My younger sister Theresa was born with a kidney disease that medicine has no cure for. My dad and my brother both died from this disease. Theresa has lived with the disease for all her life and has taken care of herself as much as she could. The day came when the doctor said it is time to look for a donor for a kidney transplant. There are 5 siblings left in our family and we were all very sad to learn that it was time for us to face this. It made me very sad for my precious sister, and also scared. It took a little time to adjust to the news and calm down and give it to God. He's always there for me to talk things over with him. All the siblings agreed that we would each try to donate until one of us was cleared to give her the kidney. The youngest brother went for testing first. He wasn't able to go through all the testing and was so very disappointed. We all thought he would be the best candidate since he was the youngest of the siblings and seemed to be very healthy. The blood pressure wasn't acceptable but otherwise he was doing ok. They rejected him as a donor because of the 24 hour blood pressure results. Then the other brother who is just younger than me went for testing and also was rejected because of the blood pressure test. We were all a little disheartened by this time. Now it was my turn to go for the testing. I knew I had to be prepared for what was to come. My first thought was I need to talk to God about this. I spent time with God every day. First I wanted to know how God felt about something like this. I asked him for guidance and help to go through with this. In my heart I just wanted to do it so much for my sister, to keep her alive. I'm not ready to let go. Are any of us ever ready? I also felt like the only way at my age that I could do this would be through God's guidance and direction and his blessing. The first day I was to be in Lubbock, Texas to start the testing, I went to meet the very nice people who would be starting the testing and would take me through the whole process. Right away they took my blood pressure and it was too high. I knew it was because I was so stressed about the responsibility of what I was trying to do. I felt the heaviness of letting my sister down and not being able to donate. The wonderful ladies at the hospital were so patient. They took urine cultures and set me up to do a 24 hour blood test at home. It would be 3 to 4 weeks before I would receive the kit to do this. I came home very serious and humble. I knew I had this many weeks to be ready to do the blood test. With God all things are possible. The nurses said to watch my salt intake and continue the exercise that I always do. I began a strict regimen. I quit the salt except for very small portions at times. I restricted my diet because I knew I needed to be more particular if I was to do my best. Besides I needed to watch my diet more closely even for my own health. I began a more strict exercise schedule and worked diligently every day until the kit came. I read the instructions and called the hospital for verification of some instructions and began the test. I mailed it back by FedEx as they requested. Then the second day after I sent it back I received a call from the transplant center in Houston. She was elated and couldn't believe the results of the test. Not one time did my blood pressure go above what they required. I think the number is 130 over 80. That is as high as they will allow. She also informed me that she had never seen a test that didn't go over the limit even one time. I was so relieved that I burst into tears after hanging up from the phone call. Then it was time for more instruction from God. Ok God, you did this for me. You gave me strength, knowledge and help to do this. I was so thankful I couldn't express my gratitude to my heavenly father. Then the rest of the testing began. There were several trips to Lubbock, then more testing in my home area. Everyone that was asked to help was so very nice and wanted to do their part to help make this happen. Every test I learned a little more. I learned to remember that I had asked God to guide this journey and I saw his hand working so many times. He paved the way for things to be done quickly when normally it would have taken weeks. He made a way for me to get to Lubbock and back several times. He provided the finances and the means to do so many things. Every time there was an obstacle, he smoothed the way. It was just amazing to trust him and just go through each door knowing he opened it for me. Every step was blessed by him. Things were moving along and my employers were very understanding, giving me the time I needed to do each step. They supported me all the way even to let me know that I wouldn't be losing my vacation days and that I would still be paid. What more could a person ask for in an employer? Besides that, they are so very special to me. They go way above and beyond what the normal employer does for all their employees. Family is first with them. God has blessed me greatly having a good job and good people to work for.
When it was time to do the blood work to see if we were a match, I was very anxious. I agreed that if I was not a match, that I would donate a kidney to someone else who had a donor that was a match for Theresa. Then in return that person's donor would donate a kidney for Theresa. It was several weeks of anxiously waiting before we heard the blessed news that we were a match. The lady said "in fact you two are twins". Once again, THANK YOU HEAVENLY FATHER!!!!
