Thursday, 27 June 2013

The phone rang

Carl called me from the hospital on Tuesday evening around 9:30 pm. "Hi," he said, "They called." "Who," I asked? "Toronto has lungs for me." Five words that made my heart stop. I dropped my knitting jumped up and danced on the spot. "But the pager never went off," I wailed.

I grabbed my prepacked over night bag, books and knitting bag, threw in the chargers for the cell phone and the tablet and my make up (of course), forgetting my prescription (also of course) and tore up to the hospital. For the next two hours we had a "Cluster of magnitudinal (my word) proportions" while they arranged transportation to get him to Toronto. You would think they had never done this before. I was wild with frustration. They wasted 2 hours of a 4 hour window. Finally EMS arrived and popped him into an ambulance and away they tore.

I ran out of the hospital hopped into my little blue bug and went screeching out of the hospital straight to Tim Hortons for a "large coffee double milk and step on it." Hit the 401 straight to Milton where I picked up my BFF Sandy, around midnight, with all her bags and pillows. Knitting bags being a prerequisite to any crisis and off we went to Toronto. Parked the car then tried unsuccessfully, at first, to get into the hospital which was now locked down tighter than The Tower of London (the other one). Finally I threw myself on the mercy of a security guard in emergency who let us in. We found Carl. whew.

Now more waiting. Around 5 in the morning Sandy and I fell asleep for about an hour, sitting upright in the world's most uncomfortable hard chairs, thank gawd we had pillows. Surgery was booked for 10 am. We had a report the lungs had arrived and were being assessed. Surgery might be noon or 1pm. It was agonizing. We kept reminding ourselves that this might be a false alarm. If the lungs were not perfect the transplant would be cancelled. We were afraid to believe this was IT.

Two doctors from the actual team came in and said Carl would receive a double lung transplant (this decision is made at the last minute, depending on the need, the viability of the lungs and who knows what else). The Dr took a black magic marker and wrote his initials on each collar bone, Kinda spooky. We were told that within the next 30 minutes Carl would be taken to the holding room before the OR. They had already given him the first anti rejection meds and hooked him up to an antibiotic drip in preparation.

At 11:30 they said we are taking him straight to the OR. I went with him to the OR doors kissed him and saw the door whoosh shut behind him. I stood alone in the hall. It was the worst moment of my life. There is so much hope and fear wrapped up in that moment.
The doctor had told us to go somewhere, anywhere but at the hospital. It would be hours before there would be any news. Surgery was expected to be about 12 hours.

We booked into the hotel and dumped our stuff and went to a pub for lunch. I had Bombay chicken curry and a pint and Sandy, as my designated "walker" had  coffee and a modified version of the curry. Not sure if that is in the right order but anyway ...
Back to the hospital. This time we were directed to the surgery waiting room a VAST improvement over the first waiting room of hell. This one had cushions! ... and you could actually put your feet up. I crashed for about an hour.

Around 1:30pm a nurse came to tell us they were removing the left (the worse) lung first. The Dr is a perfectionist!  Carl will be pleased to hear that. She was all smiles and confidence.
At 5:30pm a different nurse came to inform me that they were starting to replace the right lung. We were amazed. Everything was moving so quickly now. Carl was doing well and the team were very confident. 
Shortly after 8pm the Dr came in to say that they were finished  (3 hours sooner than projected). He was beaming. The surgery was problem free. They didn't have to use the heart lung machine Carl had done amazingly well. The surgeon, Dr De Perrot, was all smiles and looked as if he had been relaxing all afternoon, not standing for 9 hours saving Carl's life. I was weak with relief. He said to wait about an hour to give the team time to settle Carl into ICU and then go upstairs. 

Sarah (Sandy and Ernie's outstanding daughter and Justin's baby sister) arrived with a picnic feast which she spread out on a small table complete with Christmas napkins. We were famished. We laughed with tears and devoured almost everything. Hugs and Kisses and Sarah left to wend her way thru Toronto traffic upon her mighty bicycle, "Get your Valet parking out of my bike lane." Love her to bits. ♥

Around 9 pm Sandy and I went up to ICU. I was told I would have 10 minutes with him. I had to touch him and know he was ok. Sandy waited while I went in. A very intimidating place and I had already seen him in the ICU in London. This place is HUGE. They were taking an X-ray when I got there. He was completely sedated. I felt his brow, held his hand and told him I loved him. 

Sandy and I were giddy as with exhaustion, we staggered back to the hotel. Two old bag ladies, lol  We crashed and I mean CRASHED. Hardly had the strength to swipe the screen on the tablet. Sweet sleep.

This morning we were back at the hospital. The best (or we were starving) scrambled egg with salad stuffs wrapped in a pita. oh yum. Up to the ICU, had to wait a while after being snarked at by a clerk. Sheesh we didn't know the protocol. Pardon us.
Carl looks wonderful. He was sedation free. He knew me and waved to Sandy. I stayed with him for about an hour and then left to take Sandy home and come back to London and take care of a list of things I didn't do on Tuesday. 
Tomorrow I am back to Toronto to spend as much time with Carl as they will allow and next week I have to look for accommodation for the next three months (at least) for the two of us. I am still wound up and am having a hard time to settle down.

To the donor family: Your angel will be a part of our life forever. We will never forget you and will honour June 26th as a Special Day for the rest of our lives.


  1. I am absolutely thrilled to hear Carl got his lungs!!!!!! What wonderful news. Best wishes and I'll keep following his progress. :)

  2. What fantastic news!!! We so happy for Carl and you. Carl sounds like he is doing really well. Please keep us posted on his progress when you have time. Prayers for you both and for the donor's family.