Monday, November 18, 2013

Home at last

I thoroughly expected to post everyday while in the hospital, but to be honest, I was not in the emotional shape to write anything that anyone (including myself) would want to read. I am going to go back through the experience in this blog and there will probably be explicit parts as I want this to be informational for anyone that may be coming down this path themselves.

Thursday 11/14/13
I was up early and walking the halls waiting to be taken down to the holding room. Still no nerves or anxiety, just knew I would be stuck in the bed for a few days and wanted to be up moving as much as possible. Saw Amy for a short minute and saw them take her down for prep. Once they rolled me down, I was still joking with the nurses and Kyla was begging them to drug me so she could tape it and post it. Definitively feeling the "peace that passes understanding" through this AM. This is really the last thing that I remember. Kyla said that they rolled me out and I was still talking to her and my parents, but I don't remember any of that. The next thing I knew, I was in the ICU room and begging for something to drink. My throat hurt worse than anything else did. I was apparently not supposed to have anything until the next day, but my wonderful nurse supervisor Josh Barnes called the MD and got me approved for some clear liquid. He even went down himself and got me a sweet tea from the cafeteria. It turns out that he lives on our road a couple miles away. What a Godsend for us that night. Our regular nurse was also wonderful and took wonderful care of us all night. Kyla has a wonderful video of the aftermath of all of this with me begging for water. I even offered the nurse money and to get up and "dance a jig" if she would get me something to drink. She will probably post the video of this soon. 
When I did awake in ICU, apparently I would say nothing else but that I wanted Kyla over and over. The nurses had to go get her and told her I just kept asking for her. I remember none of this, but I do know that I have been blessed with a wonderful and loving wife that always help to hold me up in my times of weakness. She is definitely one of the greatest blessings in my life and I am so appreciative of her. 
The rest of the night was mostly sleepless, not so much because of pain, but because of constant checking, poking, prodding every hour. 

As I awoke on the next morning, I was much more aware of all the lines in place. I had, obviously, a new long incision that curves down my right side and around my dialysis tube and it is closed with staples. I also had a blood drain placed in near the kidney that drains all the extra blood that pools around the new kidney. I also had a Foley catheter in place and an IV in my right arm. They also put in a central line in the right jugular to be able to take blood easier and run in meds quicker.
I had a pain pump placed so I could hit a button and get pain meds when I needed it, but I was really not using it very much. The pain was really not too bad still and I was able to get up myself and move to the recliner unassisted that morning. At this point, I was feeling pretty good and thinking that I would cruise through this transplant thing. We spent the morning in ICU and has all my levels checked. I was able to put out 10 liters of fluid with my new kidney and everyone said that the kidney was acting like it was made for me. The doctors said it even started putting out urine when they hooked up the blood supply and essentially peed on the table. It is really miraculous. Amy said she felt like God told her to give me this kidney and then she went to be tested and ended up being the only match out of all my friends and family to be tested. We are not siblings and barely knew each other, but it was as if this kidney was always meant for me. I read an author once that said God gave him a dream about his favorite trees in his yard. He said he saw a man walking along and he stopped and planted some seeds and continued to walk away. God told him that he sent that man to plant those trees the Century before because he knew he would love them now. I love the idea that God may have placed that kidney and blessed Amy even before I was born to take care of me. Isn't that just like God. He took care of the problem before I was even born or aware there was a problem. I wonder how many of our problems are that way. I wonder if our faith would function differently if we could see the truth in it's entirety. 
I made my way up to the 11th floor to my regular floor room that afternoon. I got settled and continued to be able to walk around the room and to the recliner on my own and was doing well. And then it happened.....
that night, my pain came on quickly and strongly. I had not given a pain scale over a 2/10 since the surgery, it was now 8/10. When I tried to move, my breath would be taken away. Lying in the bed, I felt so hot I couldn't rest, I asked for a cold cloth to cool off. My blood pressure spiked to 180/90 and my pulse went to 130. My temperature rose to over a 100. I felt like I was dying. Life essentially dropped a ton of Kryptonite on my delusion of being Superman and it came crashing to pieces. As the night dragged on like this, my mind worked out all kinds of stories. I was convinced that my kidney was rejecting and I was going to die. All my faith was for naught and no one would ever be blessed or helped by my story. This was one of the lowest points in my life. Thankfully, I was only tested for a short time before my doctor came in to talk to me. I really believe that I was purposed to have Dr. Rogers as my transplant doctor and he knew exactly what to say. He assured me that kidneys don't reject that quickly and that everything was normal. On top of that, my levels were essentially back to normal levels on the second day and that was extremely quick. He told me that I was used to being Superman and this was just harder than usual and that the second day was always the hardest and that it would be better soon. 
Sure enough, by lunch I was once again feeling much better and talking about going home. My temperature came back to normal, my blood pressure went back to normal, and my pain came back to normal levels. I was changed from the pain pump to oral meds and taken off the IV fluids. This in itself was a bonus for me. I was able to clean up and be detached from some lines. The rest of the night was uneventful. We watched some movies and played some cards. Kyla went back to her hotel and I slept an hour or so in the bed, but it was too hot in the bed so I got up and watched some tv in the recliner. 

