Chopped Liver - A Community for Live Organ Donors and Recipients

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What I have in common with the depths of the Bradford freezer

Many of you have passed along goodies about livers -- New Yorker cartoons, quirky news tidbits from wire services, links to blogs and other Web sites -- and they've all been good for a smile if not a giggle. But nothing yet has matched a hilarious email that Colleen recently sent me. She warned that rogue organ-for-money harvesters might catch wind of my donation and try to buy my liver out from under Joe. To help me fend off such scoundrels, she sent a photo of an ancient item her sister dug out from the depths of the Brad-Z Ranch freezer. "Note that this liver is clearly marked 'Not for Sale.' Should you do something similar?" Well done, Colleen. I've scrawled this on my belly in black Sharpie.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Our next big holiday: T-Day

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope your holiday was abundant and joyful!

T-Day is exactly three weeks from tomorrow, a stretch of time that feels endless to my family. Now that my trip and Christmas are over, however, to me the day feels especially close considering the billion things I need to get done in the meantime. A quick update:

Randall, my viral bronchitis: He's swimming with the fishes, so to speak. I left him somewhere in the Caribbean. Feel great now.

Joe: Hanging in there. We had a good time at Christmas together, solving an incomprehensibly difficult jigsaw puzzle and unwrapping gifts and all.

Aruba: Blissful. I recommend the Radisson property to anyone, but not necessarily the island itself -- there's not much nightlife or topography to explore beyond the beach. Bermuda is better. A special shout-out to Viktor, Serge, Kit and Torrey, wherever you are!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Meet my viral bronchitis

Say hi to Randall. Judging by the way my chest feels, he has achieved slimy dominance over about the bottom fourth of my lungs. Typically, the doctor would have diagnosed a virus and flung me from his office with a handshake, but it's funny how a little impending liver donation can attract attention. Instead, after careful discussion about timing and risks, he said that Randall is harmless as far as the surgery is concerned, and that he should probably go away on his own within one week. If that doesn't happen, he said, Randall will probably have developed into a bacterial bronchitis infection, which could impact the surgery. So he sent me off with a scrip for Zithro to take only if the coughing gets worse. And I got a little lecture in why it's a good idea to get the flu shot and use Purell. In any case, there should be no cause for concern. I bested Larry; I can handle this guy too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Karma strikes again

Hm, no sooner did I brag about my fancy trip when my nasty cold took a turn for the worse. This truly is starting to seem like someone's watching. I'm visiting the doc tomorrow because I have a tendency to pick up bronchitis now and then. Interesting dynamic... I'm not sure I can take antibiotics now, given that we're within a month from the transplant date. One more question to add to my list for the team.

Also, I've tried finding a Twin Cities-based transplant support group, in the hopes that I might get connected with a local who has donated his or her liver -- someone to lean on for assurances and empathy, and someone to pepper with personal questions (staples or stitches?). Anyone ever heard of one? If so, email me or leave a comment. I'm sure I'll connect with someone eventually, if not in the T.C.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Do you believe in karma?

A few weeks ago my employer hosted its annual company-wide campaign to raise money for a well-known national charity, and as always, I ponied up. In three years, I've never won any of the lucrative prizes that the company and the charity sponsor as donation incentives. But this year I won a mac daddy, just one week after Chopped Liver made its online debut: A free trip to Aruba for two! Do you believe in karma? I do today!

Black-out dates limited us to going by December 20 or sometime next May-September. My lucky friend
Amanda and I were planning to go next summer, then, but after my surgery date was delayed into mid-January, we decided to squeeze it in before the holidays. We leave Friday for a six night vacation -- one more blissful romp in the sun for my scarless mid-section! I'm packing three bikinis, one juggernaut bottle of SPF 30, flip flops and some beach reads.

Friends and family: I'll understand if you excommunicate me from your thoughts and prayers for the week. Please promise to resume feeling sorry for me when I return, though! Remember... liver transplant! Karma!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chopped Liver's day in the Sun

Chopped Liver enjoys a day in the public sun today -- literally, thanks to the generous attention of the Baltimore Sun's intrepid blog expert (and long-time friend of mine) Troy McCullough. A special welcome to any of the paper's readers who have ventured here from his column today! I'm grateful for your interest and concern. If you're compelled to start from the beginning -- which wasn't too long ago -- see the November archives link in the right-hand column. I promise fun posts on liver biopsies and fat cells named Larry, and in one post I managed to use both "bile leak" and "joy." Where else can you find stuff this good?

I created this site to chronicle my own personal journey, not to construct a soap box for organ donation and awareness, but I can't pass up the opportunity to share some critical and under-emphasized facts that could save lives in your community and around the world.

