Paul E. MichelsonDistinguished Professor of History Emeritus
Department of History
Huntington IN 46750 USA
Phone and Voice Mail:
This page last modified: 12 October 2020
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Paul E. Michelson is Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at Huntington University, where he began teaching in 1974. He has been three times a Fulbright fellow in Romania (1971-1973, 1982-1983, 1989-1990). His book, Romanian Politics, 1859-1871: From Prince Cuza to Prince Carol (1998) was selected by CHOICE MAGAZINE as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1998 and was awarded the 2000 Bălcescu Prize for History by the Romanian Academy.
His areas of interest and expertise include historiography, Romanian history in the 19th-21st Centuries, Totalitarian and post-Totalitarian societies, the History of Venice, and the work of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
He is past President and Secretary of the Society for Romanian Studies and served as the Secretary of the Conference on Faith and History from 2004 to 2014.
MY KIDNEY TRANPLANT BLOG, July 23-October 12,, 2020
Kidney Transplant Update, June 24 through July 23, 2020
I was a candidate for a transplant from a family donor from 2018, but complications in the program at Ft. Wayne led eventually to my being transferred to St. Vincent's Hospital in Indianapolis. After a number of unexpected futher delays primarily connected with hospitals in Indiana closing down surgeries because of COVID-19, I was finally scheduled for a kidney transplant on June 24 at St. Vincent's. Coincidentally June 24 was also the somewhat mysterious Noapte de Sânziene (Romanians will know what that means.) Both my donor (youngest son Paco) and myself came through the surgery well and my new only slightly used kidney started functioning beautifully and prolifically immediately. I was released on June 27, but had to go back in on July 6 to repair some herniated tissue near the main incision. This also went well and headed off any further complications from a hernia later...which would have been bad.
July 24 is now four weeks since the surgery. The incision is now completely closed and no longer leaks, seeps, or anything else, and does not hurt when I cough or bend over. The bulge on the right side where the new kidney was inserted has gone down to the point that I am now symmetrical on left and right. (BTW, the old kidneys are not removed; they will just atrophy away.) I like my doctors very much and am pleased with how smoothly St. Vincent's Transplant works. The usual drill is to visit Indianapolis Mondays and Thursdays for the first several weeks, but a COVID benefit is that they were able to arrange for Thursday's blood draw to be done at Huntington Parkview Hospital and if there needs to be discussion of the results we can do this via video conferencing which has become commonplace to avoid COVID issues. This saves us one trip weekly to Indy, although at 90 minutes the drive isn't excessive. My fourth week visit with the doctors in Indianapolis was on Monday, July 20. The surgeons seemed pleased with how things looked and that basically I was back on schedule despite the second surgery. My numbers are good and the kidney functions at 4 weeks are where they hoped they'ed be at the end of 8 weeks. (For those who know what this means: my creatinine level is below 1.0 and the BUN is in normal ranges.)
I am eating a lot of stuff previously verboten (think nuts, cheese, TexMex and black beans), and seem to be tolerating the immunosuppresent drugs. I still lack energy by evening, but this is partly due to the presence of the anesthetics in my system that will take some time to clear and party to a right (my dominant arm and hand) shoulder injury (deltoid) I suffered on June 20, but this is gradually getting better (I can now eat with my right hand without noticing) and has a positive knockon effect that I am not at all tempted to lift more that 5 pounds which is my limit until the incisions heal up completely. (I also now have a lot more sympathy for one-armed people. I am taking several long walks each day and enjoy the fact that in small town Huntington, one can actually walk several blocks without meeting anybody and needing to mask.
However, in the final anaysis, all of this progress would not be possible without the loving and excessive caregiving of my Jean, who is also the family pharmacist (Jean: “Here take these pills.” Me: “Really? All of these?”) and dietician (as in: Jean: “OK, you've had enough of that. Eat more of this.”) I frankly don't think things would go very well without such a competent and unflappable caregiver (not to mention driver since I won't be allowed to drive for a while yet).
And I am grateful to my family for their loving support, starting with my youngest son, Paco AKA Paul-Philip who was the donor (and is recovering nicely, already is allowed to drive, and has his next check up in six weeks). (A nice fringe benefit is that we see him, his wife, and grandson Lowynn more frequently than anyone else since they are on the same quarentine we are). The others—my siblings and our Nashville family— have been constant in keeping in touch, making special trips here to help, and so forth. Thanks guys. The same can be said about the people at College Park Church and Huntington University. Our Sunday School class has been especially close and encouraging.
I now realize that the actual surgery and post op were the easy part and that the next several weeks will have ups and downs and be a bit more of of a slog, but there is light at the end of the tunnel that isn't an approaching train. I will be semi-isolated until Christmas, especially because of the current COVID crisis, and won't be able to fly until sometime next year, but can get around and will return to a healthier new normal than prior to June 24. To all of my friends and colleagues, at home and abroad, especially those in Romania, I am grateful for your concern and support. Soli Deo Gloria.
