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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garage Sale Fundraiser

Trinia's sister, Tricia is holding a garage sale in probably the next month or so.  She is making arrangements to have it inside, at the Deer Park Fire Dept. Rec Hall. You can drop things off at her house anytime - 2603 W. Holly, Pasadena, TX  77502.  If she's not there, you can leave them on her porch - it's rather large.  
 
She is also looking for help with the sale.  So if you'd like to lend a hand, you can let her know via email: patricia.stjohn@csglc.com
 
They are also hoping to sell BBQ.  If you are interested in pre-selling tickets for that, let her know.
 
We hope to have a financial report out soon that has the needs/goals and how much has been raised so far.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Get Over It Already

After I got over the initial shock of my diagnosis, I picked my head up and gave myself a little pep talk. I told myself what I would have told someone else. GET OVER IT ALREADY, there is nothing I can do to change it, only a miracle would help. I literally did not have time to waste being all sad and mopey.

 I also had a lot of encouragement from a wonderful woman named Nancy Huffman, which helped me keep my chin up. She was an Assistant Principal at DPJH where I was currently teaching, but she taught one history class right next door to me. I had grown fond of her because I had observed how strict, but fair she was to the children. Her students really liked her and they learned a lot. When I was told about my diagnosis at school, I immediately went to her and told her. She hugged me and wouldn't you know it, she was a transplant recipient of a kidney. She looked great and healthy, and this inspired me. It hit me right then, God had worked it out so perfectly to put me in a place where I could make a friend like her. You see, the previous year, I had worked in PISD and planned on staying there for a long time. I was not looking for a job and I had always heard how hard it was to get a job in Deer Park, but a job literally fell into my lap. 

I ran into a friend at Barnes and Nobles on day in June (actually she is the mother of a girl I played softball with all growing up as child). She asked me how I was and what I was up to. I told her I was a teacher and she asked what all I could teach. I updated her and then she said that she worked at a wonderful school DPJH, but was leaving to do an assistant principal internship for the next year at another school in the district. She asked for my information and told me she would tell her boss about me and hopefully I could have the job she was leaving. Wouldn't you know it, this wonderful man, Victor White, called me and asked me to come in for an interview. I accepted, and I was very excited. The interview went great and he offered me a job. I knew in my heart that this was definitely the place for me, my boss had already let me know that he was a Christian and I had heard how wonderful he was from my friend. I accepted, but told him I would be spending the month of July in Botswana, Africa and I could start once I got back. I was able to let him know, that I too was a Christian.

I went to Africa, had a life-changing time and learned so much about our God. I saw the earth how God had created it, full of colors and life, not tons of cement and buildings to block the breath-taking views all around me. I wondered how America had looked before we destroyed it with man-made things. I learned that places still exist where everyone is not in a hurry, and no one person seemed to wear a watch. When someone died in a village, the whole village attended the funeral and stopped what they were doing. I felt safer in Botswana than I felt in America. People are kind, people are good, we are made in the image of God. I couldn't speak the same language, but I could still communicate. Kindness, compassion, concern, love, these are all things that can be spoken through our actions.

I could go on for days about all that I loved about Africa, but let me get back to my point. I know I have a rambling problem, blame my momma.

I came home and started my new job at DPJH. I can honestly say that I felt like I had entered the gates of heaven when I went to work. I was so happy and content. I met the most amazing people that were my co-teachers. I truly loved and respected my boss, and I was surrounded by really strong Christians. I loved my students, I loved that I wasn't enforcing dress code rules all day everyday. I loved that I felt like I was trusted. I loved all the teamwork, basically, I loved it all.

