Memoirs of a Liver Surgery

This morning I got out of bed. I let the dog out, drank a glass of water, made some coffee, vacuumed, put the dry dishes next to the sink away and read for a while. It was a normal morning. Nothing to write home about, despite what I'm currently doing.

One year ago I woke up from a night of fitful sleep crammed in a hospital bed next to my husband. His IV was in and he was ready to go. We grabbed the bags that were packed in preparation for the long post-surgery hospital stay coming up and headed to the surgery wing. We shared nervous goodbyes, said a prayer, and I went down the hall and into the waiting room with Tim's Aunt Emily, who had just shared a similar experience with her own husband. 

johns-hopkins-shadows

And then we waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. We watched shadows dance across the walls of John Hopkins' surgical waiting room as the sun climbed in the sky. I took phone calls every few hours from the operating room updating me on the progress of the surgery and  reassuring me that Tim and his Uncle Mark were doing well. That the surgery had begun, that Tim's liver had been split, that they were removing Mark's diseased liver, that they were preparing Tim's liver to be transplanted into Mark, that Tim was being sown up. That they were okay.

We sang and prayed and ate. We played card games. We passed the time and tried our best to distract ourselves while we waited for the surgery to end. And then it did.

After 8 hours of surgery, Tim was woken up and sent to the ICU. Man. You can try to prepare yourself to see your loved one in the ICU but try as you might, it's pretty freaking crazy (to put it eloquently). There lay my husband, a tangle of wires and beeping machines, donning a hospital gown and oxygen mask in a little hospital bed with blood stains on the sheet (the nurse messed up his arterial line and it bled on his bed. It wasn't a big deal, but it's not exactly what you want to see in that situation). True to my character, the tears began flowing. True to Tim's character, when I walked over to him and he drifted out of his post-surgery stupor, he comforted me.

Tim post-surgery

Tim post-surgery

Uncle Mark post-surgery

Uncle Mark post-surgery

The next hour or so was full of tears on my side and hilarious opiate induced quotes on Tim's. "I'm really fine, if you want to go clubbing you can." "I'm on top of the world!" "Lunch was good, but the service could have been better." (what?) 

The liver transplant surgery that I had nervously anticipated for months was over. Mark had a new, healthy, young liver. Tim had a sweet new scar. Through Tim, the doctors, nurses, techs, Mark, Emily, and myself had all witnessed a powerful act of sacrificial love and bravery. We saw God's faithfulness, power, and providence a little more clearly. 

We stayed in the hospital for the next week bouncing between the ICU, step-down unit, and transplant floor. It felt like a strange combination of hospital, hotel, and college dormitory. Despite the gravity of a major operation and a painful recovery, the four of us and those who visited for support shared so many laughs, tears, delicious meals, and precious memories in those little hospital rooms. 

Aunt Emily, Tim, Me, Aunt Michele, Uncle Mark the day after the transplant.

Aunt Emily, Tim, Me, Aunt Michele, Uncle Mark the day after the transplant.

It's been one year since that surgery. Tim is doing well, his liver has completely regenerated (crazy, right?). Mark is also doing well, aside from a few post-surgical complications, with his 24-year-old-un-cirrhosed liver, free of primary sclerosing cholangitis. I can look back on November 3rd, 2015 and be sure of two things: I married a good man and I believe in a great God.

 

(Also, a few weeks ago Tim said that his scar was hurting and I asked if he thought Voldemort was near. I hope that doesn't undermine the rest of this entry, I was just proud of my joke.)