To read the first part about my Transplant click here: Aimee’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant
*I started writing this in February and updated it every week.
The first month was a pretty busy one. We were at least at the hospital 4-5 times during the week. Between blood work/labs and visiting with the Transplant team. For the first little while I couldn’t walk very far so I always was in a wheel chair. Adjusting back to home without Diabetes was pretty awesome. We decided to go through my diabetic supplies and started to donate it to people in need. It hasn’t been the most comfortable thing to lay flat on my back because it stretches out my stomach. I was lucky enough to have access to an adjustable bed at home. Everyday I have to do my vitals twice a day. I am still checking my blood sugar just to make sure the new pancreas is doing what it is suppose to be doing. My blood sugars have been PERFECT. It’s so weird not worrying about going to bed with my blood sugar lower than I’m used to. Before I would have to eat something even if I didn’t feel like eating. Now my blood sugar is around 90 going to bed and I wake up in the 80’s. I keep telling myself, “Soooo this is what it feels like to be normal.”Copper gets to hang out with me everyday, ALL day.
Valentines Day was just another normal day…just being the third wheel with Mom and Dad :). Except it’s actually National Donor Day. I really felt that I wanted to do something for my donor. I still don’t know who he was and who his family is and might not ever know. So I couldn’t really send them anything or talk to them but instead I decided that I could send my donor a balloon to him. It’s so interesting to feel a connection with him but I’ve never known him.These first two months I’ve had to go in and get infusions done. They would take at least 2 hours or up to 5 hours. I either needed fluid for hydration, Magnesium if my level was really low OR I just had both done. The fluid obviously helps with dehydration and with the new organs especially you need to drink at least 2 liters a day. My body is just trying to figure out what “normal” is. I was even lucky enough to have a visit to the ER! One of the main things that we have been trying to figure out and fix is my low blood pressure. Again the fluid helps a lot with raising it. So that’s another reason they wanted me to drink a lot. Also this is probably the 5th time I got a nurse in training to do my IV…This time she got the IV in my arm but as soon as she did I just felt a lot of warm liquid running down my arm..AKA BLOOD. Not cool, I thought I was going to pass out. Anyway, they put me on some blood pressure medicine to keep my blood pressure up. I thought this was kind of funny because before transplant, I was on medication to try and lower my blood pressure. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other with a lot of things since having the transplant. In February I started to finally get all my staples out.
Infusions. Lots of Netflix and lots of snacksER visit. Weird to be here when you’re not super sick
It’s been fun to see peoples reactions to what I look like now from what I looked like in the year before. Everyone can’t believe how thin I am now compared to how swollen I was before! They also say that I have so much color now and I even glow.. whatever that means haha. I’ve also had to start investing in a new wardrobe because nothing fits. My shoes don’t even fit. I mean thats the thing, I’ve had Diabetes for 15 years, so I really don’t know what my body is actually suppose to look like! I’m also not freezing anymore, I can walk around, up stairs and not be out of air. I honestly feel so good. It’s really such a miracle, especially because it’s only been a couple of months.1 Month! Starting to gain more weight back and almost had all of my staples out.
Here are a couple things people have asked me since my transplant:
- How it feels to not have diabetes anymore? At first I couldn’t really answer that just because I was still sore from surgery, but now I can tell a difference. I just feel better. I can’t really pin point anything specific. I think the biggest thing I notice is not having to wear all my gadgets. I can now sleep on my sides and not have something digging into me. I can now wear my clothes and not worry about my insulin pump showing. I can shower and not worry about ripping it off or knocking it off on something. I also now don’t have to carry cans of juice around for low blood sugar or carry around all my devices. My purse is a lot lighter now 🙂
- Do I like to eat specific things now? YES. I also eat A LOT. I love to eat Malt O Meal and Avacado toast for breakfast, obsessed with Costa Vida and Cafe Rio; mainly cheese quesadilla (if anyone knew me before I hated any type of Mexican food, I think my donor must of liked Mexican food haha), I love these Coconut Strips that you get from Trader Joe’s ( I buy at least 10 bags of it every time I go), Starbucks Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino’s and Graham Crackers dunked in Milk. I don’t like eating fast food anymore(my favorite type of food used to be American food like Crown Burger). I DO NOT like soda and especially diet drinks. I used to drink Diet Coke like it was water.
