Of Tubing, T-Tubes And Fewer Pills...
Well folks, it's just a matter of days now before my T-tube is removed and the last hole in my body from my liver transplant surgery is sewn up.
Next Monday morning, I head into NYU's radiology department where the procedure will be done. The T-tube is the thin rubber strand - like a string of spaghetti - that's been protruding from the right side of my body just below the ribs and above the abdomenal scar from my Mercedes-Benz incision. The other end of the tube extends into the bile duct in my liver. It's sort of a safety valve to make it easy to ensure that there isn't any leakage of bile. In the procedure, a dye will be released into the region to detect any stray bile.
If all goes well, I should be heading home after a few hours. Doctors say the actual removal of the tube can cause bile leakage, so for two hours or so after the procedure I'll be under close monitoring for potential infection. In about 10% of such procedures infections occur which can require a couple of days of hospital care and a regime of antibiotics.
So, I'll be taking along a good book, a notebook, a toothbrush and a change of clothes, just in case.
In the meantime, doctors continue to slash my meds. At Monday's check up, two meds were cut out completely and the dosage of Prednisone - my daily steroid - was cut in half. I'm now down to ''just'' 8 meds for a total of ''just'' 15 pills daily, but that's a far cry from the 14 meds and 40 total pills I was on when I came home from the hospital on Dec. 30. I'll never be free completely from taking some steroids and anti-rejection pills for the rest of my life - but there will likely be further cuts in dosages. Once a transplant patient, always a transplant patient.
As baseball season approaches and steroids are Topic A (especially among those who don't want to focus on the Red Sox's astounding World Series championship), it's worth mentioning that the type of steroids I'm on aren't the kind that athletes are interested in. In fact, my steroids slow down, rather than speed up the healing process and weaken - rather than strengthen - muscle tone. For me, the interest is in slow healing so that scar tissue doesn't grow and create problems with the new liver. Long time use of high dosages of steroids can cause the face to grow much rounder and puffier - what's called ''Charlie Brown head.'' Comparative photos over the years of ballplayers implemented in the steroid scandal graphically unscore this. Good Grief! In the most ridiculous obfuscation of the steroid story I've seen to date, Barry Bonds actually said that proof that he's worn the same sized fitted baseball cap throughout his entire career proves he doesn't use steroids. But, of course, they don't make your cranium grow - they cause your face to bloat.
Doctors also told me I'm now allowed to resume driving and could fly in an airplane, if I chose, as my three-month initial risk period is drawing to a close -
but I couldn't convince them to issue an Rx for an islands vacation.
These days, the vehicle of choice for Nancy and the kids has been inner tubes as we left the snow of New Jersey for the snow of New York's Catskill Mountains last weekend. My main jobs now are to undertake a great deal of rest and and a great deal of exercise. On Saturday, I rested while they tubed and Sunday, I hiked five miles on country roads to the maple syrup barn and back, getting caught up in a swirling snowstorm. Tasha and I did our own version of the Ididarod sled-dog race on Monday. She was the sled (in the jog stroller); I was the dog ask we mushed through about four miles of local slush.
Doctors say I probably could have gone joined the family spinning and bumping down on the snowy hills Saturday without doing any damage. But I would have felt more than a little silly explaining to them that I accidentally yanked out my T-tube while tubing.
Call me old-fashioned, but I'll settle for having it removed the traditional way. And I'll wait until the T-tube is taken out before I take to the tubes.