Kidney Transplant Part 1: Bad Legs and Rocket Ships

Kidney Club

Transplant Day June 1st, 2022 (Part 1)

A woman with a thick Bristol twang called me at 8am Friday morning. “We’ve got a kidney for yow my love. Get a big breakfast and ghed on over.”

Grabbed a boiled egg. Undercooked it and stood staring at wet hell. The kind of place evil fish go to. Then Kate cooked me a proper one. Straightened me out as I looked for my shoes.

Diary One Week Before

                                                       Blood Pressure


Not doing well. Edema swelling in my legs savage. Ballooned up like Michelin man. Healthy days seem like they were lived by another person, in another life. I’m horrible and swollen and these fucking leg sores like the top lip of a low rent whore. No Energy. No Sleep. The Nurse came over yesterday and changed me to overnight Dialysis. Four exchanges through the night instead of the four I’m doing through the day, which completely isolates me from Kate and Elin, Peppa pig and the rest of them. Living another life in the same house. Was excited about the overnight machine but brought back down to earth quickly. I’m still suffering from the ‘drain pain’ that sucks at me like an empty milkshake cup when all the fluid comes out. Decided I will have to really exhaust my body every day to get any sleep. Not ideal when I’m already running on very little gas, but no sleep is even worse than that. I’m a bit worried about feeling this shit for the Soapbox Derby next week.

Transplant Day, June 1st, 2022 (Part 2)

For some reason I felt  no emotion when the call came about the transplant. Maybe because any health news I’ve had over the past few years has been bad. ‘Your kidney function is slowly degenerating…The Anemia has set in and you’ll need to self-inject EPO once a week now…that penis is a medical phonomenon sir’ (One of those medical issues is potentially not true). So I walked around my house with my boiled egg and packed an overnight bag with no real belief I’d need it. Because being properly ill turns you into a bit of a pessimist when it comes to ideas about the future and promises of treasure.

Various tests and chats at the hospital. Blood Pressure. Standard. MRSA swabs into the groin and armpits. Delicious. Bristol City fan was a nurse, or the other way round. Nice chat about the good old days when Lee Trundle did kick ups against Leyton Orient and Marvin Elliot ran the midfield. Then he took my blood pressure again before I spoke to the surgeon. Stevey. Quite young. Nice beard. He said ‘two big obstacles in the way of getting this one done tonight.’ Then his phone rang. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘that’s one down.’

“The doner has died so the kidney is on the way.’ Nonplussed, surgical Stevey smiled carefully and got up and left. This is when I realised, not just knew, but truly realised that someone had to die for me to live again.

By 11pm I was heading into theatre. Nerves for the first time, crashing into the hospital bed and barrelling along the corridor. You are right in reality now. The place where real truth lives and every before and after evaporates. The same as when the whale music is drowned out by your screaming girlfriend and the great lens of life starts focussing on NOW. All I could hear this time, though, was my brain questioning if the painkillers would work or if I’d just be sitting there while they sliced me open. Holding the scalpel for Stevey while he brushed his teeth and freshened up before the big game. Strange really, to wonder that as I was twisting through the corridors on the bed, pushed by the tattooed skinhead who knew everyone. Just another genuine worry of a nonsensical fear. Something having a rare disease makes you a ‘bit of an expert’ in, as Daddy Pig would say.  

In theatre, Stevey is behind a curtain playing with the kidney with his mate. The anaesthetist is a skinny lad with circular glasses and legs like hosepipes connected into a tiny boiler body. He is trying to work out which way round the bed goes with the nurse. Up and down they push and twist while I stand their in my gown, trying not to look at the shiny sharp things. I feel strangely put at ease by this mix of anxious competency. The true character of all good drug pushers. Then I hear the music and Stevey pokes his head round the corner. I’m lying down now and Insane in the Membrane drifts across the ether. Cypress Hill. I laugh and my feet jig side to side out of the tight blanket. God bless you 90s Hip Hop. Stevey appears again and says “Best Hip Hop Tune of All time…Discuss.” I have no capacity to say anything smart. I kind of snort and he says.

‘I’ll ask you tomorrow.’

Then he comes over into my eyeline and in front of the ceiling lights.

“Right then, the kidney has two arteries. More complicated than we thought but nothing we haven’t done before.’

Then he leaves and the great circular glasses of the drug pusher are above me.  

‘You’re going to feel a warm feeling,’ he says. The gas mask elastic twangs and a cold rush goes up through my arm and into my head like a rocket ship. It takes hold and I close my eyes and try to ride it out to Neverland like I used to. Up, Up, Up and away. Like that time I left my body back in the little hut at the Black Swan, sailing out into the cold dark air, watching that silhouette of me back there on land.

‘Please open your eyes sir,’ his metal voices says.  ‘So we can tell if you are still with us.”

Back in the room but not for long. Not for long at all.