Double organ recipient Clinton Collins is not surprised he’s still here, but there were days before his recent kidney-pancreas transplant when the waiting was getting to him.
“Fair-to-middling” is how the longtime Twin Cities attorney was feeling last week during this interview. “As my grandmother would say, ‘I’m still kicking, but not high.’ The surgery by all indications went well.”
There have apparently been post-surgery changes in Collins’ taste buds and personality. Sausage has lost some of its taste to him, and the lawyer with a penchant for stuffy haberdashery is showing a tiny interest in whimsical fashion statements, to the delight of his wife, Amy.
Q: How long was the surgery?
A: It was an eight- or nine-hour surgery. They put in a new pancreas over here and a kidney here. [The organs] worked right away. Before they wheeled me out of the OR, the kidney was producing urine. I’m diabetic, but I haven’t had to give myself additional insulin since the surgery, which was almost a month ago.
Q: You were down and not returning phone calls in the weeks before the organs became available?
A: I was depressed because you don’t know when you’re going to get the call, and I was getting pressure from my boss to go ahead and take a medical leave. I was resistant because I didn’t want to take medical leave prematurely and two or three months later [get the call with no more] leave time. I got the call at 4 o’clock in the morning, Monday, Sept. 24. The surgery was that evening.
Q: You had one fake-out, where doctors thought they had organs and the surgery was canceled?
A: Yeah. Apparently the first time I got a call the kidney was OK but the pancreas was shaky. Both organs have to be acceptable. They said it would be a month or two before you get a call again … I didn’t have to wait that long. It’s the waiting that kills you, because you just don’t know.
Q: You had your affairs in order?
A: More or less. I made sure Amy knew where everything was. But I never really doubted I was going to come out of this. I didn’t think I was going to die on the table. I guess it’s possible, but I was pretty confident. The surgeon I had is a guy named Dr. [Raja] Kandaswamy, who is a surgeon at the University of Minnesota. He knew what he was doing.
Q: Have you learned anything about your donor?
A: I do know he was a 7-year-old boy. Apparently a number of people we know [also] know the family. At the appropriate time, we are going to send a letter through the U, first of all thanking them for this tremendous gift and then asking them, at some point, if they would want to get together. We’ll leave it up to them.
Q: Has this caused you to do any additional reflecting?
A: Oh yes. I am pretty confident I can led a normal life span. I’m almost 60. God willing, I can make it into my 80s. I want the rest of my life to be peaceful and calm, not that is hasn’t been up to this point, but there are a number of things I would have done differently if I had it to do over again. But basically I’ve got a second bite at the apple. A lot of people, maybe even most people, awaiting transplants die before they get them. ... I was only on the list a year and a half, which is a long time when you’re going through it because you don’t know when it’s going to end, but in the whole grand scheme of things there are people who wait years.
Q: How is Amy doing, and when you hear that what you should hear is: How bad a patient are you?
A: I have my moments. I’m not Mr. Congeniality. I thank her all the time. She’s been very good. I can see why prior to the transplant they wanted to make sure you had someone with you. This would be tough by yourself. But yeah, I can be prickly.
Q: Is this making it easier to control your McDonald’s sausage biscuit habit?
A: Well, a little bit of everything, ’cause I can eat whatever I want now. Actually, this morning I went to the Original Pancake House and got a short stack and sausage links. The sausage didn’t taste that good to me. One thing I’m not going to do again is drink. I’ll have a sip at Christmas or whatever. Alcohol does not do anything for me, especially given that I have this new pancreas, and I want these organs to continue to work.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.