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Monday, December 22, 2014

Conversations With Thomas

     I guess we have been talking a lot about Jesus lately, and Thomas has been so sweet with his questions.  When he was hanging out with Paul one day, he asked Paul, "Daddy, what is sin?" Paul told him in four-year old language about sin and how Jesus never sinned. Anytime Thomas sees a cross, he will point at it and say, "there is the cross that Jesus died on for our sins." He says it loud and proud. It makes my heart so happy that he is talking about Jesus and asking questions about Him. 
     Last week, Thomas had a night where he threw-up repeatedly throughout the night. I took him downstairs and held him in the recliner (after changing the sheets) and it gave me comfort that he was upright with me. We both finally fell asleep for a couple of hours and when Thomas woke-up, he stated that he needed to ask me something. "Mommy, did Jesus cry?" I asked him what he meant and he wanted to know if Jesus cried when they put the nails in him? How sweet is that? Thomas is very tender-hearted and apparently really thinks about things. I told him that I was not sure if Jesus cried, but I know it had to hurt really bad, but Jesus was willing to endure all that pain for us. I love talking to my son about my Saviour. There is nothing more important that I can ever teach him about. Whenever Paul and I talk about having Jesus in our hearts, he always pipes in and says, "Jesus is in my heart too Momma!"  I know the absolute most important thing I will ever do is teach my child about the love of Jesus and path to heaven.

     Lots has been going on in my life since my last blog.  I had to restart taking Prednisone after a second liver biopsy. They feel like my autoimmune illness was rearing it's ugly head again, but steroids should help keep it under control. Then, I has a splenic artery aneurysm repair on November 11. It was a fairly easy surgery, but I had some left shoulder pain that was a bit unbearable at times.  After that, I did my full body MRI and Cat scan. They found that a mass on my kidney has grown, so I am currently doing further testing, but the urologist I am seeing made me feel like it is benign and I am trying to think positively. Every time I have an MRI, I do get a little nervous about them finding something else to worry about.

   All of this, plus the holiday season had me stressed out and I felt like I couldn't relax at all. I called my college roommate's mom and asked for some guidance. She, of course, led me to several scriptures that have been so helpful to me. I want to be at peace, the peace that only God can give you, throughout every season of my life. Katy's mom, Janet seems to never get stressed out, and Katy was the same way. I knew she had an understanding in her walk with Christ that I long for. Philippians 4:6-7 and John 14:27 are the two scripture verses I have been meditating on. I have been able to relax and feel much less stressed about the holiday season and I have even been a little spontaneous too. I am grateful for friends like Katy and her family that have been so helpful to me and modeled how I want to raise my own family. It is surreal when you look at your life and see how God placed exactly the right people in my path to help me along my journey. I love when I am able to visit Katy at her family's home in Louisiana, nothing but great memories made there.

     I will keep you updated on what we find out about my kidney growth and I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas this year!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Transplant Games and Crossing Over

