I’ve had three years of follow-up visits since my transplant. That means three years of blood lab visits and three years of the 108 mile drive from my door to Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts.
And, except for one rejection scare that turned out to be just a virus, I’ve heard words like “remarkable” and “perfect.” I’ve gotten used to the docs and nurses telling me that my blood panels look better than their own. I smile, nod and say thank you like I have anything to do with the result.
Yesterday, I made the trek to Lahey again. I took my dog, Pompom, with me to keep me company. I talk to her and she sits upright with her eyes fixed on me. I swear she understands. I think she even nods sometimes. I can’t get her to sing along to U2 with me though. No interest.
The blood lab was mobbed. The Lahey blood lab is an efficient machine that reminds me of a deli. You get your deli number when you register and then you watch the board on the wall and wait for your number to be called. I hear a phlebotomist step out of one of the 10-12 rooms on the perimeter of the waiting room and call, “36?” I look down to see that I am holding number 66.
“36!” she calls out more loudly. I see a man moving toward her like Tim Conway playing the old man on the Carol Burnett show and think, “uh oh … I might be here awhile.”
When it’s my turn I step through the curtain and take my spot in the blue, vinyl chair with the long arms and give my Lahey number from memory. The phlebotomist looks at me like I’m crazy when the record comes across her screen. Apparently I look nothing like an 82 year old Asian man! That, in itself, is pretty cool because it means I have forgotten my Lahey number. That means I’ve been doing so well that I haven’t had to use that number in a long time. I prefer not being a number. Most people who go through chronic illness feel like they are losing their identity and becoming just a number or the disease they are fighting. That’s how I felt too.
I make it through and head to the cafeteria before my appointment. The routine always includes an hour between having your blood drawn and meeting with your doctor to give time for the results to come in. Lahey is that fast!
We make small talk at my appointment. Dr. Akoad shakes his head and comments on how remarkable the change is from what I was to what I am now. That has to be pretty cool for surgeons who watch you go from nearly dead to living and thriving because of their efforts. He goes through my lab numbers and everything looks great, perfect, spectacular, until he hits the blood pressure reading and pauses to pull his glasses to the end of his nose to lean closer to the screen.
“Woah, what’s going on with this here? You still exercising and riding your bike all over the place?” he asks. I nod and then we talk about life.
To him, my high blood pressure makes no sense physically. My liver numbers are fine so it’s not due to anything going on there. But, I’m not overly surprised at the result. It has been a pretty stressful Spring. I don’t think it’s been worse than anyone else. Life is stress. We all have stress. Stuff happens.
But, I guess it’s a bigger deal with me and something we need to figure out fast,. The strain of high blood pressure on all my little man-made connections to my new liver is not a good thing. Yeah, I guess I knew that.
So, I have to take my BP reading three times a day and record it in a journal for a week. If it goes higher I have to call. The only prescription he gave for right now is to “deal with the stress” in my life, identify the sources and make changes. I need to figure out how to switch off my racing mind. Then, if I fail at that, more drugs are ahead to try to manage it. Neither of us want to add more drugs and more side effects to my routine.
On the good side of things, my anti-rejection prescription was reduced again and I am lighter than I was last November! Yay me! I have to go back to getting monthly blood labs for awhile to make sure the change does not impact my liver numbers negatively but that’s fine with me. I want to be on as little Prograf as possible.
It’s a gorgeous day, the sun is out and the birds are singing. I have a stressful morning ahead but am planning to negate that with 20-30 miles of pedaling this afternoon.
If you are a praying person, pray that I’ll figure this out soon and have the discipline to do what I know I need to do to stay healthy.
I’ll pray that for you too.