“The Call”

Its been 6 amazing months since my mom’s transplant. Here is how it all happened.

August 15, 2019.

August 15th was like any typical mid-summer morning. Day 272 in the hospital. A new day to hope that today is “the” day. August 15th is also one of the most important dates in the Greek Orthodox Calendar, as the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is celebrated. It is a religious holiday that marks the “falling asleep” of the mother of Lord Jesus Christ. 

My mom woke up and was set to do her what had now become a routine. Get out of bed, brush teeth, order breakfast, and wait for her daily walk around the unit with her ECMO machine. The doctors had become worried that her ECMO machine couldn’t take anymore or her body. Just as she was waking up, my mom’s nurse came into the room and handed her the unit’s phone. On the other line, a voice asks if she can confirm if she is indeed Mrs. Merianos. Her heart dropped as her mind quickly raced to realize she hadn’t heard from my dad or John all morning. My dad was taking John to his first day of 10th grade at his new school in Los Angeles. Panicked, she repeats she is, in fact, Mrs. Merianos.”We have a match. Would you like to accept it.” the voice on the other end of the line said.

Having been through one dry run, we all tried to keep our cool. If you are not familiar with a dry run, its when a patient is told, they have been found a match. It’s a preliminary offer.
The team accepts the offer with the understanding that final acceptance will depend on when the UCLA Lung Transplant procurement surgeon arrives at the donor hospital. It is at this time that the organ recovery process begins, and the procurement surgeon can see or “visualize” the donated lungs in person. When the procurement surgeon takes a look at the lungs, they may decide they are not suitable to use. During my mom’s first dry run, the lungs were deemed unusable because they had developed pneumonia.

We kept all this in mind but also had hope that these could be the perfect match.

Its a day filled with mixed emotions. As a family, we are happy that our loved one gets a second chance but understand that another family is saying goodbye to their loved one. It is an indescribable feeling. The donor’s information is also kept private. No information is given out about them. Gender, age, location, etc. is kept confidential.

When the time is right, my mom can reach out to the family in the form of a letter. The family can then decide if they would like to connect.

My mom’s journey to transplant was a little different than the rest. Because of her high antibodies, she needed treatment to help “clean” out antibodies or quit their reproduction. Machines were quickly placed into her room to begin the process. Plasmapheresis is a process in which the liquid part of the blood, or plasma, is separated from the blood cells. Typically, the plasma is replaced with another solution such as saline or albumin, or the plasma is treated and then returned to your body.

As my mom was getting wheeled into the operation room, she was able to be with Jacob and me via face time as we got to see our baby for the first time. Gowned up, oxygen on, getting ready to be wheeled away, the team let my mom watch as she got confirmation that yes, indeed, she is going to be a grandmother. What a beautiful day to confirm new life within our family, not only once but twice as my mom received a second chance at life!

We love you so much mom and are proud of the hard work you put into recovery everyday. You’re an inspiration and hero!

PSA – I want to remind everyone I am in no shape or form versed in the medical world, so all explanations are coming from what I understood.

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