 The month of July was very exciting with the 2014 Transplant Games of America being held right here in Houston. This was my first time to participate because they are held every two years and you have to be 9 months post-transplant before you can participate and I was only a few months post-transplant the last time the games were held. The best thing that happened was that one of best friend's Heather had her beautiful son the day before the games began. I am so happy for her and her husband and can't wait to watch him grow-up.  After visiting them in the hospital, I went to pick-up all my information, shirts, etc. I was instantly amazed at how many people were there. The Texas team had their own little meeting room, and I was able to go and see a few familiar faces from our volleyball practices. My schedule was as follows: Saturday morning 5K and Opening Ceremonies, Sunday was Table Tennis, Monday was Badminton, and Tuesday was Volleyball.  The 5K was really a time for my family and for meeting people. Paul, Thomas, Karen, Noah, Donna, and Jessica all came out and completed the 5K. I loved sharing with my friends and family, but I also loved meeting donor families and other recipients. I cried walking to the car. I had not prepared myself for the emotional aspect of these games. I met a lady that had donated her son's eyes fifteen years ago and he would be 30 this year. She talked of how it made her feel good that two different people could see now because of her son's gift. I saw so many posters of loved ones that were donors. I really wish I could meet and know my donor family, just his name would help.
     Saturday evening, we had Opening Ceremonies at the BBVA Compass stadium. This was super emotional and touching. The donors were so young, their families still so sad. I kept thinking about if it was Thomas, would I be able to give his organs away. These people never saw their loved-one not breathing. The whole time I was praying/talking to God about the gift of His Son. He loved me so much that He gave His son, it is so incredible. At first, I was sad that I couldn't sit with my family, but it turned out that I met a wonderful woman named Laurel from Dallas and we really hit it off. She received a kidney and she was one of those people that when you meet them, you instantly know they are good through and through. We enjoyed the ceremony and became FB friends. It is weird how I felt an instant connection with the people all around me, these people know exactly what I went through INSIDE. I can't always articulate how it felt to live because someone else died. It is heart-wrenching most days.
   Sunday was the day Paul was most excited about. Paul had bought me a ping pong table as soon as I signed-up for this event, he decided to become my coach, and we played a ton of games in preparation for this day. I felt pretty good after hearing Paul say,"you are good for a girl," about a thousand times. Next time you see him, ask him how many times I beat him? Anyways, I went on to win the gold and make a new friend from Boston named Michelle Bennett. We too are now FB friends and I look forward to seeing her at the next games. Sunday evening I went to the viewing of a dear friend that passed away too soon. Ironically, she had received a kidney transplant 10 years ago. Her name was Vicky, a wonderful nurse I met while working at Shriners Galveston. She took me under her wing and mentored me while I worked in Galveston. She had the BEST work ethic ever. She had high expectations for her coworkers and even higher standards for herself. She taught me how to do things the right way, not the easy way. She protected me, she cared for me, and she encouraged me. When the boys died, she sent me the nicest care basket, came to their funeral, and she checked on me throughout my transplant ordeal. She lived her life in such a way that she did her best everyday, I hope to live my life that way.
  At opening ceremonies, I met a family that had donated their daughter's organs a few years ago. They were very friendly and helpful. I would bump into them a lot and it was so nice to talk to them and to hear about their daughter. Her name was Madeline (that is my mom's name) and she had died after having a seizure. They all wore pins with her photo on them and I felt a little connection with them.
     Monday was badminton. I have to admit, this was my first time to play a real game since 6th grade PE. I ended up only getting silver in this event and don't have a lot to say, except that if I did this event, I would definitely practice more first. I still had a great time and met another liver recipient that day from Oklahoma.
   Tuesday was the day I had been waiting for! I love Volleyball, but I truly love team sports. I am competitive, I always have been. I met a beautiful 21 year-old girl from College Station named Taylor. We were both extremely competitive. Our team consisted of all different ages, races, religions, and transplants. We had a girl on our team that received both a heart and lungs, two other liver transplants, multiple kidney transplants, lung transplants and we even had a living donor who gave his kidney to save another person. We played volleyball from 9am to 5:30 ish that day and we ended up winning GOLD. We played as a team, worked hard, came back from behind, and we all should be DEAD. It hit me when I was serving in our very last game. We should all be dead. I started tearing up, look at how many of us are here because of a huge gift. We are all so blessed, and it is not like we are laying in a bed miserable, we are LIVING. I was literally overcome with emotion and gratitude. I can't even find the words to explain my feelings. After the closing ceremonies following our volleyball victory, the family of Madeline found me and gave me the pin with her picture on it. I lost it. I told them how grateful I was for families willing to do something so selfless and save others. I feel like these games were probably healing for them and it touched my heart that they would give me this special token. I will keep it and treasure it forever.

