Monday, September 27, 2010


Wednesday, September 22, 2010 ::
My time in the recovery room was a bit of a blur, for the most part. Heavily drugged with Dilaudid, I still remember the moment my sister and mom entered the room to my bedside. I gave them a slippery smile and a thumbs-up, feeling so good about what had just happened. It's times like these that make me so thankful to have such a supportive and loving family. I don't know what I would have done if they weren't there. Presence is comfort and sometimes words aren't necessary.

From what I've been told, my surgery lasted 2 hours and I spent 2 hours in recovery. I remember the young man wheeling me from recovery to my room and joking with me about my crush on Derek Jeter. (Apparently he is on my mind when I'm unconscious too!) Sliding my body over from the gurney to my hospital bed was excruciating. This young man that seemed so cute and appealing only moments before was now the sounding board for every foul word I could utter - poor little fella. Anyhow, I'm in bed and then the parade of nurses and attendants begin their grand entrance. As you all know, it never stops, for the duration of your stay. Every 15 minutes someone is entering the room with a request to poke and prod. Forget sleeping because you know the minute you're just starting to fall into a nice snooze, housekeeping feels the need to empty your garbage can.

Surgery was Wednesday morning and by early evening that night, the nurse had me up and walking. That first time getting out of bed was hell, I'll admit it. I can't decide which was more painful - navigating all the IV and catheter tubes while trying to walk, or putting one foot in front of the other to make my way down the hall. If they have those little clips for all your electronic wires at home why can't they come up with some nifty little device that just clamps all that shit together in one convenient tube? I felt like a fly caught in a spider's web. Help, get me outta here! Oh, and they have these cute little signs in the hallway that mark every 50 feet so you can track the distance you've traveled on your "Road to Recovery". Hey, I have an idea, how about a rest-stop every so often with a little stand that could offer pain meds and cool beverages to get you through your next 100 feet or so? No?

Thursday, September 23, 2010 ::
Didn't sleep at all Wednesday night. I mean, at all. That bed, NO, it's not a bed, it's a giant maxi pad strapped to chicken wire, was the most uncomfortable thing I've ever been horizontal on. Seriously, the shiny, linoleum floor was looking pretty damn good by about Thursday night. Thursday morning was hell, again. My back and abdomen felt like it had been gutted and left open for the vultures to snack on. Ugh, the pain. More Percocet, please? Ah, how sweet it is. My first meal: bagel with cream cheese and jelly, apple juice, apple sauce, hard-boiled egg and hot tea - yummy!  A can of 9 Lives would have tasted good, since I hadn't eaten since 1:30 on Tuesday. I was so excited to be able to brush my teeth and wash my face. Not so excited to look in the mirror however. Maybelline, where are you?

Since the bed was so uncomfortable, and I couldn't sleep, I walked. And I walked, and I walked. Little did I know I would complete a 5K while hospitalized. It's the best thing for me, I know, and it truly is the quickest method to recovery. They told me I could go home Thursday night but since my family hadn't made plans to come pick me up until Friday, I stayed another night. I did manage to sleep 2 full hours that evening and it was like heaven.

Friday, September 24, 2010 ::
Friday morning, the surgeon stopped in to give his discharge approval and checked the womb. He said I had 'beautiful insides' and that my nephrectomy (big medical term meaning... kidney extraction) was one of his smoothest. Yeah! Seriously, this was a huge compliment to me and I felt so flattered. This, is precisely why I feel it's so important to live a healthy life. My motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle is so that my organs, bones, blood and brain stays strong and solid to carry me for many, many more years.

The best news I received that morning was via a phone call from California from the recipients' transplant coordinator, Suzanne. I knew on Thursday morning that her transplant was successful, but had not heard any updates since.  Suzanne wanted to share with me the news that my recipient did indeed wish to contact me! You can't imagine how happy I was to hear this. As I wiped away the tears, Suzanne told me how she read my letter to the recipient and her family after she came out of recovery. She said that they were all so touched and repetitively told Suzanne to tell me 'thank you', over and over. I decided that I wanted my recipient to initially contact me via email, as opposed to a phone call. I'm really drugged up and knew that I would be for days, the last thing I wanted was to be incoherent or half asleep when I received that special call. So, as you can imagine, I have been checking my inbox every hour with anticipation of seeing a new email pop up from my special partner.


I'm really happy here, but the Percocet has temporarily frozen my facial expressions.

My mom and brother-in-law arrived at 10:15am to take me home. The hospital gave me my Award of Appreciation and it's evident that my sister gave explicit instructions to my BIL to capture every Kodak moment available. And he did. Pretty, aren't I? 

Secured in the passenger seat, surrounded by pillows and glossed over with
yet another dose of painkillers for the rode!

