When you donate a kidney, people keep calling you a hero and saying very nice things about you. But in the whole scheme of things, I’m the person who did the least amount of work. All I had to do was say “yes” and show up at Maine Medical Center at 5:30 a.m. without having coffee beforehand. Which, for someone who is not a morning person under any circumstances, did take a fairly heroic amount of willpower. But I wanted to take some time to talk about the teamwork involved in making my surgery as successful as it was. Medicine is very much a group project.

The operating room prep nurse who got me ready was Jenny. She was very brisk and efficient (or maybe she was just normal, and seemed super brisk because, as I said, it was very early for me) but answered all my dumb questions and did not mind when I charged my cellphone in what was probably an outlet meant for important medical equipment. I’d say my only complaint there was that my hospital gown had the same pattern as a Panera Bread napkin, which I understand is beyond the nurse’s control.

The next folks I talked to were the anesthesiologists, Dr. Smith and Dr. Longfellow. Dr. Smith had the most kind, empathetic demeanor of anyone I think I’ve ever met. I mean, this guy could have told me the moon was made of green cheese and I would have gone with it, he just radiated so much honesty. So when they told me I was going to be OK, the surgery was going to go great, and they would be with me every step of the way, I really believed it. Which was good, because I’d never actually been under general anesthesia before and I was a little worried about potential complications. (They are infinitesimally rare, but my brain’s threat perception is real janky.) Dr. Smith took the time to explain every step of every procedure they would use to put me under for surgery (which of course I immediately forgot). And Dr. Longfellow didn’t mind when I asked him if he was related to Henry Wadsworth (he was!) even though he clearly gets asked that question all the time. And both of them were very good at their job because I don’t remember anything after being wheeled into the operating suite.

The next thing I remember was coming to a vague sense of awareness with a blonde, fuzzy, shimmery being hovering over me, spooning strawberry Jello into my mouth. I thought it was an angel at first but turns out it was a recovery room nurse named Zoe, as viewed without my glasses. She was so nice even though I told her I was Mushu from Disney’s 1998 movie “Mulan” (like I said, Drs. Smith & Longfellow really knew what they were doing with the good drugs) and insisted on hobbling myself to the bathroom instead of using a bedpan, which was probably stressful for her. It was a long hallway. But she was game. Zoe also played me a fun song called “It’s Raining Tacos.” Do I remember the context leading up to that? No, I do not.

I am sure that a bunch of other people were in the operating room contributing to the success of my laparoscopic nephrectomy, but unfortunately I have no way of knowing who they were because I was profoundly unconscious. I was also naked, so I honestly don’t want to know the exact number of people in the room. But if anyone reading this was involved in my surgery, please give yourself a round of applause. The surgery was performed by Dr. James Whiting, and as far as surgeries go, it was boring, standard and by-the-book (which is exactly what you want an organ removal to be).

Kevin and Greg from patient transport joked, as they were wheeling me across Maine Med’s vast campus, that the transplant program gave their living donors hospital rooms with really nice views. In retrospect I do not think it was a joke, because I got a postcard view of Portland from my room – I could see directly into Hadlock Field and Fitzpatrick Stadium and down to the bay. If you have to be admitted to Maine Medical Center, definitely aim for the Gibson wing.

I was in the hospital for two days and my nurses during that time were Jess, Lydia, Brianna and Maggie. All of them were top-notch nurses and kept their cool, even though everyone who came to visit me brought me a case of seltzer water and it started filling up the room pretty quick. They also had to wake me up every four to six hours to check my vitals (standard procedure), and, as my boyfriend can attest, I am not a happy camper when prematurely roused. I think I growled at one of them. They were so chill about it. Despite the hospital being full almost to bursting, the whole staff was nothing but gracious and professional and made me feel like I was the only patient in the building, down to Meghan from environmental services, who filled up my water bottle in the kitchen for me because I couldn’t fit it under my room’s tap.

Thanks in part to this massive team effort, I am home, healing and hitting all my recovery benchmarks. I have several follow-up appointments over the next year, but all the labs in the hospital indicated that my lone kidney is ramping up its function to compensate for the loss of its twin. I haven’t been given many details, but the transplant team did tell me that my recipient’s surgery was successful, so hopefully my little beanie baby is going to work in its new body.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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