This Tuesday I'm going to do a 5-minute talk at a press conference here in town to promote National Donate Life month. Illinois' Secretary of State, Jesse White, will be there. He has been a tireless promoter of organ donation in these parts. I heard him speak a few years ago about his own family's experience: they said "no" to donating his brother's organs, and then his sister needed a kidney transplant several years later, which led him to rethink the system and his own attitudes toward organ donation. It was fascinating and moving to hear him speak on the subject.
The real difficulty has been limiting myself to 5 minutes. I'm a bit of a droner, you know. But I've trimmed my adjectives and jettisoned some unnecessary medical details, and found the task of focussing my message to be an enjoyable challenge. Not that it should be that
great a challenge. I mean it is
five whole minutes; it's not like I'm trying to write haiku, here. (Organ Donation Haiku! I like it. Submit some in the comments section, if you're as bored by tonight's TV schedule as I am. Here a page with Haiku links
. I like the first article
from that page.)
The other night, Jörg called me upstairs in his worried tone of voice. "Come here and look at this. Do you think Annika's tummy has gotten a lot bigger?" I looked. She popped it out for me, arching her back and rotating like a supermodel. "I don't know," I said, "No?"
And then I added, "You worry an awful lot, sweetie."
A few days later I took Annika in for her weekly lab draw, and her transplant coordinator called us a few hours later. "Everything's mostly the same," she reported, "except her albumin
, which dropped by a lot. Have you noticed her tummy getting bigger?" Jörg was at work at the time, so he couldn't throw me a triumphant glance as he danced around the room, shaking his booty and chanting, "Uh-huh! Uh-huh! I knew it!"
So we'll be taking Annika in to Chicago on Thursday to have her checked for ascites
, which could be signaled by a drop in albumin accompanied by increased abdominal girth. If she does have ascites, she'll need to start taking diuretics. It's not a huge deal, really. She's been on them before, although I seem to recall that oral Lasix
was nasty tasting. But it's kind of a bummer. Up to this point, Annika's been on post-transplant drugs. Lasix, to me anyway, is totally a pre
-transplant drug. It's one of the drugs you take when your liver is failing. Mind you, this category is 100% a product of my own little mind, but, still, bummer
Annika has started physical therapy again. Our main "exercise" goal for her right now? Standing. Yup. Just ... standing
. Evidently just being up on her feet for 5 minutes caused Annika's pulse to increase quite a bit and her breathing to become noticeably heavier. (Jörg pointed out to me that the heavy breathing could be due to ascites, but I'm not sure if this makes the situation better
.) On the way in to Easter Seals, Annika found a gigantic worm in the parking lot, still wiggling but looking distinctly uncomfortable. So we picked him up and moved him to the mulched area around the bushes. Annika got down on her knees and watched him expectantly. The worm was working his way down under the mulch, but he wasn't breaking any land-speed records in the process. Already 3 minutes late for the therapy appointment, I convinced her to go in the building, under the guise of giving the worm some "personal space." On the way in she announced, "That's the best worm, ever. I'm going to name him 'Christine.' " So that was his
name. I guess she was having a Johnny Cash moment
(I know the song was Shel's, but "having a Silverstein moment" doesn't sound nearly as funny).
Later on that day, Annika decided to devote all her efforts to worm rescue missions. She carefully searched all concrete areas for any worms in distress. Just a few minutes later she came back holding one extremely crispy worm and looking forlorn. "I think he's already dead, isn't he?" Showing that I certainly do know when not
to be sarcastic, I answered gently, "I'm afraid so. Why don't you go find a good place for him?" She trotted off, holding the worm in her hands, cupped in front of her. But then she tripped a bit over the uneven spot in our front walk. She paused. "Uh, mama? I think his head just broke off." And then I ruined my Good Mommy routine by asking, "Are you sure it wasn't his tail
?" She lifted her hands right up to her face for a closer look. Then she just shrugged. "Could be."
Needless to say, I wasn't invited to the funeral.