SO, one week before the Games, I started Crossfit. I have promised myself that I won't become the crazy crossfit person (Kea Lynn Lewis), but I totally get it now. I want to say so much to my coach, but I think he might think I am a little weird, so I keep it to myself. His name and Shane and he owns the CrossfitSouthbelt if any of you are interested. I had wanted to try it, but I was afraid everyone there were just masses of muscle walking around doing pull-ups all the time. I ran into an old friend Carolyn Crawford McMahan at Wal-Mart one day and she looked GREAT. I asked her about how she looked so awesome and she told me about crossfit, her eyes and face lit-up and she had the biggest smile. She convinced me to give it a try. I am so glad I did. If I could explain crossfit, I would tell you that it is more about how I feel after completing a WOD. I leave feeling like I could do anything, world peace-easy, run for president, find a cure for cancer, and the list goes on.  I could not do a sit-up for like two years and my abs are definitely weak. After about a month of crossfit, we had to do 50 sit-ups with a medicine ball, and I DID it! Shane will never know that I went to my car and cried like a baby. I felt so proud, but mostly I felt like the old Katrinia. Shane doesn't know much about my history. He treats me normal. He doesn't look at me like the lady who buried her twin sons, the lady that had cancer, the lady that had a transplant, HE TREATS ME LIKE EVERYONE ELSE! I know people can't help it that they care and I didn't even realize that what I needed was someone who didn't let me make excuses. He is a great coach that is tough and he is funny. I have become emotional (on the inside) more than a few times during a work-out because I am doing things that I never thought I would do again. The best part is that I am already seeing results and I feel GREAT. Nothing seems out of reach for me anymore. If you wonder what I have been up to, now you know.
   I go to two different doctors next week, please pray that I can stop taking this anti-fungal medication that I have had to take for the last 13 months. It tastes gross and it messes with my liver enzymes, so it would also mean less labwork! I have also been having blood sugar issues only in the mornings, so we are trying to get all that worked out. Thank you for your continued love and support. My next goal is to go to the World Transplant Games in Argentina in 2015!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Little Scare

  This past June 9, I had a bit of a scare with my health. I was at work and coughed a little bit and spit up a bunch of blood. I did that a few more times and contacted my coordinator and my doctor. They both said I needed to go to the ER. I had already convinced myself that I was dying of lung cancer. Being immuno-compromised puts me at a much higher rate for cancer. When I go to all these tests I have done, they are checking for cancer. The only thing I knew of that caused you to cough up blood was cancer or TB. I knew that I didn't have TB, because I had been tested like 15 times for it and they were all negative. I decided not to tell anyone, except Paul, that I was going to the ER. If I had cancer, I wanted some time to think about it before I told anyone. I check-in and am assigned to a room with a super nurse named Karen. She drew a bunch of labs and cultures and sent me to have a chest x-ray. The chest x-ray was negative, so now they were all confused by what would cause me to cough up blood. I had coughed up a few samples by this point. I went for a CT Scan and waited for the pulmonologist to come back and talk to me. I had already decided that I would go to Hawaii before I died, it is the top thing on my bucket list. The doctor came in with a smile! It appeared that I had a really bad case of bronchitis, I never knew that could cause bleeding.  They gave me some IV antibiotics and they wanted to admit me. I refused to be admitted because they weren't going to do any further testing and I could take antibiotics at home. My nurse advocated for me and they finally agreed to let me go home. I had an appt with my doctor already scheduled for the next week and I am super compliant. Needless to say, I am ashamed that I immediately thought the worst when God has been so good to me. I was reminded that I work with wonderful people like Christina and Roxanne that always take care of me and check on me. I don't want to think about the worst case scenarios anymore. I am thankful to live right next to the best medical center in the world. I am in good hands, God's hands.

