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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Whole New Lease

      I have no words to correctly express my emotions. A few would be honored, new responsibility, new attitude, new hope, new-found gratitude, how do I accept such a selfless act, where does my life go from here? I could keep going on and on, but I will tell you about the night we got the call.
     Of all things, I was making lunches. I guess I am a true mom and wife. At 11pm Tuesday night, I finished catching up on my Dance Moms DVR shows, I made sure our work-out clothes were in the dryer so they would be ready for bootcamp, and then I walked into the kitchen and started making lunches. I heard my phone ring, no one calls me this late, so I sprinted to my phone. It said BLOCKED call, I have only received these type of calls from my doctors in the past, so I knew something was up. I heard the sweetest voice I had ever heard, it was Tamara, the on-call coordinator. She said who she was and I said, "Oh My God, this is it, Oh my God, you have a liver for me," followed by lots of tears. Tamara said that this is her favorite part of the job and that I needed to go to the ER at St. Luke's for further information. I was waking Paul up at the same time I was on the phone and I asked if I could take a shower. She said it better be quick. Paul hopped up and said that he needed to take a shower too. We enjoy being clean. Paul jumped into the shower and I called my mom! My mom, the one who can't look at me without crying, the one who whispers in my ear how she wishes it was her with cancer instead of me, my mother, the one who taught me how to love, live, laugh, enjoy, cherish, I finally got to call and give her GOOD NEWS. I called my sister and Karen and Aunt Tricia. I had no way of calling John, but my parents did. I sent out a bunch of texts, I cried continuously, I thanked God for every single prayer lifted-up for me these past 7 months, I held Thomas tight, I cried some more, I gasped for air, I laid my life in God's hands, literally. I know how risky this surgery is, there is a risk I might not ever wake-up again, but I had to trust in the Lord with ALL of my heart, no half effort here people. I told Paul and Thomas how much I loved them the whole way up to the hospital. I prayed out loud, cried out, I was at a loss for what to do. We get to the ER and a lady asked me what I needed. I said, "I'm getting a new liver and they told me to check-in here." Wow, I mean how many times in my life will I ever get to say something like that? The lady smiled and took me into a room to sign all my paperwork. I was grinning from ear to ear the entire time. I was sent up to a room and now, my parents, Karen, my sister Tricia, and Heather Schumaker had arrived too. The nurses and staff never said a word about Thomas being there. Thomas stayed awake all night until 0525. He didn't want to miss a thing and I wanted to spend every minute possible with him as well. Soon, Paul's parents arrived too. My cousin Kea Lynn came by, my parent's pastor Rob came by, Blair came by, Paul's sister Mary and husband Todd, Andrea Jewell, Wanda Webber, John and Stefanie Bennett, Deborah and Henry, Kea Lynn came again later with her two boys and husband Tony, Neill, Dr. Rowe, my Pawpaw, Tricia and Booley Hammack, my Aunt Kay and my Aunt Kim all came too. I mean, how lucky am I that so many people came by to hug my neck and tell me that they loved me. I hope I didn't leave anyone out. After getting up to the hospital, I had to wait 24 hours before my liver arrived. So, it was so nice to have a steady stream of visitors come by to pray with me, share with me, and help ease my nerves.
     So, I don't know if any of you reading have had a "moment" with Jesus, but I had a few. I mean, what do you say to your Maker at a time like this?  The coordinator called back to say that my surgery would be at 0200 or 0215 Thursday morning, February 23, 2012, my NEW DAY. Wheeling me back, Thomas stayed asleep on my chest, this whole process at St. Luke's put the patient first, my baby was in my arms up until we reached the double doors of the operating room. My entire family was by my side and able to hug my neck and kiss me, oh, I hoped I would kiss them again. The sweet nursing assistant rolled me to the room and I could see my doctors. We waited outside while the anesthesia people explained all the lines they would be putting in my body, I signed some papers, I cried, I prayed, I started succombing to fear. The nursing assistant said a prayer with me and wheeled me into the room. I transferred onto the operating room table, and then a person walked in with my liver in the most beautiful turquoise blue cooler I have ever seen. There was my new chance, my answered prayer, my gift, my ability to raise my son, my testimony, my LIVER. I started thinking, "I can't do this, I can't do this, I don't deserve this, I don't deserve this, it is going to hurt, it is going to hurt, I want off this table, help me, stop this, get me off this roller coaster." My anesthesiologist must have noticed the increase in my heart rate and put a mask over my face and told me to start breathing in big breaths, 6 breaths later, I was out like a light. I was exposed, naked from skin to soul, helpless, but hopeful. God, thank you for everything, that was my last thought, thank you.
