For those of you following Mrs. T’s transplant-related adventures, here’s an update on her condition and prospects.As many of you know, Mrs. T was airlifted from the University of Connecticut Health Center to New York-Presbyterian Hospital early on Saturday. She was moved there in preparation for the double lung transplant that she must undergo in order to cure her pulmonary hypertension. Her doctors agree that the time for transplant is ripe. While she’s stable for now, the attack of sepsis from which she’s recovering has left her extremely fragile, and the right ventricle of her heart, which was already weakened by years of chronic illness, could decompensate suddenly and without warning. This is why she was moved to New York: if her right ventricle starts to fail, she’ll need new lungs immediately.
The clock, in short, is running.Would that there were enough donor lungs to go around! But there aren’t, which is the reason for the organ allocation list, which divvys up donor organs in the United States according to a complex formula that weighs the comparative needs of their potential recipients. For the past month or so, Mrs. T’s allocation “score” has been hovering above 50 (out of 100). This means she’s sick enough to start receiving organ offers as soon as a suitable pair of lungs becomes available—so long as it isn’t equally suitable to someone who outscores her. Because her condition deteriorated in the past week, the New York-Presbyterian transplant team was able to have her score raised somewhat higher.
And what if no lungs become available right away? Unless Mrs. T’s condition improves very significantly, she’ll have to wait at New York-Presbyterian instead of going home to stand by for the Big Call alerting her that donor lungs are en route to the hospital. The problem is that she needs more supplementary oxygen than can be administered at home, on top of which she’s still being treated with intravenous antibiotics for her sepsis. Fortunately, we live just thirteen blocks from the hospital—that’s why we moved to this neighborhood—and it’s possible that she’ll improve enough to be able to wait for the call at home. She won’t be going anywhere else, though, until it comes.
Many of you have asked about visiting Mrs. T. She’s not quite ready just yet, partly because she’s still worn out from the events of the week just past and partly because she’s temporarily deaf. She had to wear a high-pressure BiPAP mask for several days last week to force oxygen into her lungs, and her Eustachian tubes are so clogged as a result that she can’t hear anything anyone says unless they shout. No cards or flowers, either: Mrs. T knows you care from the explosion of support for her on the social media, which she’s following with amazement.
(Incidentally, Mrs. T had never flown in a helicopter prior to being airlifted to New York. I regret to say that it was a letdown. “It was like riding in a station wagon lying down,” she says. “The cabin was so small that there wasn’t room in back for anyone but me and the nurse, and there weren’t any windows I could see out of, either.” Sorry to disappoint you!)So that’s where we stand as of today. While Mrs. T is resting more or less comfortably, she can’t go on like this forever. Sooner or later, she’ll have to have two new lungs to stay alive. Which is why I’ll end, as always, with a plea: if you haven’t yet signed up to become an organ donor, please go here to do so.
That’s always been a fine and caring thing to do, but for Mrs. T and me, it’s never been more urgent than it is right now.