Archive | October 2011

The Rest of the Story – Part I

I’m sure you have seen the numerous ad campaigns for organ donation.  Donating ones organs is a truly selfless act that has the potential to save multiple lives.  Even though no one wants to think about their own mortality donating your organs is an option.  The Organ Donor Program helps save 1,000s of lives every day.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am about to tell you.  I believe the Organ Donor Program is fantasitic.  There is just so much more to organ donation and the organ recipient’s journey than what you hear in the public service announcements that I would like to share with you. I want to tell you what it’s like for the organ recipient after the transplant is performed.

You’re probably asking yourself, why should I listen to what she has to say?  What could she possibly tell me that I haven’t already heard?

I experienced it first-hand when I received a liver transplant in 1998 from a cadaver donor.

According to UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) there were 112,706 people waiting for an organ transplant as of Oct. 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm.  Compare that to the 16,416 actual transplants performed between January and July of 2011.  That means less than 20% of the people on the list will actually receive a transplant and that is exactly what my doctor told me when I was given the news that I needed a liver.

There isn’t always a ‘happy ever after’ when you receive a transplant.

If you are one of the lucky <20% (like I was) it doesn’t mean your crisis is over.  Of the people who receive organ transplants another 20% of those organs will be rejected by the recipient’s bodies.  This can happen for various reasons, but the end results are the same, you will slowly die unless another donor organ can be found in time, something that very rarely happens.

A transplant is not an instant cure that leaves the patient with no more problems.

I was lucky, my liver was not rejected.  After the surgery, I was given huge doses of steroids to lower my immune system and reduce the possibility of rejection.  The steroids cause a lot of side effects such as swelling and reduced muscle function of the legs.  I literally swelled so much that I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.  My thigh muscles were so severely weakened that I couldn’t step-up more than one inch.  I had to do therapy for 2 ½ months to get my muscle tone and endurance back.

Although the immunosuppressant medications are necessary for the rest of my life to prevent rejection of the liver, these medications come with side effect causing me to take more medications to combat them.  I currently take 27 pills per day most of which are for problems caused by the transplant meds.

°         Increased blood pressure

°         Increased cholesterol levels

°         Increased risk of skin cancer

°         Sleep disturbance

°         Depression/Anxiety

°         Increase bleeding and bruising

°         Numbness and trembling of the hands

°         Nausea/Loss of appetite

°         Increased hair growth

°         High potassium levels

°         Low magnesium levels

Aside from the side effects the medication, the med levels must be monitored with frequent lab work. Doctor’s must adjust the medication levels often to prevent such problems as kidney damage.  I have had my transplant for 13 years and still require lab work every 4 weeks for monitoring.  That is why many patients have a portacath.  The repeated needle sticks causes blood vessels to scar so heavily they cannot be used.  My port was surgically inserted in 1997, while I was still on the transplant list.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or depressing.  I am very thankful to the person who donated their liver so that I could live.  I think about them almost every day, especially the trauma the family experienced loosing their loved one.

There are still more complications that can occur after a transplant that I will explain in a later post. I would love to hear from other transplant patients about their personal experiences. Also, send your questions and comments.


The Cast Out

Last winter my grandson came running into the house in a panic.  He was saying, “Bring cat food!  Bring cat food!”  I had to calm him down to figure out what was actually going on and finally discovered that a stray cat had appeared in our garage.

I grabbed my coat and the food and headed out to check the situation out.  When I got there my son met me.  He said a starving cat had just walked up to him out of nowhere.  I peered around my husband to get a look at the cat that had grabbed everyone’s attention.  What I saw was appalling.

The cat had long hair, which I guessed as being white.  It was tangled and matted.  I quickly placed the cat food on the cement floor and it ate it greedily.  It wasn’t scared of me at all.  This was not a feral cat; it had obviously belonged to someone.  Although the cat was full-grown, it weighted next to nothing and I could feel every bone in its body.  Its flat little face was dirty with tear staining like many Persian cats, but it had one remarkable trait, its eyes.

I picked-up the cat to examine it more closely and it (she) looked up at me with the most beautiful light blue eyes I have ever seen.  I fell in love instantly.

