Kidney Research UK charity
Before I start this post, as one of their Community Champion Volunteers, I'd like to do a quick mention:
Kidney Reseach UK is the leading national charity dedicated to research that will lead to better treatments and cures for kidney disease. Founded in 1961, the organisation has been at the forefront of pioneering kidney research for many years as well as providing information for patients and raising vital public awareness.
You can find out more information on the charity, the research and work they do as well as how you could potentially get involved (whether through events, volunteer work or a donation) HERE
On that note, as I'm unable to do the actual walk itself, I'm aiming to be part of the cheering team for the London Bridge Walk on Sunday 13 July.
Tom's Physical Examination for the Paired Pooling
17th June saw us at Hammersmith Hospital at 8am, having spent the previous night at my parents. We were both exhausted when we arrived at the hospital: as Stage Manager for our current show, Tom's been running around like a headless chicken trying to make sure everything's perfect and that previous evening we'd gone to bed late then woken at 6.30am.
I was just me, so couldn't get to sleep for ages, then had a bad night's sleep.
We were extremely grateful to mum for getting up and giving us a lift to the hospital which is about 15 minutes drive away.
On arriving we walked first into the wrong department too early, then found the Renal department ('oh yeah, now I recognise it') and were immediately called by one of the most helpful people on the live donor team I've ever met, who explained everything, omitting no detail.
First Tom's blood pressure then some blood were taken. We hadn't expected this, so Tom immediately reminded her of his previous experience of having blood taken there and was lain down.
It's rare for Tom to be effected by things, so it's really weird for me to see him go so white! Despite this, he handled it very well.
We were then led to the 2nd floor which apparently had the air conditioner on full blast due to the previously hot weather (not felt at that hour of the day!) then, in our sleep deprived state, we chose seats next to a completely uninsulated window. Tom had no jumper or jacket on him, so I kept covering his arms with my used, therefore warm, leather jacket.
We were freezing by the time he was called for the MRI then Ultrasound.
Whilst we waited in the coldest waiting room ever, we were somewhat amused by one of the hospital TVs showing an ad which contained the underlining message 'Have you faced an issue with the hospital? About anything? Then you must COMPLAIN! COMPLAIN TO EVERYONE! IT'S THE ONLY WAY.'
Pulling ourselves out of our daze, we then went into the NUCLEAR MEDICINE division (Tom informed me you have to say NUCLEAR MEDICINE in a dramatic voice, otherwise it's not as effective). (Warning: mini graphic description impending - On getting called up, Tom had a permanent needle put into his arm for the rest of the day. This device then allowed medical practitioners to inject or remove stuff from him without sticking a variety of needles into his arm and causing him unnecessary pain. I've had this device before and it's really weird as your body immediately goes 'get it out! get it out!'. However, he handled it like a trooper)
Nuclear Medicine is a formula which is injected into the system, the patient waits two hours, blood samples are taken, then another two hours pass (4 hours in total) and another sample taken, to see how well the kidneys have filtered out the chemicals.
It was then that it hit me: I was in a hospital and 1) not having my name called out 2) not the one being poked and prodded. I could actually relax a little. Very strange!
As soon as he had that installed, the first 2 hour wait began. It was now 10am and the first tests having been done, Tom could finally eat something. This came as a huge relief so we immediately decided to go for food. Aaaaand that's when the alarm went off. Really?! Are you kidding me?!
We continue to make our way to the cafe, watching the people around us. After a minute, we realised no one actually seemed to be in any hurry or even care, so we adopted this attitude ourselves and ordered some breakfast as it was far too early for lunch.
The test fire alarm still going, we sat in silence as we ate, conversation nearly impossible. At this point, I became thankful I didn't have a headache. It was that loud.
This gave me some time for contemplation. Tom had told me before hand, they'd shown him his scan results and he'd been able to see his kidneys (something I always find fascinating) and this train of thought then went onto how Tom's built like an oak tree of health so, if he's suitable for the operation, whoever gets his kidneys will be extremely fortunate.
And that's when I broke. It suddenly hit me the magnitude of Tom's action, giving someone else extended life so someone else would do the same for me. I'm mean....wow.
Unfortunately, the sirens STILL blaring, I couldn't explain why I'd suddenly started hiding my face and crying because I didn't want to shout it. So we had to sit there for a minute or two, Tom rubbing my back and me shaking my head in 'I can't respond yet' as he asked if I was ok.