Md came to check on me and I requested to please be Discharged so I could see my babies and get some rest in my own bed. All my lines were removed and all I had to do was clear my bladder three times with US testing to prove it was clearing. Well, this proved to be a problem. I was passing plenty of urine, but I continued to hold extra in the bladder. By 4, I was really beginning to be down again, but I decided to hold off on pain meds to help clear better. At 6, I cleared a lot of urine, but still had some left, but the nurse said she thought I would be fine and called the MD to see. He decided to let me go home....hooray! There is no medicine in the world like the hugs from your children and the feel of your own bed. 

Today I feel good. I am still taking half of my pain prescription, but my pain is really just some soreness. It really isn't bad. I have been in the shower and even outside with the kids to walk around some. Everything still continues to look like it is going well. I will be facing quite a bit more than I knew to expect. I will be going back to the clinic twice this week and probably be having both the blood drain and the dialysis tube removed. This will be a procedure that requires recovery. In one month, I will be having a biopsy in which they will take a small piece of the new kidney out to make sure it isn't rejecting. Again, this will be a procedure that I will have to recover from. In 6 weeks, they will have to remove a splint that was put in connecting the new kidney to my bladder. Again, procedure....recovery. All in all, I am doing well and feeling pretty good. I am amazed at God's love and Grace and the amazing support from all our family and friends. I now hope that God will use my story and life to help uplift others and give hope to others. Continue to pray for our family, we still have a lot to face, but we seem to be coming out of the darkness now. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Transplant T-12 hours

Checked into Baptist today to get ready for transplant tomorrow.
Met with admissions to get paper work in order. Transferred to outpatient day room. Had EKG of heart, blood tests (17 vials), x-ray of lungs. Met with transplant team; surgeon and surgical fellow, anesthesia and fellows, dialysis nursing staff.
Saw Amy for a while in her room down the hall.

All tests came back good. Cleared for take off....or put in, I guess.

Did my last dialysis exchange tonight and I am now empty for the first time in a couple years. I feel 5 pounds lighter...literally.

I am still at complete peace and feel at ease about the entire process. I'm having no real fears or anxieties tonight, just ready to get to the next step. Hard to explain, but it feels like the doorway to the next BIG chapter in our lives and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us.

Thank you all for all your support of our family in this time. I can't tell you how much it means to us.

I'll try to continue to post each day how things are going, but if I can't post again tomorrow, Kyla will be posting each day on our family site.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Transplant Day (T-minus 2)

Two Days until my transplant. This is the last day I will be at home with the kids, so I am spending it playing with them and making sure all the little things around the house are done that will need to be done in the next couple weeks. Lots of little errands and such.

I am still feeling at peace. No real anxiety or worry at this point. I really just feel ready to get to the next phase....recovery.

I will try to post each day as they come, please bear with me as I don't take medications well and may not be up to posting early on. Our family page, however, will probably be updated regularly by Kyla.

Keep my kids in mind over the next week or so. They are used to Daddy being home everyday and Lincoln is old enough to know something big is happening. I have tried to explain to him as best I can, but I know being separated from me for a week will be hard.

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of our family in the days and weeks running up to this transplant, we have truly been overwhelmed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Shark bite or gored by bull? vote now.

