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My Story....Liver Transplant by W:. Jim Rumsey

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My Story....Liver Transplant

     by W:. Jim Rumsey

My story begins several years ago when I did not have much energy and was tired most of the time. I visited our Family Doctor, who was an INTERNIST. His standard procedure was to run a battery of tests including blood analysis. These tests indicated that I was somewhat anemic. Over the next several weeks, he set out to determine the reason for my anemia.

The results from stool exams indicated that I was losing blood, and the Doctor thought that the cause was probably stomach ulcers, and ordered upper and lower GI exams. These did not indicate that I had an ulcer nor did I have any colon problems. However just to be safe, he prescribed ulcer medicines anyway.

Several months passed and some of the tests that I was undergoing showed that the blood pressure in my liver and spleen was abnormally high and that some blood was not flowing in the direction that God intended. My general health was going downhill and my energy symptoms were increasing. My Hemoglobin levels were continuing to decline and by late fall transfusions became the primary treatment, along with other procedures, such as a TIPS procedure, the result being, no change in my health. Also, a COIL procedure was performed, again with no positive results. My patience was wearing thin and my health was nose diving. By this time, most all of the Doctors I was seeing agreed that my liver was dying and that Alcohol consumption was the underlying culprit. This is an opinion that the Medical Community puts forward for all cirrhosis disorders. I disagree.

The period of time between blood transfusions became shorter and shorter and by February, 2007, I was receiving multiple units at a time, 2 or 3 units, and sometimes twice a week. The trigger for seeking a transfusion was hand and leg cramps so bad that I could barely walk or hold a glass of water. My appetite had degenerated to a point that I was rapidly losing weight. I weighed some forty ponds less than I did four months earlier.

My wife and I discussed the very real possibility of my not surviving much longer and we purchased cemetery lots and a head stone. She and I agreed that I probably needed to have a liver transplant. We talked to our local Learning Hospital about a transplant and were told that I had to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous before they could place me on the waiting list and that after I had attended meetings for six months, they would reconsider my case. Six months that I did not have. The demand to attend “AA” meetings was a rule that the Hospital had adopted for all liver patients needing a transplant, and no exceptions would be considered.

Ann, my wife, had been researching facilities known for transplantations. Nebraska University Transplant Center was one of those hospitals. She made contact and on February 9, 2007, was asked to try to attain my medical records from our local hospital and Doctor. She was told that she needed to forward my medical records to them for assessment. This she did. I had decided to throw in the towel and did not want anymore transfusions. The Nurse Co-coordinator for NUTC talked me into getting that transfusion so that I could be evaluated for transplant. On February 26, 2007 our family Doctor admitted me into our local hospital where I received several more units of blood but my condition had declined so far that I was placed into ICU for treatment and transfusion, Nebraska called to tell us that they would accept me for evaluation. The local hospital took the position that I was too ill to be released and that a bed to bed transfer was in order. Nebraska saved a bed for me and awaited my arrival. Ann thought that an “Air Ambulance was the best way to effect the transfer, but my INTERNIST refused to authorize it on the grounds that in his opinion, I could survive the trip by car. He was right.

That evaluation took one week and was the most extensive examination I have ever undergone. Those Doctors were amazing and very knowledgeable about transplants. No sooner than one test or another had been completed, a Doctor would be at my bed side giving us an explanation of the results. The Transplant Team members and staff wear a slogan on their shirts. It says “SERIOUS MEDICINE, EXTRODINARY CARE.”

After six days of evaluation and while on the way home from Omaha, they called us on our cell phone, to inform me that I was as of then on their “Liver Transplant Waiting List.” We were told to go home, pack a bag with essentials, get a pager dedicated to them and wait for their call. A call that might not be forthcoming for some months. In the meantime, they wanted me to continue seeing my Internist Doctor.

As it turned out, we had no time to prepare; the call came just one week later at 3:00AM to inform us that an “Organ” was available for me if we could come to the hospital immediately! We were confused, excited, perplexed, and most of all SCARED! We did not know what to expect. We called our Daughter and she drove us to Omaha. We arrived within the time window for the transplant and I was rushed into preoperative prep. This was the last memory I have until much later, days, after the surgery.