     So, if you talked to me at all before the surgery, I probably told you how I DID NOT want to remain intubated post surgery. Well, I got my way,  in the ICU, I could hear my mom and Paul right after I came out of surgery. I was restrained and that tube was gagging me. My mom said I was giving all the staff really hateful looks and I asked to write something. I was thrashing around and pounding my fists on the bed. The nurse said there was no way I could write legibly this close after surgery, well, I proved her wrong, I wrote I NEED TO THROW-UP  on paper Paul got me because I felt like that tube was gagging me to death. Thank God for Paul, they decided to pull my tube. Once my tube was pulled and they removed my restraints, I felt much better. I have seen patients like this before and I can't believe I went crazy, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I mean, you can't talk while you are intubated and I had a lot to say. I was able to see my surgeon and tell her thank you. I was thrilled to be awake, to know my name, my social security number, my address. Yes, I was making sure I remembered everything. I had an IJ (intrajugular central line, a radial arterial line, foley, tons of monitors, a huge pain in my side/back, hose up to my hips, and all kinds of drugs dripping into me,) but I was ALIVE!  I started right away asking about getting out of bed, why my insulin was at such a high drip rate, how often they were checking  my blood sugar, when could I get out of bed, when could I see my family again.I was going to be part of my care team too. I soon was able to see other visitors and that really brightened my spirits. Only four visitation times were available for thirty minutes each visit, only two people at a time.  Loneliness was my only real complaint. I had to eat ice chips for all day until Saturday morning. I didn't really want have a big appetite, but they told me I had to eat to get out of ICU and to heal. By lunch time, I was really hungry. My energy was returning. On Friday, I had worked-out with the Exercise Therapist and he was impressed with my strength. I shared with him about my amazing, Godly bootcamp trainer David Wesley. He has been so good to Paul and I throughout this process and he has kept me in-shape and lifted me up in prayer. I feel blessed to know him and trust me, I will be taking care of my new liver and will return to bootcamp once I am allowed to do a sit-up again.
     On Sunday, I was moved to a regular room and then things really started progressing quickly. Paul brought Thomas up to hospital and I was able to walk down to the first floor and see my son. My son! My joy. He is literally my heart walking around on precious little legs. I was so grateful that Paul brought him up and he cried when then had to leave and ran to me to pick him up. I can't hold my son for a month at least. This is a struggle, but totally worth it and I know that there is a mother out there that can never hold her baby again because I am living with her baby's liver. I find out Tuesday a little more about my donor, it is very secretive. I will only find out sex and age. I can write a letter to have sent to the family in six months. What do I say in that letter? What do I tell this amazing person? How do I live the rest of my life? What now? 
   As you can tell, I have a ton of emotions and things running around in my head. If I was completely honest with all of you, I would tell you why I can't sleep. When I doze off to go to sleep, I see her. I see the mother of my donor at her child's funeral. I experienced a horrific experience of burying babies, not a child I loved for years, so I can't imagine her pain. When will this go away, I don't know. I wish I could talk to her and tell her how I will honor her child for the rest of my life. I will never go a day without being thankful. Because of her selfless gift, her child will live on through me and my children. I hope my donor is holding my babies in heaven, I hope they are all together.
   I can't wait to go to church. I don't ever want to sing a song sitting down in a pew again. I want to shout from the rooftops all my favorite praise songs. I want to be in God's presence all the time. I want to share Him, I want all the people I love and know to spend eternity with me in heaven. I am throwing away my Bucket List, I'm not going anywhere for awhile. I still plan on blogging about the song I heard on the way home, but right now, I am going to have to stop so I can change my dressing and get cleaned up. I can't say thank you enough to all of you for praying, loving, caring, coming to fundraisers, working for me, and just taking time to be a part of my life. Thank you!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Bunch of Things

     I know it has been awhile since I have posted, but life has been really busy lately.  I started working-out consistently again going to bootcamp 3-4 times a week in the morning and then I went to my first Zumba class this week at my church. I can honestly say that I am a TERRIBLE dancer and have zero rhythm, but I let loose and had a blast. I used to work at the Verne Cox Center with all different types of people with an array of disabilities. One thing we always did at the center was a dance once a month. It is crazy, but I learned so much from this group of people. They truly danced like no one was watching because they did not care what other people thought of them, oh how I wish I could live like that. I honestly miss these dances, I had so much fun dancing at these dances. I decided that day at Zumba that I would just go with it. I couldn't stop smiling. I keep inviting people to come along because I enjoyed it so much. The instructor is a wonderful woman, her name is Nicole and she has FIVE children!!!! When you look at her, you can't tell that she has had that many kids, I don't know how she does it all and juggles all her different responsibilities. She also leads the MOPS group that I go to and I absolutely love those Fridays.
