The heritage bequeathed to me by my family and its various strands of forebears is of “maer boudjies” – thin, spindly, boney legs. Those forebears mainly were the ones roaming the plains alongside Cape mountains and the Karoo – when was the last time you saw an image of a Khoikhoi man from yesteryear who could easily pack down in the front row of your local rugby team? Don’t get me wrong – those legs, certainly in my family, were tough as steel nails and, on my Mother’s side, took many relatives to tennis championships (rugby really was never a sport enjoyed in the family). But the British and Europeans who contributed to our family makeup also seem to have been predominantly from “maer boudjie” families (come on, think of just one time you were jolted by the sight of a spindly-legged northern tourist dipping his toes into the local sea), so we’ve had a double dose of this genetic material.
Anyone who has socialized with me from August to May in the year knows I have worn these maer boudjies as a badge of honour, never happier than when my legs are floating in any and every description of short pants. Certainly, it’s affirmed my connection with immediate family members – my Dad, my Mother’s brother Andrew, indeed my Mother too – and my more distant ancestors.
This past week, I’ve had to contend with rapidly ballooning legs as a result of fluid retention, post-transplant. Doctors also detected fluid buildup around the heart, H2. This has slightly delayed my discharge from hospital. Then there has been the refusal of my bowels to kick in automatically and move! Because of my resected (short) bowel and given that my appetite has been seriously restored, I have been concerned (and a bit guilty) that I am getting through three full meals and some snacks a day and not sure where all that is being backed up in my body.
Obviously, major surgery, medication and too much time on a bed either cause or exacerbate these various ailments, and balance in healthcare – including being as mobile as possible – that takes account of the intricate spider-web nature of the connections throughout our body, becomes essential. Doctors – & some who have been through surgery at this level – say it’s almost to be expected. While these are all slightly more than minor irritations, I have not found my resolve to move forward with the healing process affected at all. It’s just a little bit of extra work, and perhaps requires a bit more vigilance.
In the case of the fluid around the heart, bear in mind that my old stretched H1 settled into its stretched cavity very well. Now I have this zooty, smaller heart, H2 which creates almost natural extra space for fluids to move into. Doctors say it will settle.
Yesterday, Dr Levetan drained about half-a-litre of fluid from around the heart in a simple but awe-inspiring procedure, that involved a needle into the chest with a syringe pump at the other end, into a drip bag. You may wonder why I regard this as so fascinating a procedure given that I’ve been through a heart transplant procedure. Yes, of course, that transplant op was awesome, but I wasn’t compos mentis for that at all and I haven’t yet been able to watch the DVD of the procedure, so every little bit of science to which I am exposed is fascinating.
The worry some may have had, had you been present in the cathlab for the removal of the liquid in the heart cavity is that it looked remarkably in colour like a good craft beer brewed nearby in Woodstock, that I have grown partial to. But I assure you – and it will be confirmed by the routine test results which the pathology lab will perform – I have not had a drop of any of the fine stuff in many months now!
So, a weekend of high dosages of meds to move water from the legs lies ahead. And then I shall be pleased to show off those “maer” pins again. Bring on the shorts!