SOLSC: 73% + 27% = One-Kidney Survivor

March 10, 2012

I connected with the post by Jen at Refining Our Craft Blog on March 3rd . We would do anything for our kids. Then yesterday, my thinking about my shirt led me to last year, last September when Elizabeth was heading to surgery.

In July, tests had shown that Elizabeth was suffering kidney damage from an unknown long-term bladder infection (yes, they said Elizabeth must have high pain tolerance.) Receiving the report that one kidney was functioning at 27% and the other one was working at 73%, the doctor knew damage had to be stopped.

“The surgery,” Dr. Cain said, “will stop the urine from back flowing into your kidneys.” Our hope  was resting on this knowledge. Surgery was scheduled, preparations made, and we were finally at the hospital. My comfy shirt was like a warm hug that day. It witnessed the rest of the story.

Dr. Cain returned to the hospital room where I was waiting for Elizabeth, waiting for the healing to begin. He sat down next to me and said, “I’m sorry. We had to stop the procedure. We couldn’t finish the surgery. (These were not words I wanted to hear.) In the many years I have been performing this surgery, I have only seen about a dozen bladders like your daughter’s. It’s infested and needs to heal.” At this point, he showed me pictures of the shocking scene.

The look on my face must have reflected  the horror in my thoughts, the WHY fear. Dr. Cain continued, gently. “We’ll have to try again in six to eight weeks. Her bladder has to heal in order for the material to form with her and reconstruct the tubes. She’ll be on some strong antibiotics.” I let this sink in. Dr. Cain was gentle as he sat next to me. He knew I needed some wait time.

He proceeded with, “I just recently found out I have cancer,” pulling off his cap bearing his bald head. “I’m in chemo therapy right now so my secretary will work around my therapy sessions and make sure I’m not tired or sick for her next operation.” I once again was stunned. Somehow my surreal thoughts were shattered. Even doctors who heal can’t prevent cancer from happening to themselves.

At this point, the degrading thoughts I had of being a horrible mother, a neglectful mom, a how-could-you-not-see-this?-why-didn’t-you-take-her-sooner?-you-should-have-done-something!-it’s-your-fault! thoughts clouded in. Dr. Cain needed to go, so he said he’d check back when Elizabeth was awake.

He left. I cried.

I knew she’d be coming out of recovery soon, so I gathered myself up, forgave myself a little, and became strong in the moment.

Seven weeks later, Elizabeth did heal and she had the surgery. She’s doing well and the damage has stopped. “You are a one-kidney gal,” the nurse instructed Elizabeth. “So you have to be careful. The two kidneys are working together to accomplish what one good kidney does. You are lucky; you don’t need a transplant. But you do have to follow some rules.” Elizabeth listened intently.

“No wrestling or football.” Darn!

“No horseback riding.” Really?

“No motorcycle rides either.” Ohhh, okay.

“Because you are a one-kidney survivor, it’ your job to protect them. Plenty of water. (Lots of nods.) And you have to urinate every two hours at least. (A wrinkled nose.) Stay hydrated. (More nods.) Now, enjoy life!”

Elizabeth is healthy and willful … and a fighter!


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