Thursday, May 23, 2024

Transplant tale: celebrating 7th 'Liverversary' with travel, joy, gratitude

Seven years post transplant, Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller are enjoying a life of
collaboration in their travel writing -- Cookie's writing and Keller's photos -- here in Scandinavia.


Dr. Jonathan Fisher of Scripps Green Hospital, and Bruce
Keller, just days after the successful transplant.

SEVEN YEARS ago this week, I was frightened, pacing alone at 2 a.m. in the ICU waiting room at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, California. 
I waited an agonizing seven hours while Keller was trading livers. It was too early to call U.S. friends or family, so I texted a friend in France to calm me.
 THE TRANSPLANT call came at 10 p.m., after our usual Friday
Bruce Keller hours after a
successful liver transplant.
date night. I was drying off from a shower and Keller was just settling in bed. The call was 17 months in coming, as we worked our way slowly up the list. "Could you be at the hospital in an hour?" the transplant nurse asked. "Absolutely," we replied. By midnight, he was admitted and tests were underway to determine if the match indeed was a good one.  
A long undiagnosed case of "hep C" from a college transfusion had taken its toll. We looked The Grim Reaper in the eye. But through the miracle of a generous donor, an internationally
Traveling recently in Europe, Bruce Keller & Christene Meyers
left, with Rick Cosgriffe and his partner Jane Milder at Rome's
 famous Trevi Fountain, seven years post transplant.

known hepatologist and a brilliant Columbia University Medical College physician and his team, Keller recovered fully and we continued our life of travel and theater, commuting between Keller's San Diego home and my native Montana. Our treasured Yorkies, Nick and Nora, were part of our lives until they gallantly passed away a couple years ago.
Just three weeks after the surgery, Keller & Cookie
got "thumbs up" for a trip to the Oregon coast for
the wedding of niece Kira Cosgriffe to Mike Hill.

Date night turned transplant time
AMAZINGLY, Keller was discharged from the hospital in a record two days. I had been thoroughly vetted as his caregiver -- one must have an approved caregiver to be on the list --and Dr. Fisher deemed Keller would be more comfortable at home, if I were willing to administer 17 meds, change bandages, keep tabs and transport him back in a day for follow-up. 
Dr. Fisher was astonished that Keller did not need a ventilator leaving Recovery for the ICU. His pulmonary prowess was the result of years of water sports -- sailing, surfing, diving -- with advanced degrees in scuba. When we decided to be a couple, we pledged that I'd learn to sail if he learned to dance. Promises fulfilled. We married last August, the only thing we've done slowly!!
 Challenges of transplant recovery
Cookie and Keller, with niece Amarylla, her
husband Steve, James and Peny, in Hawaii.
reams about the challenges of this enormous process.  It was not easy to consider the consequences if something went wrong or if he did not make it to the top of the transplant list in time. His liver was failing and without the transplant he would have died.

Keller, Cookie, Nick and Nora on the road, one
of many trips with pups, here in Lake Tahoe.

Medical miracles are not uncommon in this day, but we consider ourselves fortunate.
THIS MONTH, in Italy, we celebrated Keller's
Lifelong love of doggies
Cookie and Keller surrounded by their clan at a "surprise
wedding" organized by Keller and niece Amarylla and her
husband Steve, who also officiated as a lay minister.
recovery and our 17th year together, grateful for surviving that low point and embracing each "high." We call ourselves "The Carpe Diem Kids" and truly live with a "carpe diem" attitude, attempting to be generous, thoughtful, kind. After 17 years together, the surprise wedding took place in Montana, during a family reunion.
MY ADVICE to anyone facing a transplant is to join a support group, do as much homework as you can absorb, and be optimistic while understanding that things can go wrong but can also be corrected.
For us, fortunately, things have gone mostly right. 

Meanwhile, we've endured family losses, attended too many memorials, yet celebrated birthdays, weddings, holidays and welcomed two great-nephews to the planet.
We have continued a life of vigorous travel, from Iceland to the Antarctic, embracing each day with gusto and the knowledge that we are all on borrowed time, "just passing through," as my wise grandfather Gus said.  
WE SURVIVED the COVID years, with 341 games of Scrabble and every vaccination known to man. We've sought medical help a couple nervous times on foreign ground. All good.
SOME IN our situation would stay put, but that's not who we are. Our goal to see the world together continues. We take joy in each new trip, new city, new ship, train, plane. We continue to cultivate a cherished coterie of international friends. We appreciate each adventure, relish the planning and say a grateful "thank you" each day. 

Tourists cross one of the park's bridges to admire scenery
and take a boat ride at Grand Teton National Park.
UP NEXT: Summer arrives in our favorite national parks. Come along with us to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier -- three of the world's most beautiful and popular parks.  As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the summer season begins. 
It previewed in late April as the roads were cleared of snow. Then park facilities began to open on a staggered schedule. We visit in prime beauty, knowing the season is short. Parks begin to close in September, weather depending. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, art and life.

1 comment:

  1. Bay Area TravelersMay 24, 2024 at 8:14 PM

    We appreciate this insight into your lively lives together.