My daughter is almost 12. She was born with a condition called VACTERL/VATER or Sacral Agenesis or Caudal Regression. They all basically mean the same thing. They basically mean that my little one is really complicated. Her first 48 hours started off with fear, surgery, uncertainty and some more fear. They also started with Love. You can’t imagine the emotion seeing your tiny little person so sick and so helpless, yet so full of life. She may have been complicated but she sure was a little fighter. Time past and we learned of just what all this would mean and the amount of actual health-care she would need just to be ok.
It was in those first few days that we learned about her Kidney’s. We actually knew from sonograms that she was likely to have Kidney problems. We were also told people live with one Kidney. We did not make that our biggest concern at the time. The next 4 years we learned so many things. We watched her endure, surgery after surgery, sickness after sickness, pain after pain. When she was 3 we watched her Kidney Function go down. By the time she was 4 it was obvious that she would be on dialysis before to much longer.
When she was 4 she had her dialysis catheter placed and she started dialysis that day. By the time she was 5 we had gone to LifeLink for Transplant evaluation and to see if either myself or her Dad would be a match. Neither of us was a match for her. The few family members that would have been willing to test for her, had other health issues that automatically disqualified them. A living donor from a family member was not in the cards. That was not the worst news. There was good news. She was an excellent candidate for a cadaver donor. Although no one likes the idea that someone will die for you to live, the reality is that person will die anyway and they or their family chose to make the worst possible scenario, a little less, not so bad. As my daughter was so young and had already endured so many health issues she was placed fairly high on the transplant list.
Just over a year on dialysis, we got “The Call”. I will never forget when the phone rang early in the morning. We were all up, I was getting ready for work, we were all getting ready for dialysis and school. My husband saw the phone and right away recognized the phone number as he was the one taking her to dialysis and appointments while I worked(there are lots of stories inserted here for future reference), He told me, Get the phone it’s yours ringing. (as I later found out he already told the Doctors, like she is always at work and feels bad that she does not go to dialysis please call her when the call comes) So I answer and I start crying like the sap that I am . So instead of going to work and school, we ditch the book bags and all head to the hospital. They do a normal dialysis treatment, and everyone is talking and excited and there is so much going on. Our unit was blessed with not one match, but two. My daughter and another little boy(her kidney brother as we fondly call him) were to receive a kidney that day back to back. My daughter was second as she is more complicated and well I don’t really know why but that was the decision they made for whatever reason they made it.
I remember making phone calls, my Dad, my sisters, my job and so on. I remember one of the supervisors at my job telling me that everything is not as easy as I am making it sound so I should prepare myself that this is a big surgery for my daughter. I remember thinking why is she always such a bitch. Well in turn she was right. The surgery went off perfectly. The surgeon was pleased with the way things went and off to ICU she went and we not very patiently waiting to be able to see her. Soon enough we were all really excited, looking forward to everything positive that would come from her having healthy kidney. It was something we just can’t describe unless you truly witness and experience on a personal level. The gratitude for the family that made the unselfish decision to donate. The gratitude for top of the line surgeons that can get a kidney in a child that has no bladder and everything has totally been re-constructed.
That night she started producing urine. The doctors were ok with the amount but not thrilled. They told us that she is so sedated that we should go home and rest as when she starts waking up it will hurt and she will need tons of attention getting her comfortable. We listened. Very early the next morning we went back to the hospital. Sat quietly with her and waited for the doctors. They said that the kidney needs to wake up. This is not uncommon and there are big technical words to describe and explain all this. They continued to work at getting her kidney going. Lots of going ons. Finally she started waking up and they were able to get her off the vent. This was a fabulous day. We were so happy to see a little progress after several days of watching her basically sedated.
When we put her to bed everything was really looking up. Nurses assured us go home. Better for the kids to sleep in their bed than sleep in the waiting room. They need to have somewhat of a normal life. Well well all went home. It was my husband, the girls and my son and we were tired, excited and hopeful. We Just got home and we were hungry we started making some scrambled eggs. Just the second I flipped off the the stove the phone rang. It was the nurse. She said you should get back to the hospital, you daughter had an episode, she stopped breathing and we are putting her back on the vent. We flew out of the house so fast that we literally arrived, with the kids upstairs as they were still intubating her. It was the scariest possible moment I ever could tell you about, except if I keep writing and I fast forward 6 almost 7 years later, I will tell you so many more scary and even scarier moments.
So, now the next 9 weeks pass. She is on and off the vent for various reasons. She is back on dialysis. Our dialysis nurse was our save all. The only time we felt comfortable actually going home and being home for 3 hours together. The doctors still held high hopes the kidney would recover. A biopsy revealed that their hopes were founded. This kidney should recover. We watched and worried and hoped. Each day passed and those hopes started to fade. After the initial night that she had the breathing event, I spent every night in the hospital. Feeling like I would neglect one child for the next I struggled with the whole situation I was facing. My daughters health was literally in the balance. I would sit in the morning when the doctors would do rounds and listen. I would hear these brilliant voices discussing my child. They would talk if we do this , this will happen and if we adjust would this cause this to happen. It was like she was a puzzle that required great intelligence as well as balance. You must piece together this puzzle while you stand on a balance beam suspended in the air. That was what I saw. I continued to gain admiration for my daughters medical staff. I continued to be thankful for my family. My husband forced me to toughen up and be brave so I can take whatever may come. I would cry to him and he would cry to me and then we would say no time for crying, time for being tough. We were but our family struggled. We had two children suffering, with being distracted in school or missing school. We had one child who’s life was supposed to be getting better get worse.
During that 9 weeks, eventually she did lose the kidney. After everything she went through. Us watching her in a medically induced coma for so long and her being on life support caused fluid in the lungs and things were truly not looking good. Our doctors knew that they must piece together this puzzle and balance and that she would eventually be ok. After they removed the failing kidney they were able to get her back to her normal with dialysis and lots of medication in a few short weeks. ….
For more of our Journey through Kidney Transplant see Part 2