Mom's Heart Transplant Story Pt 2
When we woke the next morning, things started to get moving. The teams were getting aligned to go get the organs from the donor and then all make their way to their recipients. It’s just incredible in it of itself, multiple teams, multiple people waiting and waiting for an organ. This poor girls life was ended far too early, she was only 20 years old. We still don’t know how or why… but God took this awful tragedy and SAVED so many lives through her. He makes all things new.
Everything is a long process, but around 1:30pm they started getting Mom ready in Pre-op. The day looked very similar, just lots of praying and waiting.
During all of this waiting and heightened emotions, the doctors still don’t know if the heart is a complete match until they look at it themselves in person. So here we are, getting ready for Moms surgery, praying, waiting… and still unsure what the next hour could look like if it isn’t a good match.
At 3pm, the doctors had made it to the heart and called the anesthesiologist to let him know that the HEART WAS A GOOD MATCH and to start surgery. We hugged Mom so tight, crying, scared, excited, not knowing if this would be the last hug we’d give her. They wheeled her off and I think it was me, Stephen, my brother and Dad that hugged and cried in the hall. Then we waited some more.
It’s a long surgery, and they actually start surgery before the heart is even at the hospital. They cut her open, and put her on bypass until the heart is ready. We had barely eaten since we had gotten to the hospital the night before, so we grabbed a bite to eat and waited for the calls from the nurses giving updates.
By 5:30pm she was opened up and on bypass, by 5:50pm the heart arrived, and by 6:24pm the heart was in and pumping.
Around 8:30pm we got an update from her doctor who informed us that all went well but she was still in recovery and most likely wouldn’t be able to see her that night. He said we could wait by the entry door as they wheeled her into ICU but we wouldn’t be able to visit. We waited, and waited … I can’t even remember how long. I think it was around 10:30pm and they still hadn’t wheeled her back… My dad and I started to head home and right as we were leaving they wheeled her into the ICU. She had so many tubes and machines all around her, but she was ALIVE. Praise GOD!
The first night after transplant is the most critical, and we were anxious to know if she had made it through the night. I knew what room she was in so I called the hospital and asked if my mom was doing ok and had made it through the night.
Nurse: “I’m sorry, we aren’t allowed to disclose personal information over the phone.”
I’m terrified, was that there way of telling me she didn’t make it? Anxious, I call again with an idea.
Me: “Hi, can I please be transferred to room 304?”
Nurse: “Sure, one moment please…. I’m sorry, the nurse is with that patient at the moment, can you call back in a few minutes?”
AHHHHH!!!!! She’s alive! The nurse is with her!! I didn’t know details, but that was all I needed to know to know that she was at least alive.
I started to head to the hospital to see her and meet up with my dad, but on the way made a pit stop at good ol’ Donut Man. There were so many nurses that had paved the way for her transplant, and I know this is something my Mom would have wanted done. As I waited in line, I was on the edge of tears the whole time thinking of how crazy the last few days had been… the last few YEARS had been… and she’s alive with a new heart. I get to the window and ask for 2 dozen donuts.
Worker: “Oh wow, are you giving these to a company?”
I break into uncontrollable sobbing.
Me: “My mom just had a heart transplant and made it through the night, these are for her nurses and doctors that saved her life.” (as I am wiping snot from my face and ugly crying)
The people in the line were hugging me and rubbing my back as I sobbed and grabbed the donuts, congratulating me on our family’s victory.
I headed to the hospital, ran to the different departments and left donuts and thanked them as I continued to cry, and ran up to the floor my mom was on.
I was greeted by my Moms nurse Lisa. She was amazing, and didn’t leave my Moms side the entire day. She was kind, but also busy making sure Mom was comfortable and had all the meds she needed taken care of (which was entirely impossible to keep track of!) she was a pro, and a large part of my Moms first day of success. Mom was intubated, but awake, she was giving me a thumbs up and I could tell her spirits were good even though she looked like she was in pain. I had some paper and a pen, and she was pointing to it. I gave it to her and she wrote, “Is my face fat?”
WHAT… Oh my word. This woman. haha! Of all she has been through, she was concerned about her face being fat from the steroids she had to be on for her transplant.
Me: “No mom! You look great.”
I was so happy that she had a sense of humor. It was hard to not talk to her, but she wrote notes to us all day making us laugh and was a champ.
One of the first things I did when I got in the room was pull up the sheet to see how her legs were looking. Towards the end of her journey, that was the tell tale sign that her heart was failing, swollen, purple, legs and ankles.
I pulled back the sheet and to my amazement, she had thin, beautiful, fleshy colored legs! It was incredible how quickly a healthy heart started to take care of the rest of her body that had suffered for so long without her even realizing it.
My Dad came into the room weeping. He had just talked to the doctor who filled him in on why it had taken so long the night before for her to get to the ICU. After they were stitching her up, the right side of her heart went into heart failure. The heart had been out of the body 4.5 hours opposed to the typical 3-4 and often times the heart will go into heart failure and the patient doesn’t make it.
They did every measure possible to revive her heart.. meds, and things I am not even sure of. They placed a balloon stint in as well, and miraculously, kept her alive through the night. The doctor had shared with my dad that when he went home that evening, he was sure he wasn’t going to see my mom the next morning, but to his surprise she had made it. He said that the only way she made it through the night was because the heart was so young… a 20 year old heart could recover from that trauma, but a 30 or 40 year old heart wouldn’t have been able to.
God knew. God knew that for whatever reason, she would go into heart failure post op, but because she had a young heart, she would be able to recover. How perfectly orchestrated and ordained. We don’t always understand the ways of the Lord, especially because on the opposite side of this miracle was utter tragedy, but we rest in the sovereignty and power of the Lord that sees beyond what we can see and understands far more than we understand.
This news made us even more grateful to be holding her hand and laughing with her as she wrote us silly things on the cards that first day. We knew the fight wasn’t over, and she had a long road to recovery… but she was with us.
Stay Tuned for Part 3