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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Can Only Imagine

     So, I mentioned earlier about the song "I Can Only Imagine," by MERCY ME, and that I heard it on the way home from the hospital. This song is special to me in way more ways than one. The first time I heard this song, I was in college at ULM, it was the summer and my family (Mom, Dad, and brother John) came to pick me up from school and we headed to Eureka Springs in Arkansas for vacation and to see the Passion Play. In the car on the way, my little brother introduced me to this song, I instantly loved it. We listened to it several times while driving through amazing scenery. People always joke about Arkansas, but it really is a beautiful state. I enjoyed watching and listening to my little brother sing this song as loud as he could and with his eyes closed. My entire family was singing, we were worshiping together as a family to this touching song. I love the words to this song, I love imagining heaven. This song has brought me comfort so many times, but especially after my babies died. I thought of this song and how my babies were at the feet of Jesus, what were they doing, was Jesus holding them?
     I'm not done, because of this song, I started to love the band Mercy Me. I read all about them and realized that they were the "real deal." I worked at my church in Monroe, La and they came to perform a concert at our church. I can remember being so excited, I could barely contain myself. If you know me, I am not very big on celebrities, autographs, etc. I mean, actors and musicians are just people, I don't think we should worship them. But, Mercy Me was different, they had written a song that was literally changing lives all around me. I can remember singing this song at the top of my lungs in my friend's truck and feeling so connected to people spiritually. Anyways, my beautiful roommate Abby went to the concert and we had a blast, but the guitarist noticed her and he loved the way she worshipped, isn't that sweet? Next thing I know, Mercy Me is coming back to Monroe a few weeks later and Mike (the guitarist) had mentioned an interest in Abby to our college minister and you won't believe this...... Mercy Me ended up coming over to our house. I mean, they were at our house people. Abby and Mike had an instant connection based on Christ and today they are married and have three awesome kids. Abby had a son, adopted a girl from another country, and then they had another son. Abby was living the life we had talked about for her future. We had even painted our kitchen at our house with what we would look like someday and Abby had kids all around her of different races because she just has that kind of wonderful heart, full of love to give to children. Abby and Mike have been a constant support in my life. They helped sponsor me when I went to Africa on a mission trip, they sent me flowers when the twins died, they donated items to both the softball and volleyball tournaments, and I know they pray for me. They are an amazing family and I am so proud to call them my friends. It is nice to know that this band is full of Godly men. It makes the song even more special to me. The thing about this song is that it still evokes emotion out of me today, I never get sick of it.  I encourage you to check this band out and please listen to the song if you never have before, it is well worth your time.
     Hearing this song on the way home brought me to tears because I was so afraid for the past six and a half months that I was going to die that I had imagined what heaven would be like a million times. I knew all the questions I was going to ask God, like why can't we regenerate body parts like a lizard or starfish, I have a ton of questions about dinosaurs, and then a bunch of questions about my boys. I wondered if they have aged or if they are still babies, I wondered if they would know who I am, I wondered if I would hear Him say those words... I am proud of you my faithful servant. I always wondered if I would have regrets, I don't want to have a bunch of regrets, I want to live my life differently. I visualized hugging my grandmothers, meeting my mom's mother for the first time in heaven. I can't wait to hug their necks, and I want to meet all the disciples and talk to them, and I really want to talk to Mary. I want to hear what Jesus was like as a baby, did he throw tantrums?  I am still excited about meeting Jesus someday, but more excited about spending eternity with Him.