     Speaking of MOPS, we had a guest speaker on Friday and she talked about making our home a "yes" home. I loved what she said. It honestly is easier to say no to our kids. I decided that when Thomas wants to read a book, I am going to stop doing dishes or vacuuming and read him a book. If he wants to bake cookies right after I clean the kitchen, I am going to bake cookies. He already is growing up too quickly and I want to take advantage of every opportunity to make memories with him.  I also want to pray more for my son and his future wife, his future friends, and I really pray that he wants to serve Jesus as well. I hope that our home will reflect the love of Christ in such a way that my son will choose Jesus.
     This weekend, my alma mater, ULM came into town to play U of H and Paul, Thomas and I went to cheer them on. It was great to see Coach Holloway and catch up with her. She had such a huge impact on my life, just the simple fact that she wanted me on her team and going up to Monroe was one of the best decisions of my life. While we were there, Thomas rolled down his first hill. He loved it and laughed the whole time. He is so happy, and Coach made my whole day when she said that Thomas had my smile!  My heart fills with joy each time I see him smile. He has started saying "I love you," and I get all tearful every time he says it, he will never know how long my heart ached to hear those words from MY CHILD. He is my greatest accomplishment.
     Lately, I have been blessed with several random acts of kindness/thoughtfulness. A coworker/friend Jennifer blessed me with a really sweet card and angel on Tuesday. She brightened my day and the words on the card made me smile all day. One of my little cousin Deborah's friends blessed me with a sweet gift that same night when I got home. I had one of those really long, frustrating days at work where it felt like no matter what I did, I kept messing up. Caitlin has been in my life for a long time and has been at almost all of my fundraisers. She left me a really cute mug full of candy and the nicest card. It made me cry. What most people don't know is that I keep these cards with me in my binder and I read them when I am waiting at the doctor's office or in the hospital and it really encourages me. Paul's Nana sent me a very uplifting card and blessed me with a gift card for a pedicure. My friend Kim Artall blessed me with foot scrub, a gift card, and a lovely card. I LOVE CARDS, just ask Paul. I always tell him that I don't really care what he buys me for my birthday or for Christmas, but I just want an emotional card from him.
     This past Friday after MOPS, I met Kim Artall and Andrea Jewell for a long overdue lunch/play date. It was so great to catch-up with them and at the same time, it is the strangest feeling to realize that we have all grown-up. We are all parents, we are all responsible, and we are all bruised. What I mean by that is that we have all experienced pain in our lives that have changed us and molded our lives. When you are growing-up with people, you don't think about this kind of stuff. I look at Andrea and I can't imagine being a single mom to two boys and juggling work, school, taking care of her grandmother, and parenting.  Thomas immediately took to Andrea and actually ate his first ice cream cone with her. I know he is a good judge of character now! I look at Kim, who is one of those people that her biggest flaw is that when she loves and cares about someone, she gives them so much. She is so thoughtful and giving, but people don't always return the favor. I was one of those people a long time ago that didn't give Kim nearly as much as she gave me. I am glad we have gotten past that and I am thankful for the gift of forgiveness. It is a blessing to watch her be a mommy to Miles, who I like to call "Mr. Blue-eyes." He seriously has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. Friday was a glimpse of how I used to dream my life would be at my age, I always thought my kid and Kim's kid would play together and Friday made my heart so happy! 