My Buddy Kelly

Many of you are my friends on facebook or you are people I see all the time in my everyday life. You might have noticed that I posted about one of my best friends passing away unexpectedly. I met Kelly when I worked in the PICU at Shriners Galveston. I remember watching her nurse patients in a way I hadn't seen before. She was extremely efficient and knowledgeable. She knew every lab value, every medication side effects, and she was confident in her nursing ability. We loved our patients in the same way, maybe a little too much sometimes. Donna and I had gone to nursing school together and then we both started our careers together in Galveston. Donna, Kelly, and I hit it off instantly. Kelly wondered how I could still be smiling at the end of my shift (the beginning of hers) after taking care of such sad stories that all involved children. We would all meet up for lunch or dinner when we could, but mostly, we bonded over our patients. We cried together, laughed together, protected our patients together, and vented to one another. We were a perfect little trio. Kelly and Donna always come through for me. They were there when my babies died, they were at their funeral, they were by my side when I was diagnosed with cancer, there when I needed a break, they were there when I received my transplant, they were there for all my bdays, all of Thomas' bdays, fundraisers, and the list goes on. Simply put, I could count on these two. In fact, this past weekend, Donna came to the 5K for the transplant games and so did Jessica, a friend of Kelly's that I have met a few times. The whole time I was at the 5k, I kept thinking about Kelly and the fact that she would have been there too.
  On May 5, 2014, Donna called me and asked if I had heard from Kelly. She told me that Kelly had texted her early Sunday morning saying that she couldn't sleep and hadn't slept in a while. Kelly had started a new job and had spent the past few months working days and was making the switch to the night shift. She had been sick too. I was at work and started texting Kelly immediately. Texting was her favorite form of communicating. I never heard anything. Donna went over to Kelly's place to see if she was home. She knocked and knocked and kept calling Kelly. Donna called me and I was heading over to Kelly's too as soon as I gave report, I could hear the worry in Donna's voice and we decided she should call the police. The whole time, we knew Kelly was going to be so mad at us when the police came. Donna told the police officer when he got there that she was worried about Kelly. He acted a little annoyed and he called the fire dept to come and get into her house. I saw the firetruck going and pulled in right after them. The whole time I had this horrible feeling in my tummy.  Donna sent me a text that was life-changing. I ran to the back door of Kelly's place and found my Donna and we hugged and cried for a while. Kelly was gone, she had passed away.
    So many questions filled our thoughts. I kept thinking about the last time I had talked to her. We always told each other that we loved one another. Her new job was working with transplant patients at St. Luke's, she had even told my surgeon that she better treat me right! We were concerned about her dogs and the policeman told us we could return at 10pm to get her dogs. We told him Kelly's parents names and we had their address (we had gone to a Sunday dinner at their home). The police officer said that they would get to that later in a day or two????????????? What the heck? I could not just go home and go to sleep and know that Kelly was no longer alive, but her mom not know. The policeman saw my outrage and told me not to go and tell her parents. I said that he can't tell me what to do and Donna and I hopped into her car and headed to the Bircher's home. I guess the reality of what we were headed there to do didn't set in until we pulled up to their lovely home. They were not home, my heart was racing, I was nauseous, I was deeply sad, I was in shock and now I was about to tell a woman who I had instantly hit it off with that her baby girl had died. Shortly after we arrived, they came home from their grandson's baseball game. Kelly's mom Pat looked so cute in her baseball shirt and I think she knew something was wrong immediately. Our eyes were puffy and our hearts heavy. I couldn't manage a smile. We went inside and sat down in their living room where I know so many happy memories had been made. I grabbed Pat's hand and I did my best to be eloquent, but I couldn't seem to say the words. Soon, the room was filled with sobbing and questions.
   I kept thinking about how in February, my doctor's thought I was showing signs of rejection and I had a liver biopsy. We had to get there at like 7am, when I arrived, there was Kelly. She stayed with me the whole day and Donna came to check on me too. Kelly had to come and make sure they were treating me right because it was taking too long. She saw that they had to rush me to CT scan to make sure there was no active bleeding in my abdomen. My sats had dropped and I couldn't seem to breathe, I was scared. Come to find out, they had hit the nerve that controls my diaphragm and that is why I couldn't breathe. I had to have oxygen until I was able to breathe better. Kelly was right there. I knew she would not let anything happen to me, she could save anyone. I still can't stop thinking about her and our friendship. I wrote one of her letters of reference for life-flight, which was an honor for me to write. I had been able to be there for her in the past year like she has always been there for me. Who was I going to call when my labs were terrible? Who was I going to call when I had a nursing question? Why was she dead? How awesome of a friend is Donna? She could have looked totally crazy but she didn't care, she was worried about a friend and followed her intuition. I had to watch the second season of  Orange is the New Black without Kelly, the person who made me watch it in the first place. I miss our dinners, our outings, our texts, I miss her. It is weird how caring for the same patient can bond you, when you work so hard together to keep some one's child alive. I admired her so much. I love her whole family. Her mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law and her sweet nephews. Thomas was able to meet them last month and they all hit it off. My goal is to keep in contact with her family forever. Her family even donated the money received after her death to organ donation. Kelly was my biggest advocate.  If you think about it, say a prayer for her family, especially her mom. Kelly had offered to have a baby for me, give me her liver (partial donation) and she was the most selfless person I knew. I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend with her and I look forward to the time I can spend with her family. Kelly Bircher, gone way too soon, but you will never be forgotten.