Finally, finally the alarms stopped and I was able to talk.
We both concluded that as well as it being an emotional day, I was also exhausted due to not sleeping well. Finishing off our food, we decided to go outside for a walk...which turned out to be a bad idea. Even in the sun, there was a chill and we promptly lost all the body heat we'd obtained from our snack.
So we decided to return to the NUCLEAR MEDICINE waiting room which was, thankfully, warmer than the MRI waiting room.
So we got as comfortable as we could and read. And listened to music. And attempted to nap. The 2 hours actually passed surprisingly quickly and I was glad to room was basically empty except for us and 1 or 2 other people who would step in then leave soon after for their appointments, giving us free roaming.
12pm finally came round and first bloods taken, we went on a wander to find a restaurant. Here we were forced to pass a tunnel in Hammersmith Hospital which I really hate. It's a lengthy picture of an underwater scene containing rock formations and dolphins. As you walk along the passage, it gives the sensation that you're walking out of the water onto the beach.
Yes, it's actually quite lovely, but being under water can freak me out so the entire painting actually raises my nerves as I walk through it!! I made the statement 'At least it's not spiders' to which Tom responded, 'no that's the other tunnel...near the ECG centre before you exercise. To really get your heart rate going'.
Found the restaurant and had some stew with rice. A bit sad and tasteless to me, but it's amazing what not eating for 4 or so hours, then having tons of blood taken can do to the appetite: Tom, bless him, was in a state of bliss with the food, caffeine and cake with custard.
As it was now midday, we figured it should be warmer outside, so we went and found ourselves a sun patch. I sat with my back to a bollard on the pavement and Tom lay with his head in my lap to try and get some rest before the next tests.
It's funny how lying on a pavement in the sun, by a hospital can get you a ton of attention, either by people staring at you, or a selection of health professionals confirming we were actually ok. I had to give off a dazzling smile and 'everything's fine' a few times!
After a few minutes of that, last bloods were taken and we went to the ECG department were Tom would undertake the most daunting test....the exercise test. Yeah, save the best til last, right?
We got there 45 minutes early and here Tom took the opportunity of an almost empty waiting room and lengthy sofas to just...sleep.
The Exercise test was then had and I called my parents to confirm we'd be on our way home soon.
Here my mother informs me we have tea and Tiramisu waiting for us when we get back home.
Tiramisu is Tom's absolute favourite dish. And oh he was fed all the Tiramisu.
It wasn't the end of the day for us, however, dress rehearsal was next.
And it was during the second act that my anxiety began to peak.
I was exhausted, I was nervous and I kept getting the same mind blank I get when I stand up from a chair, go to another room then think 'why am I here again?'
That further fed my anxiety.
I walked up to Tom and pre-warned him there was a chance I would freak out after the show.
Holding back an anxiety attack when you know a group of people are relying on you is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Epic use of skill here.
The crunch came when the show ended, I picked up my chair and realised it was hooked on something. I shifted it (in the dark) and crash! A glass breaks. Oh god!
Managed to get through the bows, ran back stage, got changed, ran to the cafe and curled up into a ball.
Nope, that didn't work.
Run back stage, found Tom and said 'Tom...need you...now'.
Instantly, my brain engaged 'you're with Tom now, you're safe' and I managed to get behind the scenery before collapsing and hyperventilating. Tom managed to get me breathing and relaxed enough to go back out and curl into a ball in the corner of the stage (where Tom and those in charge could see me, but others couldn't. I put on my music and shut off.
The wolf hound was now up, awake and on the prowl. I needed to be near people, but also couldn't face people talking to me as I would go for them even if they had the best of intentions. I actually think I may have shocked a couple of people who asked me if I was ok, as I was deeply in feral mode at that point, a state they'd never see me in.
The next day, I woke up to depression. I'd completely lost confidence in myself as an actress and my self-esteem was lower than the floor boards.
Fortunately, I had counselling that day and I followed that with a nap which seemed to help.
After a horror previous evening, I'm delighted to say, first night of Hayfever went off beautifully and I came out the other end smiling.
Now just to wait just over 2 weeks for Tom's final result.
Honestly? I'm dreading them.