When Death Brings New Life

Well so much for getting back to a consistent blog schedule.  Last week's turn of events left me thinking very little about blogging.

Last Monday morning I received a text from my mom saying that my brother, Chad, had received THE call.  His transplant coordinator at Florida Hospital in Orlando called to let him know that they had a kidney and liver for him.

It was the call Chad, his wife, and the rest of my family have been praying for and anxiously awaiting since he was put on the list this past December.  I couldn't believe it was already happening...which was weird because at times it felt like we had been waiting forever for his new organs.

I knew what I had to do. I had to drive down there and be with him.  I had to, and I wanted to.  I promised Chad back in December that I would be there at the hospital when the time came, and I wasn't about to break that promise.

So, I threw everything I thought Brody and I might need for the week into a few bags, grabbed the laundry I had planned to wash later that day, and anxiously waited to hear from my parents that the organs were viable and the surgery was a definite.

I waited for their call as long as I could {which wasn't very long} and then I started calling repeatedly and bugging them about "what should I do?"

Apparently there were so many transplants going on that same day in that same hospital that Chad's surgery kept getting postponed.  So, until they were ready to take Chad into surgery they were unable to check the donor's organs to make sure they were good enough to transplant.  We knew they were a match for Chad, but we didn't know if they were in good shape.

It was getting late in the day {around 2:00 pm} and I had waited as long as I could.  My mom told me the doctor sounded pretty confident that the donor's organs would be just fine, and that was all I needed to hear to get on my way.  Waiting around in another state was torture, so I took my chances and began the drive to Florida.

Brody was such a trooper that day.  He didn't fuss a bit when I told him we were packing up all of our stuff spontaneously and taking a long trip down to Florida.  Instead, he was excited to see his Uncle Chad along with his Aunt Alison, Wynni, and JimPop; so he helped me gather his things and load them quickly into the car.  He is quite possibly the most flexible kid on the planet, and I am so thankful for that!

Brody and I prayed for Uncle Chad as well as our safe travels as we began our 7 hour drive to Orlando. Then we sang and laughed together most of the trip.  I must have been out of mind when Brody asked for my bottle of water.  I passed it back to him and let him sip from it as he sat quietly in his car seat.  Before I knew it, the bottle of water was completely gone.  I was amazed and laughed at him, not thinking much more of it until I heard him crying out, "I gotta go pee pee!!!"

Wouldn't you know we were miles between exits.  The next thing I knew he was saying, "I went pee pee in my diaper."

"But Brody you don't have a diaper on!"

"Oh...I pee pee in my car seat."

That'll teach me to give my child an entire bottle of water in the car!

Other than that, the trip was a breeze and Brody was an angel.  Before we knew it we were arriving at Florida Hospital...and Chad was still in the holding area, waiting for them to take him back into surgery.

I was secretly thankful for all of the delays at the hospital.  I was hoping to get some time with Chad before they took him into surgery.
And time was what we got.  I arrived at the hospital around 9:45pm and they didn't take him back for surgery until 3am the next morning.  They made the first incision at 5:15am {almost 24 hours after Chad initially got the call that he needed to rush to the hospital!}.  

Tuesday afternoon we waited around anxiously in the surgical waiting room with Alison, her parents, my Uncle Ricky, and my parents.  We had heard that all went smoothly during the surgery, but we wanted to see him with our own eyes. 

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, two and a half hours after the designated time they told us we would be able to go and see him, my dad asked the receptionist to call up to the ICU and find out what was going on.  Apparently Chad had been in ICU all that time, but no one realized we hadn't been called to come up yet.  

We were frustrated that we had waited all that time for no reason, but we were happy to finally get to check on him.  Chad was still under anesthesia and in a deep sleep at the time but we were able to take a peak at him.  

I'll never forget the way he looked with the ventilator breathing for him and tubes coming from every possible place on his body.  It was a shocking sight, even for me.  I'd seen people in much worse conditions with many more tubes and such when I was a PT student, but this was different.  This was my big brother.  

I wasn't prepared for all the tubes...especially the ventilator...but all in all he really did look good. 

