EnteringTransplant5-21-16

How do people who are transplant recipients have to live all the time? Simply put — very carefully. I am a liver transplant recipient, almost four years ago, that became my new job title. This is how I live all the time.

All organ recipients have to avoid certain food and teas, and not take any antioxidants. I have to keep my immune system close to zero to keep my new, lifesaving organ. Received from someone who died and was an organ donor. Their family agreed to it. Some recipients can receive some organs (not heart) from a living donor. It is a wonderful gift, so we all want to take good care of it and live in all the prescribed ways.

We must scrub our hands with soap and water all the time, and not touch our faces. We should not take jobs where we have unsafe contact with random strangers. Like as a retail cashier. We have to stay away from people we know or suspect have a cold (that’s a coronavirus, too, remember?). We must shower daily, and keep our homes clean.

It’s much like right now for ALL of us with Covid-19 ravaging the world and especially the United States. We transplant recipients but now everyone, must be extra careful to do all these things, that transplant recipients do 24/7/365.

I do socially distancing all the time — not the required six feet now, but I’m always aware of who is around me. I ride public transit (or used to). I wear a cloth mask just walking in the neighborhood. Two or three weeks ago, when I still went into a store infrequently, I would wear my fancy N95 mask. One that blocks both viruses and bacteria. I bought it last fall at the Mayo Clinic Gift Shop and it cost 30 bucks, very occlusive.

I mean business about not getting sick.

I have little to no immune system, and take medications to achieve that, so I can keep my donated, well-loved liver. Without the meds my immune system would grow strong and reject that precious gift. I’m trying to live. So I do all the things I do with a much, much lower immune response, and keep this liver.

I used the mask last November because I don’t get my flu vaccine till mid-November to make it last through February. I wore it on the bus to go downtown, took it off, then practiced all the methods I described above — social distancing, not touching my face. I could touch things as long as I remembered not to touch my face. You need to do the very same thing now. All the time.

I was dumb and desperate the second year post-transplant — you run out of money after being sick for 11 years waiting for a transplant. (Yes, that long, and very sick by the time I got The Call.) I took a retail job. Yes, cashier. I quit after six weeks, but too late.

After the retail disaster I had three episodes of fever and feeling sick, called my transplant center at Cleveland Clinic (they’re available to me 24/7/365) and a nurse told me to go to an ER. Not urgent care center. Hospital. And three times I had the virus test — swab in my nose or throat, and each time had one of 26 different viruses than the flu. They gave me IV fluids, maybe something else, and sent me home after my fever came down — two of those times.

The third time the ER physician said he was putting me on sepsis watch and admitted me to the hospital. Then I got a powerful IV antibiotic, so strong that when the bag was empty, I threw up. I went home the next morning.

Sepsis is a very scary word to transplant recipients. For us it equals certain death. But honestly, anyone can die from sepsis, a powerful, overwhelming bacterial infection. That’s how a lot of Covid-19 patients are dying. Of Covid, yes. But a bad virus can overwhelm your immune system and welcome a bacterial infection, too. So, we all need to be extra careful now. Just like me.

I won’t go to the hospital if by some chance I contract any virus. Why not? Because at this point in the pandemic, I would be triaged OUT of the hospital system because I am immuno-compromised and 72 years old. I’d be way too much trouble with little chance of surviving. I don’t want to die in a hospital.

Plus, if I didn’t have coronavirus, I’d catch it there for certain. I am giving myself the least amount of chance to contract any virus.

You should also be giving yourself the lowest ever chance to contract this virus. Live my life: Socially distance IF you have to go out. Not 90% of the time or 99% of the time. One hundred percent of the time stay at least six or more feet away from other people. Wash your hands a lot — especially whenever you’ve been out. Don’t touch your face unless you have just washed your hands thoroughly. Shower daily. Keep your environment clean.

I’ve been self-quarantined for 40 days today, April 15. Since March 7, the day after the first Covid-19 case was reported in the US.

Last Tip: Whatever you do, don’t listen to our president’s instructions to “open up the country.” May 1st is unthinkable — two weeks away. Maybe August. Listen to your governor — IF — he or she has put your state in lockdown. Even then, if you still don’t feel safe in August, just pretend you are just like me and other transplant recipients and always follow these rules.

Save your life. Save others. I have a lot to live for – and so do you.