RIMA GOT HER AIRBAGS!!!
It's hard to know where to start writing. I won't be able to get everything that has happened to us in one post since Rima got her transplant. There has been so much new information thrown at us I'm not quite sure where to begin absorbing it. The past two weeks have been two of the most exhausting, exciting, thrilling, sad, happy, sleepless times of my life. It's all been worth it more than I can express into words. Seeing Rima with her new lungs. Moving forward each day. Walking without a nasal cannula without oxygen. This is crazy for me! It's become a norm for me to see this tube on her face. It's a very bizarre feeling, a flood of emotions. We got through this we can get through anything. I'm going to do my best over the next couple weeks and post as much as possible but it's been hard to even leave the room for a short phone call with friends since we got the call. I'm going to have to give you the story in pieces and unfortunately keep you hanging at some parts for a couple days till I can slip away long enough to write the next sequence of events. So bear with me as I try to paint you a narrative of truth, life and Rima receiving the best gift of all, new lungs.
On Saturday May 13th I barely got any sleep. I was so excited to go to the farmers market Saturday morning that my mind would not turn off. I know what a dork. But hey, if you had just got through a rough winter and were about to explore your first farmers market of the year, you would also most likely have a sleepless night. I administered Rima's 7am coli IV and then headed off to the Minneapolis farmers market. I'm so good at time management, or at least I was that morning that I hit up two farmers markets before 9am! I even found some challah bread at the second farmers market, Rima has been wanting challah for a while so I was so excited to pick some up! After I got home I prepared our stuff for a picnic that afternoon. Rima and I were going to check out a park above the Saint Paul area. Keller regional park, to be accurate. We got there mid-afternoon and it was a beautiful day. Before getting down to our picnic business Rima and I went on a roll n' stroll around the park and the water. I pushed her in the wheelchair while she made observations about the wildlife and park goers.
After our little stroll we found a semi-secluded spot by the water and I set up our spread. Rima was feeling pretty sleepy so she took a little picnic nap while I jammed out to Italian music. I had just started to watch Master of None the second season and was in the Italian music mood due to the first episode. After our picnic we went to Rima's favorite plant nursery, Bachman's. We checked out some plants and Rima had to hold herself back from staying longer/buying plants. When we got home we were both tuckered out. Me due to barely sleeping and being up so early and Rima, well just being Rima. That night we were pretty chill. I was downstairs in the family room watching some Netflix show while Rima was taking naps/doing her vest and neb therapies.
At around 9:30pm I heard foot steps running above me. Rima does not run. So her moving this quickly could only mean two things to me. One, she had gotten the call for new lungs or two there was an intruder and she was running to get me. I mean it could also have been a super cute puppy video but she would have just texted that to me. Right after I heard her run down to the kitchen the downstairs hallway lights began to flicker and she was not responding to my "what...what's wrong" inquiries. I ran up the few steps to the kitchen and found Rima bouncing around on the phone. She put it on speaker as soon as I got close to her. IT WAS THE CALL!
We were on the phone with the coordinator for a few minutes. He told us that these lungs were low-risk and it was not a life support donor or DCD donor as it was the last dry run on April Fools'. Low risk donor was music to our ears. He said we would probably need to get to the hospital around midnight or 1am and that he would call back when he had spoken to admissions at the hospital for a more accurate time for us to arrive. Once we got off the phone Rima bounced around and we hugged. The call, the call, the call!!! In the pit of my stomach I was trying to hold myself back from getting too excited. With two dry runs behind us I was more cautious about getting wrapped up in the excitement. But how could you not?!
Right away we went into a flurry or tasks; what to bring with us, should we eat now, what about a nap, should I clean a little before we leave, etc. For the next couple hours I ran around the house getting things in order and helping Rima out. At around midnight Rima checked back with the coordinator and he said to arrive to the hospital around 1am. So at about 12:30am we departed for the hospital. On our drive in the smoothie of emotions took over yet again for the third time in a row. I instructed/allowed Rima to play any music on our ride in and I would not veto it or change it, as I so often do. She played Elton John and Beatles. It was a very fitting soundtrack for the current situation. When we got to the hospital I dropped Rima off at the emergency room and I went to park the car. She then waited for me outside the hospital and we went up to the 6th floor together.