I think one of the hardest parts about this recovery is not being able to see people and also figuring out what to do at home all day. I know my job is to recover and get better right now, but it gets pretty lonely sometimes. Now, since it has been 2 months I can finally start being around people and go places without wearing a mask. My immune system is suppressed from the anti-rejection meds and will be really suppressed like that for a few months until they can lower my dosage. Things I do to keep busy: watch TV shows and movies (I even watched all three Lord of the Rings, Hope you would be proud haha). I do a lot of writing and editing photos, going through old pictures and trying to organize my hard drives better. I’ve gotten really good at Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch, so if anyone wants to play I’ll probably crush you haha. I think the best part about having this time to heal is to help others who are going through Kidney Failure or Diabetes. It’s been really cool to see people reach out and ask me questions and being able to talk about our experiences.
A few weeks ago I had a doctors visit and now have me doing labs only once a week. HALLELUJAH. This visit I had a really important question to ask… I had to ask them when I could start kissing boys. Haha I wish I could record the looks I get when I ask my questions. My doctor just starts laughing 😂, “Well I’ve never had that question before, let me go check with the team.” They came back in smiling ear to ear and explained that I need to live my life and go ahead if I felt like I wanted to.I still don’t like winter very much but it makes for cool pictures. Helps me to keep busy taking self portraits.
All of the staples are out!
March 9th was starting out to be an amazing day. I had a job interview that I thought went really well! It was for a Creative Photographer/Admin Assistant. I then had a meeting for the Transplant Games. The Transplant Games happen every two years in a different city around the nation. This year they are actually hosting them here in Salt Lake City, UT. I can’t participate in any of the games because you have to be 9 months out from your transplant, but I am able to still be apart of the Utah/Idaho Team. I am also able to run in the 5K and I signed up to help volunteer! If you are interested in volunteering here is the link with all the info: Transplant Games
My mom and I got home around 8pm that night. I came in and my brother and my dad were sitting in the living room. I was pretty excited to tell them all about the good stuff that happened that day. After talking for a little, my dad looked at me and said that he had some sad news. I was like “ok…what?” He then took my hand and we walked towards the dining room area. As we were walking he turned on the light and told me that Copper had been hit. All I could say was, “Wait are you serious? Are you kidding?” He then said, “No I wouldn’t joke around with something like this…” I then looked ahead and there was a box. I started to walk closer and I could start to see in the box a blanket and Coppers legs. I backed away and it literally felt like someone shattered my heart. I started to break down. My dad turned to me and I looked at him and he was crying. I collapsed into his arms heartbroken. We then walked over to the box and I collapsed again to the floor not being able to breath and crying even more. Copper looked like he was sleeping, He looked totally fine. I looked up and my brother and mom were sitting there with tears in their eyes. It really feels like you lose a family member. He was with us for 13 years and could have gone a lot longer. After I had calmed down a little, my dad told us that the front door was left open from him and my brother taking some stuff out to the truck. During that time Copper got out and was hit. Someone pulled over ( I’m not sure if it was who hit Copper or just someone driving by) but they asked if my dad knew whose dog this was. My dad walked closer and he said his heart sunk. It was Copper.
After sitting there for a bit and said our goodbyes, I went and grabbed his favorite balls and a bone to put in the box with him. We then went outside and buried him under our apple tree. That night was one of the worst nights, I couldn’t fall asleep and eventually went into another room to find my dad sitting there too. The next morning our eyes were burning and swollen from crying and I really needed to get out of the house as soon as possible. It was too hard being there without Copper. Before leaving the house that morning I felt that I needed to take some pictures to capture how I was feeling that morning.
The morning after Copper passed away.
That day we stayed busy with errands and also went to Antelope Island to spend some time with family. I also needed to take some photos for the company I interviewed with. We have had a lot of time to talk about what happened to Copper and why it happened. I think what my sister in law said is the most truthful and right answer. “Devin (my brother), brought Copper home for you when you were struggling the most with your Diabetes. Copper has been there for you through your whole journey with the Diabetes, he was there for you through your Kidney Failure, and now your Transplant. He did what he came to do and it was now his time to go.” I believe in this with my whole heart and with more time to think, I believe he is now with my donor and keeping him company.
April 11th, a little over a month since Copper passed. I wanted to do something small for his grave. When it gets a little warmer we plan on doing something more permanent.
Back to March. That next weekend after Copper had passed away, we were thankfully heading out of town to our vacation rental. ( Check out the rental home HERE.) We really needed this break between everything that happened with me and now with Copper. We were able to spend a lot of time with my sister and her family while we were visiting St. George. I can’t really do much exercise yet but while I was there we took a walk up Snow Canyon, went on a bike ride and I FINALLY was able to go golfing. Oh I was so excited! I had bought my first driver and wanted to test it out so bad. I’d say it was my best golf game yet!