Finally the panel of doctors in Houston received all the information and I tried to wait patiently for their conclusion about this. They said ok but I would have to go for one more test. I needed to go for a test to see if my heart was strong enough. There was more urine cultures and blood tests along the way also. Then I received the good news that I could donate. They would be looking to schedule hopefully for doing the transplant in July.
All the while I could tell when I visited Theresa each trip, that she was getting more tired. I felt she was struggling more to do the things she needs to do. I need to tell you about how very special my sister is. She has never once complained about her situation in all these years. She had breast cancer years ago and that was a very serious struggle for her and a long road for healing. She also now has Lupus along with all the other. She still goes to work every day, keeps a small garden and keeps up her housework and cooking. She always has a smile. Everyone who knows her, I'm sure will tell you that if you need help she will be there. To me she gives of herself to help all who need it if she is around them. She counseled numerous people who have had cancer. She listened to them and comforted them when they needed it after she went through her battle with it.
I feel so honored to be able to reach this point to do something for her. I do not deserve this honor but I am so very thankful for the privilege. I anxiously await the day I can show her how very much I love her. We both have to go and have another blood work-up and urine culture for final clearance before going to Houston. This is to make sure nothing has changed. If everything is still ok I will have clearance to leave for Houston for surgery on July 24.
July 11, 2012. I went to my doctors appointment for blood testing, urine culture and 3 blood pressure readings. As usual they were not what I hoped for. I have what is called "white coat syndrome". No matter how hard I try to not get all stressed out about the blood pressure, it always goes up when that monitor is wrapped around my arm. It was always higher during the tests in Lubbock when they would take it. Naturally that stressed me out a lot. I needed to call the person who is assigned to me for this project and let her know that I had taken the necessary steps. The doctor said it would be about 3 days before he had the results and he would fax them to her. She thanked me for letting her know, and let me know she would call me as soon as she received the results. She also reminded me that the 24 hour blood pressure test was good and that the doctors would consider that also. I am now waiting to hear what the results are and if I will be allowed to go ahead with the donation. More time with God and remembering he has guided this all the way. I need to be patient and thankful for all he has done for me. He has taught me that I need to be patient and wait upon him.
July 16, 2012 should have been the day of departure to my brother's house, and then up early on the 17th and headed toward Houston. I called Houston since I didn't get the clearance to go ahead on Friday, and had to leave a message. I then called my family doctor's office to make sure they had faxed the results to Houston. They had not faxed them so I asked if they could fax them right away because time was short. The surgeons have to study the results and give clearance to go ahead or not. At 1:00 P.M. I called Houston again to see if she had received the fax, and she was just waiting for it. It came in while we were talking. She said she would submit it to the doctors and call me with their answer. She then called me back one hour later to let me know that she had given it to the doctors and would call as soon as she could receive an answer. She said she would even call me from home tonight, if she could get an answer. If not she will call me tomorrow as soon as she could. I need to keep busy so I go for a run and talk to God. I feel better and continue to do things in preparation for leaving. I finally call my brother to let him know I won't be there when we thought. I told him that I'm not sure whether to go ahead and come as far as his house, and then if I get clearance we will be 200 miles closer and still on schedule. After talking it over I decided to just stay put and wait as my bother reminded me that there are three of us that will be able to drive. If we have to we can drive straight through. I just felt like the right decision was to stay home until I received an answer. God knows what is going on, I'll just wait on him.
I know Theresa will be leaving in the morning to meet me in Houston so now I am needing to call her and let her know what has developed. I know it will be unsettling for her as it is for me. I am really concerned for my sister. I think she is having a hard time accepting the fact that she is taking a kidney from me, and that she feels really concerned and fearful for me. I am fearful for her. I try to figure out how she is feeling deep down but she is strong and doesn't like to show emotion. I understand her thinking and I know if it was turned around where I needed the kidney, it would be so very hard for me. I just realize that all I can do it let God guide this and pray for him to help her also. Now I must go and call her and let her know that I don't have clearance yet, so she doesn't leave before we find out if I will be allowed to go. Time for prayer and to remember that God doesn't do things the way we might want or expect him to. Just as I was about to call my Theresa, my phone rang and it was Vanessa from Houston. I have clearance to go. Tears of joy after I hung up! God, you are so very good to me! I will continue this as things progress. Thank you Father.
