Dylans transplant Story
Castle Mead Radio member Dylan Parrin writes for the first time about his incredible transplant story….
The transplant story. Many of you have been asking how this all happened, when and why, so I guess now is a good time as ever to reveal all. Probably some NSFW pictures (the war wounds, etc), but here goes…
On Sunday the 26th November I called 999 and was rushed to University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire due to severe abdominal pain, something of which I had been suffering with on/off all year, which put me in A&E multiple times. Each visit ended up with the same diagnoses of “severe constipation”, until this one. This time someone made the sensible decision of contacting the specialists that dealt with my old condition (pulmonary hypertension), who are based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.
On Tuesday the 12th of December I was transferred to Sheffield, expecting to have my treatment increased and nothing else. This is not what happened. After 4 days of tests it was realised that the right side of my heart was in such a bad state due to the PH, that I needed to be added to the Urgent Transplant List for a double-lung transplant. This list is only used for people who need a transplant straight away to survive. Even after being told this, I didn’t believe/truly comprehend it.
On Saturday the 16th of December I was blue-lighted from Sheffield to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham to be assessed and “made ready” for an urgent double-lung transplant. During this time it was also realised that I was in such a bad state (of which I didn’t even really know), that I was told I wouldn’t survive much longer let alone the actual operation without being put on a new machine called ECMO. This is a machine that takes your blood, removes carbon dioxide from it and then adds oxygen to your red blood cells before returning it to the heart. I was awake and aware(ish) whilst on it. This technology didn’t exist at the QE 5 years ago. The only problem was, once you’re ECMO, you only have about 12 weeks (absolute max) before being on the machine actually causes more damage than good, and of course you can’t guarantee when a suitable donor will become available, especially since the UK is still somehow running an opt-in organ donor system. So there was a massive gamble here, once I was on this machine, I would be on it for 12 weeks or until there were lungs available.
Saturday 23rd December at around 13:00, lying in intensive care, attached to ECMO but aware(ish) of what was happening, I was told that there may be a donor available but that they can’t guarantee anything, but I should be ready just in case. I wasn’t able to move or get up, all I could do was say “OK” and let the doctors do the rest. Most of the day was just waiting with no news, until 21:00 when I was told it wouldn’t be happening, only for this decision to be changed hours later. On Sunday 24th December 2017 at 04:45 I was told “yes, it’s happening”. Within 15 minutes I was rushed to theatre, as they pushed me through the doors I said to my parents that ”jobs a good’un”, no idea why, not exactly the most expressive thing to say given the situation, but it’s funny now!
Although I remember the 20+ technicians, surgeons, doctors and all standing around me, the stupidly-crazy bright lights in the room and the what seemed like 10,000 monitors surrounding the place, the thing I remember most before being told to count down from 8 (yeah, not up to 10), was how cold the room was. It was freezing, literally.
At around 05:00 the operation started. My parents were told at 09:00 that the operation was taking a bit longer than expected because my own lungs were in such a bad state that it was harder than usual to work with. At around 12:00 on 24th December the operation was complete and I was transferred to the intensive care unit with (as the specialists put it) “a very good set of lungs”.
Over the next day or so I was operated on twice, once to adjust some chest drains that were not working properly and then finally to have ECMO removed, once it was deemed that my new lungs were working well enough to support life on their own. On 26th December at around 23:00 they decided to start the wake-up process. This took about 3 days and I don’t remember anything. I was awake and aware from around 28th. My earliest “proper” memory though is watching the countdown to 2018 on BBC1 with subtitles whilst in intensive care and then I shit you not, being handed a glass of Prosecco by a nurse once we hit 2018 (gotta love the NHS!). In fairness I was about the only patient on the unit that was awake and able to communicate.
Between now and then there’s been a lot of ups, some downs (to be expected), some really messed up hallucinations (don’t do drugs kids) but all-in-all right now, things are really good! This year will be different, but once through it, it’ll become much easier.
Now onto the long road of recovery and my legs are burning!