Firstly and most importantly please can I apologise to anyone who has received weird texts from my phone this week - the person who has found it obviously thinks it is funny to use up my credit sending vulgar messages. It isn't me and I am hoping to get the phone back this weekend. Really really sorry! Now on with the story...
The operation was slightly more complex than expected. The huge amounts of sticking cutting, stapling and gluing over the last few years resulted in my lungs being fairly welded in, and a predicted 5 hour operation stretching to 9 hours in total. My family slept (or attempted to) huddled on chairs in the waiting room of intensive care until at 5am the news came that I was out of theatre. The surgeon appeared to give them a brief account of how it went. He explained about the time delay and was careful to emphasise that this meant the new lungs were out of the body for too long; the optimum time is 2-4 hours and my new lungs were without a blood supply for 5 hours 20 minutes.
This time delay caused a film of water to develop around my lungs, and over the next few days, repeated blood gas tests showed the lungs weren’t working properly yet and I couldn’t be brought round. As some of you may know, I am notoriously difficult to sedate and true to form even with doses they would usually only consider for large adult men, I kept coming round and pleading with them to take the ventilator out. During my time sedated I smiled, squeezed my mums hand, reached out to my grandma and various other displays of naughty behaviour one does not expect from someone who is fully sedated.
My first memory is a very hazy one of coming to on the ventilator. This was actually the Tuesday after the operation (which took place overnight on Thursday) although I wasn’t aware I had been out for so long. I won’t lie, it wasn’t comfortable, and I was desperate for them to take it out. When attempting to signal this I was told we had to wait an hour to ensure I had regained consciousness fully and would be able to breathe adequately on my own. That hour felt like an eternity as I watched the minutes creep round on the clock until finally the team came in…and the tube came out. I gasped in my first breath of air on my own and almost immediately started panicking. They told me I was doing really well I just needed to slow my breathing down and try and take deep breaths but it felt wrong and my breath came in frequent ragged gasps. I no now that this was probably due to the water logging of the lungs. I was petrified and kept trying to focus on people I knew who had had their transplant and the fact they had overcome this to calm me down and give me strength.
My mum and A were brought in, and hadn’t been told that I had been extubated resulting in my mum shrieking as she saw me sitting up in bed being handed a cup of water to sip for the first time. For some reason in my confused state I was extremely anxious about my family coming in, and was reluctant at first to see them. I think because I didn’t expect to struggle I felt almost ashamed that I wasn’t sitting up waving merrily and able to talk straight away, and didn’t want to let them down.
As the day went on, I struggled more and more. The nurse offered me a cup of tea which I accepted and that first sip of hot sweet tea was like nectar. I tried to slow my breathing down but it remained uneven, and my mum says by the time they came in to visit on Wednesday morning I was looking dreadful, sweaty, grey and struggling. I had also been put on the breas - a mask strapped to the head which pushes the air in and works as a non invasive ventilator – after a bad night. As my parents left the room the doctor followed them out and explained he had decided that I needed to be re-ventilated, it had been worth a try but I was struggling too much and the ventilator would help dry the lungs out. So back went the tube down my throat and I was sedated once more.