When your nephrologist calls you two hours after you get your monthly blood work drawn, you know something is wrong. This happened to me last week. When I answered the phone and heard my nephrologist’s voice, I instantly asked, “What is wrong?” Dr. Bhat said, “Hi, Valen. How are you feeling today?” Every thought vanished except the question I then asked, “Is my kidney OK?” Dr. Bhat said, “Yes, your kidney is great, but I need to know how you feel.” I felt my posture lighten, knowing my kidney was fine. My mind then began racing through the past couple of days to recall how I felt.
I responded to my doctor that I had not felt anything out of the ordinary lately. My blood pressure was stable and I have not had a fever. Dr. Bhat informed me that my white blood cell count was 18.2. The normal range is 4.0 to 11.0. He said my white blood cell count has not been this high since I had sepsis and needed my gall bladder removed in 2010. Wow! How could this be? He proceeded to ask if I had a cough, diarrhea, fever or any other abnormal symptoms. I had not.
When taking immunosuppressant medicines, it suppresses our immune system so that our body does not reject the foreign object of our transplanted kidney. These drugs can also conceal symptoms when we are fighting other infections. A high white blood cell count means that our body is fighting an infection. As I talked on the phone with Dr. Bhat, we discussed the concern that my body could be fighting an infection that we are unaware of because I am not showing any signs of being sick. My white blood cell count has been running on the high side of normal and now with this big jump, it was alarming. I asked several questions including if we should do additional blood work and what it is my body could be fighting.
Since all of my other lab work levels were good and my urine did not show any bacteria, Dr. Bhat thought we should wait and see and repeat lab work in a week. He said to be very aware of my body. If I started to get any symptoms, I was to call him immediately. So far, I have felt fine and will be repeating my lab work tomorrow morning.
After receiving a transplant, recipients tend to base our health on numbers. However, sometimes our doctors base our health more on how we feel than our numbers. There are times as patients where we have to ride out the ‘waiting game’ and the ‘wait and see.’ It is easy to worry during these time periods, however we must trust that our bodies are mysterious, yet miraculous. During these times we must rely on our mental strength. Mental strength not only comes from being knowledgeable of our health and aware of what we need to do in order to take the best care of ourselves, but by letting go and continuing to enjoy the precious day regardless of what our bodies are battling.
How do you stay mentally strong when you are enduring the patient ‘waiting game’?