Wednesday, 9 October 2013

No Ordinary Day.....

It seems a little unfair on Kath after all her blogs that I get to pen the first one after her transplant but I was always under strict instructions to keep it up to date when it finally happened. Apologies to her regular readers that it has taken me so long but our lives have been turned upside down over the last few days.

So......we can hardly believe we are here and it has actually taken place. The name of Kath's blog seems to have take on a certain resonance since last week and the words in her last entry look almost prophetic now when, discussing the average two year wait, she said "we have reached the destination we have been travelling towards for the last few years."

We had spent a relaxing day on Sunday in the garden on a warm and sunny day which happened to be our wedding anniversary. The conversation had inevitably turned to Transplant with the same conclusion that it was the right choice for us. 

Just as well.

Having made up Kath's iv meds as usual at 6.30am on Monday morning I got back into bed with a cup of tea and the phone rang. Our phone never rings at this time (not even for PPI chasers) so we knew it would be Papworth. 'A possible match. We want to bring you in straight away'.

Kath is calm while I run around like Corporal Jones - contact girls, contact Kath's Mum, get dressed, pack suitcases in my car, ambulance arrives, follow ambulance, call friends and family as I follow behind using hands free, and keep chatting to Kath in vehicle in front. We had imagined the call would come in the middle of the night not Monday morning rush hour. Watching all the commuters with Monday morning blues while we were making a life defining trip seemed incongruous to say the least.

By 8.30am we were on the ward being told the retrieval team were still with the donor so we wouldn't know for a little while whether we were a go or not. Whilst we had priority we were told two other patients were being brought in as back up, one for the heart, one for the lungs. We assumed neither was on the urgent list otherwise they would already have been in hospital and given priority to us.

As the time ticked by, we tracked Rose's progress back from Uni as Oli, Sarah's boyfriend, had gone to fetch her. Meantime, Sarah told her boss at work and arrived to join us with the wait. We knew that false alarms are common place so we were trying not to get too worked up, knowing that we could be back home in a couple of hours. The transplant coordinator, Paul, popped in from time to time but without much hard news until 12.30pm when he appeared with a gown for Kath and said he was 99.99% sure we were going ahead. He would know within five minutes if it was 100% and if so, then Kath would be going down to theatre  pretty much straightaway.  So Kath gets into her gown and for the first time we start to believe that it might actually happen.
12.40 We're on. Kath becomes serene - fully accepting that this is now going to happen an giving herself up to the transplant team. I wheel Kath down to theatre with Sarah and say our goodbyes. Sarah and I try and hold it together (with limited success) we walk back to the ward to collect get her things.
We manage to eat something in the canteen or at least pushed it round the plate awhile. Sarah makes me smile "I know we've been waiting for 2yrs so I think we should have been better prepared". We pass the time chatting and she leaves at 4.30pm only to return at 6.00pm with Oli and Rose. We settle in the critical care relatives room which is actually quite comfy with large settees, soft drinks and a TV. As we find out later in the week this room can get very busy in the week at times and especially at weekends but on the evenings it is quiet and on Monday night we have it to ourselves. Paul pops in occasionally to let us know what's happening and at 7.00pm he says it will be another couple of hours but the new organs are in and all is ok though they are redoing one of the connections to the heart, so he suggests we go and grab something to eat. We do just that and, despite looking like a group of zombies, go to a pub in nearby Elsworth where we all sit with glazed expressions looking blankly at the menu. Oli in particular is zonked having been at work in London at 5.30am then driven to Bournemouth and back to get Rose and then to Papworth. He is close to passing out but manages the meal (just) and we head back for 8.30pm.
We then get introduced to 'Papworth-Time' at 9.00pm when a critical care nurse says we should be able to see Kath in half an hour. Two and a half hours later we are becoming frantic and have by now discovered the red 'batphone' in critical care so we try to find out what's going on. Profuse apologies, taken longer etc etc. At 11.30pm we are led in to see the surgeon Steven Tsui (the clinical director and lead transplant surgeon at Papworth). To be honest not much of what he said sunk in with me (but the kids pieced it together for me afterwards), but he warned us that the new organs were very tired after the ten hour operation, especially the heart, and would require extra support. He didn't say anything necessarily to unnerve us but it was clear from his comments that Kath was very very poorly at this point and he warned us about some of the problems she may face over the next 48hrs. Finally at midnight, we were able to go and see her briefly. By this stage we were all exhausted and seeing her lying there almost lifeless in the dimmed lights was tough. Very tough. For all of us. As we were ushered gently from critical care shortly afterwards we had an extremely tearful group hug as the emotions of the day just overcame us.  
After half an hour and more tea, we were strong enough to drive back home for 1.30am at which point  Rose's boyfriend, David, joined us having hotfooted it back from Exeter Uni. After updating friends and family, I collapsed into bed...both happy and scared witless in equal proportions. 
As Sarah had said earlier, you have two years to prepare, but nothing can actually prepare you for the reality of it all.




  1. Rob,Great to read the account of the call it brought back some of the emotions that my family and me felt when we got called. I agree you can never prepare for the reality of Tx but it is real now and I am so glad that you,Cath and your family can have the new life that you have all been waiting for! sending best wishes for a quick,smooth and complete recovery for Cath:)

  2. She is a fantastic lady and she has a fantastic family! Wishing her better and Thankyou Rob for being a star and keeping us all up dated even when you yourself are so worried and tired . Love and hugs Sam Allen x x x x