We arrived at the hospital raring to take Matthew home. However, we knew that it always took a while to get out of hospital. We also knew that it was planned for Matthew to leave around 10:00 am. This was to coordinate doctors to be available to see him off. We packed all his things, made sure that we had all of his medication and anything else we needed, including all the instructions for the days to come, and then looked around the SICU with a little sadness. We had cried, made new friends, and laughed with people during our many hours in the ICU and comfort room. We had encouraged others whose family members were having surgery, messaged friends and family but more than anything else we had prayed. The last weeks had been life changing, not only for Matthew but for us too. Now we all needed to grab hold of the future.
As soon as we had received a sense of when Matthew might leave the hospital we had begun to plan his “exit”. The plan was to get seven helium balloons in the Hero777’s colours of red, white and black, to tie on his wheel chair when he left the hospital. Matthew was the seventh “heart lung” transplant in South Africa, so it seemed fitting. It was also a reminder of our renewed determination to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation in South Africa where the lack of donor referrals means many people never get a second chance at life. Matthew is added proof that Organ Donors are real Heroes – they give the gift of life to someone else.
We were now entering a new chapter, one where Matthew was no longer sick. Now, he was simply recovering from transplant surgery and he had his life ahead of him. Yes, he would need to be careful and it would certainly not be a walk in the park, but he no longer had a sword hanging over his head. Then again, I realised that Matthew had never lived like he had a sword over his life, but he could really look to the future with expectation now.
The excitement was palpable as Matthew finally left the SICU1 and headed to the reception area. We were interview by a reporter the previous day on the doctor’s request and knew there would be a photographer waiting as we left the hospital. It was during this interview that we learnt that Matthew was not only the seventh person in South Africa to have a heart and bi-lateral (double) lung transplant but also in Africa. Being the 7th person fitted in nicely with Matthew’s Hero777 website. His birthday is even on the seventh of a month.
We gathered in the reception area for photographs with the Surgeons and Cardiologists (which appeared on the front page of the Daily News the next morning!) and then Matthew was helped into the Crisis Medical vehicle which was taking him home. As we drove out of the hospital parking lot the emotion was evident in the tears gathered in the corner of Matthew’s eyes which were also mirrored in mine. This was certainly an emotional drive home on a number of fronts.
After a short trip, we arrived home to a wonderful group of special friends who were waiting to welcome Matthew home. It was incredible for him to see them albeit from a distance. We moved him inside to get settled into his room around 12:30. He was exhausted, but in our household there is no rest, so after lunch he started on his afternoon exercises! He was so pleased to be home and so relaxed that he even forgot to ask for his phone! What an amazing day!
How do you thank all the incredible people who made this all possible?
We are incredibly grateful firstly to Matthew’s angel donor’s family who made that difficult decision at an exceptionally emotional and heart breaking time, to Matthew’s fabulous transplant coordinator, Cindy Goldie, the anaesthetist Dr Padoa, the incredible surgeons, Mr Kleinloog and Mr Winter and their team, the theatre sisters, the Perfusionists Tamlyn Hyde and Delaine Jordaan, the theatre Unit Manger Chantelle Coelho, the Unit Manager of SICU 1, Vanessa Gillion, all the wonderful staff of the SICU1 staff (who we listed in a previous post) , the cardiologists Dr Gillmer and Dr Asherson, the physiotherapist Danica van der Post , the Pharmacist Manager and pharmacists who went out of their way to get medication when needed and all the other medical and hospital staff (Amanda, Sue, Jolene, Hillary, Annie), the SANBS, each person who donates blood and platelets and everyone else who did everything to make Matthew’s, and our stay at Gateway Private Hospital, as comfortable as it could possibly be. We are also most grateful to the Lord who has shown us time and again that although they don’t always come in the way we desire them, there is no doubt that miracles are still possible.