Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Big Buzzard and The Organ Grinders

in haste...

Today was amazing. Yesterday I came to Maff's house, and together we finished writing a song which he'd already sketched out. It's called 'Live Life Then Give Life'. This morning, I wrote the horn parts and produced some lead sheets, and this afternoon we went into the Cold Room studios with a fantastic bunch of musicians, and an adhoc choir of family and friends and recorded it. You can hear the finished result over on our new Myspace page:

Here are some pictures of everyone involved.

We're hoping to release this to promote organ donation, and are going to donate the rights to the song to the charity Live Life Then Give Life.

Do let me know what you think of it.


Friday, August 17, 2007

I'm back

Sorry to have neglected this blog for so long. The past 10 days have been the most momentous, unimaginably amazing days of my life. And that's NO exaggeration.

On 6th August, a very great friend and I were both admitted to Guy's hospital. The next day, the amazing surgeons there removed one of his kidneys and put it into me. The 10 days since then have been a total whirlwhind. The basic news is that I feel 20 years younger, and full of life.

I'll post a diary I've been keeping of the whole thing here (I need to get a new power supply for my mac first!). But the highlights have been:
- Weds 8 - woke up feeling great
- Fri 10 - played saxophone, with Maff on piano (see videos below)
- Sat 11 - escaped from hospital for the evening, and had a great time with the guys and girls of Borough Market in the GInger Pig Butchers
- Sun 12 - urinary catheter removed (Aaaaaaaah!)
- Mon 13 - Discharged from hospital.
I'm now at 10 days after the transplant, and feeling better and better every day. I get tired quite quickly, especially as the energy I have makes me want to run about and do loads of stuff. But I'm taking it easy.

I've been getting messages from all corners offering good wishes. Thank you to everyone who's been thinking of us during this time. All your wishes have been felt - and I'm sure are why I seem to be recovering so well.

UPDATE: Thursday 23 August. I've transferred a diary I wrote in hospital into a bunch of backdated posts below.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Diary of a Kidney Transplant - 6

Saturday 11 August

In the morning, the lead doctor on the ward round (Mahmoud - Maff's surgeon) inspects my distended, discoloured bollocks. He pronounces it nothing to worry about - it's uncomfortable, but a normal consequence of being so fluid-overloaded. He suggests that the nurses sort me out with a jock strap - when they bring this the relief is amazing. I'm walking a little bow-legged, but comfortably.

Spend most of the afternoon catching up on some sleep. In the evening, the sun outside is too inviting. I put on my shorts, and boots over my surgical stockings, wash my hair for the first time this week, pull on a shirt and my boots, stash my 'urine tank' which is still attached via a catheter (where you'd rather there wasn't) into a shoulder bag I got Suzy to bring in for the purpose. I can just about pass as a mad tourist on the street I reckon. I walk out, and head along to London Bridge, where I'm still in time to stand in the glow of the setting sun. This feels indescribably gorgeous. I get a tourist who's taking pics of his friends with Tower Bridge in the background to take one of me with my phone. It's Friday evening, and I really want to talk to someone, so I make a couple calls, including to Aunt Kathleen, who's on her way to Katrena's hen night in Canterbury, dressed as Carmen Miranda. I head back to hospital, and meet Roberto Cacciola, my surgeon on his way out the door. He has a big smile on his face, which I hope is from satisfaction at a job well done. I ask him if he fancies a drink - sadly his family is waiting for him. I'm still in a sociable kind of mood, so I go back up to the ward, collect my laptop and head out again. I wander around Borough Market, laptop in hand, looking for a wifi signal. The place is teeming with people spilling out of every pub, in the wamr evening, and lounging in groups outside all the now closed market shope. Just as I get connected, a NZ girl rus over and says "Are you on Facebook? My friend Naomi wants you to be her friend." She then notices my accoutrements, and asks what I've been up to and where have I escaped from? I tell her the whole story, and she seems genuinely interested. I ask her to take me to meet her friend, which she does, introducing me to Naomi, who's sitting with a big bunch of large antipodean blokes outside The Ginger Pig butcher. I end up talking mostly to Hannah, the girl who grabbed me in the first place. She's lovely, and we share travelling and life stories. After a while the group moves into the Butcher shop, and I'm invited to join them. I nip off to by an alcoholic contribution to the proceedings. I have a momentary worry, about whether being in a butcher's shop with me compromised immune system is a good idea, but decide that I'll take the chance. I end up staying until about 10 - just before which, the butcher guys bring out a tray covered with absolutely delicious stuffed roasts - turkey I think. They carve these up, hand out some soft bread rolls, and we all feast.

I head back up to the ward, just in time to take my evening pills, washing my boots on the way in, just in case I'm carrying some ground bourne infection into the ward.

A peaceful night's sleep, from around 12.30 - 4.30am, when I wake up with similar discomfort down below to the night before. Not again, I pray. Does this happen at 4am every night?


