Thursday, October 9, 2008
Catching my Breath: Part 1- The Call
It had been just about seven weeks since I got listed for a lung transplant. The first week felt like a long year and then the following ones kind of went on a glide rule by the mundane of my daily grind. I'd wake up around 6 am or so and just kind of stay still on the couch and enjoy that moment of a regular heart rate at about 88/89 BPM while breathing 8 liters of O2 per minute; however, anticipating that the moment I would decide to move into a sitting position, my pulse would race fast like a pika looking for a hole to hide from its predator. This, along with my need for a higher saturation of oxygen, would send me into what would be part of my ultimate daily task - Trying to catch my breath.
Breathing is such natural thing to do. It is very hard to explain in words the feeling of not being able to do it. I would first try to put my mind into a ready face. I'd slowly remove the covers and proceed to a sitting position; in less than a minute my pulse would get all jacked up as high as 120 BPM, oxygen saturation would drop and the acceleration of my breathing would set off a coughing attack that decreased the chances of catching my breath even farther. Taking control of this will take me at least 20 minutes in which, at that point, I would be so exausted from hacking leaving me feeling like I may as well never have tried to get up to begin with. This was not an option for me; I would just cope and take myself through the process and give it a positive outlook. I would say to myself, Rowan, if you get up you can make it to the stairs and then to the bathroom...ah taking a dump, brushing my teeth and washing my face made the challenge worthwhile and so I will just troop and get it done. This was one of many tasks and I was getting pretty good at it, although the idea of getting good at something of such a nature wasn't appealing. My goal was to keep myself self-sufficient.
Keeping myself active became the name of my game and I would play this hard everyday for the weeks to come. I was very lucky to have been allowed to work from home; this kept my mental and emotional state of mind very high. I also became good at this quick. Working at my desk at home also had me setting a routine that enabled me to stay on top of my game and truly it felt great.
On Saturday Sept 13th Heather and I had a real challenging conversation about my physical state; it had progressively gotten worse in the past 2 weeks and the daily grind was getting a lot harder. Heather had been so strong, so willing and was already so overextended herself to the maximum human capacity that I was determined to do my best to try to keep a balance and do as much as I could on my own...but we both knew reality was creeping in and we needed to assess our next move. I had had a pretty shitty night. I was restless and woke up around 4 am and never went back to sleep. I had spent the day feeling completely taxed. I felt tired and very low energy, so by the time we started talking later that day it was obvious things were about to take a turn for the worst. Just the week before my dear friend Bruce Cornell had dropped a wheelchair for me so I could be taken out for my lab work and possibly some little outings to get fresh air; I had been home bound for over 5 weeks and I longed to see the bay. At this point, taking 5 steps would send me off into the void or what at times I started calling, falling into a bottomless pool. Yep I would have to wheel around.
Heather and I talked about the possibility of maybe bringing someone to assist me during the day, to help me with meals and kind of keep an eye on me. This was something I was not thrilled about but I could see that it was inevitable. Heather simply could not bear any more weight on her already endless responsibilities. I simply replied, "Don't worry, I'm still feeling very strong and I will let you know went I get there." Sunday came and it was a very cool day. I felt great and somewhat energized. I had a feeling of real awe that I could not quite put my finger on so I just rode on that high and did some affirmation work. Heather, Kaya and I had spent the day together playing card games, doing art and hanging out. Kaya was such a doll. After dinner that evening we all sat on the couch to cuddle and we were looking for a movie to watch. Around 8 pm the phone rang and as we sat screening the call, Heather jumped up to grab it when she heard it was UCSF hospital. I was not quite as alarmed since "The call" was supposed to come first through my cellular phone however; this would not be the case.
Heather answered and she was asked if Mr Rowan Jimenez was available; again we were both very unsure about the call until I took the phone and said: "hello, yes this is Rowan Jimenez" and the nurse said, "Mr Jimenez, Dr Hoop wants you to come here tonight for a lung transplant." It took a moment to register the sentence but once she asked if I could be there before 10 pm it just set in. Our jaws dropped and immediately we went into autopilot. I mean it had only been 7 weeks and we were still getting our plot together. Emergency contacts, who will take Kaya while we went to the hospital etc. There was so much we had not completely prepared but the call was here and there was no time to waste. Kaya was calmer than both of us. On her own, she went upstairs to her room and packed a bag with a change of clothes and any other necessities. While in the car driving to San Francisco it all came together; I had been so focused and my aim towards the goal I've been wanting to achieve was about to materialize. Hold fast amigo! I was on my way to get a bilateral lung transplant.
Stay tune for Catching my Breath: Part 2- One out of Five
One love, Rowan