A lady died last week here at the dialysis clinic.
I had about an hour left to go when I saw this lady walk in for her treatment. She was about 55-60 years old and had only been in a couple of times so far. About 15 minutes later I hear the nurses saying something about calling 911 and within a few minutes the fire department guys had shown up and within 10 minutes the EMT's had arrived. I couldn't see what was happening because the lady was seated in a chair behind me. About 30 minutes later they were wheeling her out in front of me, doing CPR. But I had a feeling she was already gone. That was verified at my next treatment. The lady had passed away immediately of a heart attack(she had serious heart issues) and was gone before they took her out of the clinic.
It was a sobering moment for me. It shook me up a little. I have only seen dead people at funerals. I have never seen anyone who has recently passed away. And so my mind wandered...
I thought about the overlap of the spiritual and the physical. It was weird to think that just 50 feet from me the spirit of this woman left her body and I wondered where it went. And then I envisioned all of the rest of us just sitting here with our spirits hovering inside our pitiful bodies, just waiting for I AM to say "It's time."
I thought it was my time two months ago. It was a sobering time as well. Knocking on death's door wasn't my plan, and apparently wasn't God's plan either. But I'll be at that doorstep again sometime. I would love to say that I was knocking on that door with a smile on my face knowing I was being escorted into eternity with Jesus. But I wasn't smiling. It was scary, and I didn't want to die. I thought of all of the things I wanted to do yet, like spend time with my family and friends as well as see all of Spain become true followers of Jesus.
Many people casually throw out the phrase "well, any of us could die at any time." And while that is definitely true, there are some of us that hang around this reality with visual reminders all the time. You know who you are. There is the cancer surviver. You've been through chemotherapy, lost your hair, been given the shocking percentage of your chances to survive. There's the war vet. You live with the reoccurring nightmare of when your buddy fell at your side and you know it could have just as easily been you. How about the parent who has lost a young child? You can still smell her and you think you hear her crying. She looked just like her older sibling and it's difficult to live with. And what about that new widow. That word shouldn't even apply to someone of your age. Every day you think about the death of your husband and wonder if it was real. After all, you never asked for a "new normal."
It's enough to take your breath away or drive you crazy.
I'm just thankful that Jesus makes it bearable.
**Dialysis Diaries: These are entries written while sitting in dialysis. I am thankful for wifi and for a chance to get my blood cleaned out at the same time. At this is what I look like the majority of the time.
Now, on to more important matters. Some of you are just now jumping in on this transplant journey with me, and some of you have been around for the duration. No matter where you find yourself on the information train, I hope that this entry blesses you.
Ten years ago I found out that my kidneys were failing. I was working at Kentucky Christian University and was told that I would have 5-10 years of function with my kidney before needing a transplant. Because my original kidneys were over-achievers, they failed more quickly than anticipated and I found myself on dialysis in May of 2005. A month later I received a transplant from Susie. Susie had been an intern for me in Venezuela and was currently a student at KCU. She was in my small group and wanted to give me her kidney.
The transplant did not go as either of us expected. I remember waking up from surgery with several doctors around, talking and looking at a monitor as an ultrasound was being performed. I was super groggy, but I do remember clearly when one of the doctors said "we have to get it out of there." The kidney had clotted off, and was no longer able to function inside of me. There was no rejection nor did my body build up any antibodies against it. So back to surgery I went.
I woke up to a situation of which, to this day, I consider to be one of my worst days ever. I had been intubated, which means that I had a tube down my throat. Let's just say: I'm a gagger. So it was torture. I was given the choice to receive meds that would help me sleep for a few days, or I could stay awake all night trying to improve my breathing and try to get my lungs strong to get the tube out. For me it was a no-brainer. During that time I had visitors come in and out, but the most impactful was when I looked over and and saw sweet Susie walking in the door. Remember: She had just been through surgery too and so she had the hospital gown on and was connected to a pole in order to receive IV fluids. Her mom was helping her walk in to see me. Our exchange was limited because of my inability to talk. I don't want to share what Susie said to me in those moments because I want to keep it between us. But I remember using every ounce of my energy to try and avoid weeping which would cause serious gagging. We have talked off and on over the years about our situation and how we felt during that time. To put it simply, we shared a broken heart.
We have remained good friends and I have been encouraged to see how God has blessed her life: she and her husband lived on the mission field for the better part of a decade and they have been blessed with 4 beautiful children. My life is better because Susie is in it.
Back on dialysis I went. Over the next 6 months I continued on dialysis. I was recovering from the failed transplant and preparing for transplant #2. And on December 15, 2005 I received a second transplant from a guy named Scott:
Scott was a Social Work professor at KCU at the time, and he felt like God had led him to donating his kidney. He had talked it over with his wonderful wife, Nora, and their two girls and they all decided that it was something he should do. (I have to give a big shout out to Nora here, because she apparently kept him focused on those days when he wasn't too keen on donating) ;) The second transplant went off without a hitch and in 10 days I will celebrate 9 years with Scott's kidney. He and Nora have continued to bless my life and I enjoy a special relationship with them because of his sacrifice. This usually includes mexican food. ;)
I think about Scott and Susie all the time. I am alive because of their sacrifice. When I think of them this verse comes to mind: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13. Scott and Susie risked their lives to save mine. Their actions have shined light on Jesus' sacrifice for me. They have represented Christ in their actions, and I am forever grateful.
It's weird to me to think about going through this process again. Another donor. Another transplant. It's kind of surreal. And honestly, I haven't really processed it yet. It's a lot to take in. A lot to ponder. A lot to accept.
I don't know who the next donor will be. I understand that several people have called in to be tested. That blows my mind. I look around here in the clinic and see people who will be here until they take their last breath. People who aren't eligible for transplants. And here I have people lined up to give me their kidney. I know it's because it's what Christ is doing in their lives and not really anything that I have done. Which makes grace that much sweeter.
Scott and Susie, thank you. And I pray that God continues to bless your lives in unbelievable ways. I will always be a testimony to your graciousness, kindness, sacrifice, and love.