Of the 17, 488 people in the U.S. on the national list for a donor liver, 2,523 are in the region including Maryland, Delaware, D.C., New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. In Maryland alone, there are 482 people awaiting liver transplants. These people need an organ to survive, yet only a fourth of them will receive one in time. The U.S. faces an organ donation shortage, exacerbated by misunderstandings of what it takes to donate one's organs after death.

Many believe checking the "organ donor" box on a driver's license is sufficient. Not true! The only way to ensure you will be treated as an organ donor is to document your decision and communicate your wishes clearly to your family or durable power of attorney. The Coalition on Donation offers clear instructions and resources. Please, if you consider yourself an organ donor or want to become one, visit this site soon.

UNOS (the organization that doles out the organs) combats this and other myths with the truth on its Web site, which also offers complete national and regional statistics and several other facts, figures, and resources. I found the above statistics there.

On a final, personal note, if you find my story compelling, please visit often, leave comments, and spread the word. Our surgery date is set for January 18. Thanks for visiting. You have made my day.

Friday, December 09, 2005

T-DAY: January 18, 2005

Stop the presses! Just as I hit "publish" on my previous post, Lorie called to say the surgery is set for January 18. I'll head to Chicago the weekend before. More as it develops.

Filling time with more Q&A

Ho-hum, we wait. No firm date has been established for our surgery, despite the transplant team's promises to give us a date this week, so we're still planning on "mid-January" as instructed last Friday. I haven't posted for a while because there's nothing new to tell, but after fielding several questions from you all, I'm happy to fill the time with another round of Q&A:

Are you scared yet?
Getting there. I suppose my brain's subconscious self-preservation mode has kicked in, because I find it strangely tough to linger on any thoughts about pain, risk of serious complications, and mortality. I try, but just can't concentrate. Everyone's questions and willingness to let me talk their ears off has helped immensely. And there's Christmas to occupy me, too. I imagine that after the holidays the real battle with fear will begin.

How long will you be out of work?
Two months.

Are you taking any classes this spring?
I registered for two B-term classes (negotiations and a strategy elective), and it's highly likely I'll be able to take them. I also registered for ops management, just in case Joe gets a cadaver organ between now and the surgery date and this whole thing gets called off. I'll drop it if the surgery takes place.

Do you have to do anything special to prepare?
Liver calisthenics, daily. Kidding. There's really nothing I have to do, healthwise. I've cut way back on drinking, I'm off all meds, and I'm eating well. I'm also learning to knit, so I can make a blanket while I'm sitting around. I'm working on a health care directive and setting up durable power of attorney forms, stuff like that.

How's Joe?
He's okay. I haven't seen him in a few weeks, but my dad says the family's spirits are up since the uncertainty of whether I could donate has been replaced by a green light. I can relate. My own mood is vastly improved.

And Larry?
Don't know. Haven't seen him. Ha!

Friday, December 02, 2005

IT'S A GO!!!

I am thrilled to report that I was accepted as Joe's donor today! Lorie, my friendly nurse practitioner, called me about an hour ago with the news. The biopsy results showed almost no fatty infiltration (my mockery must have sent poor, rotund Larry running for the hills), and gave the surgeons the last bit of detail they needed to clear me and schedule surgery.

Unfortunately, we have to wait until mid-January to do the operation. My veins are slightly dilated (a condition known as "mild sinusoidal dilation") due to some medication I had been taking until about three weeks ago. I need to have been off it for two months before they can do the transplant. That puts the surgery date on January 18, give or take a week based on surgeon availability. Lorie will give me the exact date early next week.

As for Joe (who makes his long-awaited Chopped Liver debut in a must-read comment in the previous entry), he's happy, I'm happy, we're all happy. This is the news we so badly wanted. Now we wait. And enjoy Christmas, to the extent we can with this hanging over our heads. I'll post by tomorrow a Q&A regarding what happens next.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Love runs in the family

Comments are as fun as little surprise presents on a random rainy day. I love seeing your notes -- please keep them coming! My dad left a comment on the previous entry that's too amazing and touching to leave buried under the tiny link, so I'm showing it off here:

Becky, I had an interesting thought as I read the bit about your scar being the shape of a Mercedes Benz symbol. Have you given any thought to the fact that you and Joe will forever carry your grandmother's initial? For anyone reading this, my mother's name was Mercedes and she was a very warm and wonderful person who had a very positive influence on me and my family and everyone else who knew her. Although she is no longer with us physically, I'm sure she is aware of your great loving gesture and you can be sure she will be with you and Joe throughout the entire ordeal and for the rest of your lives. You make us proud!/Dad

Anyone who wonders where I find the strength and love to do what I'm doing need look no farther than my parents. They have cultivated these gifts together for a lifetime.

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