The counselor at DPJH is one of the most phenomenol men I have ever met. His name is Frank Semmellmann, and he loved the Lord so much that Jesus seemed to seap out of every pore on Frank's body. I would always tell him that they don't make men like him anymore. Frank LOVED his wife. She too, had  a chronic illness that would soon take her life, we just didn't know how quickly it would happen. Frank mowed a bunch of widows' lawns (free of charge), he went every morning before work to help get a "special needs" boy dressed because the boy's mother just couldn't do it by herself anymore, he took excellent care of his wife, and he found the time to brighten every single one of my days at DPJH. I will never forget his wife's funeral, it was so memorable and well-done. He, to this day, is still madly in love with his one true love. I can only dream of being loved like that, it is endless.

SO, let me wrap all this up! God put me at DPJH. He gave me a gift, a blessing, a lesson, an honor. He put me right where I needed to be and I am so glad I listened to him. I left my other job (which was hard), but God knew what He was doing. I had 8 months to get to know and respect so many people I worked with, before finding out about my Autoimmune Hepatitis. I could not have dealt with my diagnosis without the love and support of Nancy Huffman, Beth Williams, Franks S, and my boss Victor White, and this was just my first year there!!!

Endicrinologist Update (break from story)

Katrinia went to the endocrinologist and infectious disease doctors on Friday.  The endocrinologist found that she has at least 10 nodules on her thyroid, but the doctor said they are very small and she was not worried about them - they are too small to biopsy.  She said she would recheck her in a year.  Trinia felt confident with her because this doctor works closely with the transplant team.  The doctor said the presence of so many nodules was not uncommon if anyone else in Trinia's family had experienced thyroid problems.  Her mom had her thyroid removed many years ago, so that could be the connection.
 
The infectious disease doctor drew blood and she will have the results in a week to see if she has been exposed to TB.  He also gave her some other vaccinations and had a LONG list of things she needs to avoid.  Eating food not prepared by herself is potentially very hazardous to her.  Also, he strongly urged that her family and friends avoid contact with her if they have been exposed to some kind of illness.  If she is ill when a liver becomes available, she would be ineligible to receive it and who knows when another one would come around.
 
 
Liver for Life
P.O. Box 921
Pasadena, TX  77501

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Hepatologist

So, the day came that I went to this infamous hepatologist, Dr. Galati. He is an Italian from New York and an avid photographer. He reminded me of the Raymond guy on "Everybody loves Raymond." Dr. Galati was very kind and knowledgeable. He gave me a little more hope and he started messing with my doses of steroids and Imuran to get my liver enzymes under control. I asked him about having kids and he said because I was in Stage 4 cirrhosis, it would be hard for me to get pregnant in the first place, pregnancy is hard on any person's body, and it would put a strain on my liver because of the added blood supply from the baby. However, what he said next really made me like him, he said, "if not having a baby will make you feel like your life is not worth living, then by all means, have a baby." I thought this was great advice, this way I didn't have to live with all the what-ifs.
So, before I had to start taking crazy amounts of steroids, I decided to bust my butt at the gym and with a much better diet. I ended up losing 35 pounds thanks to a bunch of hard work and a wonderful family I grew close to called The Druckers. The Drucker's, Judy and Phillip, were parents of one of the most amazing students I ever taught. I will never forget Blayne and his sweet disposition. On the first day of school, I had asked everyone to tell me about the best thing they had done that summer. Blayne stood up and proudly announced that he went to church camp, asked Jesus into his heart, and was later baptized. WHAT? This kid was so excited about Jesus and he didn't care what anyone else thought. I loved him instantly, but I had no idea how much he would teach me this first year teaching at DPJH. I watched Blayne and he had no use for people that were mean. He was never mean to anyone, but he literally did not care at all what these mean kids thought of him, he never changed who he was to gain acceptance. How could he be so strong at such a young age? How many times had I quietly gotten up from a conversation about abortion, Christianity, sexual immorality, the list goes on? I didn't want to offend anyone, but no one seemed to care if they were offending me or my beliefs. I decided to be more like Blayne and continue to be nice to people, but I wasn't going to apologize for my beliefs. Afterall, what is the use of having something you believe in, if you aren't willing to stand-up for it, even if you are standing all alone. Anyways, the Druckers had a small gym in Deer Park and I started working out there. Judy encouraged me so much, and she would reward me with some free tans because "tanned skinny looks better." I ended up working at the gym on the weekends for a second job. I also became part of the Drucker's family. I spent every major holiday with them and we went to so many events together. Judy even loaned me her road bike so I could ride in the MS 150, which was a humbling experience. After getting to know Judy and Phillip, I soon realized why Blayne was so wonderful, he had amazing parents. By the way, Blayne is an "only child," but you would never know it because he is so selfless.
So, something positive about having Autoimmune Hepatitis, it allowed me to grow close to this wonderful family because it forced me to work-out and get healthy.

