Friday, December 18, 2015

The Gift Of Life

Eight months ago I began testing to see if I would be a compatible donor to give my daughter a kidney. At thirty-eight, her kidneys finally gave in to a disease called FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis Syndrome). How this happened to her is a mystery, but it showed up eleven years ago during pregnancy and continued its relentless attack until her kidneys were finally dead. As it turned out, I was a perfect match and on December 2, 2015, I gave a kidney to my daughter.

The kidney I donated has truly given her a new life. The organ began to work as soon as the surgeon unclamped the arteries he used to attach the kidney to my daughters body. After a couple of weeks, her numbers (they measure several through the blood) look like the numbers of a person with two healthy kidneys.

The interesting thing is that a kidney recipient goes into the surgery feeling bad, and comes out feeling better. The donor, however, goes into the surgery feeling good, and comes out feeling bad. Fortunately for me, and all other live kidney donors the bad feelings only last for a while.

This process caused me to think about what Christ did for us. I imagined a conversation with the Father. “Son, the world has been attacked and they are dying. The good news is that your blood is compatible. You can offer people a chance at new life. I know that right now, you feel fine. For this to work, you will need to feel bad for a while. In fact you will need to suffer and die. Don’t worry, I will raise you up and from that point you will feel better, and you can come home. I know this is asking a lot from you, but without your sacrifice, people will continue to die in sin. Are you willing to give people life?”

Amazingly, Jesus was willing to go through the process to give himself so that we may live. He had to give up a lot to become a man, suffer at the hands of his accusers, die, and be raised up on the third day. But the results were worth the sacrifice. The offer of life to those who accept it was worth everything to him.

While my sacrifice was nothing in comparison with the sacrifice that Christ made, I get a small glimpse of the love he had in giving himself. By suffering for a little while, I gave my daughter new life. That makes the sacrifice worth every bit of my temporary suffering.

The practice of live kidney donation has grown in recent years. The kidney is removed from the donor as a fresh and viable organ, and very shortly is placed inside of the recipient, changing their life almost instantly. As a compatible donor, there was never a question of whether or not I would give a piece of myself to my daughter.

I could not end this piece without challenging you to be willing to give a life-giving donation if you are called to do so. Sure, you will feel bad for a while, but in the end you will feel better than ever as you watch the organ you gave completely change the life of the recipient. In the end, you too will gain a glimpse of why Jesus was willing to go to the cross.

To read my daughter’s story follow the link:

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Second Time Around

Thirty-eight years ago, Kim and I were blessed with our first child, Katie.  Her birth was the beginning of an adventure that brought two more kids (Jim, and Carrie). Bearing children was an honor, but it is also a sacrifice. Honestly, the greatest sacrifice was Kim’s, since she is the one who went through the pregnancies. Though there were changes, and sacrifices we were honored to give our firstborn life.

Thirty-eight years have passed, and now we are faced with a new sacrifice and the honor of giving our daughter life all over again. Katie’s kidneys have been totally destroyed by disease (a disease which seems to have manifested itself when she was pregnant with her own daughter). Now on Peritoneal dialysis, Katie needs a new kidney, and I have been found to be a very good match.

In December, I will undergo surgery to give my right kidney to my daughter. They are taking the right one because my left one has already been moved around in a previous surgery, leaving it encased in scar tissue. A new kidney will allow Katie to continue to live a full life as Daughter, Wife, Mother, Special Education Teacher, and Friend. This gift will, in essence, will be our chance to give her life for a second time. The big difference this time is that our sacrifice of love will have the greatest affect on me.

The other day, after I had officially been named her donor, I found myself humming a familiar tune. How it ended up in my head, I don’t know, but I was humming it nonetheless. The tune was, The Second Time Around.

Love is lovelier
The second time around
Just as wonderful
With both feet on the ground

While the song was written about love found, lost, then found again, I recognize it as the honor of giving Katie life the second time around. To me, the sacrifice is just as wonderful the second time around. I am going into this surgery with both feet on the ground having full knowledge of the changes, and risks. It is just an honor to have the ability to give my daughter life for the second time.

If you could give your child life a second time, would you do it? If so, then you understand why I feel so honored to be able to make this commitment. Living Kidney Donor programs are changing the face of kidney disease. I urge you to research the possibilities of giving a life-changing organ to someone in need.

