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!