I went off on a little tangent, but basically, I started doing labs every two weeks until we can get my enzymes in check and we would play with my doses of steroids until my liver settled down. Dr. Galati wanted to see me back in 6 months, which comforted me. I mean, if I was dying, he would want to see me more than twice a year right?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Appointment

So, the longest weekend of my life goes by and then my Tuesday appointment day arrived. I took an entourage with me. If any of you know me, you know I have a wonderful, huge, super compassionate family. My Pawpaw, mom, dad, sister, and I went to the early appt. I was so nervous after reading the doom and gloom on the internet. I didn't pay attention to the nurse when she put us in the microscopic room, but when the doctor came in, I suddenly only had tunnel vision for what was about to come out of her mouth. Basically, in a nutshell, she said, "you will probably never have children, you will have to have a liver transplant to live, and my best guess is that you have about five years left to live." WHAT?
The rest of the time she was in the room, she told me how she was sending me to a hepatologist that she trained under and that he could tell me more. She started me right away on steroids and a drug called Imuran. Both of these drugs suppress your immune system and both are post-transplant drugs. My own immune system had decided to reject the perfectly healthy liver I was born with. I had never been sick, I had never missed a day of school until my parents paid me $20 to miss a day. I asked how it could get to stage 4 without me noticing and she said that me not drinking alcohol probably saved my life! Thank you Jesus for that one! Immediately after she left the room, her nurse came in and asked me to hurry up and stop crying and could we get out of the room because she needed it for the next patient. I looked at her dumbfounded and that is when I decided I would become a nurse. This is the same girl that would huff and puff when I would ask to have my lab results faxed to me. She obviously had lost all her compassion and she needed someone to remind her why she became a nurse.
I don't really remember leaving the office or where we went afterwards, but I remember exactly what was going through my head.

1. No babies? What, all I had ever longed to be was a mother. I wanted half a dozen at least. I couldn't wait to love someone the way my mom had loved me. I wanted someone to look at me the same way I look at my mom. 

2. Paul? I loved him so much and we had been dating for almost 3 years at this time. I instantly thought that I had to break it off with him because I knew of his strong desire for children and I knew what a wonderful father he would be someday. This is where I started trying to distance myself from him because I wanted all of his dreams to come true, but how do you make yourself stop loving the person you thought was your soul-mate?

3. I had always prayed to God and said that I never wanted to be "sick" and dependent upon medication, and now look. I learned to be careful what you pray for.

4. I had to get back to being positive, so at this point, I became thankful. I can't stand to be a "Debbie Downer", so it hit me all of a sudden. I am SAVED by the BLOOD of CHRIST, I will spend eternity at the feet of my Savior. I am thankful, thankful that I had this illness and not another person who did not have a personal relationship with Christ. And, in a weird way, I always had a "feeling" that I wouldn't live to be old. I even planned my entire funeral out in a journal that my friend from my college softball team Lori Tande had given me. I still desire to have those same plans executed. Some of the songs from the funeral of my twin sons were also written in this journal. Something a little funny about my funeral plans is that I want everyone to take their shoes off. If you know me you know that I love feet. I made sure Paul had handsome feet before I would even kiss him! And, people don't take enough time to thank their feet for carrying them through this life. I am so thankful for my feet and for all the places they have carried me. So, if you come to my funeral, you have been warned, make sure your toenails are trimmed. I might even have to have a funeral just for my liver after I get the new one.

