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The End

Some of you reading this may know that years ago, when my dad was sick, I wrote a blog. He wrote a blog too. It was mostly about his/our journey through the process of liver transplantation. I think both of us needed some sort of outlet, a way to process, a way to stay sane… Or at least mostly sane.

For other readers, you will be surprised to learn that I ever blogged at all. Some of my old blogs may be even more surprising than the fact that this site exists.

Either way, its been more than 3 years since my last post, so why write this post and why now? Two reasons – (1) it has always bothered me that this story was left unfinished, but I didn’t know where to pick back up or how to end it – (2) I think I finally know what I want to say. First we need to catch up on the last three years. As Inigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride “Lemme explain… No there is too much. Lemme sum up.”

When my dad was sick everything was about getting him to surgery and getting him healthy. After surgery there was a big push for him (and me I suppose) to recover. After recovery there was a feeling of “what now?” Turns out there was a whole lot of “what” waiting for us around the corner. During the transplant process and during recovery I started talking to a girl (every good story has a girl). In fact, we talked through FaceTime the night before the surgery even though we had never met in person. Eventually I got to meet this girl and like every good story there was fireworks and romance when we met (no really, we met on 4th of July). We met on July 4th and on July 5th I told my dad I was going to marry this girl… and I did. There was a little more to it than that, but its a different story for a different day.

After the surgery not only did I find a girl, the girl, the one, but I along the way I decided to change careers. I had been in graduate school working towards a PhD. I liked it, but something was missing. Laying in my hospital bed the day after surgery, I watched the doctors go on rounds and  I thought “man, I wish I had gone to medical school”. Then I thought “Its probably not too late to do that?” Then I decided “Yea, I’m going to try and become a doctor!” I went back to NYC and my PhD program and told them I was leaving to become a doctor (or at least MD doctor vs. PhD doctor). Fortunately, the program directors and my boss at Weill Cornell were great people and instead of kicking me out the door immediately they worked with me to help me achieve my goals. I delayed medical school for a year and they helped me finish my PhD early! It was a blessing and sort of a miracle.

So now I have a wife and a degree and I’m gonna be a doctor. All caught up, right? Well sort of… One more big change happened in the last 3 years… Actually it was in the last 3 months. This guy was born!

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That’s my son, Calvin James Linscott. My wife Kristen and I have always wanted a family more than anything, so when we found out we could expect a little something extra this Christmas, we were elated. Being new parents has brought a lot of changes. Mostly good changes, some expected changes, and some that were sort of expected, but that we could never understand until we finally met Calvin.

If you’re like me,  you grew up hearing things like “You’ll understand when you have kids of your own” or “You won’t know real love until you have a child”. I guess I sort of believed people when they said these things. I didn’t really have reason not to, but I certainly didn’t understand what they meant. At least not until December 28th at 7:37 PM. If you’re a parent you know exactly what I mean. You know how your whole world changes in an instant. Its weird. I don’t really have a better word for it. I guess I could pull out a dictionary and search for a 10 cent word to better describe it, but I doubt I’d find the right one.

Let me explain what I mean by “weird”. When I first held Calvin there was instantly this connection. I knew that from now on his needs would always come before my needs and that I would do everything in my power to give him the best life possible. Yet at the same time he was a perfect stranger. I knew absolutely nothing about him. I didn’t recognize his face, I didn’t know his smell, I didn’t know his personality… nothing. Yet our connection was so strong. How? I remember thinking at one point, “Is this how my parents felt about me?”

If you remember, when my family originally found out that live liver donation was a possibility, my parents looked at my siblings and I and said “We’ve talked and we don’t want to let any of you be the donor.” At the time, I thought they were crazy. I thought if there was any opportunity to save my dad, we were taking it! Years later though, holding my son, I stopped and thought to myself “I get it.”

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It has been almost 4 years since our surgery. The disease that once consumed our lives has been put in its place. Its still there, haunting us in a different form. Surviving an organ transplant brings life, but also an ever-present risk of infection or rejection. If you’re a survivor who has someone else’s body parts inside of you, you know the feeling. This summer I worked with patients who have an inherited kidney disease called autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). Those who have the disease almost universally require a transplant. Post-transplant many do extremely well. I met people 15+ years out from surgery. In the eyes of the world they have conquered their disease, but in their eyes I see that persistent little shadow of doubt that lingers behind. Its the shadow that has them holding their breath when they have their blood labs drawn. Is everything still functioning properly? It has them closely following their temperature when they feel sickness coming on. Is this the flu or something worse? My dad has to deal with this to a much greater extent than the rest of the family. It wears on him. It stresses him out. He tries not to let it, but once you’ve been through hell I can’t imagine the average person wouldn’t flinch at the thought of having to go back.

