I've been up in Sheffield for the last four days, having tests (a 'work up') to see if I can donate a kidney to my brother, Ed.
(Good idea to read this - the rest is really long...)
Monday: Blood tests (lots), interview, Chest X-Ray
Tuesday: Phone call confirmed initial cross-match OK
Wednesday: Interactive Info re Donating Kidney (via "Hand-assisted Laparascopic Donor Nephrectomy" ), Met with Surgeon for 'surgical assessment' - lots of prodding around and declared me "very fit and healthy", CT Scan + more X-rays in embarrassing hospital gown after boring wait.
Thursday: Injected with Radiation, then leeched after 2,3,4,5 hours.
Result: Won't know til approx Tuesday 21st October
Feelings: Enjoyed being in Sheffield with Ed & Co; tests quite fun (odd bit of stress / boredom); nervously await results; would love to give Kidney to Ed - but still unsure about my kidneys. Not long to wait til we find out.
Verbose (ie boring) version
I went up by Train on Monday - public transport all the way! It was really easy - the Sheffield Supertram leaves from a platform right next to the rail station, and deposited me in Hillsborough just a few minutes walk from Ed's house.
The tests started on Monday afternoon with blood tests at the Northern General Hospital Renal Sorby Outpatients dept. I was a bit gob-smacked by the number of tubes that had to be filled with my blood - the 'practioner' (not sure if I'm allowed to call her a nurse?) seemed to be filling tubes for ages. Then there was a bit of chat & form filling with the living transplant coordinator, and then a chest x-ray, and that was it for Monday. All very efficient - and little waiting around, except for Ed, who had some blood taken, and then had to hang around waiting for me.
The million dollar question is - do Ed & I match? If he has antibodies for my blood, then we're stuffed. One of Monday's tests (the 'cross-match') checked that, and the initial results are negative (that is, good). 'Initial' because it takes a few days to get the full result. The other MDQ is of course - are my kidneys any good?
Tuesday had no tests - just a slightly anxious wait for the cross-match. Karen had a day off, so we pootled down to the Millennium Gallery, had a wander round, and then popped in to the pub next door for lunch. Ed's just had one of his kidneys removed, so he's hobbling around a bit while he recovers. My phone managed to turn itself off at around 2pm without me knowing, so at 3pm I was a bit concerned that Caroline (the coordinator) hadn't rung. I tried my phone - and there was her message in the voicemail: everything was OK!
With the Cross-match apparently negative, Wednesday's tests could go ahead. I caught the bus to the Northern General just after lunch, and first of all spent 45 minutes on an interactive computer presentation about donating kidneys - it was brilliant, with some really helpful video clips from people who had donated, as well as all the facts about the procedure. Hopefully I'll be able to have a "hand-assisted laparascopic donor nephrectomy" - I was determined to learn that phrase, hope I've got it right!
After that, I met the surgeon, Mr Shrestha, for a surgical assessment. More questions ("have you had an operation before?" - "um, er [the answer's no, so why do I have to think for 10 seconds about this one?]...no!"), and then a thorough prodding. Perhaps someone can explain to me why he was so interested in my feet? I'm guessing it's something to do with reflexes, and hoping it's nothing to do with reflexology. This was a good day to have my best undies on. And yes, my backside was inspected too... ugh.
Anyway - I asked what he had learnt? "You are very fit and healthy!" YEAH!!!! That's it then - no more early morning bike rides, and I can eat as many biscuits during the day as I like!!! YEAHHHHHH!!!! I'm "fit and healthy". I guess, actually, I'd better keep up the current attempt to be a bit more fit (the bike rides), since I have noticed during all the tests that my Body Mass Index is a little on the 'overweight' side - eek! But I'm "very fit and healthy" and a medical bloke says so, so 'ner'.
Was he able to work out from his prodding whether my kidneys are polycystic? That's one of the big Qs that'll be answered when we get the results of the next test back...
Because next was the CT scan: which will give the surgeons a close up of exactly what my kidneys are like. I confess to getting a bit fed up over this. Only because there was a delay (an hour) after the appointment time. I suppose I was getting a little stressed - I had heard someone saying something about a scan being cancelled, and was conscious that my scan couldn't be, they couldn't have me another day - otherwise I'd have trouble getting home. I'd had to buy train tickets in advance because of the cost. I had ended up buying a ticket for Tuesday afternoon, in case the cross-match was positive (bad), as well as one for Thursday. At £13.50 a week in advance, and £50 a day in advance, and £70 on the day, it made sense! But the tickets are non-transferable, so if the CT scan couldn't happen on Wednesday, what would happen? Stress, stress.