5. The last thing I kept thinking about was the fact that someone would have to die, so that I could live. Sound familiar? Am I deserving of such a gift, a true selfless blessing? I want to be. I want to take the best care of the liver I get. I can't imagine how hard a decision the family has to make to allow a family member to become an organ donor.

More to come, it starts getting better by the way:)





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where Should I Begin?

     The first blog must be the hardest! I have struggled with where in my life should I start telling you my story. I look back and I realize how truly blessed I have been my entire life. So, I will start seven years ago when I got "the call."  I was a teacher in the fabulous Deer Park Independent School District. I absolutely loved teaching in Deer Park. In March of 2004, my sister noticed that my neck was dark and she knew that this could be a precursor to diabetes. Since my dad is diabetic, I thought maybe I should have it checked out. Not to mention, the darkness on my neck and under my arms had always really bothered me, but both are easy to cover-up.  So, I go to my PCP and she agrees that I probably am diabetic, so she orders a fasting blood sugar and a glucose tolerance test. She also noticed that I had a "suspicious mole" on my arm and she referred me to a dermatologist. To all of our surprise, the results came back great and I was not a diabetic. I thought I was cleared and I would just have to deal with this ugly neck. At the dermatologist's office, my mole was successfully removed, but the doctor said, almost in passing, "it looks like you have a liver problem with all those red spots on your arms, you should probably have that checked out." This information was passed on to my PCP and more labs were ordered. My liver enzymes came back elevated. My PCP immediately thought it was probably just a "fatty liver" and I would need to change my diet (that would be good for me anyways!). She referred me to a Gastroenterologist that ordered a CT scan. It was found that I did not have a fatty liver, but I had cirrhosis. WHAT??? I can still to this day count on one hand the number of times I ever drank alcohol, I had not participated in any "risky" behavior. How could this be? Well, that just shows you how little I knew at the time. The next step was a liver biopsy and a TON of bloodwork. They took 17 vials of blood, some went on ice, some had to be shaken right away, it took 3 people to handle my blood draw. In May of 2004, on a Thursday, my phone rang in my classroom, and it changed my life. In my peppy little high-pitched voice, I said hello and my doctor, not a nurse was on the phone. She asked me if I was sitting down and I knew it was bad. She informed me that I had an autoimmune illness called Autoimmune Hepatitis and unfortunately, we caught it really late and you are already in Stage 4 Cirrhosis. I held back tears and told her she was wrong. I felt great, I was the busiest person I knew, I wasn't tired or fatigued like she said I should be! She told me to come in the following week, which gave me lots of time to research this diagnosis. BIG MISTAKE! I never advise people to search the internet anymore, talk to your doctor first. Next post.......THE APPT.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Fundraiser - Softball Tournament

We thought a softball tournament would be an appropriate (and FUN) first fund raising event for Katrinia.  Here are the details so far.  I am sure there are more to come. 
Date:  October 15, 2011
Place: Kipper Mease Sports Complex 10700 Red Bluff, Pasadena, TX  77507
Price:  $200 per team - 10 players per team with at least 4 female players
Please send your check to Katrinia's cousin, Karen - coordinator of the event:
Karen Wood
(713) 398-0335 cell - text msg okay
She's a nurse and may work late hours sometimes, so leave a message and she'll get back to you. 
Along with your check, please send:
        Team Name
        Team Capt (contact info please)
        Team member names
She has to pay for the fields by September 30.  That is not a hard deadline, but it would help if you could have your entry fee in by then.
We could also use some volunteers to help run the tournament.  No experience necessary - just a willingness to help. 
And if anyone has a megaphone we could borrow, that would be great.