Monday, March 23, 2015

Kidney-shaped Footprints

I thought for SURE this blog wouldn't be around anymore. I guess there's no real time limit in cyberspace. No one to nag me and tell me that I need to write more often. It's a shame, really. Then again, I really don't like being told what to do. I've thought about this blog a lot. A lot a lot, not just a little a lot. You know what they say about the road and good intentions...

One of the big dates of importance over the past two years is March 28, 2013--kidney transplant! A very cool story accompanies the transplant experience, and is yet another witness to me that Heavenly Father really is the one in charge.

Sometime late 2012, my sister Lindsey was approved to donate a kidney to me. She had lost a lot of weight in order to be eligible to do so, and was feeling great. Her kidney wasn't SUPER ideal, but it was going to work. The only issue was with one of the transplant nephrologists. She thought that Lindsey only lost the weight to give me a kidney and that she would put it all back on again afterwards. That is a concern because overweight people tend to have higher blood pressure, which in turn damages the kidneys. We had to wait a few months so she could prove she was still losing. We finally had a date set for the beginning of April.

March 27 rolled around and I got a phone call at around 7 am. It was my nurse coordinator telling me that they have found a kidney for me that is a perfect match. I was puzzled, and questioned why this kidney, as my sister was ready to fly here in a few days to donate. The nurse put the transplant surgeon on the phone, and he explained to me that this is THE kidney we've all been waiting for. The right type, good arteries, etc. By the time I got off the phone, I was shaking...I couldn't believe it.  I was worried that Lindsey would be sad, and I think she was a little, but it was also a relief. It would have been a challenge for her to go home and be a mom to four little ones after the procedure.

Over the next several hours, I was able to find out that the kidney was coming from a woman in her early fifties, who lived in Pennsylvania. I didn't know how she died, or if she had been on life support or any other circumstances. One of my "good intention" things I need to do is to find out how I can contact her family. I've thought about this a lot over the past couple of years. How do you thank someone for saving your life?

We stayed in Phoenix on the 27th so we'd be close when it was time. They wanted my blood completely clean before the transplant, so I had one last dialysis treatment before the surgery. During the treatment, I couldn't help but smile, as I realized that this was my LAST treatment. I ended up waiting a while after the treatment, but finally went into surgery around 10 pm on the 28th. The surgery went well, I am so grateful for the incredible doctors they have at Mayo. We all knew going in that I was a high-risk situation, but Dr. Reddy (the surgeon) was my biggest cheerleader. I woke up from the surgery so happy and grateful. I remember smiling so big and just saying over and over again how happy and grateful I was. (Of course, it could have also been the pain meds...) :)

I was in the hospital for four days following surgery. Everyone was so happy with my kidney function. Sometimes you even have to have a few dialysis treatments after transplant to jump start the kidney, but mine worked like a charm from day one. It was funny to hear everyone get excited about how much urine I was putting out. I was a little anemic, so I had a blood transfusion before I went home, but other than that, things were shaping up well.

I went home with what seemed like a million prescription bottles. This would become my new routine...a set of pills at 8 am, another set at 8 pm. There were some meds I would be able to get rid of after a few weeks, but I've been on five or six pretty regularly since. Every time I get labs drawn, they check my counts to see if they need to adjust my medication. This was done frequently in the beginning, but now I only have it done every six weeks or so.

About a week after transplant, I attended a class for newbies on the "care and feeding of your new kidney." Basically, we learned that we're now highly susceptible to infections and sicknesses of every kind, we have to be very careful where we eat and if they've used proper food handling procedures, and we MUST take our pills. I have to say that I haven't really noticed that I've been more susceptible--in fact, just the opposite. When my husband and kids were sick with a bad cold this winter, it never affected me. I'm also not a super touchy-feely kind of person, so I'm sure that helps.
They said to avoid buffets, which isn't a problem for me as they gross me out. Who knows how many people have sneezed/coughed/drooled on or touched your food before you serve yourself. Ewww...
One of the guys in the class was super bugged that he couldn't eat brie anymore--something about soft cheese or bacteria...whatever...get over it! You've got a new kidney for crying out loud!!

So the kidney has been working well for me. I've had some other health issues I'll get to in another post, and these issues have affected my kidney function a bit, but it's always reversible. Ultrasounds and a biopsy all show that it's happy as a clam sitting there in my right hip pocket.

