The Call – We made it!
After a false alarm last year, The Call for my husband Andy’s liver transplant finally came in the wee small hours at the beginning of January. It has taken so long to write this post, because in the following weeks and months, I was deep in the thick of it and only now, as we are slowly emerging from the other side do I feel ready to share. The last couple of years have been quite traumatic, but with the love and support of those around us – we made it. Although now I just want to concentrate on moving forward and not keep looking back, I know that some of you who have followed my journey may like to read about it, so here goes.
The Call – We made it!
It is funny the timing of how these things happen. We had had a particularly cosy week together and it was like I knew there was a change in the air. In the evenings we snuggled up on the sofa and I felt particularly close and in tune and these pockets of happiness were feeding my soul. I certainly needed that, as the days of waiting were becoming increasingly wearing. I think I hadn’t really expected to still be waiting in 2018, him having being listed in 2016. I found it hard to be entering a new year and not being able to make any plans again.
Anyway, the week of the call, I swung between a huge feeling of anticipation every time the phone rang and feeling very depleted and drained. The usual things that kept me strong and nurtured were hard to do because of the time of the year. Being strong and positive was becoming harder.
The day of the call, I remember thinking that I couldn’t go on in the manner I was and needed to adapt my mindset again. I decided that if the call didn’t come this week , I was going to force myself to come off high alert and try and convince myself that it wasn’t going to happen until the summer. This way I would be giving myself a mental break from the stress that the constant anticipation brought.
In the meantime, I wasn’t quite ready to start the new mindset and I had an overwhelming nesting instinct – it reminded me of the last few precious weeks before your first child is born. I got all the washing sorted, stocked up on cat food and tidied the house from top to bottom. Whether the call came or not, I was ready for the next phase of my life.
I do struggle with dropping off to sleep, but luckily this was not so on the night of the call. We were woken after 4 hours of deep refreshing sleep. The phone rang at 2am and Andy answered and I knew straight away. Andy thought it was or son calling from the front door to say he had locked himself out! I could hear him asking a few questions and saw him scribbling the details of where we had to go on the back of an old envelope. I felt extremely calm and ready.
We had an hour before the taxi would arrive and I felt grateful for all my planning. I packed my bags using the list I’d prepared and was grateful that I had plenty of clean underwear to take, as I didn’t know how long I was going to be at The Royal Free Hospital in London!
The one task I assigned to Andy, was to wake and tell our adult son, who was staying with us. I knew my son was really fearful that something would go terribly wrong and I needed my emotional strength for myself just then. We didn’t want him to be worried when he woke to find us gone. It was hard watching him hug his dad goodbye.
The trip in the dead of night reminded us of driving to the airport, but this was one adventure that definitely wouldn’t involve sea, sunshine and carefree days. We didn’t talk much on the journey up, as we were both mentally preparing ourselves for what lay ahead. This is quite hard to do, as you never know until a few minutes before surgery, if it will actually go ahead. This is primarily because until the donor liver is recovered and examined no one knows if it will be suitable and healthy.
Arriving at the hospital in the dead of night was very strange. The taxi had dropped us off at a back entrance that we had used before. However, we soon discovered that this door was locked at night and had to walk half a mile to the main entrance with our suitcases in tow. It was eerie walking along deserted corridors and the day ward we had to go to seemed deserted. Eventually we found someone and we taken to a room which was to be our home for the next 12 hours, while Andy underwent a barrage of tests interspersed by long periods of waiting.
We amused ourselves watching clips of comedy shows and it was all quite surreal. As daylight dawned, we called our daughter and she caught the train up to wait with us. Around lunch time, we were told that the liver was on its way and things looked like they would be going ahead, but we wouldn’t know for sure until our surgeon had seen the liver.
I remember thinking that I could cope better with it going ahead and all that that entailed, rather than it being another false alarm and having to catch the train home and pick up where we left off. I so didn’t want it not to happen, because I didn’t know how I would be able to cope with more living on a knife edge.
My intuition told me it was going to be okay, so I wasn’t too concerned and felt surprisingly calm. I had had plenty of time to prepare myself for this moment. I had practiced self care daily and this had helped get me through to this stage as strong and ready as I could be.
The atmosphere in our little room was one of light hearted fun. We had plenty of laughs and teased Andy as he got gowned up and put disposable pants on his head, thinking they were like a hair net! He swears he was doing that to give us a laugh, but I am not so sure!
Finally, around 2pm our room was suddenly filled to the brim with the medical and surgical teams, co-orinators and nursing staff and we were told that Andy would be going down in a few minutes. As the surgeon introduced himself and shook Andy’s hand, I pushed forward to shake his hand too. I had an overwhelming urge to be connected in someway with the man and the hands were going to be inside my husband soon. I sent love and prayers through the energy that passed between us. It was over to him and his team now. I felt so calm and reassured when we met the team and just knew that I could safely hand over the responsibly to them. Months and months of waiting were finally going to be over. My job for now was done. Andy was fine and had had a premed by now, so was away with the fairies. I kissed him good bye and they wheeled him out and he was gone.
There was a strange sense of relief and all the suppressed emotion welled up, but I was to exhausted to process it all. Em and I had a hug, closed the door to our room and sat down in silence while we took stock. Then after a minute we had an overwhelming need to be out of there, so we went back to our hotel, near the hospital, to have a rest.
Later on we decided to go out for dinner to take our mind off what was happening. We had been told he would be in surgery for 6 to 12 hours and that we would receive a call from the co-ordinator around the half way mark. I couldn’t really eat much, but a large glass of prossecco went a long way to help feeling relaxed while we waited. We were in a bit of a high spirited mood and had lots of laughter. Looking back we were probably totally stressed out and a bit manic – but it worked for us. We swung between merriment, reassuring words to each other and more somber, respectful thoughts for the donor and his family.
We received a call around 8 pm saying all was going well and the new liver was in and functioning. This was quickly followed by another call from the surgeon himself, to say surgery was finished and Andy would be transferred to ICU shortly. It was such a relief to hear surgery was over and he had survived. Being a nurse, I was aware of the risks of such major surgery. A second prosecco was called for and I was kept busy updating other family and friends via group text. It was weird being in a restaurant, surrounded by people all happy and relaxed, knowing my husband was on life support less than half a mile away and we suddenly wanted to leave and go to the sanctuary of our hotel room.
After being reassured that he was stable and they would call us if there was any change we turned in for the night. We both slept well and I knew our angels were all around us. We would need our strength for the long months ahead……..