Hello from the GTA

Well, I have to start by saying that everything takes longer to do than we think here in Toronto. We are slowly adjusting to the idea of giving ourselves lots of time. It doesn’t matter whether driving, walking or taking the subway, it just takes time. I guess it is to be expected when you have so many people. The hospital is a BIG place, also undergoing renovations, so it’s not always easy to find our way around. Everyone has been exceptionally pleasant, helpful, and understanding when we arrive a few minutes late. Hélène has been a good sport and tries hard to keep up. Having the dosage of Prednisone reduced is now revealing how little she can do at a normal pace and has slowed down even more than she has for the past few months.

Sunday

We left Ottawa a little later than planned but had a wonderful lunch with family members from the Campbell clan and special visitors from the Eastern Townships of Quebec(btw: lovely spot if you wish to travel to in the fall). We settled in the apartment where we will be moving once Hélène is on the transplant list. We are already feeling at home, it’s a great place and what a blessing for us to be here! We went to bed too late as per our family’s bad habit, something that will have to change…

Monday

Our day started quite early as we needed to be at the hospital for 8am. Over tired from the late night, we made our way to the hospital. The morning consisted of a series of blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG: to examine the rate and rhythm of the heart) and a bone density test to measure the strength of her bones since Hélène will have to be on steroids (Prednisone) for the rest of her life after the transplant. These medications increase the brittleness of the bones. We returned to the apartment for lunch and had a nap since we had a nice long stretch of time off before returning for a VQ scan (provides information about the airflow and blood flow between the right and left side of the lungs) and chest X-ray. We ended the day with a lovely dinner with two friends of Alan’s family that use to live in Ottawa (Alan is Hélène’s father). It was very nice for Hélène and me to meet and get to know them.

Tuesday

That was a full day! We arrived at the hospital at 07:30am and did not leave until 4:30pm. Hélène had a 2D echocardiogram (to see how well the heart pumps the blood and see how the valves of the heart open and close), pulmonary function test (to measure lung capacity), blood gas (to measure the level of oxygen in the blood which indicates how well the lungs work), a Thorax CT scan (to take a closer look at the lungs), as well as X-Rays of her thorax and lumbar spine. We met with a social worker; that was a very informative and helpful session with good practical advice and some reality check. A physical exam was also done by one of the Nurse Practitioner, we also discovered that Hélène’s blood type group is “A+” (somehow we had been told differently in the past). Also new to us was to learn that “O” blood types are more prevalent therefore a longer waiting list whereas group “A” being rare has a shorter waiting list.  By the time we got home, our energy level was quite low. We had a quiet dinner at the apartment and watched some TV which we have not done in a long time; this sure was a good way for us to unwind.

Wednesday

Today’s schedule was not as full and we were very thankful for that. We did not need to be there as early but Hélène had to be fasting for 2 hours prior to her test so we got up early, had breakfast and went back to sleep for a bit. I must admit, I was not sure we could do this but it worked out. We did not sleep through the second alarm and we made it on time! She had a MUGRA/RNA scan (measures the percentage of blood pumped out of the body by the heart, how well it pumps and measures how well the heart chambers move at rest and while exercising). Following the test, Hélène grabbed a Starbucks coffee and we met the anesthesiologist. She explained very well how the preparations for the surgical process are carried out and how careful they are at matching the donated lungs to the recipient. We learned that the lung size can be matched at a + or – 25%, encouraging news! She also discussed the various pain management methods that can be used to ensure a better and more effective recovery after the surgery. A gift card for Swiss Chalet was graciously given to us and it provided us with the perfect lunch. We are very thankful for this gift. The rest of our day has consisted of RELAXING…and it feels great!

As for tomorrow…well, that’s for the next time…