July 16, 2012 - We left home and drove to my brother Jeff's home. We arrived at 1:00am. I found out when we arrived that all family members met at Jeff's house for dinner. Jeff had made brisket. We missed the dinner but it was really special to me that the family got together and had a great time. My brother, his wife and my nephew (Jeff's son) who is in the service was there with his wife and children waiting up to welcome us. My nephew is being transferred from Ft. Benning, Georgia to Ft. Lewis, Washington. They have 3 sweet precious little children. They are so very well mannered (you don't see that much anymore). I was so blessed to get to see them during their short visit coming through New Mexico.
July 17, 2012 - Today is a day of travel and to contemplate on the next few days. My son Robby who is in remission from cancer went to Little Rock for a pet scan last Thursday. Today he goes back for a doctor appointment and results of the pet scan. I'm prayerfully awaiting to hear the results. My brother Jeff, Charlie, (my sweet husband) and I are on our way to Big Lake, Texas where we plan to spend the night with our other brother Bobby and his wife C-Ann. I'm looking forward to seeing them. I am so grateful for the way our whole family is rallying to work together to support the two of us for this transplant. What a wonderful God we have to bless our lives with his peace and comfort everyday.
July 18, 2012- The overnight stay with Bob and family was enjoyable. Bob is a great cook. He made a new dish that was really delicious. My nephew Lonny went with me to the park for a run. Nice place for a run. We are 7 to 8 hours from Houston. I just texted Theresa. She stayed overnight in Brenham. She's very close to Houston now. I'm anxious to see her this afternoon. Our schedules begin tonight. No food or drink after midnight. We have blood tests tomorrow morning early.
July 19, 2012 - We arise early and prepare to leave for the hospital and find our way to where we need to go. Wow, I'm sure not a city girl, but whatever it takes. It's worth a little discomfort and being in a big city is a very stressful thing for me. I think I can do this. Theresa and I check in at the desk where we start the day for tests and meetings. We both have to do labs, urine tests, blood pressure, EKG, Chest x-rays etc. I'm thinking, they have checked me from one end to the other and then some besides that. I get so nervous when they come at me with that blood pressure cuff and fear that will stop the whole process. I get teased a little bit about my white coat syndrome as they call it. But as usual God helped me through. I really worried about this, because when I was home checking my blood pressure each day it was always in the area of 116 over 69. I knew it was up a little because I was so nervous about it.
Theresa's meeting with the doctors was long, lots of information to take in for her and Robert (Theresa's husband). We didn't see much of each other that day until we were through at the hospital. Robert wasn't able to walk all over the hospital as we needed to do for all the testing. He stayed in the waiting room where we came back to, each time we finished a test. It had to be hard on him but he was there to support us. Jeff and Charlie made sure we didn't go to any test without one of them being there with us, and waiting to take us back to the meeting area. It is a big hospital and stressful to find where you needed to go. Everyone was helpful when we needed directions.
I was called in for the meeting with my coordinator Vanessa. She is an awesome person and so knowledgeable. She is very dedicated to her work. Our meeting with her was great. Lots of instructions and discussion informing us as to what I would be doing, how I would be feeling and what I would and would not be able to do after the surgery. I think it was also her intention to make absolutely sure that Charlie and I were both completely ready to do this. They are very cautious about protecting every person involved in the process and making sure everything goes as smooth as possible. She really supported me throughout all the process. She is a wonderful woman. My next meeting on this day was with the anesthesiologist. This was pretty routine, check blood pressure, answer lots of questions etc. Not a big deal. We were through about 3:00 pm, and happily so. We were all tired and ready to return to our motel. We went out for dinner and had a great few minutes together and discussions about the day and the upcoming event. I could tell that Theresa was very tired and ready to get some rest.