Kidney Transplant Update, 3 August, 2020
I had the 5th week + checkup on Monday, 3 August. I had the stent removed and half of my staples. The rest will go next week. When they allow me to drive, I will know that I have gone over the required hurdles. My blood pressure is normal and stable; ditto my temperature and weight. The new kidney continues to function admirably and my creatinine level hovers around 1.0, which is excellent. The weather is exceptional for July/August. I am walking between three and four miles a day. A fringe benefit of living in small town Huntington (pop. 16000) is that I can walk for a couple of miles in the morning and a couple more at night and not encounter anyone, thus maintaining my semi-quarentine. My injured right arm is improving day to day, and for some functions (like eating) I can use it without any appreciable discomfort. All in all, I am doing well. Thanks be to God. And thanks to you for your support.
Kidney Transplant Update, 11 August, 2020
I had the 6th week + checkup on Monday, 11 August, at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. The rest of the staples were removed successfully. Because of the healing herneated tissue, I will still have to be cautious about lifting and too much strenous activity, but I can now bathe normally, I have clearance to drive a car, and feel better every day. My right should (torn anterior deltoid) continues to be a problem, but helps me avoid lifting too much. I probably will consult a physical therapist for more rehab.
Late spring is gorgeous and our flowers are in full bloom. I have upped the ante on walking and now do around three miles + (about 5 km) every day. Small town Huntington is great for walking because most streets are tree-lined and one usually doesn't meet anybody en route. Because my immune system is suppressed, I have to avoid direct sunlight, so I have spf shirts and sleeves to cover my arms and a hat to cover my head and neck. Skin cancer is the nr. 2 problem for kidney transplatees (following rejection of the transplant), so I have keep covered up and have a yearly dermatology exam to check for cancerous growths. I have never been very sensitive to sunlight, so I am hoping this aspect will go well, but with a suppressed immune system, ones biochemistry changes dramatically.
Kidney Transplant Update, August 18, 2020
We went to Indianapolis for the 7th week checkup on August 17, and the doctors were pleased with how the transplant is thriving. My blood sugar is up, mainly as a known side effect of the immunosupressand drugs. The doctor isn't alarmed by this, but did suggest some dietary minimization of carbohydrates, a little weight loss, and a discussion with an endocrinologist.
The big news this week is that starting next week, we will go to Indy only every other week. Secondly, we will be doing only one weekly blood draw instead of two and one the weeks we don't go to Indy, I can do this at our local Parkview hospital. Our next Indy visit will be August 31, which is a critical checkpoint in the recovery process.
I still have minimal use of my right arm and found that healing of a torn deltoid can take up to 4 months. The arm is getting better.
I continue to walk more that 3 ½ miles a day, which I actually enjoy.
Kidney Transplant Update, September 2, 2020
We went to Indy on August 31 for the ninth week check. My creatinine numbers are holding steady around 1.0, which is good, and my blood sugar number has come down: not quite normal, but close. Although I need to continue to monitor liquid intake (which must be at least 3 liters a day), I no longer have to capture and measure the liquids output, which is obviously more convenient. They adjusted downward this week one of the immunosuppresant drugs, so we are getting there. The doctors seem pleased with how things are going and I have more energy every day. This is a sign that the anesthetics are clearing from my system. The goal is to release me to the care of my local nephrologist around mid-December, and we seem well on target.
The new routine is now established: Alternate Mondays we go to Indianapolis for blood tests and clinic with the doctors. I also have an excellent transplant coordinator who is quite reachable by eMail and responds quickly. The other Monday I go to Huntington Parkview for the blood tests, which obviously is much more convenient and quicker than Indianapolis. In fact, I usually am in and out in less than half an hour and it's another five minutes back home. We only do once weekly blood tests.
Interesting factoid: I had immagined that the immunosuppresant drugs permanently suppressed your immune system, but that is not the case. The point is to adjust the immunosuppresants to keep the donated kidney from being rejected, but low enough so that your own immune system can resume partial function without harming the transplant. Until that point—which is projected for December—I will continue to avoid or minimize public exposure, but am allowed, for example, to go to Costco where the aisles are wide enough and everyone seems to be masked so that social contact is quite minimized. I'm not crazy about shopping as such (so this isn't much of a restriction), but do like to see what Costco has on offer from time to time. Easting out is problematic, but most restaurant now have carry out, so if I really want something exotic I can order it. More of a problem: can't yet visit any of my favorite book stores! But I'm finding plenty on Amazon, Exlibris, and ABE to keep me amused.
I am now free of most other restrictions, except lifting, which I can't do anyway because of the torn deltoid, which is getting noticeably better as time passes. (This will take another two months to heal.) Tomorrow I will drive Jean home from a visit to the orthopedist, which will be a first, though I have been allowed to drive as necessary for a couple of weeks now. Since I don't go out much except for walking, this hasn't been a temptation.
