Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Use by Date

I/we have been given a date, 19th May 2010 - coincidentally my daughter's birthday, for the extraction and transplantation of my wife's kidney to me. The magnificence of her gesture overwhelms me. Though routine it is not a trivial operation but more than that I will be no condition to support her when she revives.

There is a slight chance that she may not have to go through with it, if a cadaver with a suitable kidney appears between now an then. This puts me in the morally invidious position of hoping someone kills themselves to spare my wife the operational risks and the loss of her kidney.

A cadaver donor's kidney however has an average life span of 15 years whereas a live donor's kidney has a life span of 20 plus. A second moral dilemma occurs to me. perhaps I don't want some to die and save my wife from the knife after all; perhaps I want the extra years.

In 15 years I will be nearly 80. If I feel as I do now with any further deterioration in health I will welcome the extra years. Unfortunately that isn't going to happen. During the final assessment last week with the renal coordinator, nephrologist and surgeon I was told I already show signs of osteoporosis and the immuno-suppressant drugs I will need to take to prevent rejection will exacerbate this condition.

The drugs (transplant medications) in the supplied guide are frightening. There are 5 pages of them in this small booklet. I wont have to take them all but the possible side effects of any appropriate cocktail is the stuff of nightmares here's one example:

  1. increased hair growth
  2. swelling of the gums
  3. hypertension
  4. diabetes
  5. impaired renal function ( they have to kidding?)
  6. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea ( all the old favourites. )
  7. Burning sensation in hands and feet
  8. weakened bones ( osteoporosis )
  9. Acne ( and I thought my teen years were over )

That's just one drug - other possible side effect of other drugs include: nose bleeds, mouth ulcers, anorexia, hair loss (maybe if I take this with the one above I come out with my hair intact ), joint pain, difficulty sleeping, mood swings and of course susceptible to infection - an obvious result of suppressing one's immune system; stopping T-cells from becoming active in the blood and attacking the transplanted kidney. Most of the drugs to be taken twice a day at the same time each day (yet another reason to get rid of daylight saving time - before some transplant recipient dies of an ill-timed dose)

Assuming everything goes according to plan I will be out of action for a month after I come out of Hospital, with daily early-morning visits. then alternate days etc, etc. This is not going to be possible from where I live so we will be forced to rent accommodation close to the hospital. For the first two weeks we will both be laid up and relying on a roster of relatives for home help.

As Australia's former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, once famously said "Life was not meant to be easy."