July 20, 2012 - I had a meeting with my surgeon on the Friday morning, Theresa was free until the next Monday, the day before surgery. I had another EKG, urine test, blood pressure (nervous again!) test. The meeting with the surgeon was a comfortable meeting. He is a very good doctor and very good at what he does I'm told. He is very personable and friendly. He explains the relatively new procedure and shows us diagrams and so on. There are a few choices he gives me, and I feel like he prepares me very well for what will happen. I feel very comfortable with him. I feel like I have been well prepared for what to expect and I'm mentally ready to do this. We finish our meeting and return to our motel. Now we have three days before our surgery. To me, Theresa is very tired but is still game for whatever we decide to do. We make plans for grocery shopping, etc so we will be prepared for returning to the motel after surgery and be able to just concentrate on getting well. We don't want the guys to have to be running around doing the shopping etc later. Theresa has lost quite a bit of weight since I saw her last and her appetite is not great. I can tell she is getting worse as time goes by.
July 21, 2012 - Theresa and Robert invite us to go to the Houston Zoo for the morning. We enjoyed it and had a nice time but it was getting warmer by the minute and was so very humid. Robert is on oxygen and this wasn't easy for him, but he was a real trooper about it. By noon we were all ready to go back to the motel and cool off and rest a little.
July 22, 2012 - Time on our hands. After Bible reading and prayer, Charlie and I discuss the upcoming surgery. We are concerned about Theresa, she is hanging in there but is definitely really tired and not feeling well. We spend the day together walking some, and visiting some. Just being together is a wonderful thing.
July 23, 2012 - Theresa goes to another meeting today in preparation for the surgery tomorrow morning. At 3:00 pm, I start preparing for tomorrow's surgery. Drink the yucky stuff and nothing to eat after 5:00 pm. Theresa can eat and drink until midnight, no yucky stuff for her! Naturally it's not a very restful night. I need to be up at 3:30 am and be at the hospital by 5:00 am.. I can sleep after the surgery! I'm feeling very comforted by God during this time and completely comfortable about the surgery. He has comforted me through all of this and I feel He has it all under control. He is a much better navigator than I am.
Time to leave for the hospital. The day is finally here. I have to be there at 5:00 am. Another transplant is scheduled before ours, but we still have to be at the hospital just in case something goes wrong and then they will start ours. Theresa has to be there at 7:00 or 7:30, I can't remember which. We are taken to a waiting room to wait for several hours until it is our turn. Theresa and I are cold in the waiting room. The air-conditioning is really cranked up this morning. Jeff goes and retrieves two warmed blankets and we actually doze a little bit. Finally somewhere around noon I think, they come and get us both. We go into rooms next to each other. They start an IV, blood pressure checks etc. Several people come in and each has things they need to do to get prepared. Finally the surgeon comes in and has finished the first transplant. He is rubbing his hands together, smiling and tells me, "I'm warmed up and ready to take your kidney!" He is a very humorous person which is nice. Then he tells me it will be about another hour and he will be ready. He has to go rest a little and get some lunch before starting this one. He tells the guys they have time to go to the cafeteria and have lunch before I will be taken up for surgery. They hug us girls bye and go to lunch. No lunch for Theresa and I yet! I'm thinking, I have one hour to lay here and talk to God and be ready to go. Then 10 minutes later they come and tell me we're going up for surgery. The guys were in the cafeteria but I knew Theresa would still be there when they came back because hers would start 2 1/2 hours after they took me. Theresa later told me she could hear them when they came to get me, I didn't realize she knew it. I looked at her room as I went by and said a prayer for the both of us and felt so very thankful and humble for this opportunity. They took me up and left me by the door for a few minutes. They were finishing preparing the operating room I think. They took me in and put me on another table and asked me questions and started another IV in the other arm. I didn't wake up until around 8:30 that night from what they tell me. I remember thinking when are they going to start, I'm ready to get this done. I must have said it aloud because I heard someone say it is over now. I just couldn't believe it was actually done. I think for three days I couldn't believe Theresa actually had a new kidney. What a rush of gratitude I felt each time, I felt like God was holding my hand and saying everything is under control, she will be ok. How very humbling to be so honored to be God's worker to do something so very special. Words don't come easy at this time and I can't really describe how very humble and blessed I still feel. I