July 30. “Adversity causes some people to break; others to break records.” (William A Ward)
Today I want to write about a very remarkable man in my life, who has overcome some very, scary adversity, and has come out of it shining like a star. My son!
I won’t get the medical part of this correct, so I won’t really try. Let me just say that due to a condition that he was born with, when he got sick a few years back the illness had a very detrimental effect on his kidneys. He lives in California, so I don’t see him that often, but I remember seeing him with spots on his arms and legs around that time. He said it was the result of the illness he had, and that there was some damage to his kidneys, but at the time there wasn’t cause for long-term concern.
Over the next couple of years, things got progressively worse. Last summer he was diagnosed with end stage kidney failure. His nephrologist in California had him evaluated for a transplant. For a variety of reasons, including his weight and his lack of a care plan, the center in California did not accept him into their program or put him on their list for a kidney.
Around Thanksgiving last year, he told his mother and I about how serious this had become. Since then much has happened. My daughter and my nephew were both tested as potential donors, and both were found to be a match. My son chose his sister to be the donor. Over a period of some months tests were done, screenings were completed, and plans were made. My son moved back with us temporarily and had the surgery here. On April 25th, as my wife and I sat nervously waiting, two of our children were wheeled into surgery to have one give a kidney to the other. By the end of that day we had very positive indications that the surgery was a raging success.
Before the surgery he lost about 60 pounds. He altered his diet to do everything he possibly could to avoid dialysis, and was successful. His discipline and ability to lose weight was the main inspiration for me to start my journey toward better health.
Since the surgery my son has been living with us, initially through the recovery period and up until the time when the University of Michigan medical center would clear him to return to California.
Throughout the time that his kidneys were failing, through all the testing and screening, through the surgery and recovery, he has had the most positive attitude. I know he had to be scared at times, but he took this on with a patient, fact-based approach. He didn’t let his emotions get too high or too low.
I have had difficulties in my life to be sure. But none of my personal difficulties were life-threatening. Seeing my son go through this was terrifying to me. By the Grace of God, and with the help of family and friends, we all made it through this very difficult time.
As I reflect on what he’s been through, and how well he has handled it all, I cannot help but be amazed, impressed, and proud. In the last month I have seen him come back to his full strength, a place he hasn’t been in some years. We had a going away BBQ for him this past weekend, and he was back to the son I remembered when he lived with us ten years ago. Funny, fun, full of energy and life. At no point in this year long journey did I ever even consider that he would break. His strength and will was too great for that. For him, it was all about breaking records.
As I am writing it is the night before he is set to go back to California (I will schedule it to appear on Wednesday morning). I can hear him downstairs doing his final packing. In the coming days I will miss him terribly. I am sure I will cry on the ride from the airport to my office in the morning. This time they will be happy tears that will be coming from the knowledge that he is going back to his life, healthy and happy.
Not to be lost in this is how proud I am of my daughter! She made a supreme sacrifice to give up one of her kidneys to save her brother’s life. She did it enthusiastically. She never once considered the possibility that she wouldn’t be the donor. When she was coming out of her anesthesia, her first question was how her brother was. We told her that the surgery was successful, and as tears streamed down her face she just kept shouting, “I fixed him! I fixed him”. She is a true hero.
This weekend she is also moving out to go live with friends. We will miss her too, but she won’t be nearly so far away. Next week this house is going to be very large and quiet.
In my mind, there are no greater record breakers today than my son and my daughter!