Waiting for a transplant 2 – the science show

Oxygen saturation is a measure of how much oxygen the haemoglobin molecules in the body are carrying. It’s usually shown as a percentage of the maximum it could carry. The blood carries oxygen to every part of our bodies, bringing the life-giving oxygen to every cell, so that we can keep functioning.

For the average fit, healthy person, the oxygen saturation is usually between 98 and 100%. This means that, just like a fire, we have energy to burn; in fact, the oxygen in our blood enables the cells to break the chemical bonds within them so as to create energy.

However, just like in one of those glass-fronted fireplaces, when the oxygen levels fall, the fire goes from raging, to a slow burn, and then out completely.

In hospital, if a patient is on oxygen, all the alarms start ringing if their saturation falls below 90%. Over the last year, which has seen Ngaire go full-time onto supplemental oxygen, she has generally been able to keep her resting levels in the low to mid-90’s. Of course, when any movement happens and the blood-oxygen is burned for energy, the levels drop drastically.

Usually when this happens, the heart rate increases because the body recognises that it doesn’t have enough oxygen so, rather than pass out, it compensates by pumping blood faster in order to supply the cells with what oxygen it does have. Over an extended period of time this can have a damaging effect on the heart itself because, as a muscle, it needs oxygen too; so trying to pump harder with reduced oxygen leads to a weakened, sometimes-enlarged heart.

Another obvious effect is that, as the body needs oxygen desperately, it tries to both conserve what it has, and get more. Blood supply is diverted away from extremities and the digestive system in order to supply vital organs. This means that Ngaire feels the cold easily and rarely feels like eating – it takes a lot of oxygen to digest food. Consequently she has lost a lot of weight and is now 46 kg.

Gasping for air becomes a part of life, but this doesn’t help, as shallow gasps lead to hyper-ventilation, which only increases carbon dioxide in the blood.

Her resting oxygen saturation now, even with supplemental oxygen, is in the mid-80’s. With even the slightest exertion – walking a few metres, even just rolling over in bed – it will plummet into the 60’s. At this level it is almost impossible to remain conscious for long and requires planned, ordered breathing to slowly get her back to “normal”.

It has been getting much more difficult over the last few weeks and we are confronting what has previously been a “no-go” zone. What does life look like beyond this stage? We have heard of patients waiting for a transplant who need to go into hospital on life support; when does that happen? Will she need a constant companion? If so, when? And all of this while the “other stuff of life” goes on around in us and in our family: work, school, driving lessons, future plans, girlfriends, birthdays and bills.

“A day at a time” has become such a hackneyed phrase, but, it is our reality now. The media bubble of all the hedonistic pleasures that should be streaming through our front door at this time of life, burst long ago. Instead, we are learning deeper lessons about love, commitment, fear, friendship, support, eternity and in the midst of the pain and confusion, there is something deeply good going on. I just wish we could work out what it is….

16 thoughts on “Waiting for a transplant 2 – the science show

  1. Matthew David,

    Not only is this one of the most beautifully put pieces of honesty that I have ever read but it is also one of the most painful.
    The reason I used your name instead of ‘Dad’ is because of the strength it carries. In your words I, unfortunately but thankfully, read about a man whose steely determination carries his family through every trial regardless of personal cost. Your love and faith is not only amazingly persistent but it seems to me to make you one of the only people I have ever had the privilege of knowing who is not ‘seasonally’ based.
    Thank God for that.


  2. I cannot speak for others, but I certainly haven’t the faintest idea how difficult daily life must be for you guys. But let me say, dear Matt and Ngaire (and the kids), that your “sacrifice of praise”, which is how I interpret this post and more importantly, the way you are living your lives right now, is much more powerful than you will ever know. It makes any justification I may feel for complaining about anything seem excrutiatingly selfish. You have been teaching me by example what real trust, real love, real marriage is like. Your attitude of committment to God and to one another, while I am sure it wavers and probably often, is nevertheless a deep and confronting example to all who have the privelege to know you. These profound and eternal lessons which we are all receiving from you, would never have occured without this situation. Whether this explains anything that it happening, from your perspective, I don’t know, but what I do know is that you are bearing much fruit. More than mere words can ever bear. When I read your post just one scripture came to mind, either because my knowledge of less familiar scripture and of God Himself is pathetic, or because this one has special meaning at this time. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.
    We will be with the whole Upper Room community in believing for the cup of healing to overflow.


  3. Hi there Matt, Ngaire, boys, our Living Room group had an amazing time together praying for you, with you this morning at the Jollys. We are going to fast and pray, Tuesday and Thursday this week, praying as the Spirit leads us. Guys, we are joined as Christ’s family, we appeal to our loving Heavenly Father, with you, we groan and hurt with you and we love you. from Andrew, Rachel, Marg and Pete, Garry, Kat and Steve, Ash and Stephen, Andrew and Charlotte, Dibleys and Clarkes. May His Name be Honoured


  4. You are connected to heaven through the open heaven you live under. The hinges are worship and praise. The door of heaven is open with an invitation posted that declares, “Come up and let me show you.” Show you His love, His strength, His abiding as you abide, His freedom, His joy….. all that is designed in heaven for you here on earth through your connection with Him. We love you and are standing with you. Jeff and Nicky


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