(Very long post alert)
Today marks exactly 6 months since I got the all important call which literally saved my life! I received the amazing gift of life! By a complete stranger & their family.
At an incredibly sad & difficult time for the family, they made the most selfless, kind & generous decision to donate their loved ones organs. This decision meant that my wait for a donor match was over & I had my chance to carry on fighting & stay alive! I received a Small Bowel & Abdominal Wall from the donor.
Getting the call was only the beginning, I then had to compose myself enough to drive myself, Lisa & her dad Brian down with me to Oxford, where my transplant took place. "How the hell did he manage that?" I hear u ask... well with all the nerves u expect to get after receiving a call of that magnitude, most people would be understandably overwhelmed u would imagine, but I knew all the risks attached to what I was about to go through, I'd already dealt with all that mentally, besides, I wasn't even sure it would actually be going ahead until I'd had all the pre transplant checks, & the final checks on the donor organs had been completed, I was also aware that even if all that went ok & I got the go ahead, I wouldn't actually know if the transplant had been completed until I was woke up after, as the transplant going ahead depended on whether or not enough IV access could be established for me to be able to survive the operation, any complications & post transplant recovery.
A 4 hour drive, at rush hour, on a Monday morning, whilst driving carefully, against the clock, whilst trying to beat the traffic, so u can get to the hospital within the allocated time (time the organs have to survive in order to be transplanted) isn't easy.. it's got to be the most difficult drive of my life.
We got to the hospital & all the checks were done without any complications,
& I got the news that the transplanted organs were good. This was it! My chance! My time to step up & face 1 more fight was upon me.. & I was more than ready! I got my game face on, & when they called for me..i said goodbye to Lisa & Brian & I walked into the operating theatre, head held high, ready to go the distance, whatever the cost! Come what may I was doing this.. as I had no other option if I wanted to have the chance to survive!
Well what followed was a 14 hour long operation performed by a team of transplant surgeons, plastic surgeons, vascular surgeons anaethetists & theatre staff.. a team that consisted of about 20 people in all.
The operation itself went as well as it could have & I had come through it, ALIVE! & still fighting strong. But had i not got the call & chance when I did, I was told afterwards, I only had 1-2 weeks left to live, as my bowel had already begun to die! I or no-one else could have known, it was only apparent when they were isolating my bowel for removal... Over the next few days in intensive care I had to return to theatre a couple of times, once cos my central line slipped & the second time cos my abdominal wall started rejecting & had lost blood supply, so it required another 6 hour operation to debride (remove dead tissue) the wound & re-etsablish blood supply.
Again all went ok & by the Saturday I was released from the intensive care & back onto the transplant ward.. by the Monday I was back on my feet! Nothing was keeping me down & never will!
Since transplant the Bowel side of the transplant has been as good as it could be really, the abdominal wall on the other hand... I've had quite a lot of issues with trying to get it to heal properly, this included further operations, vacuum pumps, special dressings & skin grafts from my leg.. it's only just nearly finished healing (1 tiny area to go but nearly there).
Some of the anti-rejection medications I have been put on have also affected my kidney function & have had to be tinkered with quite a bit but it's all part of the process, finding a balance is the key & hopefully we're getting there now. I'm backwards & forwards regularly for clinics & monitoring but needs must.. receiving this transplant was never about a cure for me.. it's not intended to be a cure for anyone.. it's a last resort when all other options are no longer available or have been tried.
Its not just 1 operation & abracadabra ur fixed... it's a long process & another journey that lasts the rest of your life.. I wouldn't voluntarily choose transplant or advocate for someone else to either.. but if it's try either transplant or die... u have to go for it! I've always said all my life I would do whatever it takes to survive... & I have done.. I have had a lot of help in surviving this.. but without that help.. I wouldn't be alive today...FACT!
I want to firstly thank my donor & their family for what they have done for me.. I am & will remain eternally grateful for their immense generosity at such a difficult time for them.. it's because of them in still alive & writing this now!
2nd I want to thank the amazing team at the Churchill hospital in Oxford, especially Georgios Vrakas who has been the main man in making sure I received nothing but the best & for coordinating & managing my care. The whole team have done & continue to go above & beyond to make sure I Survive. The vast majority of the staff have been exceptional, caring, supportive & encouraging to both me & Lisa. Helen u might not be staff... but u did the same & more, whilst still dealing with all your own issues & looking after ur daughter Amy (another amazing transplant warrior for anyone reading this) we will be forever grateful to u too x lots of love & special thanks x for being there & being super amazing friends x love u guy's too XX
Then i want to thank Lisa, for being my rock! Standing by me & supporting me as well as she has, despite all her own issues. I LOVE YOU LISA X MORE THAN ANYTHING! THANK YOU!
Also a very special thanks to Lisa's dad Brian, he took the time to come with us & stayed with Lisa in Oxford for the 1st 10 days to help her & support us both! He's a very kind caring man who has treat me as his own son, I am always eternally grateful to you for everything u have done & continue to do for us both x Lots of love Brian x
Then my big sis Jemma who travelled from Melbourne Australia leaving her family behind in order to support & help me & Lisa.
Jembo, thank you for everything! U kno that no matter what, I'll always do whatever is needed & should u ever need anything, I'll always be here for u like u were for us x
Love u Jembo XX
When Jemma went back to Australia, My dad & younger brother Elliott also came over from Perth Australia too, they also came to support us. Again it was nice to be able to see u & thank you for all your help x Love u guy's X
I also want to send a special the k you to everyone at owlstalk for their outstanding hard work & support in helping to raise some much needed funds to help us through this transplant journey especially @Spencerowl & @trevdi9
Finally, I want to thank everyone else,, some of u I've known my whole life..& some of you not so long.. but everyone who took time to visit, sent messages of support, well wishes & encouragement... it really helped to kno so may people were behind me & us, if not in person... at least in thought... it really has helped us alot. So thank you.. from us both, all our love & best wishes & thanks. Rick & Lisa XXX Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all XX