Here is one link:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Time Is On My Side?

I was nine years old when the Rolling Stones took to the airwaves with the slow ballad, which boldly proclaimed, “Time is on my side”. Even now, I can hear the music in my mind as though it was playing on the radio in the next room. The song was about a lost love, and the confidence of a reunion, but the line, time is on my side, became the mantra of my generation. We could accomplish anything we wanted with whatever time we desired to invest in it, because time was on our side. The world was big back then and the possibilities were endless.

Now, my children have families and careers of their own. My children’s children are growing into active kids with minds of their own. The students I taught are out in the world doing their own grown up things. The repetitious phrase, “Time is on My Side,” doesn’t feel like it’s true anymore. In fact, the opposite seems true, “Time isn’t on my side.” It is actually working against me, and I had better get on the ball, or it will pass me by all together. There are things that my limitations will no longer allow me to do. But those limitations do not hinder me from doing other (really good) things.

This is not an “I’m getting old,” lament but rather a time is precious proclamation. I read an article about men in nursing homes and the regrets they had in common. They wished they hadn’t worked so much, spent more time with their families, and took more vacations. They wished they had invested more in people and less in the pursuit of profits.

Here is what I am trying to say:

Don’t wait for lost love to return. Pursuit it.
Don’t watch life pass you by. Live it.
Accept a new challenge. It’s not too late to try.
Tell people how much you care about them. They are just as lonely as you.
Stop being held captive by bad people, and difficult circumstances. You won’t change them, so change you.
Try something new. Dare to expand your horizons.
Make a new friend. Work at making their life better.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Enjoy the sounds God provides in nature.
Know that there are still people who need what you have to offer. Find them.

Perhaps a new mantra should come from Tim McGraw’s song entitled, Live Like You Were Dying.

Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw
Live Like You Are Dying

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:15-17

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why They Don't Know

           It is hard to determine why it took so long, but I finally realized an important principle about having a disability that is not easily detected by others. Those of us with invisible disabilities know what it is like for people to overlook, minimize, or even doubt that we struggle with a legitimate disability. After all, “You look fine” is the reason for all of the confusion.
            There are two ways we can approach our disability. We make it visible all of the time by making it a primary part of our conversations, and by acting the part. Or, we only talk about it when we have to, and we try to look as normal as possible. I am one of those in the later category.
            I don’t want my issues to be the topic of constant discussion. I want to live my life as well as I can, and try things I know I shouldn’t do. It is a part of who I am and I pay a painful price for doing those things. I get tired of constantly explaining why I must be excluded from activities, or I don’t feel good today, or I need to rest, and recharge my battery (literally, I have to recharge the machine implanted just above my hip twice a week).
            It is not a matter of pride that I hide my disability as much as I do. I just don’t want to turn my issues into other people’s burden. I don’t want to put myself in the position of having people judge me, or think they can give me advice to instantly solve my problems. Then, there are the people who think they can match my issue with their own issues (which almost never stack up). Comparing Stones to pebbles rarely leads to a positive conversation, so I stop talking about my issues and spend my time sympathizing with theirs. People would rather talk about themselves anyway.
            So, here is the important principle that I have discovered. People are not very sensitive to my disability because for the most part, I don’t want them to be. Their responses are my own doing. I should not be bothered by how they respond. It is a byproduct of trying to look and act as normal as possible.

            It does bother me at times when people are not very sensitive. I can get discouraged like every other person with an invisible disability. But, I constantly try to put the whole thing into perspective. In fact, I try to be happy when people tell me that I look fine. It means that I am, in many important ways, “fine”. Their surprise means that I am having some success at being a “normal” person. It means that I have succeeded at not making my disability the main part of my identity. People who really know me understand, and are very generous with their support. To me, that is all that matters.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Emily's Thankful Leaf

I got an email from my youngest daughter the other day. The family is building a thankful tree. Every day the grandkids tell momma what they are thankful for. She then writes the words on a leaf, and they hang it on the thankful tree. On this particular day her oldest child, Emily, said she was thankful for Grandpa's new knees. What an honor to be so loved by my grandkids that they would be thankful for my new knees.

Today, I need to remember to be as thankful as my grand daughter. It is a bit more difficult to be thankful on the days where the cobalt and plastic, don't feel very good inside of my legs. The healing process takes time, and I want it to be better right now.

