Well, what a difference a week makes in a persons life. Brandon received a kidney and pancreas transplant as well as getting his gallbladder removed 10 days ago on August 2, 2018. That month and day is significant because it was on that day, two years ago, that his cousin passed away. http://gozatravels.blogspot.com/2016/08/at-last-mandy-can-run-and-play.html
August is also the month in which my mother, her two sisters and their mother (my grandmother), all passed away. To me, August has always had a bad vib to it. I'm hoping that Brandon's transplant has reversed that feeling. It may also have focused all of those that have passed, to whisper in God's ear about Brandon needing a little help. After only 5 days in the hospital, Brandon was released to come home. He said the most painful part of the experience was the uncomfortable hospital bed. It made his back, ribs and shoulder blades sore.
The pancreas is the organ Brandon was most excited to receive. He has been a Type 1 diabetic (insulin dependent) since he was 9 years old. That is 24 years. During that time he has given himself at least two shots a day and pricked his fingers about four times a day. That has been about 20,000 shots and 50,000 finger pricks. Pretty tough uh?
Brandon was the only kid in his school with diabetes. Not only did his mother and I have to learn the in's and out's of diabetes, his teachers, school staff and classmates had to learn as well. He helped educate all of them simply by being diabetic. It got to be second nature and no big deal when Brandon would prick his finger for a blood sugar check during class. If needed, he would also draw up insulin and give himself a shot. At first, some of the school staff thought he should be banished to the bathroom to do finger pricks and insulin shots. They were educated pretty quickly as to the difference in sanitary conditions between the classroom and the bathrooms. Big credit must be given to his classroom teachers who stepped up and used it as an educational experience for his classmates. Diabetes didn't stop Brandon from playing sports. He played football and baseball all the way through High School. It was not unusual to see him pitch an inning of baseball then go into the dugout to check his blood, give himself a shot and again run out to the mound to pitch another inning. It became second nature to his teammates and the opposing teams as well. Nothing seemed to stop him, definitely not diabetes.
One thing that was hard for him to take was being the only kid around the area with diabetes. There wasn't anyone his own age that he could relate to about it. That all changed a couple of years after he was diagnosed. A member of the local Lion's Club approached us to see if Brandon wanted to go to their summer camp. Wow, summer camp. We weren't sure about that at first. Yes, Brandon was checking his blood sugars, watching what he ate and giving himself insulin shots, but his mother or I were always near by in case he needed help. At camp, he would be away from us for a whole week. We then found out how special the Louisiana Lion Camp really was to children. You see, for two weeks every summer, the Lions put on a camp for diabetic children from around the state. All ages, come one, come all. Not only are the campers diabetic but also the counselors. Diabetics everywhere. The normal camping events, such as canoeing, archery, games, etc were all there for the campers to enjoy, but the main thing was the interaction of the kids to one another. Like Brandon, some were meeting other children with diabetes for the first time. And as with most things, the camp included educational events. Doctors, nurses, dietitians, social workers from around the state volunteered their time to stay at the camp with the kids. They were all specialists in the field of diabetes. Classes were held to teach the kids about diabetes and how to control it. Brandon attended the camp for several years until he became too old to be included. He thought about becoming a councilor at the camp but other things got in the way and it never happened. They not only have a couple of weeks for diabetics, but also weeks set aside for kids of other ailments. Their camp goes on for a couple of months each summer with a new batch of kids coming in each week. The Lion's have affected the lives of many kids in the state. Oh, did I happen to mention, it is all free of charge. The Louisiana Lions Club foots the entire bill. Pretty good uh? Why don't we hear of good things like that more often.
Since the day Brandon became diabetic, his kidneys began their journey to shutting down. It was always just a matter of time before we would be faced with dialysis and hopefully a transplant. His kidneys fought and fought to keep up but after 24 years, they finally needed some help. That help was in the form of At-home Peritoneal Dialysis which Brandon began in January of this year. Every night, he would hook himself up to a machine that would clean the toxins from his body. This was to be his life, tied to a machine every night. If he decided to quit then within a couple of weeks he would die an excruciatingly painful death. Remarkably, after only five weeks on the Active transplant list, he was chosen for a transplant.
The donated kidney began working immediately after it was connected. Three days after the transplant, Brandon's nephrologist (kidney doctor) said his GFR was in the upper 60's and will continue to rise. In simple terms, the GFR is the percentage in which the kidney is working. To be eligible for transplant, your GFR has to be below 20. Brandon's was in single digits which was the reason why he started dialysis. The doctor expects it to top out in the 80's or higher. Odds are his GFR is better than mine. He now has three kidneys since they don't remove your old ones when they install the new one. They are too risky to remove since it just introduces the possibility of infection or other problems. The new one is also in the front and not in the back where the other two are located. The pancreas started working immediately also. Within hours it was controlling his blood sugars and producing insulin. Brandon has not had to give himself an insulin shot since the surgery and his blood sugars are in the normal range. It is amazing and really hard to believe. The doctors did a great job and their hands were surely guided by God. I'm sure God also had a hand in the choices made by the donor and their family. I pray they are being consoled about their great loss. We don't know anything about the donor although we have been told only young pancreas's are used in transplants. We don't know the age range of "young". That also means the kidney is from a young donor. This is very good news since the younger the organ, the longer it last. A lady received a kidney on the same day as Brandon. We don't know if it is the paired kidney from the one Brandon received. We met her at the first doctors visit and she said, she was told the organs came from Alabama. Hopefully, we will learn more about the donor in the future.
Brandon is taking three anti-rejection pills and four anti-biotics. They will reduce his immune system to a point where his body will not try to fight the new organs. The anti-biotics will eventually be tapered off but the anti-rejection pills will be taken for the rest of his life. When the doctor asked about having to take the pills forever, Brandon reminded them that without the transplant, he would be on insulin and dialysis for the rest of this life. Pills are much better. He still has a long way to go and we are having blood drawn and doctor's appointments twice a week for 6 weeks, then once a week for another 6 weeks, then once every other week for 6 weeks, etc. But, the lab and doctor are in the big city of Shreveport, about 30 minutes away, which is a good excuse for lunch at different restaurants.
|It's a new day in many ways.|