs. My sister mentioned that my nephew got pretty ill when he had anesthesia administered during recent surgery, so they increased my dose.

7:45 am Good-bye to Mike and Mary for the time being. They must have administered the relaxing drug they give before anesthesia to me immediately because I saw the operating room lights and that’s the last thing I remember. I don’t even remember seeing the surgical team. Surgery started at about 7:45 am and lasted until 11:30 am. The head surgeon visited Mike and Mary at 11:00 to say that everything had gone well while the rest of the team finished up. See laparoscopic kidney removal for what the surgery was like.

12:00 pm I woke up to hear a nurse saying “Anne, Anne.” I kind of drifted in and out.  I talked to my sister and brother-in-law a little. I didn’t feel pain, I was just tired. My room was ready quickly.

Late afternoon The surgical team visited and said everything went well. They liked the looks of my vitals. They encouraged walking as soon as possible. Because of privacy they had to be careful, but they let me know that all recent kidney recipients were doing well. I was excited because it sounded like “my” kidney was doing well in its new home.

Evening My sis and I took a few laps around the hallway, with me dragging IVs and a catheter bag. The pain meds from surgery were still working so I was slow but it didn’t seem too bad. The nurses began talking of a possible Sat. release! I was on IV pain medication and had a morphine pump to self-administer pain medication at six minute intervals or more. I wanted to keep ahead of the pain so I hit the morphine quite a bit. They also give you an Incentive Spirometry device which is basically a simple plastic breathing machine. You breathe in and out of it periodically to prevent pneumonia and other pulmonary complications.

I had SCD’s on (sequential compression devices) stockings that automatically compress and release to help prevent blood clots.

Saturday August 13, 2011

Morning My vitals were all good. Around 9:00 they took me off IV painkillers and took away the morphine pump and I started oral pain medication. After a few hours I could feel that the oral pain meds didn’t keep the pain at bay as well as the IV and morphine. It wasn’t excruciating, but I could feel pain when I took a breath. I inadvertently started taking shallower breaths to avoid the pain so I got short of breath and a little panicky. In came nurses and three doctors. They took my vitals and all was well, my oxygen level was at 99%.

It was mostly psychological but I still felt short of breath and asked for oxygen. The doctors assured me that I didn’t need it. A savvy nurse saw the psychological benefit so she asked the docs if she could put my oxygen back in. When she did, my sis saw that it was dialed back to almost zero but the psychological effect on me was good.

Afternoon and Evening I had some family members visit and was chugging along. Food was a gross thought. I asked for anti-nausea medication on a schedule.  Some people don’t need it but I was feeling nauseous. I wanted the catheter out but the nurses didn’t like my urine output so they left the catheter on to keep an eye on it. A savvy doctor finally suggested it might be a positional problem more than anything else so she said to walk more. The last thing you want to do is walk, you want to curl up with your pain on the bed but walking helps a lot. Sure enough, after a walk the nurse was amazed at the urine output. My solitary kidney took right over and did its thing.

Sunday August 14, 2011

Morning The catheter came out and it was painless. (I guess for men this procedure isn’t always a breeze.) I had read that some people have trouble urinating on their own after a catheter has been in so I went into the bathroom with some trepidation. Fortunately, no problem! That was the last good news of the day.

Sunday afternoon My sis went off to get my anti-nausea prescription. I got dressed and was feeling worse by the second. I finally ended up in the chair by the bed in that awful state when you know you are going to throw up and you try to put if off. I knew when I did it was going to HURT because of my incisions. A really nice nurse sat with me. I did throw up and given that and no solid food for several days, I stated to shake. The doc didn’t want to send me back home in that state. By the time my sister came back to the room I was back in bed and re-connected to IVs.

Sunday night I left the TV on all night listening to reruns of “The Golden Girl” and “Frasier” for comfort. I was nauseous but not to the point that it was debilitating.

Monday August 15, 2011

Morning By complete coincidence I was sitting on the edge of the bed dutifully breathing into my breathing machine when the surgical team came in. The head of the team said “So, are you trying to tell me something?” He re-checked everything and said I was good to go. I was still queasy and weak but knew I would do better at home. We were trying to tweak the pain meds since the narcotics were making me nauseous. I went home on only Tylenol which turned out to be a mistake.

Noon My sister who is a SAINT had to manage me in the wheelchair and the bags down to the first floor for the one hour trip home. I was dreading it, praying that I wouldn’t barf in front of the entire hospital. Fortunately, no barfing.

Afternoon and Night When I got home I wanted to curl up with my pain but sis wisely talked me into a shower which really did feel good. Frankly I was gross. The Tylenol wasn’t taking care of the pain enough so I didn’t sleep well. Food was gross.

Tuesday August 16 We decided to switch back to half narcotic and half Tylenol to cut the pain better. The pain was better but I was still queasy. I walked like Tim Conway when he played the old man on “The Carol Burnett Show.” My sis was good about encouraging me to keep moving. My niece Ali turned 17 that day but we were all preoccupied so her birthday wasn’t the greatest. She didn’t complain. My family has been so great! My friends have been very supportive too.

Friday August 19  I felt things beginning to turn around. Food was no longer so gross. My niece Emma came over to watch “Paul”  (We are big Simon Peg/Nick Frost fans.) I had to hold a pillow to my stomach because laughing hurt. I was having a little coughing fit and was asking Emma for my pillow to hold over my stomach and I couldn’t get it out so it was like: “Emma get my pill…pill” Emma says: “Pills what pills???” Poor Emma, trying to help her decrepit aunt.

Go to List of Resources on Kidney Donation


  1. It gets better a little every day. When I donated, I could have been released on the 2nd day after surgery, but felt a lot like you described and stayed an extra day. I will continue to send thoughts and prayers for you and your recipient. I hope you can meet someday.

    Comment by Nicole Stromath — August 21, 2011 @ 2:11 am |Reply

  2. Thanks for the update Anne. I pray that each day finds you feeling stronger & stronger. I still hope that one day you & Jackie & I have a chance to get together. I miss you ladies, and I know you need a little more time, but still have that on my “to do” list.
    May God continue to bless you & bless all your kidneys!
    Love ya, Sharon

    Comment by Sharon — August 21, 2011 @ 8:30 am |Reply

  3. I’m glad you are doing better. Hoping that everyday is a huge leap in how you feel. You need Jalapenos….that food wouldn’t be gross. 🙂 Maybe in a couple of weeks when you’re feeling like your self we can do lunch. (Note, I did not say feeling like your OLD self.) Take care and make sure you listen to your “nurses”.

    Comment by Mariya — August 21, 2011 @ 9:02 pm |Reply

  4. Hi, Anne,
    I am 11 days away from donating for my mom in a six-way paired swap. This has been very helpful to read. I will ask our care takers to document these milestones to share our recovery as well. Thanks so much!

    Comment by Christie — August 18, 2013 @ 8:42 pm |Reply

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