Kidney and Pancreas Recipient
by Howie Pohl
Carol Heins takes me on a tour of her backyard gardens with obvious pride. There are paths leading everywhere; trees, shrubs, flowers are arranged artfully, yet all of them have been allowed to grow fully and are only maintained to the point where they do not grow excessively.
Carol, a resident of North Babylon, is a dual transplant recipient of a kidney in 2008 and a pancreas in 2010. Both surgeries took place at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The surgeries occurred two years apart because the hospital was not certified to do pancreatic transplants at the time of the kidney transplant. Carol knew from the start that she would be required to have the pancreas transplant because she was an insulin-dependent diabetic and the doctors had informed her that her defective pancreas would damage her new kidney as it had her original. In fact, her kidney was transplanted into the left side of her body and her second surgery involved major rearranging of internal body parts. Her pancreas was moved parallel to her colon on the right side of her body, her bile duct was moved also, and her appendix was removed at the same time.
In what seems strange at first, Carol has created names for her two new organs. She has named her kidney Patrick, because she received it on St. Patrick’s Day and the organ came from a male donor. Her pancreas is named Dax, because Carol and husband Walter Edwards are Star Trek fans and she figured that the donor, a twenty-one year old male, was likely a science fiction aficionado so her new organ was named after a Star Trek character (a Trill symbiont, for those of you keeping score at home). While her doctors thought her a little crazy at first for naming her organs, they now refer to them as Patrick and Dax as well. Carol believes, and it makes sense, that giving names to one’s transplanted organs imparts a sense of responsibility toward them and, indeed, she is very conscientious about taking her immunosuppressive drugs on schedule.
Her schedule of rapamune and tacrolimus has served her well by preserving her immune system and avoiding major complications. Although she keeps a supply of blood glucose testing equipment, she feels no need to test her blood glucose any longer as her pancreas is doing its job well. She swears by the doctors who performed her transplants: Dr. Michael Goldstein (now at Mount Sinai Hospital), who was so passionate about transplanting her new kidney, and Dr. Lloyd Ratner, who performed her pancreas transplant.
Although Carol is a highly qualified architectural planner and designer, with advanced computer skills, she has not been so lucky in the current job A market. She has had three jobs in five years. Her unemployment benefits are soon to expire and she has widened her search for a suitable job, as did her husband, who is also an architect c but is working outside of his area of experience. She states that employers are “looking for thirty- e somethings with thirty years of experience.” Like many other transplant recipients, she must deal with the high cost of immunosuppressives and the vagaries of insurance coverage.
In the meantime, this “energizer bunny,” according to her friends, fills her days up with rewarding activities. In addition to her outstanding gardening efforts, Carol does things to improve her house. Last year, it got a new paint job, this year a warped fireplace flue was replaced. These and other improvements help to avoid anxiety or depression as do the numerous classes she has taken at the North Babylon Public Library, particularly yoga, crochet, and adult education classes. In the past, she and her husband spent time in their tandem kayak on the Connetquot River and the Great South Bay. She loves English comedies and murder mysteries.
Carol pays it forward by volunteering with Donate Life when there are fairs and local events to raise consciousness about organ donation. In fact, following her surgeries, Carol, her friends and family, including her 83-year-old mother, have all become organ donors. She stays structured by making a schedule and sticking to it and challenges herself to keep going with only minimal health setbacks and in the face of harsh economic times. Certainly, that backyard garden has proved a great source of activity and a haven of respite.