Post Number: 10561
|Posted on Monday, October 12, 2009 - 03:26 pm: ||
A God-Given Opportunity
In October of 1999 my Father had a massive aneurysm and passed away after lying unconscious for 6 days. My brothers and sisters and I stayed at the hospital as much as we could, hoping for a miracle, but it didn't happen. I kept thinking during this time that my youngest brother, Michael, looked terribly tired, but I attributed that to the fact that he was losing his Dad and also his very best friend. We got through it. After Christmas that year, my older brother called me to say that Michael was nearing the need for dialysis and also that during that time our father was ill, his kidney function was down to 15% but he didn't tell us because he did not want to add to our grief and worry. I tell this story to let you know what a truly selfless person Michael is. I have never known him not to put the well-being of others first.
Of course I was upset, but nobody mentioned transplant. In January he began Dialysis. He did not do well. His blood pressure would drop dangerously low after every session and he was always so tired that he couldn't do anything that he was able to do before. He experienced tremors where his wife would have to hold him until he stopped and she would get up in the middle of the night and send me emails telling me how scared she was that we were going to lose Michael and how she just couldn't live without him. After a couple on months, Lindy called me and said, "Michael needs a kidney and I'm asking whatever family members can to be tested." Of course I immediately volunteered to be tested but did not have much hope that I would be a match, being 52 years old at the time, slightly overweight and a smoker. Michael was dead, flat against it. He insisted that he would not put me in danger to save himself. I ignored him. In May of that year (2000), I found out I was a match and flew from Philadelphia to Atlanta and went to Piedmont Hospital overnight for extensive testing. Amazingly, I passed with flying colors. They did tell me that I would have to have the "Open" surgery and that they would have to take my right kidney instead of my left. (I guess they usually take the left kidney??) Anyway, mine was all backwards and taking my left one was too complicated. And all of a sudden it hit me...me, who never even had a broken bone or any kind of surgery...was going to be cut from stem to stern...scared? Oh yeah. Too scared? No.
A couple of months passed and Michael was fighting other health problems that were delaying the surgery. Diabetes is such a terrible disease. He had lost his toes on one foot, actually half of his foot, several years ago when he stepped on a nail while on vacation. The infection would never heal, nor would the wound close. They amputated that part of his foot and he had to adjust to a special shoe, which caused another sore on the remaining part of the foot that would not heal. They would not allow him to have the transplant with any open wounds. We prayed and prayed because he was failing fast. Finally, he was cleared for the surgery. The doctors wanted to put it off until September due to scheduling. My nerves were already shot so I called them and said, "No, we have to do this now...as soon as possible...please!" So, the surgeons double-scheduled on August 8. They did one in the morning and us in the afternoon. They took him down first to the pre-op and then me. Before I knew it I was waking up in the recovery room, very groggy but no pain. They had given me a block and I'll tell you, it's the only way to go. I got some good rest those first 24 hours. Michael was in surgery for 12 hours. They have major problems getting the kidney to work, something about the veins or arteries being too short and they almost lost the kidney after the third try. Then my surgeon went in and the put an artificial passageway in and the kidney worked.
I will not tell you that it didn't hurt, because it did after all the medication wore off. Michael was almost running up and down the hall before I could get up from the bed. His color was back the day after surgery, along with a smile that would melt your heart. It lessened my pain. After 11 days they left me come home to Philly. Leaving him was the most emotional thing I have ever experienced. As we were saying goodbye, he began to sob and hugged me so hard. I was crying, my fiancÚ was crying, everybody was crying. Then he said "Thank you for saving my life". I didn't know what to say and I needed to lighten up so I just said..."Aw...it was nuttin' buddy". I got home and spent the next six weeks on the couch. I have to say that it took me a good year to feel really normal again and I still, from time to time, (especially when it rains) have some pain. They tell me its scar tissue. All my labs have been great. It's been two years now and Michael has never had any rejection. Except for fighting the diabetes and his insulin resistance, he is living a decent life.
In October of 2000, I married my husband, Alan. I wanted Mike to be there and to do a reading at the wedding. He did. He came, he danced "The Boot Scootin' Boogie" at the reception with all my friends gathered round him. It was so wonderful. It made our wedding day so special. I was still quite swollen and sore but no one knew.
I think the waiting for the transplant to happen was the hardest part. I was nervous and getting advice from everywhere. Some people said I was nuts to do it at my age, other people called me a hero. My dearest friends, Sue and Babe, came to see me the night before Alan and I flew out to Atlanta. Babe took me outside and gave his medal for courage from Viet Nam. He said it kept him safe there for 18 months and it would keep me safe too. I cried.
The best part is knowing that I was chosen by whatever higher power you know him as, (I call him God), to help another human being to live a longer and better life. I could never be given a better gift.