Eventually I was called, and then had to sit in a cubby hole in a too-effeminate NHS gown for too long, thank you. That did annoy me. After 15 minutes in the cubby hole, I was going to get dressed and go and moan ("love, joy, peace, um, what comes next?) when just in time I was called again.
Then the fun began. Seriously - for a gadget freak like me, the CT scanner is cool. Unfortunately my stressyness didn't make getting the cannula in easy, my veins had decided to go on strike. (I now know that a cannula is a tube inserted into your vein so that multiple injections / extractions can happen. Add that to the HA-LDN I memorised earlier, and I'm really getting educated. Funny how the medics assume you know what a cannula is - but I supposed they get bored asking. Mind you, I had no idea how to spell xxcanularxx cannula).
Once it was in, they attached some kind of drug-pump onto it, via a wiggly tube, and got me to put my arms up behind my head, holding the tube out of the way, so that just my body would get scanned (uncomfortable). The technicians ran into their bomb-proof shelter, and the bed I was lying on suddenly jerked me towards the big polo, which had started to make noises while something inside it began to rotate like a James Bond execution device. As I slid into it for the first time I noticed a hole with a label beneath it "Laser emission aperture - do not stare". It was a bit like "keep off the grass", but eventually I managed to stop myself looking at it.
Once in the polo, I was asked to hold my breath, and the sliding bed took me out again - in about 15 seconds. They did that twice, I think, before one of them came in to start the drug going into me. It was a dye of some sort to show the kidneys up and /or test the kidney function. I had been advised what to expect while they had been setting it up earlier: "a strange taste, a warm feeling, a feeling like passing water, and a hot bottom - some get all, some get none...". I got the lot - it was weird. Especially how quickly it seemed to pass from head to toe, no, head to bottom. I convinced myself that I had not really wet myself, and just gritted my teeth in the hope that it really was just the drug doing its thing. The feeling went after half a minute or so.
Anyway, meanwhile I was shunted in and out of the big polo another couple of times, holding my breath, and then it was all over.
Next it was a wander round, in my girly nightie (in front of lots of dressed people, pretending that I wasn't worried that my pants were visible through the badly done-up back of the gown), to the X-Ray dept for an xray of my lower abdomen, to see (I think) if my kidneys had excreted the dye into my bladder.
And that was it - I could get out of the humiliation gown, and back into my proper clothes. By this stage I was gasping for a cup of tea, but it was late so the cafe was closed, so I wandered over to the bus stop for another exciting ride on the peoples' republic's transport system.
Thursday was destined to be really boring - an injection of radiation at 9.30-ish, then blood tests at 2,3,4,5 hours to see how my kidneys are functioning. This gives a really accurate result, apparently, where Monday's blood tests give an estimate.
It was a lovely sunny day, so I enjoyed the walk from the Supertram stop to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. It's in the heart of the University - and at 9am in the morning lots were up and about and on the way to lectures.
So, more injections. First of all the Uranium 234 (Oh OK, Chromium 51). That was cold going in (through a vein on my left hand), and within seconds they could measure my radioactivity with a Geiger counter all down both arms - wicked! That done, I wandered off to Weston Park Museum (via the very slow Royal Hallamshire Lifts) for a cup of tea, and a large and very stodgy and yummy flapjack. After a wander round the museum, I sat in the sun on a recently-restored park bench and read for a while, before walking (glowing with radiation) back to the lifts and floor I for the first blood test. Another cannula. This time the nurse got worried about me feeling feint, and I had to lie down for a bit - aaaaah. That was 12, and I was pretty much free to do what I liked, but had to back for 1, 2, and 3pm blood extractions. I hung around, did a bit of sermon prep, read a paper, and more of a book.
Soon 3pm came, the cannula was removed, and that was it. Despite the hanging around, it hadn't been that boring - the 'medics' were a good bunch and had made it interesting.
I had plenty of time, so instead of another great bus ride, decided to walk to the station, via a tea shop for some carrot cake, and got the 5.18 back to Luton and then St Albans. (That 2 hours 18 minutes from the Hospital to the train seemed to last forever - I was a little grumpy by the end of it - too much waiting around I suppose.)
All done - and hopefully we'll know the results a week on Tuesday.
How do I feel about it all?
Hopeful - that my kidneys are OK and Ed can have one, and that our future cross-matches will be OK. I quite enjoyed the tests - it was interesting, despite the hanging around, and it was good to see Ed + co for a few days.