As of my last call to Baptist, 5 of 6 packets of possible donors had been ruled out. The average wait time for the list is 2-3 years and I was rapidly approaching 2. My hope and faith in a living donor was quickly diminishing. And as is often the story, when my faith had been stretched to near breaking, God came through in a big way.  The last person tested was a patient of mine who I only saw for a few visits and had asked if she could be tested. This person barely knew me, had no previous connection with me, and had no obligation for such a heroic act towards me. I gladly gave her a packet and never really thought anything else about it. I got the call last month that my last possible donor was a match and the transplant has been scheduled for November 14th. It always amazes me how God will always work things out, even if it means bringing someone into your life to bring the miracle that you are waiting for. I would ask that God would bless this person "according to their works" as she is literally saving my life by a HUGE sacrifice on her part. She is giving me the opportunity to be there for my family and my kids for a long, long time. For all the media who tell us how bad the human race is on the news every night, I believe that there is still the power to change lives in each of us. I hope that I can take this gift and do just that.

I have also been blessed by yet another patient who owns Texas Roadhouse on LR Blvd in Hickory. She has asked if she could do a fundraiser before my surgery and this will take place on November 3rd. Again, every need is always met and I am so humbled by the amount of support and love that I have been given my all those around me.

I will be working my last day on November 8th and will be admitted to Baptist Hospital on November 13th for final testing and my transplant will take place on November 14th. I'm told that if all goes well, I will be able to come home sometime early the next week. I should be out of work 8-12 weeks. I will have to make fairly constant trips back and forth to Baptist after the transplant (2-3 times per week) for the first couple months and then down to 1 time a month for around 6 months. As I will be out of work and probably going stir crazy, I will try to post updates fairly regularly.

As for me, I am at peace with this endeavor. God kept me 3 years ago when I was hit by a car and came out unscathed, even though I had the bone mass of a 90 year old due to kidney failure. He has not only been with me throughout my diagnosis and dialysis, but has used it to grow me and change me into a better person. He is still working and I am excited to see where he will take me. My goals for recovery are simple. I want my story to be an inspiration to others to what God can do in a life and what he can accomplish. I want others to feel that they too can do anything that God lays on their hearts to do, no matter the situation. I want to be "more than  a conqueror" over this situation. With that, if anyone reading this blog has questions about kidney failure, dialysis, etc; please let me know. My email address is and I am on facebook.

Lastly, after my surgery, I will have about a 7 inch scar on one side of my abdomen. I am torn between the story that I was bitten by a shark while surfing of the coast of Australia or gored by a bull in Pamplona. I am taking votes now.

Monday, July 22, 2013

from broken pot to work of art

Let me first start off by saying "sorry It's been so long since I posted" since that seem to be the obligatory thing to say. Truth is, kidney failure seems to put things in perspective and blogging, while I do feel is important to let people know what is going on, is a far second to spending precious time with my family nowadays. I get a lot of questions about how "everything is going", so I will start with a quick synopsis of the medical stuff. As of now, 4 out of 5 of my voluntary donors have been ruled out as possible candidates. While these folks will not be giving me a kidney, in my mind, it is as if you have already had the surgery just by being tested. I pray that God will bless you as though the surgery was already a success. I am still on the list, coming up on a full year now. Average wait time is 2-3 years, so I am well on my way. Dialysis is still going well, doing it all on my own through the day. All my reading seem to be doing well, not much fatigue issues, still working and riding my bike (though much slower than I would like).

That being said, one of the biggest questions that I seem to get is really an unspoken question. It is the question in the eyes of my fellow Christians and family that do not understand why God hasn't miraculously healed me yet. That is what we believe...right? I know I always did. I will admit, to be honest, I struggled with this. Why are you not healing me?! I answered this, or rather, God answered this question in a previous blog entitled "God...why?" which you can read below. However, I have had a few further revelations since that post. One night, while I was reading about Abraham, I feel like God gave me an insight not previously seen. He had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Then, he asked him to take his son to the top of the mountain to sacrifice him. As he was climbing that mountain, Issac kept asking him where the sacrifice was. He told him that God would provide. It suddenly struck me that God had already promised to keep me and that I was going to be fine. I am now walking up the mountain towards his already supplied provision. My job is to keep my faith and keep walking. The rest is up to him. And just imagine the view from the top.

