Resting and Reflecting — My Kidney Donation, Part 5

August 14, 2020 | My Jottings

Thursday, August 6th through Monday, August 10th, 2020

I was told that I would spend two nights in the hospital, and a third would be added if I felt I needed it. I thought I might need that option when I first learned of it, but I was so ready to be discharged Friday morning after two nights at Rochester Methodist. I think I may have slept three-four hours at night, and felt tired and antsy to recuperate in a larger space, a more comfortable bed.

My first meal was scrambled eggs and strawberry yogurt. I wasn’t hungry enough to finish it all, but it tasted wonderful. I drank and drank water, thinking of how important that’s going to be forever. I love water and have an app on my phone to help me keep track of my daily intake. I aim for 100 ounces a day and have for years — maybe that’s why my old lady kidneys were so young for their age and could be considered for donation. Most days I don’t reach 100 ounces, but it’s a rare day that I don’t drink 80-90 ounces of water.

Rochester water isn’t that great tasting, but Duluth, Minnesota water, from Lake Superior, is the best tasting in the world. So how fantastic was it that Lloyd thought ahead and saved plastic jugs from distilled water, filled them with fresh, iron-y Superior water, and brought it all to Rochester? He is like that — always quietly thinking of ways he can serve or make things better for someone.

The care I received on the transplant floor was excellent – I’m so grateful for every person who helped me, but I wanted to shower at home, or at least at our Airbnb house. I wanted to walk around a little and sit on a couch rather than on my hospital bed. By the time my discharge paperwork was ready it was noon on Friday, and Lloyd was there to push my wheelchair to the patient loading area. Sharon went to the Eisenberg (another Mayo name) Pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions and she saw us off with hugs before returning to Chris recovering on the same floor, just a few rooms down from me. I went home with Tylenol, a stool softener (they told me aside from anesthesia always slowing the bowels, in a nephrectomy the bowel has to be moved aside, and it does not like that at all), and ten little pills of Oxycodone 5 mg. for pain.

A kidney donor can never take Ibuprofen again, because that drug is metabolized through the kidneys, and of course from now on I’ll have to be aware that I have only one kidney, my dearest Verna. Tylenol (which is so effective for me I might as well pop a Tic Tac) is safer since the liver processes acetaminophen. I was instructed to take the Tylenol every six hours to keep a baseline in my body going, and to take the Oxycodone when needed for breakthrough pain. For the first couple of days home I took two of the Oxys, usually one in the afternoon and one before going to sleep at night, since it really helped me sleep and turn over comfortably in bed.

I have to say I was a little surprised at the first couple of days at our home away from home. I was more tired than I expected and had more discomfort than I thought I would. I had four places on my belly that had been invaded — three holes where laparoscopic instruments had been inserted to view, pump in gas, and to cut tissue and staple veins and arteries. And there was a four-inch vertical incision right below my navel, where after all the laparoscopic prep had been done, the surgeon reached in from the front, past my bowel and who knows what else, up under my ribs near my back, to remove my left kidney, Justine.

The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys, and are slightly adherent, but can be separated easily from them, and they are not taken. But like the bowel, when the adrenal gland is disturbed, it goes to sleep for a while. This would also explain my tiredness — half of my adrenaline source is on a little vacation, and is not working right now to supply my muscles with strength.

I don’t have any outward stitches — only Steri-strips. They will fall off in a couple of weeks, my internal stitches will be absorbed by my body, and I have only to shower and let soap and water run onto each site. No scrubbing or removing of anything. I will really miss being able to take a bath for six weeks, however.

My pattern seemed to be: have a pretty good day, have a I’ve-been-hit-by-a-Mack-Truck day, have a pretty good day, Mack Truck day, have a good day, and so on. So I adjusted my expectations and have been letting my body dictate to me what I should do. It’s a peaceful, restful way to recover. If I feel wiped, I don’t fret and wonder why, I just drink lots of water, let Lloyd wait on me, walk around as I feel like it, and lay down a lot. With no guilt, just a pure sense of intense gratitude that the Lord is taking care of us. If I die early and suffer from this, the Lord is taking care of me. If I live long and never give Verna another thought, the Lord is taking care of me. May He give me the grace to keep yielding to Him and becoming who I am supposed to be. I didn’t do enough yielding in my early years; I’m eager to give way to Jesus now.

My friend Ginny grew up in Rochester, so she introduced me years ago to a lovely woman there named Peggy, who has commented on my blog and blessed me in many ways. Imagine our surprise when Peggy came to the door of our rental on Arctic Fox Road, bringing flowers, a card from Ginny, and fresh-baked zucchini bread. We kept our distance of course, but it was a joy to finally meet Peggy and to visit with her a bit. I felt her love and Ginny’s through her, and she took this picture of Lloyd and me before she left.

These are the flowers that cheered us for the next four days — so beautiful.

Chris continued to recover, and felt pretty well the first days after his transplant. His lab values improved each day, showing that his kidney from Colorado (he named him Magnus) was rolling up his sleeves and working hard for Chris. He has had some rough days even though the daily tests show things are progressing as they should be. Being in pain and not sleeping is really hard. Thank you for praying for Chris and Sharon and their family!