From the minute we entered Rima's room and for the next few hours or so it was like Grand Central Station. People in and out; blood work, nurses, EKG, X-ray, pulmonary, more nurses, surgical team, even more nurses. At around 4 am a cot was wheeled into the small room so I could get a couple hours of sleep. I probably slept for two hours. Rima said she maybe got an hour here or there. Again, for anyone who has gone through this or will, sleep is incredibly difficult when you know that a life changing surgery could happen within hours. Her original OR time was set for 11am but of course as always got pushed back. At around 9am they said that she would be brought down to the pre-op room round 10:15am. Right on schedule it happened. Rima gowned up with her "favorite" purple gown and we headed down to pre-op.
For the next hour and a half or so before she got wheeled away emotions were all aflutter. The anesthesia and surgical team come by a few times and talk to us. They went over what would happen in the OR and after in the ICU. This was starting to become the real deal! There is no way that this would be a third dry run especially on Mothers Day. I get the dry runs on Halloween and April Fools' but not on this day! The whole time I was just thinking positive thoughts that Rima would not be let down again. That she would get her new lungs!
I braided her hair while we were in the pre-op room. To make sure her hair didn't become a snarly charlie post transplant or at least minimize it. At around 11:50am they told us she was about 10 minutes from being wheeled away. OMG OMG OMG! This was going to happen or so we hoped. There was still the possibility of it being a dry run kind of like on Halloween but things were looking very good. The surgeon who was going to preform her transplant or the main one (it's a team effort) came by to give us the scoop on what was going on. Apparently the donor lungs were already on their way or about to be. The retrieval team had already looked at the lungs and said they looked beautiful! He said unless something happened to the lungs on the way to Rima like the transport team got in an accident or something like that, this was a go. Or if he saw something the retrieval team missed but he said he trusts them and they know what they're doing.
At 12pm on May 14th it was time for Rima to be wheeled away to the OR to receive her new lungs! I gave her a last minute card I painted for her of a sloth and some loving and encouraging words and to tell her how proud I was of her. I got a bunch of pictures as she was being wheeled away. I got to hug her, kiss her on the forehead, tell her how excited I was and how much I loved her. With one last silly exchange of nicknames to each other she turned a corner and left my sight. I had learned my lesson the first dry run not to leave the hospital till I got the call from the OR nurse that the transplant was a go! I was showed the family waiting room and set up my station in a secluded corner. They had estimated that I would get a call in about an hour or so. During this waiting period I caught up family and friends on what was going on and tried to meditate for a little. So much had happened in the last 20 hours that my brain was slowing down. It was a little after two, I don't actually remember the exact time but two hours after Rima was wheeled away I got the call from the OR nurse. IT WAS HAPPENING!
Rima was in surgery and doing great so far. The lungs were perfect! She told me someone would call in about 2 hours with another update. After I got off the phone I had to let a bunch of people know it was happening before I headed home to attempt to nap. On my drive home I was shouting with excitement, smiling, crying, laughing, so many emotions! So much preparation so much anticipation to get us to this point. The culmination of the last seven and a half months of waiting, two dry runs, two moves, just fell off the back of my mind. It was all worth it to know she got new lungs, that they were perfect, that they were a perfect match, that Rima was getting a second chance at life. A second chance that she deserved so much. A second chance that was going to be cherished beyond imagination.
I got home and tried to fall asleep for a nap before the next call came. Impossible I tell ya, impossible. The second call came about two and a half hours after the first call. It was a different person. He told me she was doing great! That one of the lungs were out and the new one was going in! He told me someone else would be calling me in about two hours for another update. I got off the phone, had to update family and friends and then finally took a nap for a little. I woke up to a call about two hours later. The surgery was coming to an end! This was much faster than expected, we had guessed she would be in surgery for about 8-10 hours. In total, it was about 7.5 hours or so. It was about six or six thirty at this point. They told me to come to the hospital and I could speak to the surgeon and ask questions about the surgery and then see Rima in the ICU.
