What?! It’s 2014?? Hey Guys… I’m Still Here!

Hi.  Yes, I’m still alive.

I apologize for putting you guys in suspense (that is, if you ever were in suspense…) but I’ve been recovering from my transplant that I had a month ago. I had my transplant on Tuesday, December 3rd, and since everything was looking good (my creatinine had come down to .08! I don’t think my creatinine has ever been that low, except for maybe when I was 9 or 10 years old) I was discharged from the hospital on Saturday, December 7th.  I was SO happy to be out of the hospital and resting comfortably in my parents home (my brother and I stayed at our parents for a couple weeks as they were our caregivers) and to take a long SHOWER.  I never realized how much I loved showers until then.  I had a wonderful Sunday staying at home, felt pretty good and was moving around pretty well.  On Monday, December 9th, I had an appointment at UCSF at clinic, which is a weekly check up on how things are going and to check my blood results that I had done in the morning.  My creatinine had gone up to I believe to almost 2 and I had to be remitted back into the hospital that same day.  The doctors were concerned that there was kidney rejection so they wanted me to stay in the hospital so they could monitor me.

The Agenda board in my room
The Agenda board in my room

 

Having a private room is quite nice, I must say.
Having a private room is quite nice, I must say.

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My loving fiance, who visited me every day.
My loving fiance, who visited me every day.
Concerned father calling mother.
Concerned father calling mother.
By the end of those 8 days, I was getting just a bit tired of needles.
By the end of those 8 days, I was getting just a bit tired of needles.
Yes, needles... you're not my friend.
Yes, needles… you’re not my friend.

I remained in the hospital for the next 8 days where I went through Plasmapheresis and was given numerous medications such as IVIG (IVIG is given as a plasma protein replacement therapy (IgG) for immune deficient patients who have decreased or abolished antibody production capabilities), Rituximab (Rituximab destroys B cells and is therefore used to treat diseases which are characterized by excessive numbers of B cells, overactive B cells, or dysfunctional B cells.), and Eculizumab (Eculizumab protects blood cells against immune destruction by inhibiting the complement system).  In a nutshell, since all of these terms and words are confusing, most of these medications would help stop harmful antibodies from attacking my brother’s kidney.

Eculizumab is a fairly new drug and my doctors had asked if I would be willing to try this new experimental drug.  It had been used at UCSF before but only with compatible blood type transplantation.  My doctor mentioned that I would be the first to try this drug at this hospital, who has had an incompatible blood type transplant.  I asked him what the side effects would be and he mentioned a whole bunch including Meningitis.  I was like wonderful.  But they said it rarely happens and I thought to myself, what other choice do I really have?  After researching Eculizumab and learning more about it, I found nothing but positive results (Except for maybe the 6 figure cost per dose.  Luckily my insurance covered it).  So we went ahead and did the first dose of Eculizumab which is through an IV and lasts about 30 minutes.  I have to admit I was a little scared and concerned about what would happen to me regarding the side effects.  I waited, and waited…. luckily, all I experienced was a flushed face.  Thank you Buddha.

After 8 days of drugs, plasmapheresis, remembering to pee every hour during the day and every 2 hours at night (this is important because if the bladder becomes too full, it might risk the chance of having the incision in the bladder from the new kidney burst open causing complications), biopsies, and being poked at 4:00 AM every morning for blood work, I finally came home on Tuesday, December 17th.  Since then, it’s been mostly blood work twice a week and plasmapheresis.

Plasmapheresis
Plasmapheresis

Everything has been looking up since then.  My creatinine is stable at around 1, and my titer count is not too high.  Hopefully, within the next couple of weeks I can stop Plasmapheresis completely, and have the catheter in my chest removed (it would make showering that much more enjoyable, but hey, I’m not complaining, I’m so happy to take a shower in the comfort of my own home, in my OWN shower). I couldn’t be happier that my brother is doing so well.  He still gets sore from time to time but usually after a long day of moving around.  I’m pretty much the same way, but am moving around pretty well.

My incision after almost a month.  Still a little bit of glue left.
My incision after almost a month. Still a little bit of glue left.

I hope things continue to be positive and my body accepts my brother’s kidney more and more.  For now, since I’m on so many immunosuppressants, I have to remain in an imaginary bubble, as I’m more susceptible to getting sick.  Guess that leaves me plenty of time to start planning for our wedding (ai yai yai).

Here’s to a new year and a new life!