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Diary of a Kidney Transplant - 5


Maff and I escape from the ward for the first time, and head downstairs between 10 and 11. He's ahead of me and finds the piano in Atrium 1. I join him and sing some tunes, to the bemused glances of several onlookers.

We get back upstairs just in time for the morning ward round. They pronounce Maff fit to go home that afternoon, and decide that i will probably be able to go on Monday - at least a day earlier than expected, so something must be looking good.

Natasha arrives around 12 and stays till 1. She expresses her amazement at the whole experience, and decides that she'd like to write an article about it, to try and promote living donation as something great to do.

Suzy arrives at 1.30 with my sax - and Olivia - and we all head downstairs to the nice piano in Atrium 2 to play some tunes. We ignore the notice forbidding it being played between 9 - 5.30, and nobody seems to mind. It's a rather moving experience for me - it really does feel as if Maff and I are more attuned to what each other is doing. At one point in 'I wish I Knew' we both throw exactly the same lick in simultaneously - perhaps sharing a 'kidney' moment?

Maff's assistant surgeon Ben turns up with his sandwiches - apparently not realising it was us playing. He requests 'A train' which we play, very tenderly. In fact, my playing in general has a slightly more tender quality to it than usual. I mostly manage to resist the temptation towards the racous (to which I usually succumb). Maff is also playing better than I've ever heard him. Luckily Olivia has a camera with her, and shoots several long movies, so the event is preserrved for posterity.

Later on it's a busy afternoon - lots of visitors. I just have a hunch that I should try and catch the end of the PM programme, and I switch on at about 5.52 I think, just as Eddie Mair is reading out a few comments that people have left during the week - and someone is saying 'Thanks for following up the story about Maff and Andy - the interview of the year, especially after all the bad news from Iraq, and so on...". I'm sitting with my dinner on my lap with tears flowing - somehow hearing this comment from some stranger who heard us on the radio just captures the emotion of the whole week, and I sob quietly to myself - just overwhelmed by the feeling of love that it engenders. I take my laptop out and try to find a wifi spot in the hospital without success. I bump into my dialysis nurse as she's leaving her office at 7pm, and ask whether she might possibly know of a computer on the net. She takes me back in and we sit there for another 20 minutes or so, while I find the PM blog and post a comment there (see - and find "The Glass Box for Friday" 10 August).

Friday night is the most uncomfortable yet, around 11 - 1am anyway. The bowels are finally on the move again. When I sit on the loo, I'm horrified to see that my balls are the size of a grapefruit, and a dark purple colour all over. They've been heavy for a day or so, which I was told was normal, but this is a littel more scary. The shit when it comes produces one of the most excruciating pains in my penis I've ever felt. I shriek a bit. The relief afterwards is almost worth it.

And that brings me to now, at 4.34am - it's about time I had some sleep. The old bloke in the bed at the end, has been giving his nightly performance of groans, moans and pleading for the nurses. I really feel for him - he's obviously pretty uncomfortable. Though there's also a feeling of 'here we go again', as it seems to be some kind of habit. Perhaps that's unfair.

But sleep is impossible. From absolutely nowhere, comes a regular series, every 5-10 minutes of involuntary errections, each of which cause excruciating pain. No matter what deflatory image I conjure up, this seems to go on for ever - at least until after 6am. I must have slept eventually, as I wake up for breakfast around 7.30am.


Friday, August 10, 2007

3 days later

It's Friday, and they're letting Maff go home this afternoon. I checked with my surgeon on the morning ward round that I wouldn't rupture anything by having a blow, so I got Suzy to bring my sax into hospital, and we put it to the test. Here's what happened, caught on film by the wonderful Olivia (who has an ideosyncratic style!). One of Maff's surgeons happened to be walking by, and heard the music, so came in to eat his lunch in the atrium He was a little surprised when he saw who was playing. The shopping bag attached to my belt is discreetly containing the tank connected to my urinary catheter (no pressure allowed on my bladder yet, until the tube connecting the new kidney has healed).

Here's 'I Wish I Knew'. At about 2'30" we both improvise exactly the same phrase - a bit of kidney magic happening.

And here's a bit of Duke Ellington's Come Sunday.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Diary of a Kidney Transplant - 4


Maff is walking about, slowly - usually clutching his sore, distended belly - but in good spirits today.

Thursday afternoon, I finally get detached from the confining tubes next to the bed. This means I can get up and walk about. At 2.30 my neck line gets taken out, just in time for me to have half an hour lying flat (as instructed by the nurse) before the PM producer calls at 3 to interview us both on our mobiles.

This gets broadcast at 5.45 - with me, Maff and Ade listening in on my phone radio.

Diary of a Kidney Transplant - 3

Wednesday Aug 9th

When I wake up the next morning, and read the text I sent out, I'm horrified at what people must have thought. So I send another:
"Last night's message was reply to 26 texts when I was v groggy. Sorry so abrupt! Any replies VERY welcome. Sore but elated this am. TX working :) peas & luv Andy x

Then to a few other people who'd asked to be kept up to date: "Sore but elated this am. TX working :) Spoke to Maff last night - in fine fettle - singing when coming off anaesthetic apparently! I'm joining him any mo."