Since I have been a Christian, I have always asked God to make me into the person, father, husband, and therapist he envisioned when he formed me. While this is hard to say, I was not that person. Before this trial, I had become entitled and had started to focus on things that didn't matter. I would never say that I am glad that I have gone through kidney failure, but I see now how God is changing me through this trial. I am occasionally getting glimpses of the man God is forming me into and I like him much better. Truth is, I would never have been able to change myself or allow Him to change me without being being broken down first. I'm beginning to see that God is more concerned with healing the really important issues in my life....greed, pride, selfishness. Kidney failure, to Him, is just a physical ailment that was conquered with the stripes on his back at the cross. He is doing a much greater work than that in my life and I can't wait to see where He is taking me. So, to answer the question of how I am doing, I am doing great. I would encourage my friends and family that are going through something difficult to ask God to give you a glimpse of how he is going to "turn all things to the good of those who love him". You might just get a glimpse of the wondrous plan He has for you.....I know I did.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Phenomenal Cosmic Powers....itty bitty living space

One year ago on Jan. 19th, I was diagnosed with kidney failure. Over the last year, a lot has changed in our lives and God has taught me so much. We take a lot of things in our life for granted, we put too much importance on little things that don't matter, but most importantly, God's presence in our lives gives us more power than most of us ever tap. Our pastor taught on the miracles surrounding Elisha's life a few weeks ago. When he was surrounded by the enemy, he prayed that his servant's eyes would be opened to see the truth and he beheld the circle of angels that surrounded them for protection. These angels blinded the entire army that came against the man of God. In Egypt, one angel of death killed the first born of every Egyptian family in one night. Angels are powerful beings that can carry out the will of God. However, if we read about Jacob wrestling with angel, he fought with this being for an entire night and the angel could not prevail against him. He finally touched the hollow of his hip and put it out of place so that he could escape. While angels are powerful beings that can wipe out an entire army, we as Christians, have more power than that because of God's spirit in us. Think about that. Imagine the power that God has bestowed in our lives. Why do we constantly hear Christians making statements like "Boy, the devil is really fighting me lately" and "I'm just trying to hold on"? We were never meant to merely hold on, we were meant to be "more than conquerors" and "to fly on wings like eagles". 

If I could pass along one message to my friends and family from my last year, it's the life God has given you. Life is going to throw curve balls at you. Bills are going to come that you don't know how you will pay, careers will rise and fall, and kidneys will fail. However, through all of these trials that seem so huge to us, if we could see these through 
God's eyes, we would see that these are just speed bumps in our life. God said "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29:11" The Almighty Creator of the Universe specifically has plans for your life that can take you to places you never even dreamed, you just have to hold on for the ride. We were called to be salt and light in the world with an imbued power that can "say to the mountain, be thou removed and cast into the sea. Mark 11:23". Let's all start living the lives we were meant to live. 

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."--Marianne Williamson

Monday, January 14, 2013

Family and spouse and Mickey's house

We spent another wonderful New Year's Day at Disney world this year. The kids had a blast ( did I). Lincoln was able to ride his first real roller coaster and absolutely loved it. He squealed the whole time and then demanded to get right back on...looks like he will be an adrenaline junkie like his dad. We ate too much, stayed up too late, and tried to accomplish too much everyday; just like you should on vacation! While we were there, we had to convince Lincoln to take a nap during the day to make it through the rest of the day. This was not the easiest task. It would usually involve us telling him "no, we can't stay any longer now, but if you will take a nap, we can come back tonight and stay as long as you want." This would often involve a two year old melt down about staying. We just wanted him to rest so we could have a good rest of the day, but he couldn't see it that way. He was fixated on getting what he wanted right then, even though it wasn't what was better for him. I couldn't help seeing the similarities in Acts 3 when Peter and John were asked by the beggar at the gate Beautiful for alms. "Silver and Gold have I none, but what I have I freely give, Arise and walk." There are three important parts to this answer. The first is the answer no, I will not give you what you ask. The next, and possibly the most important, is but. Then, there is a demand for a action that will lead to a better gift. Sounds a lot like our situation with Lincoln, but more importantly, I wonder about myself as a "child" of God. I wonder how many times God has answered my prayers with "no, but" and all I heard was the no. How many blessings have I missed by not following the demands of God after the "but"? After all, He promised to open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out blessings that we could not contain.
My New Year's Resolution for 2013 is to not miss the "buts" that God gives me, but to accept both his demands for me and the blessings that he has in store for me.
Happy New Year's for all my family and friends, I hope that God's blessings fall on each of you this year.

On the kidney transplant front, I'm still awaiting the final testing from one of my living donors. I ask my friends and family to pray for these folks. God said that what you do for the least of these, you do for me. He also promised to return their blessing a hundred fold. While I'm not sure what a hundred fold return on a kidney is, I pray Lord, let it be.