When I received the kidney, it had been VERY long 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days since my first dialysis treatment.  While I was in the thick of things, it seemed like I was in hell, and there were some days I was sure I was. I wondered if my Heavenly Father had forgotten me, I wondered if I'd be on dialysis forever, and I wondered why this was happening to me. Looking back, I still wouldn't wish that time on my worse enemy, but I am so grateful for what I have learned and experienced. I have never been closer to my husband, my children, my brothers and sisters, and especially my Savior. I've always thought the "Footprints" poem was kind of cheesy, but I do know that there were times when He carried me.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
             Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
                  In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
                       Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
                           other times there were one set of footprints.

                                  This bothered me because I noticed
                                that during the low periods of my life,
                             when I was suffering from
                         anguish, sorrow or defeat,
                     I could see only one set of footprints.

          So I said to the Lord,
      "You promised me Lord,
         that if I followed you,
             you would walk with me always.
                   But I have noticed that during
                          the most trying periods of my life
                                 there have only been one
                                       set of footprints in the sand.
                                           Why, when I needed you most,
                                          you have not been there for me?"

                                 The Lord replied,
                          "The times when you have
                  seen only one set of footprints,
          is when I carried you."
                                                   Mary Stevenson

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ketchup, Catsup, Catch-up

To say it's been a long time is the understatement of the century.  October?  Really?

To sum up:

November saw my 21st anniversary with my Prince Charming.  (When does he get promoted to a king?)  Thanksgiving with the fam in Chandler.  Another family member tested and rejected.

December brought wrestling, wrestling and more wrestling.  Gordon is the head varsity wrestling coach now, so he and Ian were together a good chunk of the time.  Ian struggled with his weight, knowing that he needed to cut a few pounds.  He ended the season much better than he started, once the weight was off.  Christmas was great.  Gordon spoiled me again with some beautiful earrings and a necklace.  Courtnie got a pair of the Miss Me jeans she was hoping for, and Ian got his iPhone.

January was busy with more wrestling and Courtnie starting volleyball and getting braces.  Lindsey came on January 2 and was tested at Mayo to see if she was a viable donor.  Luckily, she has the right anatomy, right chemistry, and it's finally the right time!  We're scheduled for April 2, and I'm counting the days!!  I'm trying really hard to stay grounded, as I've been let down so many times.  I'm torn between being super excited and very skeptical that it's actually going to happen.

February flew by!  Once wrestling season was over the first weekend of February, it was nice to be able to relax.  Ian turned 16 on February 25, and we celebrated at Texas Roadhouse with the family and his girlfriend, Kylie.  They broke up a few days later, but she is such a cutie.  (I miss her!)   Courtnie had a piano recital this month, and improved her score SO much over last year's recital.  She gets so nervous, so I was so proud of her!

We've had some family struggles in the past couple of weeks.  It is amazing how a struggles work either for us or against us.  These struggles rocked my world, but I am praying daily that this will help us grow.  Satan is alive and well, and working hard to break us.  Our children face a battlefield every single day.  Gordon and I realized that we need to do a better job providing armor for them.  It's not enough to assume they know right from wrong.  We recognize that they have their agency, and make their own choices, but that armor will hopefully deflect some of the temptations out there and keep them safer.

This month we are counting the weeks, dialysis treatments, days, and eventually hours until I can be healthy again.  I have applied for the Master's of Social Work program at ASU, and am waiting to hear if I've been accepted.  I know that this is a huge change for me, but I am excited about this new career path.  It will be two years of hard work, and a lot of sacrifice, but I feel like this is what I'm supposed to do with my post-transplant life.  I've had the "where God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window" moment, and it's led me to this point.

Once I've had my transplant, I plan on updating this better so that people know how I'm doing.  I'm so grateful for the prayers, love, and support I've received over the past three years.  I have been blessed with a sense of peace and comfort, and this has sustained me.  I'm just so grateful.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I apologize for the lack of creativity in the title of this post.  Since this will contain several thoughts, I just didn't know what to call it.

I've recently started painting my fingernails.  One could call it a minor obsession.  I never used to do this because the polish would start to chip and I'd spend the next few days chipping away at the remaining polish.   I was never satisfied with the way it looked--every wrinkle, bubble, or fingerprint would annoy me to no end.

