It is 3 am. Spud is alone, in shock and devastated. In the waiting room, he is having a meltdown. Not quite knowing what to do, he phones our pastor, Lorraine Coconato. He tearfully explains what is happening. She asks if anyone is with him. When he says no, she instructs him. “I will send out a mass text asking everyone to pray. You need to do the same. Let your family know and see if someone can come to be with you.” He says, “What do I do about Verna (my mom, who is at our apartment)? If I call her I have to go get her – and I’m not leaving this hospital!” She tells him he has to call her, not to worry….it will work out. They hang up and he dutifully sends out the text. Within seconds, the responses begin. Our friend, Pam: “Praying.” Yvonne, Spud’s ex-wife: “Bill and I are already up and praying.” His tears become tears of gratitude as friends and family continue to respond.
Tanya sits straight up in bed when the text comes in. She reads it aloud to her husband, Manny. “Kidneys! You can’t live without kidneys.” Manny hops up and is getting dressed as she reads. “Text your dad I’m on my way.” Spud gets the text and has an idea. “Can he pick up Verna?” “Manny picking up Verna,” the text comes back. Spud, still emotional, calls Mom and tells her my kidneys have failed. Mom calls my brother, Mark, who gets up, jumps in his car and drives from Laguna Beach to L.A. at 100 mph. Mom is waiting in the lobby of our building when Manny arrives. She goes out, gets in the car, closes the door and says, “I hope I have clothes on.” (Gotta love my mom!) With that, they are off to the hospital.
As I go through dialysis, family once again gathers at the hospital. Numerous texts and phone calls are exchanged. My stepmom and stepsister, Della and Donna, check in from Sacramento. My best friend, Gena, awaits news in Houston. Through the miracle of the internet, prayers are literally going up for me around the world. I am blissfully unaware of all this excitement. I have no memory of my first or second dialysis.
Dr. Siegel stops by and hears the news. He scolds my family. “Why didn’t you call me? I could have been here, making sure you understand everything that’s happening.” He assures my family that kidney failure after transplant is not uncommon. “Before the surgery the pressure in her heart was 2, now it’s 7! Her body is probably in shock with that much blood flow. " They expect that my kidney function will return within a few days. In a worst-case scenario, I would need a kidney transplant as well. Everyone’s blood pressure returns closer to normal.
A renal ICU nurse named Arielle patiently explains dialysis and everything she is doing to my family. Her name means ‘sent from God’, and I believe she truly is. She attends to me with great skill and care. Sponge baths, medications, bandage changes, constant monitoring…..Arielle is patient, consistent and insistent, when necessary. She makes sure I am sitting in a chair a good part of the time, despite my lack of interest.
We are waiting. I start to be less foggy. I really feel like I have to go to the bathroom, though I still have the Foley catheter. Another day arrives. They are planning more dialysis, but they continue to check my urine output. So do I. It’s looking a little better. They’ll hold off on the dialysis. By the next day, it’s official. We have kidney function! There are many, “Thank You, Lord!'s" and a collective sigh of relief heard throughout the unit.
Once the crisis is over, they waste no time pushing me forward in the healing process. I am almost never alone in ICU. Mom and Spud are there almost every day; Mark comes often. If none of them are able, Terri, Tanya and Manny take a turn. A mom from the acting school where I work, even comes to spend time with me – and bring me dark chocolate. (Thank you, Sharon!) Ariel sits me up in my chair and, within a day, they have me walking with a walker out in the hall. My legs are shaky, but I can still move along pretty well. After a few successful trips around the ICU, they waste no time shipping me out to a regular hospital room.