By the next day {Wednesday}, he had awoken.  Soon after, they weaned him off the ventilator.  It was hard for him to talk at first, so he communicated to Alison via her iPad {which was a miracle in itself since we thought Brody had broken her iPad on Monday...it started working again the day Chad needed it to communicate!}  

Once his throat felt better and he started talking, he didn't stop!  We all got so tickled about how much he was talking.  We hadn't seen "Chatty Chad" in a really long time.  His energy level was through the roof.  It was amazing.  I had not seen that side of my brother in a really long time.  In fact, we all talked later about how we hadn't realized just how unlike himself he had become in recent years.  He had slipped from us and we didn't know it until we had the "old" Chad back. 

On Thursday, just three days after his surgery, they moved him from ICU to a regular room in the transplant unit.  Apparently, that was somewhat of a record time.  The doctors and nurses marveled at his progress.  I overheard one of them telling him that all the staff had been fascinated by his recovery.

Praise the Lord!

Each day that we went to visit him there were less tubes.  I was surprised he wasn't leaking from all the extra holes they had put in him, but somehow he managed to keep it under control. :)   

By Friday night, our last visit with him, he had only a couple of tubes remaining and he was walking laps around the nurses station.  It must have looked like a parade to onlookers as we all walked in front of, beside him, and behind him!

We each huddled by his bed and took pictures with the "new" Chad.
Well, everyone except Jonathan {who had flown in Thursday night to be with us}.  We stuck him in the corner with a mask since he had a lingering cough.  Chad's immune system is severely compromised at this point and we weren't taking any chances.  
Chad was discharged from the hospital on Monday...less than one week after his surgery.  He is currently taking 16 different medications for various reasons.  It's the usual cocktail of drugs given to transplant patients plus a few specifically tailored for him.  Our hope is that they will be able to, over time, wean him down to 2-3 medications...the "lifetime" meds all transplant patients must continue taking.

He is required to go to weekly labs at the hospital every Monday and Thursday, but I think he knows this is a small price to pay for the new life he has been given.

We are humbled by and thankful to the donor and the donor's family for making the decision to donate those organs.  Without this selfless act of kindness we would not have our talkative, highly energetic, fun-loving Chad back.  We continue to pray for the family who lost their loved one and we are sensitive to the fact that they are mourning as we celebrate.

Death truly brought new life.

I must also add that my family has been overwhelmed by the out-pour of prayers sent on Chad's behalf.  We know that his "fascinating," "remarkable," "unbelievable," and "amazing" recovery is nothing short of God's answer to those prayers.  To God be all the glory for His hand that was upon Chad through it all!
"Chief of the Medical Staff" by artist Nathan Greene, 1990

The picture above can be found hanging in Florida Hospital and has been one of Chad's favorites for awhile now.  He said this picture is the last thing that he remembers "seeing" in his head before he went under anesthesia.  Was it God's way of comforting him perhaps?  I know that many times I specifically prayed that God would guide the surgeon's hands.  I think He did just that!

8 comments:

  1. Wow how moving and powerful. I'm so glad your brother is making a recovery and his surgery went well. Best wishes to him and your family.

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  2. What a blessing for you and I pray comfort over the other family. I also pray things continue to go well with Chad. I am happy for your family.

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  3. I am so glad to finally have an answer to these prayers! Thanks for writing about it all, friend. I can't wait to give you a huge hug.

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  6. Thanks for posting this, Pum'kin. You did a great job of capturing "the moment"....and your heartfelt description of events brought me to tears, as usual....tears of joy for our "gain" and tears of sadness for the Donor family's "loss". I hope and pray that over time they will not only receive God's peace, but also get a glimpse of the joy and hope brought to the multiple organ recipients and their respective families. And thanks for giving God the credit for "our miracle".....I pray that He will receive all the Glory....may we as a family be ever mindful of the gift we have been given. We may never know why He chose to bless us with this gift, certainly we did not deserve it and can never repay Him for it...we receive it humbly and joyfully. I can't wait to see what God has in mind for Chad in the future...praise Jesus forever! JimPop

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  7. What a truly beautiful blog. I am forever amazed by your family and its ever present love and devotion to God. Continue with this blog, its your calling and I a follower!! xoxoxo Sabrina

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  8. I finally got the chance to read this post! Beautifully written. You are an amazing sister Lauren. What a blessing Chad has in you! It was an honor to intercede before, during and after this whole process! To God be ALL the Glory!! Love you!

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I L.O.V.E each and every comment. Keep them coming!

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