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The Longest Day

18th May 2017

My mother-in-law and I set off for the hospital at 7am. Curt and his dad, Steve, had been in hospital overnight in preparation for today's operations. I've had about 3 hours sleep and I feel sick, but I'm also really excited. If all goes well today, a surgeon will remove one of Steve's kidneys, and then another surgeon will transplant it into Curt.

As I've mentioned before, I married the strong silent type, so when I got to the hospital, he didn't give much away. Steve was being upbeat; telling all the nurses that his brother was bringing him a curry that evening as he'd been on no solids since 12pm the day before and was therefore starving. I think Curt was nervous, probably for his dad more than for himself, but he'd never say that before the fact. He will tell me in his own time I'm sure. One of the nurses on the transplant team, Lisa, walked us through what would happen over the next 3 hours or so, and promised to come up and give us updates.

At 8.15am, they took Steve off down to surgery. Curt, his mum, Debbie, and I sat in the family waiting room, talking the way we do when we meet for coffee. Lisa popped her head round the door about half an hour later to say Steve was under and they were starting. So far so good.

A kidney donor

Debbie and I went to get breakfast - Curt stayed on the ward in case there were any other updates. We sat in the cafe at the main entrance and talked about the election, and the NHS and how amazing our nurses are (really, you guys are legends). We talked about what was going to happen over the course of the day and how we felt. There are so many movies where things like the Big C play a role, so you have a base line to know how to act for that type of disease, but we both sat there and said we've basically got no idea what we are doing. We're transplant virgins. My husband, the father of my child, is about to have a kidney transplant to get him off dialysis, and maybe even save his life, and the father of Debbie's child is about to have an organ removed from his body to save her child. How are we supposed to feel here? They say the best thing to do in these situations is to be positive for your loved one, so we carried on as normal.

We headed back up to the renal ward and did some crosswords with Curt for the next 2 and a half hours. I'm not allowed to hold the book when we do crosswords, because I go too fast and do them all myself, so Debbie read them aloud for us. We spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what the vegetable most associated with Wales was, because we thought it began with a C - It's Leek just for anyone doing the latest Puzzler book. Don't curl your L's peeps.

At about 12pm, Lisa came back up again to let us know Steve was out of theatre, awake and doing great. The surgery had gone perfectly and the kidney was one of the biggest they had ever seen. All good news. The surgeon would later apologise to Steve for the large incision in his stomach, but he didn't want to damage the kidney trying to remove it via the standard cut size. Curt's request for a picture of the kidney was denied....

It was time for Curt to start getting ready. He put the flattering gown and socks on, and that was it. I kissed him and they wheeled him off and that's the last time I saw him before the transplant.

We went home. We saw no point in waiting at the hospital when we could have been with Meelie. So we had cuddles and cake and just waited for the call. My phone rang - I got really excited when it came up with an unknown number, so I naturally ripped their heads off when the Indian lady called Jane on the other end of the phone asked me to confirm the details of my definitely legit car crash: "No I have not been in an accident in the last three years. You will be in an accident if you tie up my phone line and make me miss the update from the hospital. Call me again at your own peril."

An hour later, one of the nurses rang to let us know that the kidney was in and it was looking good. Curt had peed all over the table - a fact all the doctors were really happy about. They were in the process of taking out the dialysis catheter and we'd probably be able to see him in two hours once he was out of recovery.

A kidney recipient

We went back to the ward for visiting hours, but Curt wasn't back up yet. We saw Steve, who looked OK, but groggy and pale. The ward nurses called down to check on Curt for us - he was on his way back up.

When he got up to Renal, he was throwing up into a cardboard bucket. He looked awful. He was falling asleep while the nurses were taking his blood pressure, and his urine was dark red. I panicked because I thought that meant there was a problem - you see blood and you freak, it's human nature. When I spoke to the nurse who brought him up from recovery, he said it was completely normal, and they were very happy with his progress. He was stoned off his tits on morphine, so we decided to let him rest.

After 12 hours of waiting, we spent 30 minutes with Steve and Curt before leaving for the night. 12 hours, of nausea, numbness, worry, unknown. How do you come down from that? There's no manual, no guide for family, just a quick chat with a nurse to let you know everyone will feel a bit tired for a while, and it's all over - just like that. At the end of the day, the operations went amazingly, and everyone was fine, but it was the longest day of my life, and I still don't quite know how I felt about it all.

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