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My “Grampa” needs a new kidney

After 4 long years and nearly 600 sessions of dialysis, Karl and his family are so excited and grateful that he is now on the top of the kidney transplant list. To assist in increasing costs, they have created a fundraiser with a nonprofit organization called Help Hope Live.

Updates (7)

April 29, 2020

Monday, April 27, 2020
Four weeks ago today, we got a call that Karl was on alert – again – for a deceased donor kidney. This time we asked where he was on the list and were surprised that he was number 7. We didn’t think they called that many people. He had been 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the list for a specific kidney, but never 7th!

How does that happen? First on the list and then seventh? It all depends on how Karl’s profile matches with the current kidney, and there are over 30 things that are considered in each match. Not only how long the recipient has been waiting, but blood type, blood antigens, and other considerations. They want to be as sure as possible that the recipient’s body will not reject the foreign kidney.

On that Monday, 4 weeks ago (seems like months!) we didn’t expect that Karl would actually get to the top of that list of 7 and be called to get the kidney, but he was! With one hour to prepare, we were on our way! I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole 3 ½ hour drive to the hospital! It helped me stay awake!

Since then, there have been lots of challenges, especially at first. Some days I had to tell myself to smile so my face wouldn’t turn into etched lines of worry.

This has also been one of the most beautiful experiences of our lives! We have been blessed in so many ways! So many people have helped us with food, faith, flowers, cheerful calls and texts, prayers, and offers to help in every way possible. We are so grateful and feel so humbled to be surrounded with so many giving, serving people!

In return, we have tried to give to others in any small way possible. I think that has been one key to the progress Karl has made. He keeps trying to figure out how to help others. Not that service is a cure-all, but that keeping an attitude of gratitude and service always makes things better.

I was told one time, many years ago that “good friends will be a blessing to you.” I have seen that throughout my life, and it is certainly true right now!

Now, we are preparing to go back home! We are so happy that Karl is well enough to do that! I think I will smile the whole way again! 🙂

Thank you to all our friends, family, and everyone! We love you!

April 14, 2020

4/10/2020
Hi, this is Karl. I’m the proud new owner of a shiny new partly used kidney! I’m so grateful to the donor family and sorrow for their loss. I hope that they will be blessed a thousand times for their sacrifice. I never used to pay much attention to organ donations, but I’m tremendously glad for the program since it turned out that I was one of the ones in need.
I thought I’d share some probably too candid information about my experience in the hospital in hopes that it might help other transplant recipients know a little more about what to expect. First though I’d like to acknowledge the kind, professional, and thorough work of all the doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff that did the surgery and made my stay as comfortable as possible.
When I came out of surgery, I was beyond groggy, but was soon semi-coherent again. That’s when the pain registered. Pain killers, ice, and applying pressure to the incision point helped. Coughing, laughing and even crying all cause sharp spikes in pain.
Also, my whole body was swollen due to the massive amount of fluid they were giving me to jump-start the new kidney. The doctors tell me that the swelling will eventually go away, and it has started to reduce a little. The first couple nights I didn’t get much sleep as the nurses were constantly monitoring my vitals and changing IV solutions etc.
Each day, the nurse (nurse in charge of a patient’s care for that shift) would ask me for my goals for the day. I learned quickly to request fewer interruptions at night so that I could sleep. They also encouraged me to move around as much as I could despite the pain.
They have amazing high-tech hospital beds which can move various parts of the body up and down and can even lift you to a sitting position with your feet on the floor to help you stand up. To help keep my lower legs circulating blood properly they put “pressure leggings” on each leg which would alternately apply light pressure off and on while in bed.
They inserted a “Foley” catheter into my bladder because it is so critical to measure urine output to ensure the new kidney is functioning properly. They’re also drawing blood frequently (from a main port in my neck which they inserted during surgery) to monitor the body chemicals controlled by kidneys to check that all the other kidney functions are working as well.
I’m now on many medications, some of which I’ll have to take for life, to ensure that the kidney isn’t rejected by my body. The problem is that they make me effectively have no immune system so that I must be super careful not to be around sick people or do anything that might introduce disease or conditions that my body would otherwise easily fight off. This is especially hard for me because I love being with my grandchildren. Children are constantly getting something as they build their own immune system. But I will have to maintain “social distancing” from them for quite a while even after the Corona virus is overcome.
I was glad to be discharged from the hospital and have the catheter removed! They gave us a lot of written instructions and many visits from specialists (some remotely due to Covid concerns). I was seen and instructed by physical therapy, occupational therapy, social workers, doctors, post-transplant coordinators, case workers, and others. I’m glad most of the instructions were written, otherwise it would be hard to remember so many.
We went to temporary “home” with Mary’s sister since we have some required in-person clinics and frequent blood work for the first month after surgery and we need to stay close to the hospital. Due to virus exposure concerns, they allowed us to have home health nurses take the blood samples which reduces the amount of travel required.
Unfortunately, the same day we were discharged, I experienced extreme pain (far greater than that from the surgery) due to constipation. The hospital said that it is “normal” to not have a bowel movement for up to 5 days after surgery and that a side effect of the narcotic pain killers they were giving me can really slow down the bowel function. In my case, it made the stools so hard and large that they would not come out naturally. The pain also prevented me from passing urine which was probably the largest concern of the transplant team. Off to the emergency room. They examined me for what seemed like forever while I continued to pant with pain. Finally, they initiated several – rather unpleasant – procedures (enemas and digital compaction) which cleared the “blockage.” What a relief! To my consternation they had to insert another catheter to insure urine was not overextending the bladder during these procedures. That catheter finally came out 3 days later at the first post-surgery clinic.
Sorry if some of the a above descriptions are too graphic.
Regardless of the unpleasant aspects of my transplant so far, I’m very glad to have a new kidney and the promise of renewed energy and lifestyle. No more dialysis!
Many prayers and helpful support were offered by so many during dialysis and especially now during and after surgery. I thank you all from my heart.
-Karl Black

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