I shot up out of bed and got myself together and ran out of the house. I had a small snafu with misplacing my wallet for a few minutes and had a mild panic attack about not finding it and not being there when Rima woke up. Thankfully I found it, this happens to me more often than not, I knew Rima would scold me later once I told her and she did haha. I got to the hospital and went to the family waiting room. I met with the surgeon and he told me the surgery went extremely well. She was doing great. It was text book, just how they want it to go. The lungs were "pristine" and were a great fit for her! After thanking him more times than I could count and trying not to jump across the table to hug him I went to the ICU to see Rima. When I got to her room the ICU nurses were buzzing all around her bed with wires, monitors and tubes.
Once they settled down I was able to go and stand next to Rima laying in her bed with her new lungs. She was still sedated and sleeping. They were going to keep her asleep overnight and wake her up the next morning. I stood next to her and her new lungs holding her hand. She was so small but so strong. My little sister had just kicked some serious butt. My little sister had just gone through a life changing surgery. My little sister was a fighter and never going to stop. My little sister was my hero. My hero was starting her new amazing journey. My birthday wish had finally come true, my sister, my hero, got her new lungs!
It's a very strange thing, standing next to a loved one in a hospital bed; sedated and with a breathing tube, arms tied with restraints, tubes and wires coming out of them in all directions. Thankfully there were nurses in the room so I didn't allow myself to cry. I'm not a very emotional person when it comes to tears, so crying in front of a total stranger was a no no for me. I had to be strong for Rima even though she was asleep and wouldn't have a clue if I cried. She was so peaceful laying in her bed. All of the sudden it hit me that she had some strangers lungs in her. The donor, their family, what they must be going through right now somewhere not too far away perhaps. They have no idea that their loss has not been in vain. I don't know how to put the words together to thank the donor for being an organ donor and for having pristine lungs. For being a match to Rima. All the feelings hit me while I stood next to Rima holding her hand. "Hold your shit together Laima" I told myself. Staring at florescent lighting also helps a lot, haha.
In the middle of me holding Rima's hand she started to move around a little. I called the nurse over and she came to my side. She took Rima's hand in hers and said "Rima, you're in the ICU squeeze my hand if you can hear me." Rima squeezed her hand. "Hold your shit together beanzy" I told myself again on repeat. "Squeeze my hand if you understand that you got your new lungs" said the nurse loudly to Rima. A squeeze of the hands occurred. The nurse told Rima everything went great and that I was there and they were going to give her more sedatives so she would fall asleep. As they administered more sleeping drugs to Rima I went back to holding her hand. I told her how amazing and great she had done and that I was there and that I loved her. All the while holding my shit together and not letting one tear escape.
Rima squeezed my hand to let me know she heard me and knew who I was. I stood by her holding her hand for the next hour after she went back to sleep. "Keep your shit together beanzy!" I told myself again. At this point the nurse told me that I should go home and get some sleep before tomorrow. They would wake her up in the morning and possibly take the breathing tube out, depending on how she was doing. I agreed that getting some rest would be best even tough it was heartbreaking to leave her. I was alone, so if I got sick or something Rima would have no one with her for the next few days, so taking care of myself was important. On the drive home a flurry of emotions hit. The next few days were going to be incredibly difficult but rewarding. This is what we hand been dreaming of happening, new lungs for Rima. This is what we had been waiting for. It was go time and I was ready. Even if I wasn't I would have to be.
This is when being there for Rima was of the upmost importance. I would have to be on point moving forward and for a while. When I got home my brain was mush, my body was exhausted, my emotions were fried. As I lay in bed after self-medicating, how could you not in my shoes, I tried to turn my brain off. It was a sleepless night. The minute I was falling asleep my brain would wake up and remind me I was falling asleep and wake me up. All I could think about was Rima in the ICU, about all the tubes and wires. About those strange clear alien looking chest tubes. Her breathing tube protruding from her mouth. The donor and questions about them and how they passed and their family. Questions on how the next few days would go. I was alone, at least physically here for the next few days. Our mom was coming later that week. I had an amazing support system of friends and family all over the country but here with me, I was alone. Rima and I had each other here and we were going to make this work better than anyone would have ever expected. Rima was Wonder Woman so I had to be Superman or in my case Super Bean.
To be continued...