Still, at this point the memory of surgery and sickness doesn’t come to mind every day. There are days that are “normal”. The type of days that we longed for when he was sick. The day I met my son wasn’t a “normal” day though. I found myself thinking about our surgery, I thought of the pain I felt when I woke up, I thought of how scared I was to lose my dad, and I thought of how willing I was to do anything to help him. I had these thoughts because really what I was thinking was how desperately I pray that I will be a good enough father to my son that he would have no hesitation if he were asked to do the same for me. Once I started thinking about everything my mind continued to wander further and deeper. I

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and some of you know how important my faith is to me. Some of you don’t. It kills me to think that sometimes my life is so far from reflecting what I believe that people who I call friends wouldn’t know that I am a Christian, but I recognize that it is likely a reality. If you don’t want to know about my faith, if its not your thing, I get it. The world we live in is broken. Its chaotic. Its imperfect.  Inside our broken world people use religion for all kinds of twisted things. They use it for politics, they use it for business, they use it to push their personal agenda. Do me a favor though, since its Easter and all, read on because I don’t want to talk about religion (or politics), I want to talk about grace.

Since our transplant, Easter has been an emotional time for me and it is because of grace. Let me contrast the story I’ve been telling through this blog with the one that will be told tomorrow morning. When I found out there was something I could do for my dad, I was relieved. Why? Because it is so hard feeling like there is nothing you can do to help a sick loved one. Being a donor was an easy decision for me. Why? Because my dad deserved to live and I wanted him to live. He deserved a piece of me and he would have given anything for me if the shoe was on the other foot. I took a small risk to save one man who deserved to continue living.

The story I will listen to tomorrow is one I have heard many times, but one that has struck a deeper chord each year. It is the story of the death that Jesus chose to die for me and had to die for me, because I am imperfect. I am imperfect to the greatest extent of the word. I can’t even manage one day of perfect, never mind a lifetime of perfect. I do not deserve for someone to die on my behalf in order to make up for my imperfections and I certainly cannot make up for these imperfections on my own. This is why I find grace to be so astonishing. Grace takes care of all my imperfections and most amazingly it is free of charge, no money down, guaranteed.

It is the fact that grace is so impossible to achieve by my own actions that I am so amazed by its concept. I watch us as Christians trying to earn our grace and I can’t help, but be amused by how silly it is. Imagine you walk by two people. One is standing on his tip-toes reaching his hands as high in the air as possible. The other has climbed up on a chair and is doing the same thing. You ask the first person what exactly they are doing, and they say “I’m reaching for pluto!”. Before you can even ask the second person they butt in “Me too and look I’m closer”. This must be how silly we look to God. Reaching for what we can never earn on our own, sometimes even competing to see who can get closer. We look at the person standing on the chair as if though they’re special and are distracted from the fact that grace is entirely free to us.

It is free to us, but it came at a great cost. There have been a few times where my dad (as a pastor) has used our story as an analogy. He talks about how I laid down my life so that he could live. How I was scarred so he could be healed. I understand what he is doing and how it can work as an analogy. I appreciate the gesture, I really do, yet I can’t help but cringe inside when the comparison is made.

This Friday I sat in a church, in front of me a cross, a reminder of the horrible suffering that Christ went through. I thought of the comparison between my story and his story. I went to sleep on the operating table assuming I would wake up shortly after. I woke up holding a glowing button that I could push it in order to release pain medications that would reduce my suffering. I was scarred to save one of the people I love most in the world, a man who absolutely deserved the gift I was able to give. Jesus went to the cross knowing he would not wake up the next day, but 3 days later having died and then conquered death. He was beaten and bloodied then hung to a cross in excruciating pain, no morphine button sight, just a sponge with some old wine. He gave everything to me, to you, to all of mankind even though we had done nothing to deserve it. He did it because that is how great the love of our father is for us. His sacrifice the only way that our imperfectness could be fixed. His grace, given freely.