And here’s a picture of where we stayed for nine nights. The host/owner was a welcoming, attentive woman named Denise, and oh, how we appreciated all her little homey touches. The home was sparkling clean and sanitized, had two bedrooms and two full baths on the main floor, a laundry room, and open-concept living/dining/kitchen. And an attached garage, so we parked the Outback inside each time and entered the house through there.

This house was cheaper than most hotel rooms, and certainly provided a much more comfortable and cheerful place in which to heal. The thought of spending all that time in a hotel room, no matter how nice, seemed so confining.

Chris’s insurance pays for all expenses incurred, so I will be reimbursed for what I spent on my lodging. This isn’t important to me, but it could be to someone who lands here researching donation, so that’s why I mention it. In my state, a kidney donor is also given a $10,000 tax credit for any expenses incurred that may not be fully covered elsewhere. I won’t be using that tax credit because my expenses were minimal, but it could be helpful for others to know.

My surgeon gave me these photos of fist-sized Justine before I left the hospital. He texted them to the waiting surgeon in Madison, apparently so that doctor could see the arteries and get an idea of their dimensions and accessibility. Kidneys are encased in fat, and not all of it is excised during the surgery.

The second photo shows them being isolated by the surgical scissors/hemostat:

Oh, Justine. Please settle in quickly and make yourself at home in your new person! Please work hard and give him/her many healthy years to come, will you? Will you make some good Vitamin D and strengthen their bones? Will you keep their blood pressure healthy? Will you please filter out toxins and keep the urine flowing? Please don’t give them any trouble, and be a blessing to them and to their family, Justine? Will you live up to your name and give him or her a fair shot at life now? Will you do right, just what God made you to do, and balance things and keep them upright? Will you ease their suffering and help them know some joy and energy? And Justine, if your new person doesn’t know how much God loves him/her yet, will you hang on until they do?

Indeed, I pray right now that my Heavenly Father, who formed that kidney in my mother’s womb and made His claim on my life known when I was three years old, would do the same in my recipient’s life. That kidney has had my name on it as well as my recipient’s in Wisconsin. May Justine live and serve in two bodies who know their Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lloyd and I were glad to learn that our Airbnb had Netflix, so we settled in each evening with a delicious homemade salad, and we watched the latest British detective series we’ve discovered. I can’t recommend it because it’s too dark, so we fast-forwarded through many scenes. It was compelling enough that we wanted to learn how the mystery was solved, but I’m not sure we’d watch again.

We started a new book together too, Dream Big by Bob Goff. Lloyd and I like to read out loud to each other, taking turns. We stop every once in a while and discuss what we read, and this is one of my favorite things about our relationship.

The humidity in Rochester was so oppressive we didn’t go outside much. I would have liked to take a little stroll now and then, but the temperature was high and the dewpoint was in the low 70s, and felt like a sauna. The central air of our house was a godsend.

In recent weeks I have thought a lot about the health insurance we have and the country we live in (however unrecognizable) and the housing around our heads and the medical care and the love and support from family and friends, the clean water and the abundant food. I don’t know why others don’t have this, and I have felt pretty useless and ineffective when I write my measly checks to ease some of this for others on occasion. I don’t know why I was born with access to so much that others, very beloved by God, don’t have. I do know that He is very present and close to all, and we don’t know His whole story yet. We don’t see what awaits us yet, and what those who’ve done without will have when their lives here end. We see through a glass darkly.

I read this quote by Beth Moore recently and thought it was worth sharing:

Prosperity according to the gospel is the full recognition and embrace of our complete reliance upon Jesus Christ. Abundant life is the effervescent abundance of His Spirit in our lives. The Sermon on the Mount in a nutshell: Blessed are you if you need Me for you shall have Me.

Yes, Lord.


  1. Kay Stevens says:

    Hello dear Julie
    It’s been a long time since I caught up on your blog – and what a time you and your family have been having! I thank Father God for keeping you safe and bringing you through your operations.
    I’m praying that He will bless you and keep you, turn His face to shine on you, and give you His peace.
    Sending love and hugs across the pond
    Kay xoxoxo

  2. Just Julie says:

    So nice to hear from you Kay. I pray the very same things for you and your dearest. Much love! xo

  3. Peggy Johns says:

    Hi Julie. It was so nice to meet you and Lloyd. Your writing is so beautiful! Your prayer for Justine made me cry. I could read your writing all day. What a gift you were given. I came over, and had to act like I was ok, but I’m struggling immensely right now. I’m glad you liked the flowers and bread. What a journey your family is on. I will continue to pray for all of you. I’m impressed with your knowledge of everything. It is great. I like Sara Groves, also. Have you heard Steffany Gretzinger? Hope to see you in Duluth one day. Love, Peggy

  4. Just Julie says:

    Hi Peggy! Lloyd and I have talked several times since I came home how wonderful it was to meet you. Thank you for the flowers, for the delicious zucchini bread (which got devoured), and for taking time to come bless us. More than anything, your prayers mean so much. I just heard of Steffany Gretzinger last week — so odd you mention her! I’ll check her out. May God be your constant comforting companion, dear Peggy. xoxo

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