     I have a little update about my donor, it was in my coordinators words, " a very young male." That is it, that is all the details they gave me. My surgeon said that I basically received a brand new liver. My life expectancy is the same as if I have never had a health problem. Isn't that incredible? I am waiting until I am alone to write my letter to the donor family and I pray that they do want to meet me someday. I need to meet them, to thank them, to hug them, to know them, I want them to know I will honor the memory of this man all the days of my life. I was thinking about Thomas and how hard it would be to donate his organs if he died. When this guy's family said goodbye to him for the last time, his chest was still rising and falling because he was on a ventilator. I can't even imagine how hard that would be because it would feel like he was still alive. This is such a gift, a blessing, a miracle. I can't really wrap my head around the fact that a doctor removed my liver, a major organ, and they put a new one in and now, I am more alive than ever with tons of new found energy and I feel like there is so much joy and love in my heart that my heart is swelling inside my chest. I can hardly contain my joy when I am singing praises to my King. I also imagine meeting my donor in heaven someday. Oh, I hope this is part of my heaven experience. I will write a letter to the family, my coordinator will send it to Life Gift, and after six months, Life Gift will give my letter to the family and then the ball is in their court. It is totally up to them if they want to contact me, meet me, write me back, etc.. Please pray that they want to meet me. I really need to meet them, it is just who I am. I want to know a mother that is so selfless, she was able to give her son's organs to save many lives.

     I go back to the doctor tomorrow morning! I will try to blog more frequently, but I have been busy exercising twice a day and eating well-balanced diabetic, low-salt meals, taking medications on time, and just learning that I do have a few limits. Something God has really taught me throughout this entire experience is that it is okay to need people. I have been independent my entire life, almost to a point that I was proud. But, I love to help others, I receive so much joy from helping someone else, or just brightening someone's day. Now, people are doing that for me and I hope they all know how much it means to me. I love checking the mail because I have received a card everyday since I have been home!  The mealtrain has been a life-saver for us and makes our evenings go so smooth. I think God is showing me that He made a ton of us because we need each other, he did not create us to live alone, He wants us to fellowship, share, and love. Knowing someone loves you makes you feel so good inside, love really can conquer. Love is such a small word when you type it or write it, but it carries so much power. I am so glad that I have a family full of LOVE! I am missing my cousin Karen, she went to Florida for a girls trip, but she sends me picture texts of the beach and that makes me smile because I love the beach! My niece Karina has surprised me with her support, maturity, and love. I feel closer to her than I have in a long time and that alone makes my heart smile. My sister and I have a bond now where we don't have to talk, we can just look at each other and we know what the other is thinking. My mom got sick on Monday, so I haven't been able to be around her for the last 48 hours, so my cousin Lisa Wood stepped up and helped me out yesterday and we ended up having a really good time. My aunt Kay Wood has been helping us out with Thomas, allowing Paul and I to have some much needed alone time, mostly working-out together. Everywhere I turn, I have support. It is such a blessing to live each day with a feeling of my cup running over. Until next time, thanks again for everything! Tell someone you love them!

Monday, March 5, 2012

What a Week

     It feels so good to have been HOME for a whole week. Of course, I know this is just my temporary home. I have been blessed by so many people this past week. We have enjoyed so many delicious meals prepared with love by our friends and family.  Paul joked tonight how nice it would be if this lasted the rest of our lives! I actually can't wait until I can cook for my family again. I will be learning how to cook a whole new type of meals. I am now eating a diabetic, low-sodium diet. For the first time in my life, it is not hard to make the right choices when it comes to food. I told my doctor, this liver will only experience healthy food or food in moderation. People can bring all kinds of food, desserts, donuts, you name it, and I am not in the least bit tempted to partake. I mean, I have no intentions of ruining or hurting the most selfless gift I have ever received. Priorities are very different these days.
   
     Last Tuesday, I went in to clinic for lab work and the only bad part of this is the car ride. I might write the city of Houston about fixing all the bumps and potholes on Main St in the medical center. The main problem I have had is constant, persistent diarrhea. I literally start to cry when I have to go to the bathroom again, it is quite painful. They think this is a side effect of some of my meds, mainly magnesium. My labs showed low magnesium, so they even just went up on my dose of medication. I have lost 18 pounds so far and hope to continue in my weight loss journey.  My coordinator reminds me that this is not my goal right now and I realize that. I am taking lots of steroids as well, which is contributing to my blood glucose levels.  I am taking quite a bit of insulin at the moment, but I hope this will change soon. I am eating exactly how I have been instructed. Tuesday evening, my friend Kim Artall came by for a visit and brought a beautiful cookie bouquet. I enjoyed catching-up with Kim and having a time of normalcy, it makes my heart so happy every time I get to spend time with my longtime friend. I also received the most delicious cake balls decorated like little doctors, nurses, medicine, and medical supplies from the pharmacy department at the Galveston Shriners Hospital. It is so nice to have worked with such wonderful people.