I have only started to understand how great the love of a father is for his children. While I am thankful, I am still baffled by grace. Sometimes I recall a moment that has stuck with me through the years. When jokingly asked “what is the purpose of life?” a friend replied simply “chill with God”.  Tomorrow I will be thinking about grace, thankful for the peace that comes with knowing through that grace we have the chance to chill with God. This blogged has reached its end and although it ends here, our lives do not.  The experience has transformed and shaped our lives. The sixty percent I gave was enough to save my dad and I would gladly do it again. However, it is only because of the one hundred percent that was freely given to us all that I am who I am today.

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Definitions

What defines you? How do you define yourself? The questions appear similar at a glance, but they can be entirely different. This is something that has been on my mind for a few days now. Lately the more something stays on my mind, the more likely it is to end up on paper. Virtual paper at least. Back to the question(s) at hand. What defines you? Is it the things that you do? Is it your perceptions of yourself? Or is it something entirely different?

I find that being defined by the “what” isn’t always bad, but it does need to be kept in check. I believe actions speak louder than words. I know that the things I do will partially define me. However, I think the “what” often defines me more in the eyes of others than how I define myself. I’ve recognized this since early on in life. The context where I develop relationships with people affects how they see me. When I was younger this meant that I was either “the weird homeschooled kid”, or “the kid who hits homeruns” (my athletic career peaked at 12). In jr. high and high school I kept the weird homeschool part of me, but added other taglines. I was now also a “friend from church”, an “athlete”, and before long “aren’t you that guy in a band?”. See, in every context I made friends and connections that were special, but in each situation I wonder how I was perceived? I recognized that all these different aspects of my life contribute to who I am, but do any of them define me? As a whole person?

Unfortunately there have been times where I have let the “what” define me entirely. Last summer was a prime example. I let myself get caught up in being defined as a “scientist”. It was far too easy actually. At the start I saw it in a positive light. I was working long hours, but I told myself it was because I was motivated. That’s a good quality right? I got a taste of success and the number of hours I worked continued to grow. Still not necessarily a bad thing though… That is until the lab became my priority, my life, and what defined me. I don’t know when the transition occurred, but soon lab was my excuse and reason for everything. My excuse for not hanging out with friends? “I have to go to lab”. When I was in a bad mood? “Things just aren’t going well in lab right now”. Why I was tired, insensitive, and selfish? “I just have to focus on lab right now, it’ll end soon”.

It did end. I wish I could say by my own doing. A sudden realization that I was missing out on what counts, but it was actually something else. I got scooped. Basically what that means is that at the time we were preparing to publish my results and findings, another group published the exact same thing, but before I could. All of that time, all of the work, and know what I got out of it? A bunch of clear tubes in a freezer that I haven’t touched in months. I was crushed. You know why? Because I was being defined by my work. It was clear from my actions and my decisions who I was, I was “a scientist”. That’s not how I want to live. Even if I hadn’t been scooped, know what I would have gotten from all of that? My name on a piece of paper. A piece of paper that few would ever read and even fewer would care about. That’s would have been my reward for being defined as “a scientist”.

If being defined by the “what” is bad, then “defining yourself” must be the way to go, right? Again, I feel like this is a double edged sword (side note: isn’t a single edged sword just a big knife? I’ve never really understood the phrase). In a healthy light “defining yourself” may present an opportunity to outline your priorities and your values. Sadly, our human nature makes it so that even these well intended thoughts often end up being misdirected. At least mine does. I want to look at my composite parts and determine what is most important. I want to collect my thoughts and know that what makes me “Josh Linscott” is actually a combination of: the things that I do, what I believe, how I feel, and ultimately how that translates into actions. Often though I end up instead defining myself by my desires, my failures, and what I think will impress others.

That seems like a conflicting list doesn’t it? How do I define myself by my failures and what I think will impress others? Maybe that’s the root of the problem. When I “define myself” to others I don’t have to reveal all my thoughts, but regardless of how hard I try I can’t hide any thoughts from myself. On the inside I end up conflicted. A lot of this spills over from my recent experiences. For the last several months I’ve been defining myself as “the kid who’s donating his liver” and that’s also how I’ve been defined, but that chapter in my life is mostly over. So now what? This experience will forever be a part of me and part of who I am, but I don’t want it to define me.