I am told that the first several days post op went well and that Rehab had me up moving in short order. Then something went wrong. My Bile duct was leaking, and this was causing peritonitis. It had to be repaired. I underwent a second major surgery within a week, and they performed a Roux-en-y procedure so that my very short bile duct could be reattached with healthier tissue.

During this surgery, my heart ran away and the surgery team could not quiet my heart beat to less than 140 for many hours. They tried every medicine in their arsenal without effect. They used DE-Fib shock treatment, also without effect. I suppose I would not have survived had not the Doctors remembered a medicine that had not been used for years. The administration of this medicine brought my heart beat down to normal and every conscious person said a prayer.

My recovery from this second surgery did not go so well. I contracted C-Diff and VRE simultaneously and became very sick. Mentally, I dissolved and hallucinated and did not know anyone or what day it was or where I was or why I was there. This confusion was very difficult for me and for the nurses who were caring for me, as I also became quite combative. I removed the feeding tube without medical consent. I tried to get out of bed on my own on several occasions and they would have to reinsert IV lines. I would sometimes think that I was being held against my will and I would rebel. Sometimes I thought that my wife needed me for life saving help and I would become very agitated because no one would help me go to her.

After a week or so, the gastrointestinal diseases began to abate and with psychiatric help I began to recover. Initially, I was so weak I could not stand without help from the nurses and a bed that could reshape itself from a bed to chair to a lift. I could not walk more than a few feet and then only with the aid of a walker. As we approached the third week of hospitalization, my recovery began to take shape. I attended Re-Hab every other day. I could not do much to begin with but soon progressed to doing many walking and stepping exercises, but I could not muster strength enough to lift even a one pound bar bell above my head with my left hand. In fact my whole left side was much weaker than my right, and still is, even today. I may have had a mild stroke due to the elevated heart beat and blood pressure during my second surgery.

One very impressive point about my stay at Nebraska University is that every day at about 9:00am and again about 3:00pm the entire Transplant Team of Doctors and Nurses visited me in my room. This as a means of staying abreast of my condition and as a group, make decisions about my treatment and to see firsthand how I was responding to their treatments.

During the fifth week of my stay, the TEAM began to speak of my being released to go home, and I was very excited about the prospect. The floor nurses began to school Ann and me about what to expect and what to do once I was home. Ann was still dressing and washing a part of the incision in my left side. This had been left open after the second surgery to affect better drainage, and did not completely close for several more weeks. A drain tube was still in place in my right side and was not removed for another month.

My recovery at home went, for the most part, very smoothly. (My opinion, not Ann’s.) All but having to take all those medicines. I took pills at 8am, 9am, and 10am. I took pills at 2pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm. If I had fallen asleep, Ann awoke me to take pills, and she still makes sure that I take my pills on time, even today, although the quantity and frequency has lessened substantially.

It is now some 18 months after the fact and my health is much improved and I now look forward to a long life and a healthy life.

I do know the name of my Donor and would like to express my sincerest gratitude to a young man with foresight to be a donor that someone else could live. His very unselfish act of signing his driver’s license to become a donor gave me another chance at life. Even though he will not see his children grow up, and his family will not be able to share his life, I will know what he did for me for the rest of my life. God bless him and his memory.

It is these thoughts that have prompted me to write this narrative. I have a sincere desire to repay society as best I can. I learned of “The Gift of Life.” organization through some friends of ours as their grand child was involved in the origin of “The Gift of Life.” I do not know if my donor was prompted to sign his driver’s license by activities of “The Gift of Life”, but I am convinced that in some way “divine intervention” played some part in my good fortune.

By the Grace of GOD,

And the charity of Organ Donors,

Jim Rumsey

The rest of my story. . . .


Gift of Life

6405 Metcalf

Overland Park, Ks. 66202

Attention: Andy Donnelly

Ann & Jim Rumsey

Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear Andy,

The following narrative explains why I feel that my wife, Ann, should be recognized as a “Lifeline” care giver.