     Last Wednesday was the only weekday that I didn't have to go into the clinic.  So, I took it easy for most of the day, except for my daily exercise, I went to Target with Karen. We were only there for about 30 minutes, but it felt so good to get out of the house.  The best part was feeling like a wife and mother again. I cannot hold Thomas or pick him up, or change his diapers, but I was able to shop for him and buy him food. It is the little things that I am able to do that make my heart happy. Wednesday night, my Aunt Tricia and Uncle Booley brought us dinner that was yummy and so appreciated. I think this is the same day that my good friend Katie Jones Weisen also came by and brought so much stuff, paper towels, gloves, glucometer, bleach wipes, gift card to Target, and the list goes on. She never ceased to amaze me because she is also a busy single mom of a cutie named Jackson. She works full-time and goes to school. She has a heart of gold and she came into my life after the twins died as a steady source of strength for me. She is a widow and was able to help me with my grieving process and I could freely express myself to her without her casting any judgement onto my life.

    Thursday was a busy day. It started with more blood work and an appt with my doctor. Dr. Goss is extremely handsome, confident, kind, brilliant, and his life is a true sacrifice. He and his partner Dr. O'Mahony never do a transplant surgery without each other, one of them always harvest the donor organ, and they are phenomenal. All of this also means that they don't go out of town much, they sacrifice time with their families, and they are literally on-call all the time. It amazes me that people like this exist. It inspires me to give more of myself like they do. I told him how much I appreciate him and what he does, he strives to be the best as well, but I have to be honest and tell you that the fact that I received no blood transfusions during my surgery is a true testament to his skill level. My incision is not healing great, but we are on the right track. We changed the dose of my insulin, I asked a ton of questions, and I asked about my donor. My coordinator said that that information was under lock and key and she did not check it before my appt so she would try to let me know next time. I really want to know more about this person. Before the doctor came into to visit me, this really sweet woman came into my room and introduced herself, it was Tamara, the sweetest voice I have ever heard. She also has a very sweet spirit about her. We hugged for a long time and I just cried. It felt so good to meet her. It is like we have some sort of unspoken bond now. The appt wore me out a bit and when we got home, I ended up resting a lot. They told me I could take this crazy binder off of my abdomen when I lay down, so I couldn't wait to get a break from the binder. I was resting in bed when the best jumping jacker I know Barbara Gillies came over with a scrumptious dinner. Her husband is a very lucky man. She is such a funny lady. When she came by to visit, she said, "I prayed over my utensils tonight just for you." Barbara is one of those people that is good at everything she does. She helped us with several fundraisers, she has steadily prayed for me, and she is a regular at the boot camp. My goal is to someday be able to beat Barbara at workout. Barbara has been nothing but a blessing to me since the moment I met her.

     Friday was really busy because I had to go to the med center for labs in the morning and I had to return for an abdominal ultrasound in the afternoon due to my billirubin levels being elevated. After the 8am labs, I returned to Pasadena and went to my MOPS class at church. I love fellowshiping with these other moms, it is so good to find out I am not crazy and that other women think just like me. To be honest, there is no where else I would rather be than at church. After MOPS, we went home and I rested before my ultrasound. I had to be NPO from all foods the whole day and this is where I became frustrated because my blood sugar was still elevated, after eating no food. It just blows my mind how the medications I take make my blood sugar go so crazy. Karen took me to my ultrasound at 2:30 and I was worried it was going to hurt, but the lady doing my ultrasound was very kind and gentle. I had to remove my dressing and Karen redressed it afterwards and we headed home. I always look forward to my time with Karen, she is just so full of utter goodness. She lives her life to help others.

