Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hilly Road Ahead

01/18/2011-A Hilly Road Ahead
The morning started off waking up at 7:00 am-I have not woken up at that time for quite a while and it was pretty difficult to do, but I am trying to make new habits and going to bed earlier and waking up earlier is one of them.
So by 9:30 am-I met my Auntie and Uncle (who are brother and sister to my mom) in the parking lot of a closed down Mervyn's) with my "Auntie" Meena to go for my first real (non trail) road bike ride. It was good-mildly hilly, but not awful. I did not have to stop on any hills and walk up them-and I did not have to shift to first gear at any of them. It was a total of 11 miles, which was pretty good for my first day out. We were going to make it a little longer, but the next signal is REALLY busy, so we turned around a signal early and that took off about a mile or maybe 2.
Some of those hills looked so hard to do and that I could not do them, but once I was on them, I could not stop and just got through them. I sort of surprised myself that I did so many, and such steep hills. The other day I tried to do one hill and I could not do it. I think it has a lot to do with warming up my heart. During surgery the nerves to my heart were cut so I have no autonomic nervous system (ANS) the system which tells you to fight or flight. So this means I have to warm up, this can take a good 5 minutes or more. I think it also helped that my Auntie was there and she would not take it if I walked up the hill.
So I have a new exciting work out schedule-I am training-which is a total surprise, but I will tell you all later. It is mostly an exciting because it is with family, and possibly with one of my best friends!
So-to the medical stuff-at first I typed studd-I wish there was a medical studd-preferably a Dr., but I would take a RN.
So my Immune Cell Function Test (this shows how well I am immunosuppressed, it is bad to be to under suppressed-you will always get sick (like with colds) and are more prone to cancer and other things) or over suppressed-your body will be fighting off the organ) from a few weeks ago came back not good, and they gave me the choice to either up my Myfortic or my Gengraf (I was smart and choose the Gengraf) so the doctor upped my Gengraf a very little bit (it has bad side effects (I choose Myfortic over Gengraf because I think Myfortic makes me feel worse than Gengraf and I don't think I could tolerate anymore Myfortic). So a week later I took the test again and it ends up that I was the smart one and choose the right drug because after taking a break from the Myfortic in December (to go on Rappamune to see if that would help with the nausea and end the chronic rejection-which it did not-it made me sicker because it depleted my potassium and magnesium) my drug level test showed that my body is not absorbing my Myfortic (which is pretty serious-since I tapered off prednisone and was off of it-so I was only on 1 anti-rejection drug, all transplant centers require 2 drugs, some 3). Actually the nurse said either you arn't taking myfortic or your body isn't absorbing it, and I immediately started promising her that I take it ever day as prescribed. So we decided that I am not absorbing it. So I am running out of anti-rejection drugs that work. I got them to give me the name brand of cellcept-I have to make sure that I only have to pay my small copay and not a gillion dollars because I can not take the generic-I thought it was going to kill me.
Anti-rejection meds that work: gengraf, name brand cellcept, rapamune (but would be a last resort)
Anti-rejection meds that don't work=prograft (can't see when I take this), generic cellcept, myfortic
And this is all kaiser is giving out anymore, I have heard of neoral, and Imuran, but Kaiser did not offer it to me. So let's all pray that my ICF will get better (and I will still feel ok) with the cellcept (I haven't taken it in a year).
On a funny side note-I called the transplant coordinator at 4 because I knew my lab results should be back by then, but she still had not talked to the Dr. about them, so she had to call me back. Well I was out running errands and I though it was going to just be a few minutes more, so I waited in the parking lot....for 40 minutes. And then I finally left. And of course 5 minutes later she called me and told me about the med change and wanted me to run out and get the new meds. In my head I though: "So, basically I have only been taking 1 anti-rejection medication for a month, what is one more day, I will go out tomorrow after rush hour,".

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pump Head

01/09/2011 Pump Head
So I guess I have been in a writing mood lately because I think this is the third day in a row that I have written, usually I start out reading friends blogs and commenting, but lately I have been riding a lot-and when I ride I get lots of deep thoughts and this is sort of the therapy.
So from the heart transplant surgery I got developed this condition (that will go away over time) called pump head-that's it's real name-you can look it up on wikipedia, isn't it such a vulgar name? Basically what it is, is memory loss-of different kinds (short and long term) caused by the surgery-when I was on the heart lung machine. There are many theories what actually goes wrong with the pump, one of the things is that your red blood cells are crushed when they go through the pump and are ruined-but there are many other theories.
Anyways-I am talking about this for a reason. For awhile I have noticed that it is so weird the things I actually am remembering/remember. I have forgotten many things from my long term memory, it somewhat feels like I have a slight amnesia-I know the basic things like my name, family, etc. But some things that I expect myself to remember I am not remembering. They kind of catch me off guard because I just don't expect it and I am always surprised.
I have gone to church for my whole life and this morning we were singing songs in church that I have sang my whole life, but I could not remember the words, I had to read them from the screen. It was it kind of made me all the sudden evaluate my life and what I really value. I am having no problem telling people about medical crap-sorry, but I can real off a whole load of stuff, it took me 2 days to remember 20 medications I had never heard of (the dosage, why I took them, and when I took them, etc.) (and I am not just talking about knowing medications-I am a nursing student so just knowing about general stuff going on) but I totally am forgetting verses that I have always known-I just draw a blank.
I know it is important to know about my health, but it made me think that I also need to put a lot more time in reading the word. It is so weird how it took this pump head to figure this out.