don't remember much about the rest of the evening. I do remember Charlie and Jeff telling me they had to leave because visiting hours were over. I think that was about 10:00 pm. I woke up the next morning and was in severe pain. A nurse was standing over me and asked me if I was having pain. I told her I was and she quickly gave me some nausea medicine in my IV, and then a minute later she gave me pain medicine. It took effect quickly and I was out again for I don't know how long. The nausea is always a hard thing for me after surgery but they handled it very well. When I woke up again Charlie and Jeff and Robert were at the hospital. I knew I needed to get up and walk as soon as possible so I asked Charlie to help. He was helping me up and there was a knock on the door. It was Theresa! She was standing there holding on to a walker, with a person on each side of her holding her. What a great blessing to see her standing there. She beat me up for walking!!!!! From then on when we walked, we would say hello to each other when we passed their room. The doctor had prepared me that I would be in great pain for a few days and he was right. I don't know why, but they told me it was more painful for the donor than the recipient. Each time I walked it was easier. I could finally walk without holding on to a walker the second day. On Thursday morning my coordinator came to see me. She was so joyful that things had turned out well. She brought me a Tee shirt and sat and visited with us and told us she had enjoyed her time working with us. She jokingly told me that she and Monica, the coordinator in Lubbock had decided that if the doctors wouldn't do this transplant for us, that they were going to do it for us. They had both been so encouraging from the start and very supportive. Then the surgeon came by and visited with me and discussed everything that I needed to do. He said I was doing great and could be released to go to our motel, but I had to stay until the 10th of August and be close in case anything went wrong. Charlie assured him we would be there as long as they said. I was released to go that afternoon. Jeff and Charlie took me to the motel. I don't remember much about that day except that I was glad to be out of the hospital and hated being a mile apart from Theresa. She had to stay another day. She and Robert had to go through training for her anti rejection medicine. Theresa also had to have a much larger incision than they were expecting. I was also surprised at where they put her new kidney. It is in her right pelvis area. I later asked my doctor why it was so large and he said they probably ran out of room due to how large her kidneys were. Theresa as usual didn't complain a bit, she just got on with the healing and doing what she had to do. Her life has definitely changed some, but she will get better with time. My life won't change much after the healing process is over, except in my relationship with God. He has taught me so very much these last few months. That is a wonderful welcome change for me to know how much He loves me. I feel very undeserving of His great compassion and mercy. Charlie and Robert were given instructions on what to look for and how to watch for signs of trouble after we were released. We had no trouble. My brother Jeff had to leave on Thursday after I was released so he could return to work. We missed him when he had to leave, but it was so great having him there and he was such a great support for us both. One thing that impressed me during the process was that all three of the guys would go from room to room to keep supporting both Theresa and I. That was a great comfort to me.
Theresa was released to come back to the motel room on Friday evening late. I can't express my gratitude and joy that I felt seeing her coming back, and we were close together again. That meant so much to me. I didn't realize that would happen, but it was so very special to me. She was very weak physically but not mentally. Now we could rest and heal together, our rooms side by side again. Each day we would walk together as much as Theresa could handle. She was not able to get around as much as I could because of the difference in our surgeries. I would walk with her every time she was ready to walk. I would walk a lot more because I was able to. Charlie would faithfully go out with me every time I wanted to go, which was quite a bit. It was hard to stay in the room too long at a time. That tells you I was healing quickly. At this point I had two more weeks to be in Houston and that was sort of hard. Then I would think about how fortunate we were and that I should remain in a good attitude, because at least we were doing well and could go home soon. Many people there were much worse, and would be there for a long stay enduring much more suffering. One thing I noticed was that everyone we talked to or got acquainted with had such great attitudes. Some of them faced much more serious troubles than we did. We saw some situations that were so heartbreaking and sad. I ask God now to help me to always be thankful for everything. I realize how He has always taken such good care of me. He has been so patient with me during my life. Thank you God.
