Sunday, January 12, 2014

Year Three, Reflecting on the Journey

The evening we got engaged, Marty and I stood in the Huntington Beach pier parking lot discussing our future. Marty popped another questiong that night, '' If you want to marry me, you have to realize that I don't want to live in California forever and be willing to move away someday.'' I agreed with trepidation and fear that I would be able to leave my family someday.

We had a journey ahead of us that most will never go through in life. Burying his grandma and dad before we were twenty one. Moving away for the first time to Visalia, Ca with our young son Conner in tow. Starting out with nothing, losing a baby, battling Type 1 diabetes, working hard to make a life for our family. We finally had realized our dream of me staying home and Marty working in law enforcement, life was looking up. Plans were being made for me to go back to school and gain a career in case anything ever happened to Marty, that was just passing conversation, nothing serious.

Then a high blood pressure test at work, followed by a trip to the doctor the next day and a phone call on a Wednesday afternoon that threw our world upside down. End Stage Renal Failure at 31 years one moment our lives were turned into a dark tunnel. I always liken it to being in a metal air conditioning shaft with no way to turn or move, the only way is to crawl forward looking for a way out.

We were 30 and 31 years old,  Conner was 9 and Elizabeth was 6 yrs old.

We knew immediately that a transplant was the best solution. We started seeing a Nephrologist who mumbled and looked like Santa Claus with a fiery temper. We were misled by the office staff about the kind of transplant he should have. We wanted him to be transplanted in LA but God closed that door and we were turned to Stanford University, the best in the nation. We traveled in  zero visibility fog getting rear ended in a rental car in one of the multi car pileups on the 99 corridor between Kingsburg and LA. We limped our way to Stanford, shell shocked and thinking our lives were over.

A doctor came into the room and asked a simple question, ''Why doesn't he want a kidney/pancreas transplant? he is the perfect candidate for one.'' We explained that we didn't have seven years to wait for that and were informed that we were misled. The wait for kidney pancreas was one year versus seven years for just a kidney. We agreed and waited to be told he was accepted on the list. He was listed October 8, 2007 and the wait began.

There was a hope he would never have to go on dialysis, he still had kidney function left and there was a chance that might happen. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and he started a regimen of dialysis at home every four hours. It was a nightmare experience filled with terrible things we would like to forget. Machines beeping, waking up every four hours sleepless nights, high blood sugars, passing out at work, high blood pressure that scared us, swollen legs. We wondered would our miracle come?

We put our lives on hold. We didn't leave our town for two years unless we made a trip to Stanford. Our house became a prison of sorts for us.

During this time Marty started dreaming. One day while cooking in the kitchen he said, '' I think that if I get better, I want to move to Peachtree City,GA'', that dream kept us going, it gave us something to cling to and dream about in a very dark time.

We kept hearing that people in southern states were waiting short times for organs and the wait list wasn't as long. It seemed like a good choice all around.

Every day after October 8, 2008 was sheer torture. One year turned into two years and two years turned into three years. We spent so much time waiting for our donor, praying for that family, we always sensed it would be a man. In September 2010, Marty was taken off the wait list briefly due to a doctor calling him non compliant because his phosphorus number was high. We thought for one weekend, death was very certain. One day in December 2010, our family laid in our King sized bed and cried together, Marty's toes were black in a place and we thought he wasn't going to make it.

Then a premonition from Elizabeth on December 17, turned into a call from Stanford on December 20th, Marty was next on the list and we were on stand by.

The call came 1/1/11, forever to remain our lucky day. One last night of dialysis, a morning spent trying to lower his insanely high blood sugar.  1/12/11 Marty was wheeled into the O.R. for a nearly twelve hour operation. He came out with a working kidney and pancreas. The months after were tenuous and stressful, thanks to so many people and help from all over, we made it through.

We took a trip to Georgia, started planning to move in 2013. God had other plans, it wasn't meant for us to go to Georgia. That was just a dream to get us through but the dream of moving became reality. We took a chance at a job offer and moved to Knoxville, TN. Our dream finally became reality.

It has been a tough year of transition and growing pains. We have learned some tough lessons but grown all the way through. We have laughed, cried, prayed, grown, and had adventures together. Everyday we think of Jerry, our eighteen year old donor who gave Marty new life and his mother Debbie, who in her time of grief made a difficult choice. Dialysis and insulin are now things of the past and only hope remains. We are grateful for this gift of life and can never tell you enough.

Our year in review:

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