     On Saturday, my Aunt Kay came to take care of me while my mom went to watch Karina's dance competition. For the first 30 days post transplant, we have to have two adults here all the time, one designated to take care of me and one designated to care for Thomas. It was nice to spend time with Kay and I was able to thank her for having Karen and for raising her right. I want so bad for all of Karen's dreams to come true, she deserves all the happiness in the world. In the afternoon, my good friend Kelly Brautigam came to care for me. I always tell people that if I need a nurse, I want it to be Kelly because she is extremely thorough and follows orders to the T. It was great to visit with her and she went to get Chilis for dinner. I had a blast catching up with her and hearing all about work stuff. I love the people I work with, they are some of the finest people I have ever known. I went to bed a little early Saturday night because I wanted to get adequate rest before church. I have a new excitement about going to church. I can't explain it, but I want to be in God's presence all the time and I want to be around other people that know my Jesus, my  miracle-giver, my prayer answerer. I want all to know Him.

    Sunday, we were a little late to church, but a lot of that is due to things I can't control, like diarrhea:(  It was great to hear the sermon and sing songs to my Saviour. I was able to talk to so many people and it was touching to see how many people are filled with joy from God answering our prayer. I want to go and personally thank those that prayed for me. When I am released to drive and travel more, please let me know if your Sunday School class or Bible Study Group has been praying for me, I would love to come in person to say thank you. I hope to prepare a PowerPoint of my journey and share my testimony every chance I may get. Thomas went over to my cousin Deborah's house Sunday evening and he had a blast playing with her two boys. He was so excited to get to go somewhere, he is very outgoing, which I am glad about. Speaking of Thomas, for the past six and a half months I have been extremely protective of my time with Thomas, I wanted pictures of everything, and I wanted to always be around him. I guess because if I was going to die, I wanted him to have some pictures and memories of me. I needed to be around him as much as possible. I can already feel my heart allowing me to be more relaxed about this issue. I know I still have issues from losing babies, like I don't ever want to spend the night away from him, the nights I spent in the hospital are enough for my lifetime. I want to always be in the same city as him, I don't know if I will ever be able to let him go to camp and be in a different city at night where I can't get to him immediately if something happens. I just love him so much. He is happy nearly all the time and his smile simply melts my heart. I can't wait until I can pick him up again. It is so hard when he is reaching for me and crying and I am only able to pat his cute little head. In time, this will pass and in the big picture, this is a small sacrifice compared to the sacrifice my donor made. I just love him so much. Thomas loves me unconditionally, I am sure of this and I will love him unconditionally all the days of my life. I pray he comes to know the Lord and that we will spend eternity in heaven together. Sunday dinner was brought to us by Peggy and Wayne Tabor and it was barbecue beef, which is one of Paul's favorites, it was extremely enjoyable. Thanks Peggy, the visit was even better than the food, I love you much.

     In the wee morning hours Sunday morning, my dad was taken by ambulance to the hospital for what people at work thought was a heart attack. It ended up being an extremely high fever and white count. My sister met him up at the hospital and he is still an inpatient tonight. They are running a bunch of tests to see where the infection is coming from. This has added a little stress to our whole daily routine, but nothing we can't handle. Please say a little prayer for my dad if you get the chance.

    Today, Monday, we went back for more blood work at 0800 and I received a call from my coordinator. They had drawn blood cultures and collected urine cultures on Friday due to my elevated billirubin as well. It turns out, I have a UTI (urinary tract infection). So, one more medication to add to the list for ten days to treat this. At my 9am medication administration, I take 29, that is right 29 different pills. It is overwhelming to get meds ready every week, but I know the number of meds will go down after 3 months and then again in a year.  Paul and I were able to stop at Cavenders on the way home to pick-up Thomas a shirt for Western Wear Day at his Mother's Day Out class. When we got home, my friend Amy Suffron came by for a much needed visit and girl time. She stayed with me while Paul went to pick-up Thomas from school.  I took a cat nap and called Verizon, because if you remember my previous post about my bad Verizon experience, I received my bill today for $600, of course all of it was bogus and a huge mistake, but I spent quite a while on the phone getting it all fixed. It should be fixed by tomorrow. Dinner was served by my sweet cousins, Deborah and Henry. It was also very tasty and it was nice to get to visit with Deb for a bit. Thanks again for reading, loving, caring, and encouraging. You guys are amazing and all I can say is that daily I am lucky enough to feel God's love and blessings in my life.