May I say that the 3 hour ride from NY to my apartment was quite possibly the most uncomfortable, and longest, car rides of my life. Every little bump felt like a punch to the gut. Soooooo painful and all the pillows in the world couldn't have softened the blows. But, I made it, and pulling in my driveway was a moment to remember.

As excited as I was to exit the vehicle at home, every tiny movement hurt.

I'm home now, and so comforted by my own bed and my affectionate cat. I am sleeping all the time, or so it seems. I have to walk daily, and I do. My appetite is kicking in again but my stomach won't absorb too much food right now. Little bites and small portions, and lots of water. I feel great. I am so happy that I did this and would do all over again tomorrow, but then I wouldn't have any kidneys left at all. I am anxiously anticipating the email from my recipient and can't wait to share a part of that with you all.

My journey through all this has been probably the most meaningful experience in my life, and it's only just begun. I hope to become a mentor in the living donor community and make it my mission to spread the word about the option of being an altruistic living kidney donor. I would not have been able to do any of this without the unconditional love and support of my family. I am so blessed to have them in my life and be there for me when I need them most. I have wonderful and caring friends that have been so kind and caring during my recovery and I want you all to know how much your cards, emails, gifts and phone calls have meant to me. I love you all.

Until next time... could someone please go running for me? I miss it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

piece of cake

My surgery went off beautifully at approximately 6am on Wednesday, September 22, 2010, and was a success for both me, and my recipient. I want to share with everyone the many details of the procedure, and my path to recovery that I've begun, but I will warn you that my writing skills will be less than average. Me and Percocet have started a beautiful relationship and I gotta say, it's a lovely ride but I'm a lil' bit foggy. I'm a lot-a-bit foggy.

Given that, let's get the party started...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 ::
Mom and sis accompanied me to NY's Weill-Cornell Hospital where I began a day of pre-op testing at 10am. The usual pokes and prods, and I finally got to meet my surgeon, Dr. David Leeser. (Whom I might add wasn't all that bad on the eyes if ya know what I mean...) One track mind, I know. Anyhow, he proceeded to explain details of the procedure and didn't neglect to leave out the risks. I felt confident and secure with his ability, as I had done so much research on this facility and the team - I knew I had made the right decision to have my surgery at this hospital.

My breakfast that morning, at 7am, consisted of a large Starbucks latte and a berry muffin. I had plans to literally pig-out later that afternoon, in preparation for my big fast after 6pm that evening. At about 1pm, I was informed that I would not be allowed to eat anything else from that moment on. Whuh? You're kidding me, right? So, I ran downstairs and grabbed a banana and Nutri-Grain bar from the deli and inhaled it, with tears in my eyes. Instructions were given for me to begin my 'bowel cleanse' cocktail at about 4pm to prepare my pipes for surgery, drinking only 5 oz. of the 10 oz. bottle, which by the way I had to trek out and purchase myself because I'm sure that they didn't have any of those stocked up in the hospital anywhere. My first stop at the pharmacy one block away resulted in a wasted trip because they were out. Pharmacist sends me 4 blocks to yet another pharmacy that I never could find. So, I set out on an adventure to find one on my own. Walked another 4 blocks and saw a big 'DRUGS' sign in the distance and sprinted towards my destination. They had one bottle left and from the looks of it, it quite possibly could have been on that shelf for as long as I've been alive. I take it back to my room, brush of the dust and start nursing it at about 3:30pm, chugging lots of water with every sip.

Delicious, and refreshing!

Fast forward to about 7pm and I got nuthin'! Nuthin'! I'm getting a little concerned and decide to chug the last 5 oz. of the 10 oz. bottle and at 11pm I still got nuthin'. Little did they know that a Big Mac would have done the trick in less than 5 minutes, but nooooooo. Let's just say that at 3am I was awakened by a dance party in my belly that I would never welcome at any other time in my life but at that moment was ecstatic, and I raced to the bathroom.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 ::
I arrived at the hospital at 4:45am and was greeted by a security guard that would not allow us in. I said, "Don't you know who I am?" "I'm here for a kidney donation, and my surgery is scheduled for 5am." He proceeds to tell me that nurses don't  even arrive until after 5:30am. I call my coordinator, she gets him on the phone and I think rips him a new one, and he lets us in. We proceed to check-in and that's where the Stimpson clan begins to have some fun. Anyone that knows my family, knows we can't possibly go anywhere without behaving inappropriately and violating at least one rule. My sister and her digital camera did a great job documenting the morning's event and as you can see from the photos, acting like an ass comes naturally for those of us blessed to be a part of this gene pool.

Sneaking in a little performance before the transplant team arrives.

Getting caught in the act treating the pre-op like it's a playground.

More blood is drawn, IVs are shoved into what appears to be any available vein in both my arms, vitals are taken, my signature is slapped on yet another dozen or so documents and they give me this beautiful ensemble to don.