I wish there was some sort of trick for achieving the perfectly polished fingernail.  I know--I could spend money and go get them done somewhere, but most nail techs kind of freak me out.  It's nothing personal.  Also, I don't really like to go somewhere and try to be friendly to someone I don't know while they "service" my nails.

So, I guess I'll suffer through polishing, not being satisfied, taking polish off, re-polishing...lather, rinse, repeat.

I have a Stake Primary leadership meeting on Thursday, and I'm in charge of a 30-minute break-out session with the Primary choristers.  I've tried to contact each of them, because I want them all to bring an idea to share.  Only three of the eight have returned emails, texts, or phone calls.  Frustrating.  One of them commented that she's having a hard time getting the children to behave.  This is a difficult issue for many, and I hope that I will be able to share some thoughts and ideas that will help.

I've been feeling pretty lousy the last several days.  I just don't seem to have any energy, and I am so exhausted all of the time.  Last Friday's dialysis was the worst it's been in a long time.  I dry heaved and vomited nearly the entire time.  When my stomach is upset I have to ask someone to take me off of the dialysis machine so I can use the bathroom.  This process takes at least five minutes, as they have to rinse all of my blood back and unhook everything.  When you're sick, this five minutes is an eternity.

I came home and slept the rest of the day and night.  Saturday and Sunday I stayed in bed with an upset stomach.  I wasn't able to eat much and just didn't have any energy.  I hated missing church, but I just couldn't do it.  As I was falling asleep Sunday night, the words to the song, "O Divine Redeemer" came to my mind.  As they ran through my mind, they became like a prayer for me.

Ah, turn me not away, receive me though unworthy. 
Ah, turn me not away, receive me though unworthy. 
Hear Thou my cry, hear Thou my cry, 
Behold, Lord, my distress! 

Answer me from Thy throne, 
Haste Thee, Lord, to mine aid! 
Thy pity show in my deep anguish, Thy pity show in my deep anguish. 
Let not the sword of vengeance smite me, 
Though righteous Thine anger, O Lord! 

Shield me in danger, O regard me! 
On Thee, Lord, alone will I call! 

As I approach this busy and important week, I know that I will need His help.  My prayer Sunday night became a plea to give me strength to do what needed to be done.  I woke up Monday morning feeling a little better, and actually felt pretty good after dialysis.  I'm still tired, but I'm able to eat a little again, and my strength is returning.  I'm so grateful.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Well Done

Matthew 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

I've been thinking about this scripture for the past week or so.  It has come to my mind several times, most recently while I was in the temple last week.  As we covenant with our Father in Heaven to consecrate all of our time, talents, and everything He has blessed us with to building up the Kingdom of God on earth, I wonder if I am doing all I can.  Do I rest on my laurels?  Is there more I can do?

My deepest desire is to return to live with Him and to be with my family forever.  I want to be able to see His face and to not be ashamed with how I have used the time He has given me.  I want to be able to say to Him that I have done all I can do to make Him proud of me.

I've been thinking about this time I've been given to be at home and away from work.  While it has been difficult to feel rather useless, it has also given me a lot of time for reflection.  I'm alone with my thoughts a lot!  Recently I've been evaluating my graduate work opportunities and where they will lead me.  I'm currently enrolled in the Human Relations master's program at NAU, but I don't know where that will take me in the future.  It seems more and more like a "throw away" degree.  (Not that gaining education is ever a waste...)

I was in Utah last week for my nephew's baptism.  My sister's sister-in-law was there, and we started talking about her career in social work.  I have had a good relationship with the social worker at my dialysis center, and talking to Jayne made me consider this as a possibility.  One of the aspects of my job as a teacher that I really enjoyed was building relationships with my students.  I enjoyed the times that they would come in and talk to me and I could help them with their problems.  Is this a good time in my life to take a different career path?

My patriarchal blessing tells me that I have a special heart and a gift for understanding.  My experiences and trials make make me more empathetic.  Perhaps this is the reason I am having these experiences right now.  I believe that when a door is closed another one opens.  Is this the door I'm supposed to take?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


In case you're just tuning in, we've had yet another delay.  This makes delay number 648,204 (or so it seems.)

In July, my brother Bill was here for testing to be my donor.  On the third day of testing, he got a phone call that he was not going to be able to donate as he had the same multiple artery issue that my sister Michelle had.  That same day my brother Andy called.  He said, "Word on the street is that you need a kidney."  :)

He was a perfect match for me, and came to Arizona for further testing.  He went through all four days of testing, and was told by a surgeon on the last day he was here that there shouldn't be a problem using his kidneys.  He was told that he had the same multiple artery issue, but that there was one artery that could work.  We would know for sure if he would be accepted the following Tuesday after the selection committee met.