At around midday, I get taken up to the Richard Bright ward to be put in the bay next to Maff.

Spend the rest of Wednesday feeling incredible. Laughing and joking with everyone. We have some visitors - Mum and Suzy, Helen R later, Natasha and Justin. Ruth is around all day, and is a complete superstar. At around 1.30, I call the PM office, and speak first to Liz one of the producers. She wants to call us back at 3 for an interview. Unfortunately, Maff has had a bad reaction to an anti nausea drug he was given. He was pretty spaced out - on a bad trip - in the morning, and felt pretty rough the rest of the day. This made me feel really guilty for being so 'well'.

A pair of Physios come round acting a bit like Butlins red coats in the afternoon and get us both to get out of bed and to sit in a chair. The pharmacist comes round later and says that in 26 years in the job, he's never seen a TX patient out of bed so quickly. He seems to mean it.

Wednesday evening is where the discomfort really starts to set in. We both start regretting our big dinner on Monday. Both of us feel - and look - pretty pregnant. My belly is exploding. 4 or 5 times during the night I get up to gingerly sit on a comode beside my bed (I have lines into my wrist and neck, so moving anywhere more than a metre or two from the bed is impossible. Eventually, my (pretty mild) exertions produce several long and extremely satisfying almost musical farts. This is the beginning of a little bit of relief from the bloated feeling, but not much. This is all around 4 in the morning. Maff is awake in the next bed, and grunts a congratulation. I can hear lots of very short burps coming from his direction. Despite periodic, somewhat uncomfortable contractions all night, and the next morning, it's not until Thursday afternoon that my bowels finally come to life, and produce one of the most satisfying shits ever. That feat isn't repeated however, until 1.30am on Saturday morning. This time it's excruciatingly painful because of the catheter which is due to be sticking up into my bladder until Sunday.

Being told how different I look already - colour in face and lips, sparkle in eyes. I'm not sure whether it's just adrenaline, or what, but after only about 4 hours sleep the night before, I feel wide awake all day, and don't end up sleeping till well after midnight. Maff and I begin our first game of scrabble.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Diary of a Kidney Transplant - 2

Tuesday - K Day

No breakfast.

Meet the anaesthetist. She's surporised to see my CPAP machine - no mention of it in my notes (or she didn't spot the bits from the sleep disorder dept.) As a result of this, she marks my notes - "No benze...." in the allergy section - to remove a tranqiliser drug that's normally given as a premed. She also decides that they'll need to make sure they have space in the ITU for me to spend the night there after the op. A momentary panic for me that no space there means no operation.

When the notes come back with the nurses, written up for the premed drugs, there's a full list of 'what we normally prescribe'. It takes a fair bit of cajoling to get them to understand the anaesthetist's note, and when they do, the 'Tamazepan' on the first line is scrubbed out.

Maff off first around 9am. At about 12.30, I was taken down to the 'holding area'. I'm sharing this with a bloke who looks like a water bed - his whole body is bloated and looks full of fluid.

After what seems like forever, I see Maff asleep in his bed being wheeled past the door. A few minutes later, Roberto pops his head around the door, and looks happy.

A while later I get wheeled into the aneasthetist's room, where she knocks me out.

The next thing I remember is being in the 'Critical Care Unit' (next one down from ITU, where you still get extremely close attention all night from a dedicated nurse - heart and breathing monitors constantly on the go) with mum and suzy coming in to say good night. One of them must have brought me my phone, as it means I can give Maff a call - he's up on the regular ward. He seems to be in good form. I decide it's a good idea to send a text message to the 26 people who've all texted me during the day with best wishes. This takes a while, as I keep falling asleep between texts. I can't remember exactly what I wrote - something like the transplant had happened and was successful. I stupidly included the phrase 'Please don't reply to this' - main reason was that I knew it would fill up my phone, and I'd have to spend ages deleting the texts, when really I wanted to keep them.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Diary of a Kidney Transplant - 1

Diary of a Kidney Transplant

Monday 6 August

Met mum with Suzy at Kings X - 12.20 or so. Headed down to London Bridge - ate upstairs in the Market Porter (fish and chips for me - the first in many months)

2.30 - met Maff (my donor) and his wife in Guys Reception. Went to Richard Bright ward. Not ready for us there, so to Renal outpatients for final blood tests with Madeleine Wood standing in for Isobel Gordon (tx coordinator). Then back to

Meet Surgeon - Roberto Cacciola, a lovely Italian guy (I feel in safe hands) and sign the final consent form for the operation. He scribbles on my belly (below right) and Maff's surgeon, Nizam Mahmoud does a similar scrawl (below left)showing which kidney they're planning to extract.
Out to dinner with mum, sister, Maff & his wife at the bar at Pont de la Tour by Tower Bridge. Maff and I have the Belted Galloway steaks - and some very good Rioja. This turns out later to be a choice with severe repercussions, despite the fact that we'd been told we could eat normally until midnight. Here we all are...