This is the stuff they don't tell you about

02/08/2011 This is the stuff they don't tell you about!
So I was watching this cheezy movie about heart transplant patients; yes I must watch and read all books about heart transplants, fiction or non-fiction to either learn more or to see how close they really capture what it is like to have a heart transplant.
After one of the characters got their heart transplant, they were speaking to a fellow heart transplantee about just how great they felt-"You know, the stuff they don't tell you about". I have been thinking about writing this for an hour now, and now I can't put it into words, but after my great night I can totally relate to this character.
The stuff that they did not tell me about was how all the sudden I would be more out going and willing to try more things. I have done more things with friends, gone out with friends of friends, and tonight I went to a friends work party as her "date". I think in a way the transplant has given me some sort of confidence because I would have never done these things before.
The night was amazing! I got to meet some really cool people, a Chief or Surgery for UCSF, SF Judge, and many Lawyers, and some guy tried to pick up on me-this was the first time since transplant (I inadvertently covered my scar with a scarf-people ALWAYS stare at my scare when I talk to them- so I don't know if that made me more approachable). but I turned him down-he smoked and had a tattoo on his neck :(. I am so glad I went, it was just such a cool adventure.
Today was Katies winter ball and I woke up early (10 am) and ran out to the craft store and bought peacock feathers and made her a headpiece. I think it actually looks really cool and really good. It really got my creative juices flowing in another way. I love how lately I have been back into doing art-for fun. I get inspirations from watching movies or just looking at materials I think of something amazing I would like to make.
I love Katies dress that we picked out about 5 days before the dance. I will have to post pictures later. Last year she was very formal, this year she was very fun.
I got to do her hair fun, and touch-up her highlights which turned out amazing looking-he hair was looking to blond.
And finally, Jackie always does her make-up, but she is away, so she asked me to do it. And I though I could do a fine job, but that it would just look like everyday make-up since that is the sort of make-up that I do, but then my creative juices started flowing and I blended the colors of her eye shadows to make it look like a peacock-to keep with the theme. Even my grandmother and mom liked it! Their only complaint-and my grandfather was very pissed about this was that the dress was pretty short-but you gotta have fun!
So we both had a great night! This is what the doctors don't tell you about!

Friday, January 7, 2011


I have been feeling a little "under the weather" from the medication change, but Tuesday I had my biopsy and convinced my doctors to changes my meds back and now I am feeling back to normal. Really though, after getting my labs back, all that I think was wrong is that my magnesium and potassium were REALLY low. As soon as the office got the results, they called me and told me to take 8 pills of K+ and 900mg of Mg and in a few hours I felt waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better. Some of the antirejection medications make mineral and vitamins leach from your bones and body and I think that was what was happening to me. When you do not have enough or you have too much K+ and/or Mg you can have irregular hear beats which can make you feel really rotten. I really thought everything was going wrong with this new medication and I was rejecting again, but after I took the K+ and Mg I felt fine and then the next day I got my biopsy results and it was another 1R/1A-which is no change on the rejection (I always have minimal rejection) and the inflammation went down! So now I am trying to get off the prednisone AGAIN and will go back in 2 months (after I have been off for awhile) to see if everything is ok.
If I was a normal heart transplant patient by now I would be off the prednisone, have a regular medication schedule, getting labs every month (I get them about every other week to every week), and go to the clinic every three months. Knowing this, I just did not feel that it was a good time to start nursing school, so I finally emailed my counselor and told her to push me off until the fall of 2011 because of the complications. I feel good about this decision because it will give be more time to get back to normal and do things that I would have never been able to do.
Well I just celebrated my 23rd birthday! I have to thank God and my donor for letting me be with my family for another year.
The next part not everyone may agree with or want to read, but my blog is about an honest account of what it is like to have a heart transplant.
On my birthday, the one present I really wanted was to not have to take my 3 sets of many pills. The day was kind of a hard day because for many days before and after I was not feeling well and by that day I felt like I should just get to be a Princess and not have to take my meds, but I still did. I have never missed a dosage of my medications, but I still have a love hate relationship with them. I love them because they keep me alive (thank you Norm Shumway for realizing cyclosporine prevented rejection!) but I hate them because they can make me feel sick (I must take them with food), I hate the taste and smell of them and I hate sorting through them knowing that I must take them-this is part of my rebellious nature. But I am back to feeling "normal" being back on the myfortic.
So for my first post of 2011 I am posting my resolution and that is to just keep on with what I did with 2010-be thankful for my new life and don't hold back! Go out, have fun, do stuff! Volunteer with CTDN so all the people I know waiting for their transplants can get a chance at their new lives!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Last Entry of 2010

