It has been another calm few weeks. Last week I went to Mt. Sinai to see the nephrologist. Since my kidneys failed for a week shortly after the transplant last year, I need to follow up. All was good and I don’t need to see her for about nine months. She was very pleased to see how good I look. I have noticed that many people, including doctors, don’t know what to expect when they see me. When someone says to me, “You look great” I simply reply “I get that a lot.”
I continue to exercise in Saddle River Park. I am up to between fifty and sixty minutes. covering close to four miles, three or four times a week.
I had another bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday. My new theory on that procedure is, if they offer a Percocet to alleviate the pain, take it! In fact it was not as painful as some of the previous ones. Also scheduled this week is a special blood test to see how well my immune system is functioning. The result of that test will help the doctor decide how quickly I can resume a more normal life, such as being around others. Since I lost all the immunities I had from specific diseases, I am continuing to be immunized against various illnesses. This will take at least a year or more. The measles, mumps and Rubella vaccine has to wait for another year. Dr. Keyzner is so pleased with my recovery that she told me she does not need to see me for a month. I may feel more comfortable with more frequent visits, but this is good. I also got the OK to attend some of the High Holiday services at the FLJC/CBI.
This week I went to the Great Falls in Paterson with my friend, fellow retired Rabbi and photographer Jonathan Woll. I took 251 shots. I want to stretch my photographic skills (the next two sentences uses photographic jargon so you can skip them if you want). I only used manual settings and took all the photos in raw. I am editing them in Photoshop Elements, and my next challenge is to figure out how to use layers.
This week marks one year since the transplant, or as they say at the hospital, day 365. I have been reminiscing about all that has transpired during the last twelve months. Rhonda and I looked at many of the photos she has on her phone. There I am before I went to the barber to have my hair cut off, and there I am when I returned. There are photos of me in my isolation room at Mt. Sinai when I was bald, my first walk in the park, and the how I looked when I was swollen because of the water retention, not a pretty picture. We spoke about the week when my kidneys failed and I went on dialysis in the intensive care unit. It is the “black hole” of my first weeks in the hospital. I have no memory of that week at all. Rhonda tells me I slept for many hours, thought I was in the NYU Hospital and when her cousin came to visit and played a Barbara Cook song on her phone, I cried. I recall the physical discomfort of the chemotherapy and the psychological pain of not knowing if the transplant had taken. There was a time when my hands shook as I tried to eat dinner. Fortunately that was just a temporary symptom caused by one of my medications. I also don’t recall exactly what my daily routine was like the first months I was at home, sleeping on a bed downstairs in the living room. The oatmeal for breakfast was good and I watched many episodes of Shark Tank. I do recall clearly the great care I received from all of those at the hospital, from the woman who cleaned the room every morning to the doctors who came in every day. The nursing staff was phenomenal with their care for me. I especially recall the kindness of one doctor who stopped by late in the afternoon for a second visit that day. She looked at the photos we had pasted to the wall to make the room look more homey. In addition to pictures of our children there was a shot of Rhonda and me taken some fifty years ago. Our hair was longer, we looked younger and we were dressed like most young people in the 1960s. You can use your imagination to picture what that looked like. We smiled and laughed with the doctor when we looked at it and at the photos of Gabe and Deena. She had no medical reason to return to my room but she knew that her presence truly helped make us feel so much better.
Last Sunday I watched CBS Sunday Morning while eating pancakes after a walk in Saddle River Park. There was a segment about a three year old boy named Quinn whose treatment for cancer included a bone marrow transplant. The reporter explained that for several months he could not leave his home or be around other people. Hearing that I could feel tears beginning to form in my eyes. It was hard enough for me to be isolated. I could not imagine what it is was like for a three year old. Then the reporter spoke about how his family, his friends, his neighbors and strangers started showing up outside his window on the front lawn to entertain Quinn and make him smile. The police came by with lights flashing, neighbors performed what the reporter called “stupid human tricks,” a dog parade passed by and Irish step dancers tapped and twirled. What a reminder of the caring and the good that is so widespread in the world. I thought of all the concern I felt from all the members of the medical team at Mt. Sinai, and from your prayers, emails and cards. We can succumb to despair when we see all the evil in the world and all the horrible diseases that strike so many people. Sometimes while watching the evening news I say to myself, isn’t there any good news that transpired today? Yet as we all know and as I have felt, the good outnumbers the bad in this world by a large margin. This last year has taught me that lesson many times over.