During the many months before I received a transplanted liver, she never gave up hope. My Doctors had all but given me a death certificate. I had even given up and was on the brink of despair. Life was no longer of primary concern, but rather painless and quiet departure was what I yearned for.

Ann would not listen to me and forged ahead in seeking out help where she could find it. She was and still is very headstrong and having made up her mind to find a way for me to survive she forged ahead like freight train and God help the one that might have gotten in the way.

She was tireless in her pursuit of a solution to my medical dilemma. She spent many long evenings and wakeful nights searching via the internet for medical institutions and medical professionals that could help us. She, after many days that turned into weeks, came upon The Nebraska University Transplant Center.

Ann was in contact with the Transplant Team and spent hours and days on the telephone pleading her case that they needed to evaluate me for transplant and because of her insistence, they finally gave her the go ahead to bring me to their facility. But first, they requested that she forward my medical records that they might know to what extent my treatment had gone, and they wanted them as soon as possible, preferably within 48 hours.

Our Doctors offices provided to her over 200 pages of records after Ann refused to leave their facility without them. Their compliance with her demands was met with reluctance, but she would not be denied. This occurred on a Friday afternoon and she faxed them to Omaha that same day. Her persistence and veracity proved to be more than they could stand up to.

The Nebraska Doctors wanted me to come to their facility for evaluation and notified Ann after just one day following the delivery of my records.

I was in the hospital at that time for blood transfusions and confusion caused by toxin buildup in my brain. The hospital refused to release me but good ol’ Ann raised such a fuss, they finally agreed to a “bed to bed” transfer which required Omaha to fax to them their admittance paper work. Ann was in the middle of this transaction as well. Then the Doctor who was attending to me refused to allow an air ambulance transfer and stated that I would withstand the trip by car just as well. This was about the only time that Ann relinquished and drove me to Omaha that very day.

I spent Five days in Omaha being evaluated and at no time did Ann leave my side. She was always at the ready should I need something, or the staff had questions.

While driving home from that evaluation, Omaha called on our cell phone to inform us that I had been placed on their transplant list. We were informed that we should acquire a pager dedicated to them and for us to pack a bag of necessities in the event they had an organ for me.

Neither of us believed that they would call as quickly as they did, but just one short week later, the call came early in the morning. Ann awoke to the phone ringing and yelled for me to get up as Omaha had an organ for me and wanted us to report right away to their hospital.

We drove to Omaha along with our Daughter, another one of my angels. We arrived about 6:00 AM and I was taken right in to pre-op and was transplanted.

As it turned out, Ann’s work had just begun. She was constantly at my side throughout the next five weeks as I went through a second major surgery for a bile duct leak. During my recovery from these surgeries, I contracted C-Dif and VRE simultaneously and she had to care for me as best she could while sleeping on an old manual crank hospital bed when she could. That bed had hard plastic under sheet protection on it and she had to place a heavy blanket over the plastic sheet so to limit the crinkle sound and scraping. I finally recovered enough to be placed in a “live-in outpatient” wing at the hospital where it became Ann’s responsibility to feed and bathe me, as well as change the dressings on my wounds. She admittedly gets a bit queasy at the sight of blood or large wounds. She forced herself to wash and dress a wound the doctors left open so as to drain by imagining that she was icing a cake while stuffing gauze into that wound. This, she accomplished as if she had been professionally trained as a nurse. Ann lost more than 20 lbs. during this time as she had to wheel me every place I had to go for test and evaluations. She also administered my medications and checked my blood sugar as well as my vital signs. All of which she maintained a log of the results. I can honestly say that had it not been for her, I would only be a memory rather than enjoying a full life.

I therefore nominate Ann Rumsey as “Lifeline Care Giver” for the love and care she gave to me without question! The saying goes “Beauty is only skin deep.”, but this lady’s beauty goes all the way to the heart and she has demonstrated this for the nearly 50 years she has been my Trophy Wife.

Ann and Jim with Transplant Team member Dr. Richard Gilroy
Ann's award

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