Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Experience 1: the first compatibility test

[This is an entry based off my recollection from the experience whilst it's still fresh. However, if those who were there remember things or what we were told a little differently, I welcome you to point it out]

The day's activity

The day before yesterday saw myself and my troop go for the first (but what we hope is the only) compatibility test for a new kidney. It was a very, very long, yet information filled afternoon.

We arrived at Hammersmith Hospital for our 2pm appointment, met with our contact, and were led into the room we'd be based in for the next 3 hours. The meeting started with her, for the next half hour, detailing what we could expect from now til recovery. She also handed information packs to each donor.
Then, each donor was taken away, along with their 24 hour urine sample, for the blood/pressure tests.
Oh yeah, don't think I've mentioned that.
Each donor had to collect their pee for 24 hours before hand. I was highly amused by the idea!
Anyway. these were decanted into bigger containers, then approximately 7 vials of blood samples were taken from each and family/medical history noted.
Whilst Tom was being prepped for his blood test, mum and I went to get my ECG done (they stick a number of pads on the left side of the body from legs to arms, your heart is monitored and the results printed out, all within a minute or so, to then give to the contact there and then).
I came back in time to witness Tom have the most interesting blood test experience out of us all.
We're sat in the appointment room, when we suddenly hear a shout. As the nurse had been joking around with us from the beginning, we thought she was just being a bit silly with someone else until my mother perks up and says 'I think that was a shout for help...'
I stick my head outside, see someone run past me and realise the shout came from next door....where Tom is.
Oh dear god!
I peg it there and see he's slumped in the chair....pale as anything.

Yup. Tom passed out.
And as he's a big man, the tiny nurse had called for help, having struggled to keep him in the chair.
Apparently, after the blood was taken, he felt a bit off, closed his eyes, had a random hallucinatory thought (he was out for a couple of seconds), then woke up with the seat lowered so he was lying flat, surrounded by nurses and with my face looming over him. Turns out the reason he's never passed out whilst donating blood is because he's always lain down, so didn't realise he had a chance of fainting with just the 7 vials.
I was already feeling a little stressed and tired due to not having slept properly the night before. And as I have a habit of throwing up, then feeling absolutely awful when I faint these days, I took note of Tom's reaction and decided to lie down for my own procedure. Especially if I needed to drive us home and look after Tom.
In the spirit of Tom having a blah, let me introduce you to the writing blog he's been working on for a while, including some more recent, literary shorts called 'The Aether Collection':

We were finished by 4.45pm. Except for Tom fainting, it was a painless experience. I'm not a wuss at having my blood taken. In fact, I'm pretty much an expert to the point where I know when a nurse is doing something wrong (it's happened). However, this was a big one.

And now the facts learnt on the day:

Compatibility testing involves 2 levels:

1) The ones we did was for blood, antibody and tissue compatibility
  • Blood type - I'm 0+ which annoyingly appears to be one of the less common ones. Of course!
  • Antibody test - recipient and donor blood is put together in a test tube and checked for a reaction. No reaction is what you want as that means there's less chance of rejection.
  • Tissue compatibility - again, our tissue has to work together to further prevent rejection. This is why a family member, especially the mother, is the ideal candidate.
2) Once we've chosen a donor from the available successes, the donor gets a full physical to check their overall health. They check everything. No really...e-ve-ry-thing. There are MRI scans and X-rays involved. Donating a kidney is probably one of the healthiest things you can do as they give you a full service and, if your kidney suits, will help treat any issues which may come up (if they can).

The blood samples are sent off and, within 3-4 weeks, each donor will be contacted and informed of the result. My specialist is then given all the information required, I meet up with him and we go over all the options, for example: it's possible one donor might have 2 out of 3 elements which match, whilst another donor is the reverse. Based on which donor would work best for me, I could potentially undergo treatment to give me a better chance for one of those kidneys.
The most common match is a relative. Though, if mum's a match, she's also a mature woman so her organs will be older than mine. If I get hers, I MIGHT need another transplant in the future. However, she's also extremely healthy which might increase the chances of success and longevity. 

If we're lucky enough to have a successful candidate from the blood tests, we undergo the second level of testing: the scans, x-rays etc. There are a lot...and they can take time. And if during this time something comes up in the donor's results to catch the doctor's attention, this is then investigated and potentially treated, adding even more time. It might even turn out that after all that, we're not as compatible as originally hoped or the donor is unable to undergo the surgery.
This right here is the reason I'm eager for a living donor. The emotional intensity of deciding to have the transplant, then the emotional and physical intensity of finding a donor is heavy enough. But if that doesn't come to fruition, and I go on the waiting list, the waiting list is approximately 3 - 5 years. Then there's a chance that even if they do find a kidney, although you're prepped for surgery, you might not be compatible.
What I'm going through at the moment is pretty tiring and can be exhausting.
I can't imagine what being on the waiting list must be like.
Especially for those on a time limit. I'm one of the extremely lucky ones.

One thing that's struck me throughout this whole experience is how relaxed medical professionals seem to be about kidney transplants. Seriously. The leaps and bounds medical science has made to improve such an operation and chances of success is amazing!
The only issue faced is lack of donors. People are often put off due to work, possible pain and the recovery. Chatting with our contact, we were informed of the following:
  • Work: 
the donor needs a week or so to recover in hospital depending on their level of fitness. Then they need to take it easy when they come out. However, recovery is a hell of a lot quicker for them than the recipient. Also, the hospital can help reimburse financial loss as you're taking the time to help a patient out. I'm a little foggy on the details here, but help is given to the donor. 
  • Any pain?: 
It's surgery, there's going to be some, but they combat this two ways - 1) they monitor you almost as much as they monitor the recipient 2) in hospital, you're given a morphine button, so you're able to admit your own pain relief when you need it.
  • The aftermath: 
they ensure you have someone to look after you after the operation. 
Now, the link I'm putting here isn't a preach, plea for myself or pressure to those who've read my blog. It's a request to potentially consider something you might not have considered before.
Organ donation is one of the most amazing things you can do: it involves giving someone a new lease of life and is one of the most rewarding things you can do. And you've read the experience I'm currently undergoing. Imagine someone further along than me with less chance of a living donor.

So, consider donation...and the difference it makes.

So what now? Yesterday, I was exhausted and slept like a log, but I'm feeling pretty fragile at the moment. The tests pretty much took it out of me. 
And am I in anticipation of the next few weeks? Nah not really. The months have passed pretty quickly and I've some things coming up this month which should keep me nice and busy. I know roughly when I should hear back and that helps. 

We should hear around Christmas time whether or not I'll have a potential donor (they have to pass the physical tests too, but still). One hell of a Christmas present, huh. 

1 comment:

  1. Er, suggests that O+ is the single most common blood type in the UK, at 37% of the population. Next is A+, at 35%. After that you drop all the way to 8% for B+.