October 1, 2013 – Three Weeks after the Transplant
Three weeks after a life changing operation, Charlie and Mitch are both on the mend. Charlie says his biggest side effect following surgery is fatigue. Mitch, who has a 12-inch incision on the right side of his body, says walking is still tough but overall he is feeling better each day.
Just three weeks ago, the two men were in quite a different situation. Dressed in hospital gowns and fasting after a delicious steak dinner, Charlie and Mitch were on their way to surgery. As the donor, Charlie went first. The surgeons at IU Health University Hospital’s Transplant Center, used laparoscopic methods to detach Charlie’s kidney. Next, they made a small incision across his abdomen to allow for removal of the kidney. While this was taking place, Mitch was in the adjoining surgery suite. His surgeons made a 12 inch incision to accommodate the new kidney. In a highly rehearsed and synchronized process, surgeons took Charlie’s kidney out of his body, walked it through the shared surgical suite door, and placed it in Mitch’s body. Transplant complete.
Although the surgery was a success, Charlie and Mitch still had several obstacles to overcome. First, they had to recover from surgery – pain management, the fog of anesthesia, and routine exercises to prevent pneumonia and blood clots. Second, their bodies had to learn how to function with only one kidney. This part was easier for Charlie since his other kidney was still perfectly intact. Mitch, as the organ recipient, was placed on anti-rejection medication, given large amounts of IV fluids to stimulate the new kidney, and closely monitored for any sign of infection.
The pair recovered in their own hospital rooms and both admit to not remembering much about the hours following surgery. Charlie says the reality of what they had done didn’t hit until a couple of days later. “Once I got to hear from Mitch and knew he was doing well, that was the moment that it really hit. We did this. We’re going to have a good outcome,” he said. Charlie added that it wasn’t until the car ride home from the hospital that his emotions overwhelmed him. He had just saved a man’s life by giving him a kidney. His selfless action would give a father more time with his children and a husband more time with his wife.
Although Charlie was discharged from the hospital three days after surgery, Mitch stayed at IU for an additional two days. Before he could go home, the doctors needed to see proof that Mitch’s new kidney was working and that his anti-rejection medication was adjusted to the proper level. Eight liters of urine output by the second day and a satisfactory creatinine* level allowed Mitch to get his discharge orders and head back home.
What Happens Next?
Both Mitch and Charlie will continue to recover for a few more weeks. Charlie hopes to be medically cleared by his surgeon on October 10th and return to work soon thereafter. Mitch has another four to eight weeks of monitored visits with the IU Transplant Center. After that, he can check-in regularly with Deaconess Clinic to monitor his kidney function. For him, the first six months following the transplant are the most critical.
While the men took center stage throughout this saga, behind the scenes their wives and children were also building strong bonds. The two families have visited a few times since returning home. The kids enjoy playing together and the parents are making plans to attend a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game next season.
Local reporter, Erin Meyer, remarked that while most organ recipients never meet their donors, Mitch gets to visit with his on a regular basis. This unexpected relationship may be the most amazing thing about this story. Thanks to the selflessness and compassion of one man, two families have been forever joined through the most precious gift of life.
*According to the Mayo Clinic, creatinine is a chemical waste product produced by muscle metabolism. Healthy kidneys filter creatinine and other waste products from the blood. The filtered waste leaves the body through urine. Increased creatinine levels in the blood can indicate kidney failure.
To see the full interview from Channel 14 WFIE, click here
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