Updated: Aug 24
Now that I am three weeks post transplant, I wanted to give you a quick update. The surgery went very well. My new kidney is working better than expected and I am feeling great!
I had forgotten what it feels like to be healthy. Over the past 5 years, my kidney function had been slowly declining - so slowly that it was hard to notice the difference day to day. It became absolutely clear how toxic my blood had become when I was teaching Zoom classes during the pandemic closure. I would try my best to participate in the warm ups, but often I would let my son Cole demonstrate the exercise while I sat off camera, trying to recover from the 30-second cardio drill that I just completed with the class. Anything physical took so much effort and I would be frustrated by poor quality of form. When I was training for my 5th dan, I regularly practiced all 17 kata in a single session. How could I be a good role model for my students when I couldn't even catch my breath after Gekisai Ichi?
You can see in this photo, taken in April 2020, how swollen my ankle were. My kidneys were leaking toxic fluid back into my body (oedema), and gravity made it settle in my feet. Only 5 days post-surgery, there was no sign of swelling and I had lost 15lbs of water weight. I did not expect to see such dramatic changes in the shape of my body so soon!
Within a week post-surgery, my renal function had increase 50 points, going from end-stage renal failure to almost normal. It feels almost miraculous. With the lack of toxic fluid affecting my body, it was like a fog had lifted from my mind. My mental clarity and newfound energy was a bit at odds with my post-surgery recovery - I wanted to dance and run - but the large abdominal incision and 26 staples holding it together were not in agreement. I managed to squeak out a tai chi set in my hospital room on day four, with my physiotherapist being quite happy with my progress and my nurse chiding me for standing on one leg. On my first day home, I decided to cook a roast and managed to pop a staple while bending in front of the oven. That landed me on bed rest for a couple of days to let the incision close up and I think I sulked the entire time.
The post-surgical process is quite busy. We had to take two trips into Hamilton every week for labs, appointments and med changes. Those appointments were exhausting, and given that I wasn't allowed to drive myself, it became a family affair. There's nothing quite a frustrating as trying to drag a 10 year old out of bed for 6am on his summer break! My progress continued to impress my medical team and we're now on local labs and video appointments weekly, so that's much easier. Eventually, those appointments will reduce to monthly, which is similar to my regular appointment schedule pre-transplant and easily managed.
My next challenge is dealing with immune suppressions, which is an obvious concern during a global pandemic. I'm actually a bit grateful for Covid in this regard - it has allowed me some security for being out in public, given that almost everyone is wearing a mask. It’s also the reason why I am taking our dojo’s Covid plan very seriously. While I am following the recommendations of public health, I have also taken the advice of my medical team into account. it's probably more strict than most other recreational activities, but in order for me to teach groups, I need to protect the health of my new kidney while the chance of rejection is highest. We will revisit the policy in the spring, depending on the Covid situation and recommendations from my team.
With all my newfound energy, I expect that the next 6 months will be transformative for me. I am excited about the prospect of training properly again, without feeling on the verge of collapse. I want to work on my advanced kata and tai chi set in more depth, not just practicing the moves for remembering. It's an exciting time!
I wanted to close this entry with a moment of gratitude. Going into surgery during a global pandemic, and facing an unknown future for my dojo was scary. I didn't know if my dojo would be able to survive the closure and I didn't know what I would be coming back to. I am so grateful for all the support of my family, friends, students and colleagues during this time. Your gifts of flowers, and cards and well wishes made all the difference in my healing. I am grateful to have a dojo to return to and I grateful to have amazing students that can hold their Sensei up in times of need.