I knew immediately that I had to nurse this adorable creature back to health.  (Yes, as a child I brought home all the wounded animals and cared for them.)  My husband, already expecting me to help, decided to name her Mattie, because her hair was so matted.

As days went by, I soon discovered that Mattie had a severe case of ear mites, which resulted in an ear surgery for a hematoma.  She had one broken incisor and flea dermatitis.  I also discovered that her front feet had been declawed and she had been spayed.

Mattie today

Nearly a year later, Mattie is the most loving little girl.  It is obvious that someone loved this cat at some time, she was a well cared for house cat that was declawed.  She loves nothing more than to lie in your lap and sleep contently.  How can a person be so heartless as to put this animal out to fend for herself without claws to defend her?

But Mattie is just one lost animal.  According to the ASPCA web site there are 5 to 7 million companion animals entering animal shelters nationwide annually.   At least 20 percent of cats are acquired as strays. (Source: NCPPSP) Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.

In Mattie’s case I couldn’t find her owner and adopted her myself.  My plea to anyone with an animal they can no longer care for or their home can’t accommodate; take them to a shelter that can find them a new loving home.  A no-kill shelter is the best choice.  Do not put them out on the street to be injured, abused, or starve.

Chances are your local community has an animal shelter or some type of pet rescue.  These organizations can always use donations and most are non-profit organization that survive solely on donations, whether it is money, time, or supplies.  If you are looking for a way to serve your community, try volunteering at a local animal shelter.

If you are looking for a new pet try your local animal shelter first.  You may be surprised that many rescued animals are pure bred and many shelters have low adoption fees for sponsored animals.  Many times those fees include the basic shots and spay/neutering.  To find a new forever friend check out Pet Finders.


Before I started English 415, I had never written a blog post and the task seemed daunting.  I asked myself, “How am I going to have enough ideas to write 600 words each week for ten weeks?”  The answer was to write about what I knew, cared about, or felt strongly about.  I chose three posts that reflect that answer.


When writing Experiencing a Different Culture I wanted readers to know what it was like traveling to Japan.  It was an amazing experience and I wanted to share it.  By relaying my story about the children, the sightseeing, and the food I was able to tell my readers how similar people/families are in different cultures.

Personal photos added emphasis to the subjects and lent more credibility by showing readers I had experienced what I was describing.  Using word links allowed readers easy access to Japan’s historical information.  I was hesitant to add the link to the population website, but it helped readers understand what a rural area most of us were from and helped readers better relate to our situation.

The purpose of the Dark Shadows post was to relate my excitement about the upcoming movie. I believed it was necessary to use a YouTube video of the original series with a summary to help readers understand the history behind the movie.

I knew the placement of the video was important to the posts success; therefore, I located it after the plot summary.  To progress from past to present I placed the movie information, the cast photo, and the linked cast list later in the post.  (Lists are popular and easy to read.)

The story of Kids Have the Most Amazing Ideas is easy for anyone with children to relate to.  It shows the innocence and humor of childhood.   After consideration, I felt the best way to convey emotional appeal was to simply tell the story the way it happened.  The humorous tone of the quote from the Mom, “Ask your daughter” can be understood clearly by any Mother.

The photo of the little girl pink, glittery, and ruffled purses hanging from the door knobs shows a child’s ingenuity and is humorous for adults.  Gramps leaving a dollar shows how much we love our children/grandchildren and want to help them succeed and encourage their ideas and imagination.

These posts show the progression of my writing.  In Experiencing a Different Culture I struggled with how to present the different points.  Dark Shadows was easier to present using a progression of old to new.  Kids Have the Most Amazing Ideas was the easiest, because it was the story as it occurred.  These helped me learn to organize and present my ideas.

I have writing weaknesses such as using useless adjectives and adverbs and using phrases that can be replaced with one word.  I work hard to use active verbs, because I have a tendency to use weak ones.  Each time I edit, I look for these weak tendencies and correct them. Here is just one example.

“A few months ago Kass she decided that she wanted an iPod.  To teach her the value of money, her parents suggested that she save enough her money to and buy one.  So Kass did. saved her money and a few weeks ago she bought an iPod.”

I am striving to spot my common writing errors and train myself to avoid them.  When editing I look for unnecessary words, distractions at the beginning of sentences, and being more concise.  By the end of the semester I hope to become a better writer.