The Fall 2010 Donna Karan lounge collection.

Why can't they make these gowns available in primary colors?
Just think, if they were red they would never show blood stains.

Dr. Leeser greets me, marks my belly and then proceeds to share with me his intention of getting a cup of coffee before he meets me in the O.R. "Hey chief, can you make it a decaf?  Please?"

Members of the transplant surgical team slowly make their arrival and introduce themselves to me. A (hot) male nurse comes in to the waiting room to get me and I begin my walk to the O.R.

Bye-bye, Mommy.  Bye-bye, sis.

Shortly after this moment, I met with the anesthesiologist, and yet another surgeon. Why is it that it's times like these that I am in the presence of what seems to be a squad of Chippendale dancers and I look like death? Hello? Was being GQ model material part of the prerequisite when you all took your medical board exam? Really? I'm anticipating a slew of overweight, middle-aged, angry female nurses and I walk into a room full of men that resemble the Australian soccer team - and I have to get nekked in front of these yummies. I digress.... I'm asked my name, for the 15th time, and they strap me down on the table. That's it. I'm in la-la land and the next thing I see is a nurse leaning over me in the recovery room.

As I said, the Percocet is driving my moves as I recover and I need to wrap up this blog session. I have much more to share, if you can stand it. I hope to return this evening with Part II of the surgery as my recovery experience begins to unfold.

Until next time... this lady is gonna take a pause and pray for a bowel movement to happen in the next 24 hours or my head is going to spin around and I'm gonna spit blood at anyone in my path.

Monday, September 20, 2010

i'm ok, solo

I'm scheduled for surgery at 5:00am on Wednesday, September 22nd at Weill-Cornell in NYC, and my most important concern is... will my cat miss me? Of course she will and she'll make my life a living hell when I return home by howling in the middle of the night for approximately 3 days to 'show me' just how much she cares. The only reason I keep her around is to remind myself how important it is to compromise and share with your companion. The way I see it, this is just good dress rehearsal for when Derek Jeter decides we should shack up together, only I'll be the one howling in the middle of the night. Oh dear... ok, moving on...

I wish I had a dime for every time someone asked me, "Are you nervous?" Because if my best friend was getting a boob job on Wednesday, I'd be asking her the same thing. The answer is, "NO, I'm not." I'm anxious, and I think that's a little different. To be honest, for the latter part of the day I've been thinking about my recipient and wondering if she has concerns at this point. I don't know about you but if someone was giving their kidney to me, I wouldn't be convinced it was a reality until I saw the surgical scar from the transplant to prove it. I wish I could tweet her or something to let her know it's all snug as a bug here and anxiously awaiting it's new home, but I don't tweet. I would tell her that I have not even come close to changing my mind, or wishing I hadn't chosen this journey. I'm so thrilled to be a part of this and not for one minute have I had a second thought about my decision. I have complete confidence in the transplant team and I am thoroughly prepared for my recovery and the patience that it will require from yours truly.

During this process, many have asked about my concerns regarding the health and fitness abilities I might have after this donation. I truly feel my active lifestyle will not be impacted because I will be left with only one kidney. I'm ok, solo. I intend to regain my strength and fitness ability in time, and am going to focus on being even stronger and healthier than I am now. I want to create new running goals and work on new challenges to keep me motivated and energized. It's so important for me to stress to everyone that living with one kidney does not increase limitations for people, physically. If I played football or participated in a contact sport, this procedure would not have been an option, because the risks are too great that I might be hit or injured severely enough to damage an organ. I gave up MMA last year for bird-watching so I'm all set.

I feel fantastic, mentally and physically. Although I'm still a little sore from my Warrior Dash on Saturday. I've never felt more alive than when I was participating in that crazy event and can't wait to do it again. I'm happy I had the opportunity to get one last race in so close to the surgery date. I'll just have to wait, patiently, for my body to heal and with any luck I'll be up and running again very soon.

Warrior Dash - Windham Mtn.    -    Muddy, but happy!

Warrior Dash - Windham Mtn.
Friends surprised me at the finish line with Donate Life banner -
perfect ending to a great race!

Tomorrow I leave home at 6:00am and will have my first appointment for pre-op at 10:00am. I then get to meet my surgeon and will be asked for one last time (I hope) to give more blood. I'm gettin' good at this game! I'll be given a lovely cocktail of some crappy tasting rotgut at 6:00pm tomorrow night to get the plumbing all cleaned out and then after what will most likely be no more than a few hours of sleep, I will be admitted for surgery at 5:00am on Wednesday.

My mother and sister will be traveling with me and they will stay with me until the doctor tells security to escort them out of the hospital for loitering. I'm grateful that I have such a wonderful relationship with my family and am thankful to them for being there for me. Now the nurses might have a different opinion but what do I care, I'll be in 'happy land' and oblivious to any chaos they might be stirrin' up to divert from their boredom.  I hope to be discharged on Friday.

