Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Weighing In

Patrice's beautiful blog entry has left me somewhat at a loss for words, and again humbled. But I feel that many of you might want to see this journey from my perspective as well.

For us this journey began three years ago with a blood test that revealed "something unusual" during a routine physical. A repeat test six months later revealed that my kidneys were down to 30% of normal function. Sometimes that can hold and you can live with that much function without intervention. We prayed for that, but it wasn't to be. When it became obvious that without a transplant the options were grim we had to face the somewhat uncomfortable task of finding a possible donor. Our kids and others readily responded, but Patrice came forward with almost a vengeance and no other thought than that she would be the donor. She was so eager that a couple of times OHSU called me and asked me to calm her down a little. She was even more proactive than I was in making sure we were doing everything possible to have the best possible outcome. The first donor testing involved Patrice and a son but right away testing proved Patrice and I were a 100% match and no further testing was necessary as long as she remained willing. That match is highly unusual in siblings, so I knew we were beginning to witness a miracle. So many wait years for a kidney and some never get one. A live donor greatly improves the viability of the kidney and the better the match, the longer the potential life of the kidney. My kidney has the possibility of being good for at least 30 years, which makes me wonder if it should have gone to a much younger person! The other gift to the recipient from a live donor is not having to feel badly that someone had to die so you could live. All this to kind of set the stage for those who aren't familiar with the history.

Patrice never needed to prove to me how much she loved me. She has always been very clear about that. But the fact that she was so eager and willing to bestow this gift is evidence of the truly amazing, stellar and Christlike person that she is. She has saved my life and given me more time with the people that I love. A precious gift which can never have a price tag or be adequately repaid. I had a banner of grandchildren as well and it was a constant reminder of why I was fighting this battle.

One thing I have been convinced of is that the children who come to a family are no accident. We had no idea 59 years ago that the sister born to me would someday save my life, but God did. To my grandchildren, be good to and love your siblings. You may need them more than you know someday. To others, if there are rifts in your families, heal them. Forgive and forget. Time is short and family is everything. Patrice may not think she's a hero, but she is my hero and I thank the Lord for having her in my life.

Patrice wouldn't tell you this, but the morning of the surgery when we arrived at the hospital, we exchanged gifts. Jerilyn and Grace had done an amazing job of creating gifts that were an evidence of how much this meant to all of us. She gave me a can she had fashioned into a prescription bottle. When we looked inside we were stunned! For a year, the patrons and staff at her restaurant had been contributing to a fund to help offset our living costs while we're here in Portland. One young man had even given 10% of all his tips for that year. What a huge blessing! If you're ever in Corvallis and want to meet Patrice and Luis and have some great food, Elmer's is your restaurant! (Just so you know, they constantly get awards for excellence--no surprise.)

As Patrice also mentioned, Trina was our recovery and blog angel. She was every bit as amazing as Patrice explained and those of you who know her know that I am not just saying that because she is my daughter. Thank you to Jason, LaRee, Jaci, Livvy and Jesse for hanging in there without your mom and wife for an entire week. Jerilyn stayed most of the week as well and so thanks as well to Jeff, Glen, Grace, Annie and Bonnie. We couldn't have done it without them. I thought we could, but I was wrong.

All through this experience we have had so much support and prayers from so many of you. We are well aware that God is in charge of all that takes place and this has been a huge exercise in putting our faith in His will and His timing. I thought I had faith before, but it has grown in so many ways. The day of the surgery we felt the power of all the prayers and fasting on our behalf. I shared a scripture from our Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 with Patrice prior to the day of the surgery that best explains how I was feeling during the long wait for my surgery: "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." So many of you were those angels and we knew whatever the outcome, it would be alright. Thank you doesn't even approach the gratitude we feel.

There were other miracles. One of the doctors told me that he had worked at transplant centers in Houston, Stanford and So. Cal and that he felt the doctor that was doing my surgery was probably the best in the nation, that if he had a family member or anyone he knew that needed this surgery, this is the doctor he would ask for. I don't know if other doctors here do this surgery, but if so, I felt very blessed.

When I woke up in the recovery room, I immediately felt better than I had felt in three years! I had no idea that there would be such a difference because I actually didn't think I felt that bad.
I was told the kidney had started working as soon as they hooked it up in the OR. Bruce is as amazing as his former owner! I plan to spend the rest of my life taking very good care of him!

As always, Alan has been my rock through all of this. I love him more than I can express in words. For eighteen years we have walked a path we would never have guessed and would have thought we were prepared to handle. But with the help of the Lord and many of you we have come through better than we ever would have imagined. We are profoundly grateful to have more time together.

So on this one week anniversary of our kidney transplant we find ourselves miraculously released from the hospital and enjoying some enforced relaxation and time together. The hospital will monitor me closely here for the next three weeks or so and then over the following two months from home with occasional trips here. We go in for labs and other appointments every other day and also get phone calls making sure we are following all the protocols to the letter. Believe me, we need no convincing. We have been given more than we possibly deserved or expected and we will never take it lightly. Thank you to our Heavenly Father for the wonderful gift of a sister and for giving us a miracle.

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