That next weekend I got asked out on a date. I had met him once before, so I knew at least I could stand being around him 😂. He knew my situation and gave me a few options like: go to dinner, get a treat, go bowling…ya know your typical first date options haha. It basically had to be somewhat of a short date because he worked at night. When we were talking before our date, I was kind of joking around that I should just go to work with him. For work he drives a Snowcat up at Snowbasin Resort from midnight-9am. When he came to pick me up I hadn’t told him what I decided on doing. I’m pretty sure when I had my backpack packed and said lets go he was in shock that I really was going to go ride with him at work. Before we left he was talking to my dad for a bit and while we were walking out the door he was like, “So what time do you want her home? 9am?” I’m pretty sure no guy has ever said that to a parent haha.
We had a little time so we stopped and got some ice cream before heading up to the resort. When we got up to Snowbasin I kind of started to get nervous and was thinking “what the heck am I doing…?” We got our stuff together and got in the snowcat. It was about 12:30am at this point and we were going to be doing this till 9am. I probably looked so dumb asking all of these questions and trying to figure everything out, but it was so cool! It was a lot of fun to talk and listen to music but it didn’t get so fun when I had to pee…apparently you just stop where you are, turn off the lights to the snowcat and the person behind you does as well and your only option is to just go right there on the ski run. I literally was thinking to myself “wow, what a first for first dates haha.” They take a “lunch break” around 4am and then start back up till 9am. I was holding in there pretty good but got really tired around 5:30am and fell asleep for probably 15 mins. The final run was all the way to the top by Mount Ogden. The sun started to rise and it was the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen. After we finished around 9am, we went to the lodge and grabbed some breakfast. I had a lot of fun and really glad I decided on that as our first date!
When the wind would pick up the snow it had the coolest look to it!
I went to an event called “Storytelling Festival”, at IMC. It was for people who were/are donors, recipients, families and friends. It was amazing the connections I was able to make with people there. I was also able to share my story with everyone and I hate talking in front of people but I felt the need to share that day for some reason. Come to find out after I told my story, this woman and her husband who had a pancreas and kidney transplant came up to me and we were able to figure out that I was his backup if the organs wouldn’t have worked for him!
The artwork: everyone there put a stroke of paint
About a week after I went for a ride on the snowcat, I had a dream about this photo I created. I had one last chance to do it before the season was going to be over at the ski resort. I took my friend Damian with me and we went up to Snowbasin around midnight and shot star photos till about 6am. I wanted to get a picture of Steve and the others working that night of them driving the snowcats up and down the mountain with the stars in the photo. It took Damian and I awhile to find a good spot to be able to see them and then we had to time it right to capture them going up the mountain. It was really cold and took awhile but I am SO happy with how it turned out!
Above is my dream shot.
It was now my big 3 month appointment. Back in January/February I created some photos to give to my Transplant Team to say thank you for saving my life. April 12th I was finally able to give them these prints. They had everyone gather in the conference room and when I got there they were all there except my surgeon. I hadn’t seen him since I was in the hospital. He came in a min after I got there and goes, “WOW, you look different! You did your hair and everything.” I said,” I only did it for you!” Everybody laughed and smiled. It was so amazing to see him again. I then was able to present my gifts to him and the team. It was a very touching and cool experience to be there with everyone and share how passionate I am about my photography and organ donation.
My Surgeon. ❤️
Seriously the coolest guy I’ve ever met. I just want to hang out with him and the team all day!
My surgeon and the director of solid organ transplants were discussing where they think these prints should go. They have talked about some pretty cool places to have them hung. I can’t wait to hear the final word of where! These prints were printed on metal and are 20X20s. Thank you Nichols Photo Lab for always doing an amazing job with printing my photos!
“Hand of my Angel”
“Wings of Life”
Butterflies are deep and powerful representations of life. Many cultures associate the butterfly with our souls. The Christian religion sees the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection. Around the world, people view the butterfly as representing endurance, change, hope and life. The little butterfly on my finger represents my donor. The color is the color for organ donation. When I gave these gifts to my surgeon he told me the butterfly one touched him the most. He said,” I believe donors/organs find who they are suppose to be for. The butterfly on your finger is your donor and he was meant to find you. All the other butterflies are other donors looking for their match.” When he said this I was so emotional about it. He is 100% right. Even though I had multiple offers and they never worked out, this beautiful butterfly found me and matched me perfectly.
Life is going so good and I have no complaints. How could I? I’m still recovering but I am starting to find my new self and try new things and I am in love with life and the people in it. ❤️
To watch the video I did about my Transplant click the link below.