IVs and painkillers, stitches and blood pressure monitors, fatigue and “oh my God there’s a piece of my insides stuck to my shirt”.
I donated a kidney last week (literally one week to the day), and it’s been an experience. There are many things that come along with giving up one of your spare organs, and most of them are relatively self-explanatory. There is a 4-inch incision down the centre of my abdomen and two one-inch incisions off to the side. Naturally, this comes along with a certain level of pain and the realization that you use your abdominal muscles for literally everything. I was fairly prepared for pain and discomfort. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the post-donation blues.
Don’t get me wrong; it was listed in the “Recovering at Home from Kidney Donation” pamphlet and one of the surgeons who came by to check on me even asked if I wanted to speak to a counsellor. There are resources available both on professional and personal levels. Perhaps I am simply being stubborn, but I find it easiest to navigate my way through my feelings first and then ask for help when I get stuck. Depression and anxiety are my constant travel companions, and this is not the first time that I’ve been down this particular road.
One thing that is most definitely not listed in any of the pamphlets is the number of people who will not understand or support your choices. These may be friends, coworkers or even family, and their rejection is a difficult thing to swallow. My dad, in particular, struggled with seeing me in pain and hooked up to tubes when it was my decision that put me in this situation. On the day prior to my release from the hospital, I was told to go for a walk so I walked myself down to the cafeteria and found a decent cup of tea. Hospital tea is abysmal. Alone, tired, sore and a bit too nauseous to really enjoy the spoils of my hunt, I sat down and cried in the cafeteria. After about 5 minutes, I waddled my way back to the renal unit of the hospital and read my book. Later that evening, my dad showed up for a surprise visit. He overcame his discomfort to see me and that made so much of a difference.
Being home definitely helps ward off the feelings of isolation. I have three dogs that are quite insistent about being as close to me as they can. They don’t understand why they’re not allowed to sit in my lap or clean my incisions but they do give me a pretty constant stream of cuddles. There are still moments of crushing sadness that pop up at four in the morning when the pain meds have worn off and I can’t summon the energy to refill my hot water bottle. Fortunately, these moments are becoming less frequent and I am getting better at asking for help and companionship.
I don’t think that I am mourning the loss of an organ. It has more to do with the overall feelings of exhaustion, nausea and discomfort that are to be my normal for the next couple weeks. To be fair, I was expecting this too. There are enough meals in my freezer to last me through the rest of the summer without cooking, and I have a decent stash of ginger ale. What I hate is the fact that I am not as productive as I usually am. As someone who places an exorbitant amount of self-worth in their productivity, this is incredibly difficult for me. Yes, I know that isn’t particularly healthy and, yes, I am working on it.
On the bright side, the guy who received my kidney is doing very well, and the surgeon said he immediately began peeing like a racehorse. And that makes it all worth it.