We got a call on Tuesday and were told that the committee decided to try and find a better donor.  Andy would be a "plan B" if we couldn't find a better donor.  So--we were back to square one.

I had a few people ask for information on becoming my donor, and my Aunt Sarah is another perfect match. The next step is to see if she has the same artery issue that my siblings have.  I've fasted and prayed so hard that the perfect kidney would present itself.  Maybe this time--finally--will be it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm alone in this, and it just gets so hard.  I just want so badly for this to be over with.  I would love to not have to go to dialysis anymore.  I would love to feel good and have energy to get through the day.  I'm tired of trying to be strong all of the time.  I try to keep a smile on my face and tell myself that it's going to be okay, but it gets tough sometimes.  I just found out that the October 31 surgery date I was hoping to keep is no longer possible.  It seems like every time we have to reschedule it ends up being another three months.  I just don't want to wait that long.

A couple of weeks ago, Gordon was called to be the executive secretary to our bishop and was set apart by our stake president.  While he was in the middle of the blessing, he stopped and said that he felt impressed to bless me through Gordon.  He said that through Gordon's service, I would be blessed and that my health would be restored.  This was a powerful testimony to me that my Heavenly Father knows me and my situation.  Even though it gets hard, I know that He is guiding me and has a plan for me.  Patience is hard, but I'm learning.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Dog Days of Dialysis

Once again, it's been more than a few days since I've posted.  I think about it all of the time...thinking of things I'd like to write about, thoughts I'm having...but I never seem to get around to getting the laptop out and typing away.

It's been a rough couple of months. 

In May I had another CT scan to check the status of the arteries in my abdomen.  They have become blocked so many times in the past few years that I almost expect something to be wrong.  I have been on Plavix and Coumadin the since November 2011, and I think that is helping.  Following the CT scan, my nurse called and said that the surgeon wanted to do an angiogram to more closely evaluate the blood flow in those arteries. 

I had that procedure done at the end of May, and it was not as easy as we'd hoped.  I have so much scar tissue in my femoral artery area that the surgeon couldn't access my arteries.  He had to go in through my left arm.  Very strange.  Anyway--he didn't have any definite answers for Gordon, but said that it would be up to the transplant team to decide if we were good to go for our July 31 surgery date. 

At this time, my sister Michelle was still slated to be my donor, and had been since November 2011.  We have been waiting for my complications to clear up before we could proceed, and were finally ready to go. 

Gordon and I spent some time together over Memorial Day weekend, and I told him that I just felt that something was wrong.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but it just didn't feel right.  I even talked to him about what would happen if I couldn't ever get a transplant. 

The next day I emailed my nurse and asked her if I could just get a confirmation that we were good to go and that there weren't going to be any more hang ups.  I was so tired of getting just before the transplant date and finding out that something was wrong.  She emailed me back and said, "The doctor will call you."  Uh-oh.  He called me later that day and told me that he didn't feel comfortable using my sister's kidney any longer.  She has multiple blood vessels coming from her kidneys--something that 10% of the population has--and the surgeon really wants an ideal kidney for with one artery and one vein.  Why he couldn't have said this sooner, I don't know.  He must have seen something in the angiogram that concerned him. 

We discussed my options, and I told him that I had other possible donors.  They said that they would do everything in their power to keep the July 31 transplant date, and would try to get the testing done right away.  I called my brother Bill and asked him if he'd call and offer.  I'm so grateful that he was willing and able.  He took the blood test and was a match.

We scheduled the testing for the week before the surgery--which had been moved up to July 24!  Bill and his son Ammon flew in from Texas and the testing began Monday.  Everything was going along really well.  Bill is in excellent health, and I was so confident that things would finally work out.  Wednesday he had his CT scan.  While we were driving back to Prescott Valley from Mayo that afternoon, he got the call that he has the same blood vessel issue as Michelle, and would therefore not be a good donor for me.  I was pretty devastated.  I was just so sure this time.  What are the odds that both of my siblings would have this same RARE issue?