I'm looking forward to sharing more when I return this weekend. I hope to be feeling well enough to visit the blog at least once and provide an update to everyone. That is if Derek will allow me to spend time away from him. (He can be so controlling at times... ugh.)

Until next time... I'm asking all my followers to please pray for my recipient, that her body accepts my kidney and that she will be able to live a much fuller life now!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

runnin' for my recipient

My surgery date has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 22, 2010!

Sure did sneak up on me, but something told me that I would not be receiving too much of an advanced notice. (A kidney-shaped 'Save the Date' card would be a nice touch, dontcha think?)  I received notice about 2 weeks ago but waited to share with everyone until I got some nugget of confirmation. The transplant coordinator at UCLA called me on Thursday to let me know that I will be required to get one more blood draw. Yep, I get to do that all over again. It was so much fun the first time! I will be FedEx'ing my blood to UCLA on Tuesday for one last final analysis by the brainiacs that calculate this crazy statistical matching process of blood types. At least it's crazy to me because I'm lost after a two-step math problem. They are so smart!

I will be sharing the itinerary of my surgery once I get it and I expect it to go something like this...
I get there and they adorn me with a beautiful, satin hospital gown, feathery slippers and a glass of Pinot Grigio to soothe me. I am transferred to a palacial, private room with soft jazz playing in the background and aromatherapy filling the air. There is a flat panel, hi-def, 40-inch TV with an unlimited number of new release flicks and a fridge filled with chocolate covered strawberries, wine, imported cheese and fresh fruit. The bed is laced with only the best Egyptian cotton sheets and a thoughtful nurse has placed a smokin' hot photo of Derek Jeter (nekked) on my bedside table with his personal thoughts and best wishes scribed on it.

Ok, it might not go exactly like that, but I'm certain it will be very, very close to it.

I'm back from la-la land. This past year I set a goal to run (5) 5Ks before the end of the year. I've exceeded that and I gotta say that it's not getting easier. I suck at it. Many of my friends are elite runners hammering out 10 mile runs on their 'easy' training days. Ugh, are you kidding me? Are you stupid? Not only is my running becoming more of a challenge, my pace is dropping, slowly. I've never been a competitive person, and truly could care less if I won or lost a card game, Monopoly, or a hot dog eating contest. My biggest competitor is myself. I'm my own worst critic and while some might say that's not exactly a healthy approach, I don't really know any other way to achieve my goals. I have always felt weird trying to 'beat' anyone, at anything. To be honest, this thing called running is a huge struggle for me. My form is pathetic, I need to nourish myself better in preparation for it and my 'everything' hurts, every time. But, it's so rewarding when I finish a race and just being able to cross the finish line is enough to motivate me to do another one.

In May, I participated in the kLaVoy 5K, in Saratoga Springs. This annual fundraiser supports Donate Life in memory of Kristen Lavoy, a local woman and kidney transplant recipient who lived freely for 15 years because of this gift.

My sign I wore, pinned to my rain-soaked jacket, during the race.

Prior to the start of the race I was introduced to Jen Salm, who is with the Donate Life Center for Donation & Transplant. She is involved with organ procurement and gave me valuable and interesting facts regarding organ donation. She is yet another special person that came into my life and impacted me on my decision to become a living donor. Thanks, Jen!

I'm running for my recipient now, and have been since I received medical clearance in July. Every time I run I have my recipient on my mind. I'm sweating and gasping for air and thinking how much pain I'm in. Then I think about the pain and discomfort she must endure every day. Her challenge is not an option, mine is. Just when I think I want to give up, or slow down, or puke (yep), I am reminded how lucky I am that I have the ability to push my body like this and I'm inspired to keep going.

Only ten days until my surgery to get in a few more hardy runs. I'm going to give it my all to be strong and complete my workout goals this week. I have my Warrior Dash race on Saturday, and I am so excited to be a part of this!  I just hope that my kidney doesn't fall out when I'm diving through mud pits and climbing over walls. I'll slap some duct tape around it prior to the start. Duct tape is the solution for everything.

I'm dedicated to being very healthy this week - in mind, body and soul. I've put down the tequila shooters, glazed donuts and chicken wings. The cha-cha heels that have smoked up the dance floor in Saratoga the past 5 weekends are in the storage closet. I've put my bungee jumping and sky diving events on hold. I'm finished with my freelance projects and will be getting some solid sleep this week. The only diversion from my clean-living week is the dysfunction junction I must attend daily, called work.

Until next time... I've begun my annual hibernation preparation at the homestead. Fleece and wool have replaced the summer apparel, and I'm in mourning. :-(