Waking continues to be a pleasure. The past week I was over 3.3 miles every day and two days was over 4.4 miles. I am enjoying looking at the varied architecture of Huntington around our neighborhood. Nothing as interesting as Romanian cities, of course, but worth looking at anyway. And, contrary to prevailing mythology, no two houses in a couple mile radius of ours are identical. (By the way, I find both tiresome and ignorant the complaint of urbanites that small towns have cookie cutter houses: just how much variety is there in the layout of urban apartment buildings, other than the penthouses or dwellings of very wealthy people? Just more snobbisness and misplaced elitism. NB Joseph Epstein has an excellent book entitled Snobbery: The American Version , which punctures a lot of pretentiousness.)
Pardon the rant. (And remember, you don't have to read this if you don't want to. And after all, this is my blog. If you don't like it, go write your own.) This testiness must be sign that I am recuperating enough to regain some of my customary canterousness and all round irritability. That's progress in excess I would venture. However, dear friends, this grouchiness does not extend to you and your many kindnesses. I promise to listen to more Bob and Ray humor selections on Apple Music, which might alleviate the situation...or not.
Kidney Transplant Update, October 12, 2020
The good news is that as of October, I have graduated with honors. (OK, I made that last part up.) I have completed the first half of my recuperation period (three months) and the doctors say my numbers are good and consistent and, therefore, I move to a less restrictive regime of treatment. My creatinine hovers around 1.0, which is excellent and means the new kidney continues to function very well.
I will miss the frequent hospital visits, however, since being asked several times on each visit for my name and birth date has helped me get these items firmly affixed in my aging memory (I have a nearly 90% accuracy rate on the responses: how about that?) (OK, I made that up, too. I don't really remember my accuracy rate. Ha, ha.) What I do remember is that my right arm is still healing the deltoid muscle, which has at least another month to go. It is noticeably improved each week, which obviously is encouraging, not to mention that I can use it more and more without flinching.
For the next three months (October-November-December), we go to Indianapolis only once a month for labs/blood draw and consultation, and do a once a month blood draw locally. So that means a total of two hospital visits a month for the last half of the regimen and fewer opportunities to get up at 4:30 to drive to Indy, which both Jean (my trusty driver) and I much appreciate. (I can drive, but Jean prefers that she drive to Indy because if we were in an accident on the interstate, the air bag blowing out of the steering wheel would hit me right in the transplant area.) My treatment drugs seem to have stabilized and I have been taken off of the transplant diet and returned to the normal diet for people my age (good bye unlimited steaks: the regular diet “suggests” red meat only twice a week). I will have to watch calories and carbs as I now need to lose a few pounds and bring my blood sugar down. This means additional record keeping. (I will be consulting a endocrinologist on the blood sugar this month.)
Then, we hope, in December I will graduate with the advanced degree, and my treatment will be transferred to my Ft. Wayne nephrologist, except for a yearly visit back at St. Vincent.
As far as record keeping (and other matters), I need to commend my home dialysis training with Davita. They were very careful to stress the importance of keeping a daily (practically hourly) log. They also emphasized (long before COVID19) the need to carefully wash hands in antibacterial soap, taught me the 20 second rule, and drummed into us the need to maintain sterile surroundings (disinfecting countertops, sinks, bathtubs, faucets, and shower heads). As a result, it was a breeze to adapt to the kidney transplant log keeping and disinfection routines. My appreciation and thanks to Renee and the others at Davita from the receptionist to the nurses and staff: you done good (as a colleague of mine used to say).
I am continuing to get the walking in: for the last three weeks, I have been walking between a minimum of 3.5 miles, but mostly 4 miles + a day. Fall has fallen, so it's getting a bit chilly early mornings and late evenings when I usually walk (so I don't have to worry about sun exposure), but so far it hasn't been unpleasant. However, we'll see come November and December howthings are, when I will either have to walk inside or venture out during the day well-covered against the sun (remember, skin cancer is, after transplant rejection, the biggest problem for transplantees. BTW, I also had my first visit to the dermatologist to get an initial skin cancer check which was all clear. I will have to do this at least yearly).
Another Big Step Forward for me is after consultation with a neurologist, I may have started a regime that will keep the plague of restless leg in check. Can't be sure yet, but I am over three months without many actual restless leg symptoms. Praise the Lord!
You will notice an amazing number of -ologists above. I may need a psychologist if this number keeps going up! (This reminds me of my uncle who studied psycho-ceramics at medical school. This, for those in the audience who missed it or just didn't care) is the study of how to deal with crackpots.)
OK, I guess that very bad, but classic Michelson family joke may indicate that I am running out of things to say, so I'll conclude with asking you to keep those cards and eMails coming: I enjoy hearing from you and appreciate your encouragement.