After crying the entire way home, and then crying some more when Courtnie met me in the garage to give me the world's biggest hug, I realized that I just needed to be more proactive.  In the past, people would offer to donate a kidney to me and I would tell them that I was taken care of.  I have six siblings, and I just knew one of them would have a kidney that would work.  After finding out that Bill's kidney wouldn't work, I knew that I just needed to start accepting the offers and letting the Lord take care of the rest. 

The following day, at least ten people called in to Mayo asking for the blood test kit.  I know that there are more people that I don't even know of who have called.  I can't believe it, and am so honored that there are people who are so willing to give.  I just feel so blessed. 

I found out Friday that my brother Andy is a match.  While I'm excited and SO grateful, I'm also a little nervous.  I just don't want to get my hopes up again.  I don't know how much more I can take. I'm just hoping that his blood vessels are compatible.

The last couple of dialysis treatments I've had have been so hard on me.  I'm not sure why, but it seems to be getting worse.  I dry heave almost the entire time, and have a splitting headache afterwards.  I feel so completely drained of energy.  Yesterday the thought came to me that it's probably a little bit like how Superman feels when he's around kryptonite.  (Not that I'm Superman, but it gives you a little better visual of how it feels.)  This "kryptonite" feeling lasts for at least 24 hours following treatment.  All I want to do is sleep.

Mostly, I'm just tired of being in this holding pattern.  I feel I can't make any plans, any promises, or have any kind of future.  I feel like an idiot every time I have a surgery date fall through.  I'm tired of telling people that it just didn't work this time.  I want to remember again what it feels like to feel good.  I don't even remember the last time I had energy to do much of anything.  I want to be a good mom and a good wife.  I know it will happen, I have faith that it will happen, I just want it to happen soon! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Parenting Teenagers

It's a scientific fact that teenagers are ill-equipped to handle their own lives.  The part of their brain that controls rational thought and seeing the final outcome of decisions is not fully developed until you are in your early 20s.  This is why they are risk-takers, are often hostile and irrational, and are extremely selfish.  It's not really their fault, it's just the way they're hard-wired.  Teaching teenagers for fifteen years has taught me that this is true.  There have been a few exceptions throughout the years, but for the most part it's fairly universal.

I thought that teaching teenagers would give me greater insight into being a parent of one--when the time came.  Boy, was I wrong.  While I theoretically know why my teenager acts the way he does, I still can't comprehend it. It seems like overnight he has gone from being a sweet, loving boy who was very sensitive to the feelings of others to a moody young man who only cares about himself (and thinks that his dad and I only exist to put limits on what he can and can't do.)

Our latest drama revolves around him wanting to go to our town's skate park.  He has friends from school who go there regularly to skateboard, but I know for a fact that so much more goes on there than just skating.  It's also located by the soccer fields where Courtnie had practice last year, and I would often sit and watch the teenagers that hung out there.  Most of them smoked, the girls dressed like hoochie-mamas, and the foul language was abundant.  I have heard that drug deals and gang activity happens there, and there are frequent fights and other unsavory activity.

Our son is a good kid--he has tried hard his whole life to make good choices and he has our trust.  While I don't believe that he would engage in the activity that goes on there, I just don't feel right about allowing him to go and hang out in that environment.  I know that I can't protect him from all of the evil that goes on in the world, but I feel like it's my job to save him where I can.  When his dad talked to him last night and presented different scenarios that could happen to him while he was there, he didn't have a clear "what would you do" answer. 

I've always hated the term "peer pressure," but I do know that it is REAL.  Even the most stalwart of youth can be persuaded to do wrong if put in a situation where they want to save face.  It's a parent's job to see situations through to their final conclusion and to help their children see that every action has a consequence.  I know that children need to learn some things the "hard way," but if I can help him avoid heartache, I would certainly like to try.

Children don't come with owner's manuals or instructions.  Gordon and I have made mistakes as parents, and I am sure we will make many more, but we are trying so hard.  Our family has been reading the Book of Mormon the past few months, and I am reading it with a different perspective as a parent.  1 Nephi was especially helpful, as Lehi deals with his two rebellious sons.  It was a perfect parenting manual, and has helped me to understand how to deal with difficult situations.  I'm so grateful for the scriptures--a solution to all of life's problems can be found therein.

So in between wanting to pull my hair out in frustration, worrying constantly, and being happy for his progress and accomplishments, we're getting through.  I love him.  I think he knows that, and I hope that some day he will look back at this time and know that his dad and I only had his best interest at heart.