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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!