As I mentioned earlier, Dad is the recipient of a kidney from his
sister, my Aunt Beth. The problem with donated organs is that while by
necessity are a close match to your body, they don’t have your unique
genetic code. This would normally cause your immune system to attack it
since it’s a foreign object, and attacking foreign objects is an immune
system’s job. Hence, organ recipients must take drugs that suppress the
immune system, which is done by preventing the reproduction of white
blood cells. As you might conclude, the price paid for being able
to keep the organ is that you now open the door to all kinds of
infections that you’d normally shrug off.
I knew that the infection that Dad contracted in his toe was the result
of having his immune system suppressed. Dr. Sivaciyan, a friend of the
family explained to me what I didn’t know: the blood clot that formed
in Dad’s leg was a byproduct of the infection. Dad was taking
anti-clotting medicine, so it would take something unusual to cause a
clot. The blood clot cut off the blood supply to the kidney, causing it
to go into shock.
Simply put, the measures taken to keep the kidney also put it out of commission. Talk about your vicious cycles.
We’d originally hoped that the removal of a couple of Dad’s toes would
be sufficient to rid him of the infection, but the spread was greater
than we’d realized. A more radical amputation was necessary, so earlier
this week, he’d undergone what they call a BKA — a below-knee amputation.
I can only imagine what Dad’s going through right now. He’s
disappointed that his kidney may no longer work after the major
production of getting the transplant barely two years ago, and losing a
chunk of leg can only compound that heartbreak. Still, as my sister
likes to put it, Dad’s a “tough old war horse”, and if anyone can pull
through a situation like this, it is he.
The good news is that the infection seems to be completely gone. Now we
have to see if that kidney restarts. Once again, the immune-suppressing
drugs are both blessing and curse. They slow the rate of reproduction
of immune cells, but they also slow the rate of reproduction of kidney
cells. The kidney may rebound, but slowly.
In the meantime, I’m doing what I can, which is visiting him as often as possible (the Second Cup
coffee shop in the hospital knows what to make me as soon as I step
into without having to ask). All we can do is wait and see what happens.