One year ago today we received the call that changed all our lives. It made me even more thankful for those I have in my lives and for those selfless heroes who give life to others while losing theirs.
In honor of my daddy’s additional birthday, I’m re-posting the story of that day one year ago today. I hope you enjoy it.
Before I go green with my recycled post, let me put a face on organ donation with the hope it reminds you to sign that card! If you’ve already done that, thank you for saving a life one day. A family will be forever grateful. Believe me.
Have you ever gotten a phone call that totally changed your life? I did Friday morning. It was my mama. She hardly ever calls me on my cell phone during the work day so when my phone rang and it said she was calling from home I was immediately concerned. I thought something had happened to my grandma. I never in a million years thought it would be "We got the call. We're going to Houston - there's a possible match for your Daddy."
Now don't get me wrong - I knew there was no way Daddy was not going to get a new liver. I just never dreamed it would be so soon. You see, Daddy was officially put on the Transplant List April 2, 2010. He was on the list 42 days...exactly 6 weeks when the hospital called.
We knew it was possible that it wasn’t a perfect match when they called. Daddy had to get there and get there quick. When you’re on the transplant list, you have a small window of time to run all the necessary tests to confirm it is a match and still have time to do the surgery. It is a very anxious and nerve-racking time.
The doctor came in and met with them to tell them it looked like a go. The harvest team had cleared the liver for transplant but he still had to fly down there and check it out himself. If he agreed with the harvest team’s initial assessment, then it was a definite go.
In case you haven’t noticed before, sarcasm/humor runs rampant in our family. Even in times of extreme stress and nervousness. Don’t believe me? When the doctor told Daddy they found a liver for him, he had one important question about the donor. Where were they from? Daddy has a favorite shirt he loves wearing that says “100% Natural Texan” and he told his doctor he wanted to make sure he’s still be able to truthfully wear it. The doctor just laughed and said he’d be able to wear it just fine.
So I left work, picked up Katiebug and then the two of us headed off to Houston. We finally made it to the hospital – even after having to drive over an hour at 25 mph in the worst rainstorm I’ve ever in my 31 years of driving been in. We made it up to the waiting room and about 10 minutes later Mama came out to wait with us. About 30 minutes later my sister and her husband made it there and we all sat down to begin the wait. Daddy’s surgery began at 11:45 p.m. and was scheduled to take 6 to 9 hours. The patient liaison would call every 3 hours with an update and let us know how Daddy was doing and if they were still on schedule or not.
While we were sitting there, Mama told us what they had found out about the donor. He was a 62 year old gentleman from Florida with a benign brain tumor. He had developed an infection, was on antibiotics but they had not worked. He then developed swelling in the brain which ultimately led to his death. As many prayers as I had prayed about Daddy getting his new liver and then prayers of thanksgiving it was coming true, there were more prayers to be said. I prayed for the family of that sweet, selfless man who in his death gave the gift of life. How do you thank someone for saving the life of a family member?
Well, after almost 13 hours Daddy and his new liver were moved to ICU where he’ll stay for 48 to 72 hours. When Mama talked to him this morning he said (as best he could in the pain he was in) that he didn’t want any visitors until he was in a room. He was in an extreme amount of pain, as you could assume if you were sliced open in the shape of the St. Louis Arch. He’s doing great. They’ve taken him off the ventilator and in fact, he sat in a chair for an hour today. I can’t even imagine. He’s not completely out of the woods, but it looks like his GPS is calculating the route.
Now, hang on for my soapbox speech. Did you know that by donating your organs, you can save the life of up to 50 people? According to organdonor.gov, each year 5,000 people receive a liver transplant. Each year 17,000 people are waiting to receive a new liver, while 2,000 die while waiting. Even before Daddy was diagnosed with liver cancer, I made the decision to be an organ donor. Katiebug did the same thing when she got her license. In fact, almost everyone in my family has chosen to be an organ donor. It’s important to make sure your family knows your wishes – just because it’s on your license or you carry a card, does not mean it will happen automatically. Tell your family! OK, I’m done except to say to all of you who sent emails, texts, calls and prayers, my family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And Daddy’s new liver.
“What Did You Do This Weekend?”, Originally posted 05/16/11