     I had one appt in the past couple of weeks, which was with my cardiologist. I went for a routine 6 month check-up as part of my transplant requirements. My last appt was great, so I went thinking this would be a breeze. I had a little snag. Thomas was playing with my phone and he held the button down on the bottom for a long time. When I went to make a call, the little arrow that you slide over was gone. I could not turn my phone off, answer it, open it, nothing. MY LIFE is in my phone, all my numbers, all the dates of all my appts and plans, and it is literally my LIFELINE if I get "the call." I was on my way to the medical center so I stopped at the Verizon store and asked if there was a way to reset my iphone. The lady was rude and said that bc I had a little crack on the back of the phone, there was nothing I could do. I explained that the crack had been there since I first got it and I just needed to know the "trick" to reset it. She said I had to pay more than $600 to buy a new phone. UHH, no thanks. So, then in a voice and tone used to correct a four year old, she explained that I could add a line and buy a new iphone at a much cheaper price. The whole time my heart is racing thinking about missing "the call." The reason I am so afraid is because I am now at the top of the "B" blood type list of livers!  I told her that the reason I needed a phone was due to me being on the transplant list, because if I wasn't, I would have just waited until I got back home to Pasadena and went to the Verizon store there. She lectures me about otter boxes and how I need to take better care of my phone and the whole time I kept asking about resetting my phone. She promised to transfer my contacts, which she didn't do, and the whole time she treated me like I was worthless. It is in these moments that I want to scream at people and tell them that I am by no means an idiot and I start getting self-righteous, but I held it in because none of my earthly accomplishments really matter in the long run. I go to my appt that was supposed to be busy and after doing the one test I needed, I was informed that I would need further tests. RED FLAG raised, so I asked what was going on and the doctor, who I think resembles Mr. Burns on The Simpsons asked me if I am Short Of Breath (nursing lingo SOB) all the time. I told him that the only time I am SOB is when I work-out. I was lucky enough to get an IV and after the tests, he explained the results. He said my liver just isn't keeping up like it used to. He said that the fluid is backing up into my lungs and increasing my lung pressures to the high range. I have to go back to see Mr. Burns in 3 months unless I start getting SOB and then I need to come in sooner. I asked what I could do to fix this and he said,"get a new liver."  If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I would be rich. This news made me a little sad because I wanted to get a new liver before any of my other organs were affected. I already have a super enlarged liver and spleen. So, pray that a liver comes soon please!  This waiting game is for the birds. I have so many things left to accomplish. So, to finish my phone story, I bought a new phone and added a third line. But, after my appt, I went to the Pasadena store and 2.5 seconds after I walked-in, they showed my how to reset the iphone and my old phone was back in business. I had to go to the other Pasadena store to have my third line removed and the iphone returned to the store. There went 4.5 hours of my life I will never get back, but I am happy that I ended up okay after all was said and done.
   On a random note, I always feel like my cousin Karen's boyfriend knows everything. He is a genius, seriously. I finally found a question that Neill did not know the answer to. I asked him what kind of vinegar they use at Subway to put on your sandwhich and he did not know!!! So, my cousin Deb thinks it is red wine vinegar, so I am going to try it. Also, while I think cancer totally sucks, in a way, it has been a blessing to me. It woke me up, it made me look at my life and decide what is important, it makes me thankful for every single day, it makes me want to seize the day, it makes me want to be better, it makes me want to live, I want to live more now than I ever have before. It has made me more forgiving, harboring anger is just too hard, it has made me expect a little less of myself (like I don't always have to keep the house clean), I don't want it to be said at my funeral, "Katrinia kept a really clean house."  That is the last thing I want someone to say.  Thank you for all your prayers, support, love, encouragement, accountability, and thank you for reading. It is the coolest thing to meet a stranger that tells me they have read my blog!  I will try to be a better blogger and blog more!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tricia Green Visits and other Blessings

       Okay, so the weekend of January 21st, my good friend Tricia Green came to visit me all the way from the great city of West Monroe, Louisiana.  I met Tricia when she was a sophomore in high school and I was the youth intern at First Baptist West Monroe Church, otherwise known as First West.  The first time I met her, I knew she was special, and she was a challenge. I decided immediately that I liked her and we started spending more and more time together. Tricia was a little more mature than her other classmates, so she hung out with me and the senior girls. We had a blast all summer long, oh to go back to those carefree college days!  She is stubborn like me, and we both tend to learn things the hard way, so we naturally got along well. Tricia Green is one of those friends that you have where you can go a year or many months without talking to each other, but when you reunite, it is like no time at all has passed. I love her a lot and it means the world to me that she drove all the way in from northeast Louisiana to spend time with me. She brought me lots of little goodies, but my favorite goody is this amazing homemade snack mix her mom makes. I forgot to mention that I love Tricia's entire family, I promise I could move in with them and have no problem at all. I have called and talked to Tricia's mom before when I was worried about Tricia. She is that kind of friend. There have been times in our relationship where I have told her the truth (not what she wanted to hear), I am able to do this because I know that no matter what we will always be friends. She has also always been honest with me and she holds me accountable. Most importantly, our friendship is based on our love for Christ. We went shopping at Kohls when she was down and this lady told us that we were hilarious to listen to as we shopped. We have fun whether it be shopping, eating out, talking at home in our pjs, or my favorite is when she plays with my hair. When I think about it, all of my close friends play with my hair, I guess that makes me a little weird. Tricia is also very understanding when it comes to life changes and the fact that now I have a kid, my priorities and ability to be spontaneous have changed a little bit.  I love her and she blessed me so much by coming down to visit me. My heart is happy.
