Friday, September 1, 2017

Living with a new liver yields surprises, challenges, delights;

Bruce Keller, known by family and friends, by his surname, and Christene "Cookie" Meyers, reveling in
smooth sailing after two years of dealing with hepatitis C, the cure with Harvoni and the decision to transplant. 

 TRIUMPHANT TRANSPLANT: 'Patient Patient' is poster boy for miracle of science, reclaimed health

Bruce Keller, aka "Patient Patient,'  
left Scripps Green Hospital after 
only three days, a record for a
transplant at the renowned hospital.
Editor's Note: In May, we offered a three-part series on Bruce Keller's liver transplant in San Diego. Several thousand readers followed our story and have asked how we are doing now, three-plus months after the surgery. Thumbs up all around, and here's how:


Keller's recovery was so swift -- knock wood -- that Cookie and Keller
have the green light to return to southern Spain for their annual fall trip. 
Here, their traditional tapas spread, on their Maloaga trip November of 2016.
A YEAR AGO, we were climbing up the transplant list at Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego, wondering how long our lives would hover in this state of waiting, wondering and anxiety.
Would we have to wait years?  How would Keller be feeling during the wait?  Could we travel?
Keller and Cookie on Friday date night
at La Jolla Shores, on the beach.
How far from home? How long to recovery? What after-effects might he feel? When could he return safely to work? How would Cookie cope with care-giving for an extended period?
One by one, these questions have been answered, and we're thrilled to share the good news that after 15 weeks, all systems are go.
We'll not rehash the "before" tale.  The back-story is in the three pieces, whose links we include in this story.  At your request, we'll focus on life after the transplantation.
WE'VE HAD moments of joy and a few moments of terror. Confused by mixed messages from the pharmacy, we put aside one of the primary anti-rejection drugs and did not take it for 11 days.  'Nurse Cookie" also reduced the dosage of another of the meds for a few days, attempting to adjust the tremor that Keller developed. Bad idea for a patient (or his well meaning partner) to take such matters into one's own hands. 
Our fabulous physician, Dr. Catherine Frenette, cautioned there would be bumps in the road. 
Keller on his bike, heading into the stretch toward four months post transplant.
Ours were minor, compared to other patients, some of whom spend weeks, even months, hospitalized post transplant. Cookie admits she erred in playing doctor -- and was relieved she did not lose her metaphoric nurse's cap, getting off with only a well deserved scolding.
DESPITE DAUNTING numbers of pills those first few weeks, the number of meds is decreasing.  We realize we will have to take a couple critical anti-rejection drugs for the rest of Keller's life.  This is a small price to pay for the magnificent gift of a new liver and a new lease on life.
Nick and Nora are welcome at the Omni Hotel Los Angeles.
We were able to drive  to Los Angeles, to see plays and concerts at the Ahmanson Theatre and Disney Concert Hall. We stay at our favorite downtown hotel, the Omni, which is "Yorkie friendly" and a splendid, all-service venue, walking distance to the theaters.
Caregiving is exhausting.  Here Cookie follows orders:
take time to relax and replenish yourself.
Keller helps new nephew-in-law, Mike Hill, at his wedding to our niece Kira.
We've had fun weekend get-aways at friends' homes celebrating Cookie's month-long birthday celebration which begins August 1 and -- by tradition -- ends on Labor Day.
DAILY BIKE rides and a return to Keller's construction foreman jobs have helped us return to normalcy. And Cookie's beloved Jazzercise has helped her maintain most of her composure -- with occasional lapses, she says.
She loves our sailing trips from San Diego.   
Green light for cruising:  we have
the okay from "Dr. F" for a return to
southern Europe a couple weeks shy
of the six-months originally suggested
for a return to international travel.
Travel is once again a constant in the lives of travel writers
and photographers Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers,
here at Lake Tahoe with their Yorkies Nick and Nora.

WE WERE  thrilled when the doctors approved a trip in late July to our niece's wedding on the Oregon coast.  "Dr. F," as we affectionately refer to her, had estimated a three-month minimum three months before domestic travel and six before we could safely venture across the pond.
During my long wait outside the ICU, the night of the surgery, I did the math, wondering if we would be able to make our annual autumn trip to southern Spain.  It is a ten-year tradition.
Playing piano, lecturing
and part-time teaching are
again part of Cookie's life.
"We'll see," said Dr. F.  "Be patient." We were.
We are delighted to be able to make our Montana pilgrimage which this year involves a return to our mountain home and a few weeks of repair to the damage done by a bear who broke into the place as we were leaving late last summer.

Dr. Jonathan Fisher was chief surgeon -- one of three who assisted on Keller's
liver transplant May 13 at Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego.  Clowning
behind him is Joe Murillo, one of several delightful  physician's assistants.  

WE'VE SEGUED from Scripps' brilliant, highly ranked "liver team" back to our regular physician, "Dr. F."  
Back in Big Sky Country, Cookie and Keller are enjoying time to rest.
We'll feature a photo montage and some insights about this lovely
part of the Northern Rockies in a Montana girl's  
Our visits to Scripps have decreased from two and three times a week to once a week, to twice monthly, and during our Montana stay, to monthly, keeping in touch with Dr. Frenette as needed, checking in with the helpful transplant team if we have concerns. (It is available 24-7.)
We will have blood labs taken during our Big Sky visit, which is possible with a form that is simply handed to the participating clinics, 

with the myriad results emailed back to Scripps.  If  adjustments are needed, they'll be made, thanks to the magic of the Internet.
WE ARE GRATEFUL, but not foolish or deluded. We know problems can arise quickly; conditions change, thus the need for vigilance and monitoring.  We take an informed approach to our situation. We love Scripps -- ten minutes from our house.
We've written a detailed letter of thanks to the donor family -- using the hospital as a screening conduit. They approved of and forwarded our letter and we're hoping to hear back.
(Cookie is convinced that Keller received Don Rickles' liver, because his level of sarcastic humor has increased.  Keller was hoping for the liver of a jazz pianist, so he could play duets with Cookie.)
Cookie and Keller a couple weeks
ago on the Oregon coast.
Some donor families relish communicating with the recipient.  Others find it too painful to respond to a note of appreciation.  We'll see. Meanwhile, Keller says he feels better than he has in years, which makes Nurse Cookie very, very happy.
Stay tuned; we'll keep you in the "liver loop."

Summer at our Montana hideaway with a corner of the Big Sky, top right..

NEXT UP: Big Sky Country is gorgeous in late summer -- even with the wild fires.  The days are dry and sunny, the evenings are cool and breezy.  High in the mountains, the stars are brilliant. And the bird life is abundant.  We saw a mountain lion today. Come with us, remembering to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at the arts, travel, nature and the lives of two people who live life by the "carpe diem" creed. 


  1. Thank you both for showing us what is really important, and with such zest, humor and love. Bravo, brava. Grazie mille.

  2. We know you two only from your delightful blog. So happy for this update and that you are able once again to travel, your life line.

  3. You two are FUN. So are your posts. Keep 'em coming.