Game Time

Today is Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Transplant Day. As I wait in my room with my fiancé, I think about how lucky I am to have such loving and supportive people around me. Although, I have told my fiancé, Scott, to go home, instead of staying here over night, he is too stubborn and won’t listen to me. I told him he won’t get any sleep, especially tonight because it is a critical time where nurses will be in and out of our room often to check on me. But, he insists and I can’t complain… I’m just grateful to have him by my side.

Thinking positive thoughts, wish all the best for my brother, my hero,  who has sacraficed a great deal for me… I only hope I can repay him back in some way, and I’ll sure as hell try my best when I see him again and with him literally being a part of me.

Thanksgiving With A Little Plasma…

First, I’d like to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  It’s been a rough week with my Plasmapheresis treatments and a bit of a hiccup last night.

Yesterday, my blood cell count was really low and they said I have severe anemia, in which I would need a blood transfusion.  Because there’s no way to get every single drop of blood back into my body from the treatments, and I have been doing the treatments everyday, it’s not a surprise that I was going to need a blood transfusion.  After my Plasmapheresis yesterday at 1pm, I ended up staying at the hospital until 11pm last night and had my next treatment this morning.  I’m a bit exhausted but found out good news from my nurse this morning that my titer count is low and at the level it should be and my blood cell count went back up.  My GFR went down to 8, but everything is going as planned and I have 4 more treatments to go.

photo 3IV for my blood transfusion

photo 2My lovely bag of Blood type O+

There are so many things to be thankful for, it’d take forever to list… be grateful for your health, your friends, your job, the roof over your head, the opportunities you are given and of course your family. I am forever grateful/fortunate for the love and support of my family, and the love of my life…with them I am never lost.

I am also thankful for the Friends Thanksgiving Marathon that was on while I was doing my Plasmapheresis 🙂

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I hope you all have a wonderful Turkey Day! Cherish every smile/laughter/hug/moment and live for TODAY!

“It’s not what’s on the plate that matters… it’s what’s on the chairs.”

 

So Close….. Yet So Far….

So today is November 7th….

NO surgery.

In the past 3 weeks I have been busy with my Plasmapheresis and getting everything scheduled for my transplant today. Unfortunately, the last two treatments out of the 6, seemed to not have done much in lowering my titer count.  If you don’t like blood, I suggest you don’t look further into this entry.

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These pictures aren’t all that bad to me but I know some of my friends can’t stand the sight of blood.  These are a few pictures from my Plasmapheresis treatments.  A catheter was inserted on Friday, October 25th… probably not the most fun I’ve had, but it wasn’t too bad.  My neck was just really sore after they inserted it and sleeping was a bit difficult the first couple of nights.  Felt like someone punched me really hard in the neck.  After 3 treatments, my neck seemed to be pretty much fine and the treatments are pain free.

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image_1My machine.

image_5My fabulous fashion statement.

Treatments took about a couple hours the first two times, and each time after was shorter.  The very last one was about 50 minutes.

So, after preparing for the past few months for this transplant to take place today, I was told yesterday that my titer count was not low enough.  Which will result in most likely more treatments and a new surgery date of… December…. most likely in the beginning of December.  As much as I want to be furious and upset, and all the emotional frustration that I am experiencing right now, it doesn’t make sense to cry about it.  It is better to be safe than sorry, and to make sure everything is done correctly in order to have a successful surgery.  After all, I am extremely lucky to be receiving a kidney as quickly as I am.  A month is nothing compared to people who have been waiting 10+ years for a kidney.

For all my survivors out there, keep your head up and stay strong!

“A strong person knows how to keep their life in line.  With tears in their eyes, still manages to say, ‘Nah, I’m fine.'” – Unknown

Ready… Set… Transplant!

After months of testing, evaluating, waiting, and more waiting…

My brother and I are good to go for our kidney transplant on November 7th!  We have met all the criteria for an incompatible blood type transplant and my titer count was not too high.  I will have to go in for 6 Plasmapheresis treatments every other day for the next two weeks prior to my transplant and will have a medication infusion done the day before my surgery.  I am told I will be very tired after each treatment, but I am just so lucky things are going so well right now.

I’m so amazed at the advances in medicine and the possibilities with incompatible blood type transplants.  It truly is a wonderful thing knowing that there are other advancements in transplantation where it can still take place with different blood types.  With a waiting list of about 95,000 and an average wait of 5-7 years for a kidney, hopefully with the ability to perform more and more incompatible blood type transplants, that number will slowly decrease and more patients will receive a kidney sooner.

Visit http://www.kidney.org to help donate and to help save a life.

With that said, I had a little time to do some early Halloween nails:

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“When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.” – Uknown

Stay positive and never give up!