At The Post: Day One (Nov.4 2008)

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2008 at 7:37 am

Alex receives a double lung transplant and does so with flying colours!

I was sitting at my desk at work, booting up the computer and organizing my workday. I hadn’t yet had a coffee when my cell phone rang the tune assigned to Alex (you know, the trumpet sound that heralds the beginning of a horse race). Most unusual to get a call from Alex anytime before noon, the time any self-respecting jazz singer is contemplating starting her day, and as such a cause for concern. She told me in a very serious tone from the other end…”Here we go, baby. Round 2″. 

(Just so you all know, we’d actually been called in before in late August (ie. Round 1). Sort of an “on deck” situation where someone else actually received the lungs and we were sent home exhausted and sad. It did not result in a blog.)

A quick run to the school office to let my fantastic and very accomodating boss know what’s up then bam! racing across town to get Alex to the hospital. There weren’t really many things to pick up at home to bring with us, as we learned through attending info sessions that a transplant patient really needn’t bring much other than a health card and a fistful of prayers. Most of the time immediately following the actual operation is spent in Intensive Care, which can vary from days to weeks. In ICU one isn’t really concerned with “stuff”, so to speak. It is all about healing and coming back into the world.

So…we got up to the hospital lickety split. Admitted, over to Imaging for a chest x-ray. Met Nurse Karen who got Alex prepped, took blood samples, swabs, blood pressure, temp etc etc etc. Alex’s Mom & Dad Connie and John Pangman arrived amongst all of this. A Research Fellow came in and asked many questions, got Alex to sign even more forms and pronounced her “good to go”. He took out a magic marker and signed his initials on her chest above each lung. This all happened so fast we hardly had time to think. The physical marking of Alex’s chest, however, was the first really immediate sensation that this was going to happen for real. The Fellow gave us the word. Operating Room at 12:15pm. 

We then all sat and shared time with each other. Plenty of tears and emotion. Mixed feelings. Fear, trepidation and hope comingled in a hospital room. Part of me wondered how many times this had gone on in this room. These walls wouldn’t talk. I think they would sigh. Or maybe groan. I sat there with Alex and I don’t think I’d ever felt more love for her than right there, right at that moment.

A gurney arrives to transport Alex to the OR. She is very emotional but also very resolved. We joke a couple of times about how it feels as if she is going to play the biggest show she’s ever played. I am so proud of her that she can at once appear so frail and yet so resolved. This is something so much bigger than her yet something she walks right into with open arms. Then next thing you know we are hustled along the hall toward the OR. Meet with the anesthesiologists. Answer more questions. And then…time for us to send her in…

We say our goodlucks, not goodbyes. Maybe a couple of “see you on the other sides”. A few kisses and then we watch them wheel her in. Terrifying. Hopeful. I don’t think I have any adequate way of describing the admixture of feelings we were experiencing together. I hope none of you will ever have to think about it with your loved ones any time soon either.

Up to the 3rd Floor where we wait and wait and wait. We don’t really talk to each other much. It doesn’t seem like the other people in the lounge are inclined to chat much as they wait either. Lots of shuffling through magazines and clearing of throats though.

Texting and phone calls make the passing of time more bearable. You, our friends, are the very best! Then slowly reports started getting passed on…

6:30pm. One lung in. Going smooth, they say. Good thing that the surgeons didn’t have to put Alex on a heart and lung machine when she had only one working (well sort of working) lung in her chest cavity. They tell us 3 hrs to go.

Nice break when Billy Buck (aka Chris Bolton, star of…and screen) brings refreshments. I think they were from Austria and Scotland. Good conversation and distracting poop humour. AND Billy brought a get-well note from Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter for Alex. Don’t even know if Alex knows who Walter Gretzky is. Sweet though.

8:30pm. Surgeon Dr. Keshavnee suddenly emerges as if from through a wall and pronounces the operation a success! Alex is well and stable. He had to transfuse a fair amount of blood as the old left lung was a tough one, but otherwise she is in good repair and awaits us (albeit unconscious) in the Intensive Care Unit. The man looks as if he’s just risen from a comfortable chair after doing the New York Times crossword as opposed to 6 hours in the OR. Clear-eyed and fresh. Fantastic! He’s gone as quickly as he arrives.

9:30pm. We get to have a quick peek in at Alex in the ICU. Connie and I take turns petting her head and talking to her. She looks really good. Can’t wait to get back and see her when she’s conscious. These next days are going to be extremely uncomfortable for Alex. There will be a lot of pain and adjustment. She will probably spend at minimum a week to ten days in ICU while she recovers.

I will keep you as up to date as I can, good friends. Your thoughts and prayers mean the whole world to us!!!!

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