12/31/2010-Last Entry of 2010!
I have to sneak in one last entry of 2010! This has been one amazing year! A lot of hard work, many, many struggles, a lot of learning, changes, going out of my comfort zone, getting many opportunities and experiences that most people don't normally get, and a full year with someone else's heart!
Heart/Health wise this year started off really tough and it did not turn around utill the last few months. I had bad rejection many times and was on prednisone tapers that were anywhere from 1000 mg of Prednisone/Solumedrole to 100mg of Predrisone to being off for 3 weeks (and I finally got my face back! but now I am back on the prednisone so it is gone again). But I was so lucky that I did not have the antibody rejection and have to stay in the hospital, the worst I had was having to go in 3 days in a row for IV medication.
I am also so fortunate that this heart feel so strong! It honestly feels....undescribable...I don't know if everyone is walking around with hearts feeling like this, but you if you are, you are some lucky ducks. Even on my worst days, when the medication makes my heart feel so weird and the beats are off, or the rejection was bad, I still feel way better than when I was 5 years old-before there could have been that much damage to my heart. I said this to someone before, it just feel so good, so natural with this new heart. To not have to have something mechanically keeping your heart going (like a pacemaker, LVAD, ICD, etc.) the mechanical stuff is great for an emergency, but it is not the same as a real heart. It is not great for people who are still highly active and/or will need the mechanical support for long-term use.
I am finally used to the right heart caths! You can poke me in the jugular as much as you want! I am getting used to the nausea, sort of. I changed one (of my 3) antirejection meds to from myfortic to rapamune (because my biopsy showed mild rejection/inflammation. I am not liking the rappamune, it has done a number on me and I am hoping I can go off of it at this next appointment. So far my headaches have gradually returned, I am short of breath, by blood pressure is high (normally it is perfect and I don't even have to take anything to lower it! I am so lucky!) and I am still nauseous, and I don't know if the acid reflux is worse all the sudden or it has been bad for a while and I have just not been paying attention (the antirejection meds really rip up your stomach so you are put on 2 antacids). But yet all this was not enough for me to call the doctors office early and get a sooner appointment or get try to get off the meds.
It is just starting to hit me-13 1/2 months later, that this is not really my heart. I got this heart because poor person died. I know I could not have prevented their death, and my illness had no correlation to their death, but it has just started hitting me that this could have been one of my family members (or myself) who got in a fatal accident and died (it happens everyday). I think I came to this conclusion with all of the excitement over the float in the Rose Bowel Parade and seeing all of the donors florographs-it put a "face" on the donors (like how being a volunteer with CTDN and talking about my transplant I am trying to put a "face" on transplants, it was just one of those moments), so many of the donors are so young, like my age, you just don't expect people to die young. But it also makes me remember that I have to live for my donor and their family, and the life I was given will not be in vain.
I have gotten so many experiences that I (probably) would not have been able to do/been given if I was in school/working/did not get the heart transplant. I got to travel and live with my sister and cousin-away from my parents. That was sooooooo cool! I grew a lot closer to my sister, we had a lot of fun, and learned about how to rent a house and set it all up-without any help from our parents!
I have gotten many speaking opportunities, many volunteer opportunities with CTDN, and a internship with a nurse educator. At all of the place I learn so much-and hopefully I am again putting a face on transplant. These opportunities I would not have been given without the transplant or if I was in school and they have been so cool.
One thing I have tried to do this year and will try to do in 2011 is be a support person for the younger people that need a transplant. I did not know anyone young that had a transplant, it wasn't until 6 months out that I met some friendly transplant people at TRIO, but it wasn't until I went and talked to another young person in the hospital that I met someone closer to my age that had/needed a transplant. The reason this makes a difference is so many of the people that are transplanted at my hospital were near retirement when they got their transplant, so they just retired. I am just starting my life and I still need to go back to school, so there are a whole different set of issues with me and it is nice to talk with other people my age to see if they are struggling with the same things. But for me I definitely had to step out of my comfort zone to even go to groups like TRIO, much less talk to people my age about transplants, but I think that this was is such a pertinent part of the transplant process for someone waiting, that one of my goals (and if you are the prayerful type-you can pray for this) is to keep stepping out of my comfort zone and talking with transplant people.