Posted by Oli on Monday 2nd June, 2008
It’s taken me a while to get around to writing about my admission for two weeks almost a month ago, but that’s because I’ve still not really managed to wrap my head around the whole deal.
The two weeks I spent on the ward in Harefield in the middle of May were the hardest two weeks of “inmate” time I’ve spent for a long time and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was something to do with being on an open ward, something I’ve only experienced once or twice in my life, despite numerous, often lengthy, hospital admissions. Perhaps it was because I was missing out on the holiday with a big group of friends that K and I had been planning for close on 3 months.
Above everything, though, I think I struggled more than I have for a while because something in my brain told me I was passed all this. My new lungs have had an amazing start. A minor hiccup after 2 weeks not withstanding, they’ve gone from strength to strength and my lung function has been steadily rising, my exercise tolerance going with it. I even completed the famed last mile of Tresco with my brother and started entertaining thoughts of doing the whole thing next year.
So I suppose I had kind of taken my eyes off the post-transplant complications ball and started to enjoy life without a second thought for whatever else was going on, assuming everything was tickety-boo. Which is, I suppose, a lesson in itself. While new lungs mean great new things, you can never take their health for granted and even though I’d been booming for the last three months, it doesn’t take much to send the body reeling.
The chest pains I’d been worried about were initially diagnosed as Gastritis, but when I saw the team at Harefield I had managed to spike a good-looking temperature to go with the pain and nausea, leaving them little choice but to admit me. For the first 24-48 hours the cause of my ailments seemed a mystery to the docs, until they got my CMV count back, at which point they were more contented, knowing that they knew how to deal with it now that it had been properly identified.
There’s something disconcerting about being given drugs intravenously which are so toxic the nurses have to wear gloves and the pregnant women aren’t even allowed to touch the packaging. Knowing they can’t go near while you watch it being pumped into your veins is pretty bizarre and something I’ve never got used to, despite a history of high-caliber potions in my time.
When I was moved to the open ward, which happened to coincide with K’s departure on the holiday with our friends (at my insistence, I must add, and under considerable duress) and I dropped into a pretty deep funk. It’s the lowest I’ve been since the darkest days of the early post-transplant period and there didn’t seem to be a whole lot going for me at the time.
I’m slightly ashamed of myself now for letting it all get on top of me so much, since at the end of the day I was still a good deal healthier than I had been not 6 months ago, but for some reason (or, I suppose, a myriad of reasons) I couldn’t raise my spirits at all.
Luckily, at Dad’s suggestion, I managed to secure a weekend release while the guys were all away. The ‘rents agreed to drive me in for my doses of anti-biotics twice a day, but I was free to go home for food, rest and over-night sleep, something I’d been getting very little of on the ward, what with the world’s loudest talker on one side and the telly addict on the other.
Eventually, thank goodness, my consultant, the amazing Doc C returned from his paternity leave in the middle of the next week and on his first round of the day told me I was free to head home as they expected my viral load to be low enough to no longer necessitate the use of the IV drugs, enabling a switch to the more home-friendly orals.
I hadn’t been happier than that afternoon when I got back to the flat just after K returned from the holiday and we could just chill out on the sofa and enjoy each other’s company again after nearly a week apart – pretty much the longest we’ve spent away from each other since we got together.
Getting used to the ups and downs of transplant is clearly taking me longer than I thought it would. My mind appears convinced that things can only go well, so any minor hiccup is a bigger deal than it ought to be because it carries with it something of a heavy shock value. I need to keep reminding myself that it was only 6 months ago that I had new lungs fitted and that I still have a way to go to fully recover, however good I may feel right now.
So I’m trying to take things a little more slowly, although how long that will last we’ll have to wait and see. The main thing for me at the moment is doing what I can to avoid what Doc C affectionately calls the “Superman complex”, whereby people (mostly men) post-transplant start to see themselves as indestructible and slacken off their meds and treatments. It’s hardly the way to say thank you for the greatest gift of all, so I’m determined to stay away from it and keep myself at my best.