Being thankful is therapeutic. It takes the focus off of the pain and directs our focus on a different subject. Being thankful activates your mind, brings strength to your body, and produces joy in your spirit. How many times have you visited a person in a nursing home or hospital thinking you were going to lift their spirits only to have them lift yours. The person you visited has been through the problems and the pain. They live with it every day. Yet they decide that being thankful is a better way to live.

I remember my younger years. Back then, I could be much more thankful than I seem to be today. It is so easy to focus on the internal pain, and the problems around us. Perhaps that is a reason why Jesus held a child and said, "Unless you become like one of these, you will not enter the kingdom." Life isn't so difficult that I can't be thankful. So what if I have to sit down and wrap my knee in ice. So what if I don't have the stamina to stand on my feet for long periods of time. This pain is only temporary.

So today, I have decided that I am thankful for my life, a wonderful wife, a great family, the roof over my head, good friends, and oh yes, new knees.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Handicapped Parking=Hey, Park Here!

There is something about that blue handicapped paint on the blacktop that tells delivery people, moving trucks, and armored cars that it is ok to park in those spots. Visit any office building when a new company is moving in. They believe that the handicapped spots were designed for them, and they will occupy those spaces for days at a time.

The other day I was at my neighborhood Walgreens (my store of choice). I love Walgreens. The pharmacy department takes great care of me. Walgreens builds their stores with the door in the corner of the building. To the right and the left of the door are always two handicapped spaces (for a total of four spaces). On this day, however, there were no spaces available. On the left, a UPS delivery truck pulled up in front of the blue spaces and was making a delivery. On the right, a Wells Fargo Armored Vehicle sat in front of the spaces to make a pick up.

Were there other spaces they could use? Sure. The armored car had an angry looking guy with a gun standing outside and a stern looking driver on the inside. Would it be impossible for the third tough looking guard to walk a few feet farther to the dozens of other parking spaces? I doubt it. It must be written in their handbook that having a stern face and a gun makes one disabled.

There is a huge difference between need and necessity. Can I walk a bit farther? Yes, but I would have to take up two parking spaces because I must open the door fully in order to get my legs out of the car. How do you think taking up two regular spaces would go over?

I thought one time about pulling up in front of the armored truck and parking. Fortunately, reason won out over emotion and I did not challenge the guys with the guns. But how can we communicate to truck drivers that the handicapped spaces are not for them?

If most handicapped people are like me, I am sure we would love to be able to take the stickers off of the car. We would love to be able to ski, and run, or even to climb stairs without difficulty. We would love to be youthful like those truck drivers, but for us, it is only a dream. For them, however, it is a reality. They can walk and live an active life.  So move out of my spot and walk a little farther.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Knee Replacement Number Two

Isn't it true that once you have been through a trauma, then the next one is easier? That is what I was told, and I found comfort in the thought. Well, I just had my second total knee replacement and other than matching scars, there are very few similarities.

I met some incredible people on my trip to the hospital. Hoag Orthopedic has great employees who never stressed out on me one time. When I asked for the room to be warmer, they made it warmer until I asked them to make it cooler. This happened several times each day. I dropped a full bottle of body fluids on the floor, and they did not flinch. When I did it a second time, they were very supportive. When it happened a third time, I was sure that Maria would have given up on me. Not so. Later in the afternoon, when I called that I had dropped the urinal, they came running with towels, mops and solutions. Apparently, they had simply stationed the cleaning equipment just outside of my door. Perhaps you can picture their relief when they discovered that I hadn't filled it yet.

Amazingly, I gained nothing from my first knee that could be applied to the second knee experience. A nurse said something that put it all into perspective (The Doctor wasn't very happy with her statement, but I found great comfort in it.) She said, "Of course it hurts, the doctor nearly cut you leg completely in half. Then their are the saws, hammers and glue." Put that way, I see myself as a giant craft project.

Pain has its purpose, but once I know that something hurts, couldn't there be an off switch? That is how I would do it. But it wouldn't work, because just as soon as we experience pain, we test it again, and again to see if it is still there.

CPM machines, walkers, canes, grabbers, and elevated toilet seats are my new reality. In the end, two realities made it was worth going through. A nurse named Ray who spent a lot of time with me, asked me if I would send her some information to help her know Jesus better. The second thing is that we don't have three legs. I am done.