     This past week, I had two surprises delivered to me. On Wednesday, my good friend Katie hung a cute little bag on my front door. It had sugar free Oreos in it (they are delicious), and a cute little glass container with what I thought were cinnamon/sugar cubes. I should have read the card first is all I can say because I took a big ole bite of the cinnamon/sugar cubes and quickly found out that they were not edible. I was gagging and spitting for about five minutes and my mom kept asking me what was wrong, but I couldn't answer her. I read the card and found out these were little bath cubes for a BATH. My tongue was burning, but I couldn't stop laughing. Lesson learned, read the card first. The card toughed my heart and the simple fact that this single mom that works full time and goes to school at night took the time to do something so thoughtful for me chokes me up. My cup runneth over.
    Thursday morning, my dogs were barking like crazy and I opened the front door to see what the commotion was all about. I found a large envelope addressed to me. I opened it to find the instructions "Read the card and letter first," (too bad I hadn't followed these instructions the night before). I read the touching card and letter and looked at all the goodies my cousin Kea Lynn and her family had sent me. It had candy for Thomas, Valentine socks, a beautiful book for mothers, a frame for family pictures, and lots of other cute stuff. She explained what each item was for and why she put them in this little care package. I balled, boo-hood, snot ran down out of my nose. I became overwhelmed. I put myself back together and called Kea Lynn to thank her and had the best conversation with her.  I love my cousins and I realize that the reason we are all so close starts three generations ago with my Pawpaw and the importance he and my grandmother placed on family. I met Karen for lunch at Jason's Deli and then we bumped into two of my favorite teachers from jr high and high school, Ms. Alsdorf and Ms. Boyton. It was so great to run into them and hug their necks. I'm happy they were able to meet my Thomas.
     So, Friday comes along and I was able to go to the MOPS group at church, and this particular morning, I was inspired to start running. I plan on starting soon. Two of the women are running half marathons in a few weeks and I don't have to run a marathon or anything, but I do need to get in better shape. They inspire me to at least try, they are honest that they don't always love running and they admit that it is hard. I like it when people are real. I went to my post-op appt with my oral surgeon and my mom came along to watch Thomas. When I went back, my mom made friends with a lady in the waiting room. When I came out, the woman explained that Steve Phelps was her boss and she had read my story and was praying for me. What a small world. I am amazed everyday at how all of our lives seem to weave together.
     The consistent blessing in my life these days tends to be my little family. I love how Thomas is growing up, but I don't like how independent he is now. He feeds himself, cleans up after himself, he has his own agenda of where he wants to walk, and he loves to talk on the phone like a grown-up. I feel so lucky to hear him call me "momma," that is the sweetest sound to my ears. My husband has also been pretty wonderful lately. It is easy to focus on the things that he doesn't do, I guess the majority of us are like this when it comes to our spouses. I am reading a book that my good friend Christina gave me. I work with her and we often talk about our husbands and our desire to be the best wives we can be. The book is called, Love and Respect: The Love she most Desires:The Respect he Desperately Needs. I am enjoying the book and hope it helps me respect my husband more and focus on his good qualities rather than his bad. I hate to admit that it is easier to focus on the negative sometimes, but I am a work in progress, even as a wife. Keep me in your prayers, I want to be the best Christian, mother, wife, sister, daughter, patient, friend, cousin, niece, granddaughter, and the list goes on. I will try to do a better job of keeping everyone up to date with my progress now that our computer is back home.