Theresa began to get a little better everyday. I so enjoyed our walks together and our talks. It was such a wonderful experience to see her slowly getting a little better each day. Finally the days were getting shorter to the time Charlie and I would leave to go home. I was very excited about that, but then I began to realize how hard it would be to leave Theresa. We talked about things and I hated to leave her. She had to stay a few more weeks. The day came for me to see the surgeon, and if all was well I would be allowed to return home. We went to my appointment and my surgeon was very happy with everything. One thing I should mention is that Charlie told on me for walking so much (I couldn't believe he told on me!). The doctor told me to knock it off for a few days and rest a little more. He also said Charlie gave him $10.00 dollars for him to tell me that. What a neat doctor he is and I feel I couldn't have had a better doctor. I think he really loves his work and is very good at it. I did cut out so much walking for a couple of days because it took two days to get home. We've laughed about that a few times since. When it was time for us to drive out it, was very hard to tell Theresa goodbye. She was sad too, I could tell but she is so strong. She hugged me and as always she said "Now don't cry!" So we made a pact not to cry. At least I didn't until I was out of sight. How hard it was to drive away and leave my sister there.
Now that we are back home and things are back to normal as always. I'm back to work and feeling great, and very thankful for such a wonderful privilege. I talk to Theresa on the phone every few days and would like to see her. She sounds better and is working a little. I think she will be back to full time at work very soon. Her doctors are happy with her improvement each time so far. She has to go to Lubbock every other week right now. They have lowered her anti rejection medicine three times so far which is very good. She was on three blood pressure medicines and now is down to only one. I hope they will take her off that one soon. She says she is feeling better and not so tired as she was before the surgery. My other sister and I are planning a weekend to go and see her. I'm looking forward to that so much. I look back now at everything that transpired and all the ups and downs and I can clearly see God's hand in this whole journey.
My son Robby encouraged Theresa and I to write our experiences so he could post them on his web site. I'm not much of a writer I told him but I will try. Robby is in remission from cancer and has been through so much. He has written his story so he can encourage other people. He is such a special person and very faithful to God. I am so thankful for him. Since we have been home he has gone for another scan and is still in remission. I am so thankful to God for him. I am so thankful for a wonderful husband who has been by my side for 28 years and has encouraged me through all of those years. I have learned that we have a very loving God and he will guide us each day if we will let him. Our lives will be much happier and content. He doesn't always answer our prayers in the ways we might expect, but he does answer them and He always knows what is best for us. I am so thankful for this special journey with God and thankful for his grace. I feel so grateful for the terrific people at the Lubbock transplant center. They go through a lot to make things happen. They were always there for me, and were so encouraging every time I walked in or made a call for whatever reason. Even afterward they have called and checked to see if things were ok with me. They are exceptional people and so very caring. Thank you Dawn, Monica and Amie so very much. Also Vanessa in Houston, my coordinator, was such an inspiration and worked very hard and went out of her way also to make things go smoothly and to take care of every need. She also has called to check on me and assured me that I would always be her patient. Thank you God for these wonderful people who probably aren't recognized nearly enough for their dedication and love for other people. The nurses at the hospital were always so attentive and so very kind. When God does something, He goes all the way. I had the best of doctors and the best of care. I also wish to express my gratitude and my love for my two sons who supported me completely. In a situation like this you have to consider the feelings of those you love so much. I was so proud of both of them. They never expressed any negative attitude about my decision to do this. Thank you God for them both and I really needed their support. Thanks to my wonderful loving husband (again) who continues to watch out for me and makes sure I don't overdo things. Because of his support and his love and help through every moment, he made it so much more special. God has blessed my life so very much.
Theresa's story can be read here.
By Mary Eppard