I guess at the heart of it that this is really what this blog is about. Over the past year the “what” has defined me as “the guy who has a sick dad” or “the guy who is donating his liver” and for awhile that’s how I’ve defined myself, but that’s not who I am! It seems like who we are and how we see ourselves should be entirely obvious. Yet its not. Who we are is a complex sum of parts, actions, beliefs, and experiences that makes a singular identity. That identity is so complex that sometimes we miss out on its base elements. Have you even talked with a friend, told them a strength you admire and had them give you a questioning look of astonishment? One of the things you value most, they can’t even see. To them, this quality is so innate they don’t even see it. They don’t acknowledge it as a strength, but its defines them none the less.

At the end of all this babbling I’m less sure than ever that this is even coherent, but I’ll try and summarize. I don’t want to be defined by a what. Not a career, not an event, not a single line generalization like “the guy in the band”. I want to define myself, but I screw up even that. Instead what I’ll do is try to compile my parts, and my actions and ask “Do I want this to define Josh Linscott”. Honestly, right now there are some things that are part of me that I don’t want defining me, but luckily there others that I do want to define me. I realize that I’m not complete, but a work in progress. One of the things that defines me is I believe that God is out there and he has a plan for me. I believe that even though I’m not complete and at times I’m actually quite broken, that he accepts that and loves me the same.

Let me rephrase the question. How are you defined?

 

 

p.s. One of my parts is music. It allows me to create, think, and reflect. This is a song I recorded last week that helped lead to this blog. http://www.myspace.com/joshlinscott/music/songs/i-39-ll-take-your-broken-heart-88376272

I’m Illuminated

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   My first real memories of post-surgery came on Tuesday. I woke up as I was being wheeled to Lahey 6 central room 01. By the time I was settled in my room I was somewhat coherent and at least aware of my surroundings. There to greet me, again, was my head nurse Denise. The first question she asked me was “What is your pain level?” In a lot of hospitals now they use a 1-10 point scale to help better manage patients pain. I had to think about it for a second “6? no, 7”. “Press the green button” she said. This was my introduction to a PCA (patient controlled anesthesia) pump, a magical green button that you can press whenever it illuminates in order to release medication to ease your pain.

   The next questions were “How do you feel? Is this about what you expected?” I said I felt ok and that it was about what I expected, but in my head what I thought was “IS THIS WHAT I EXPECTED!? You said it would feel like I got hit by a truck, but it feels like I got hit by… oh ok, yea this is about right then.” In all honesty there is no way to describe the pain you feel those first few hours of consciousness. Everything is wrong, everything hurts, and to top it off suddenly you’re too weak to do things like sit yourself upright. Man, that was a weird feeling. When I was an athlete a lot of my life was about building core strength. So when you suddenly wake up one day and can’t move your own legs to the side of the bed, it’s an odd sensation. At the time it was miserable. Thinking back now though, it was certainly worth it given the trade off.

   Tuesday was the first day I really remember visiting with family. Mom, Shara, Jake Groom, and Aunt Gloria were all there. I’m sure I wasn’t very entertaining. I think I fell asleep about every 30 or 40 minutes. I do remember at one point Shara discovered a program on my TV called “Puppy Party”. It was exactly what it sounds like. A quick push of the magic green button and all those puppies equals hours of entertainment. It was early evening when my nurse came in to give me meds and check vitals. Seemed pretty routine until she said “Alright, time to get up and go for a walk”. Ha, good one. A walk. Sorry I had surgery yesterday. As it turns out she wasn’t kidding. She helped move my legs to the side of the bed, then helped get me standing and soon I was half pushing half leaning on my IV drip as we made a half lap around the recovery floor.

   A day after surgery and I was walking around. That’s amazing to me. The human body is just absolutely incredible in the things it can do. The best part of walking around was that I walked to dad’s room. Even though people told me he was doing ok, I really wasn’t settled until I saw him for myself. Seeing him made me feel much better. The first time that he walked to my room I felt I could finally relax and breathe. From there things went pretty quickly. Soon I’d figured out a way to sort of throw my weight and push off the bed to get up on my own. I was moving around a little better and starting to feel somewhat myself. Although apparently I wasn’t completely myself because a few weeks later Shara told me “Well, mom and I knew you felt pretty terrible because you weren’t even flirting with the nurses.” So apparently this is how my family measures my health, how much I flirt. Which personally I find preposterous and ludicrous, and it hurts me deeply. Thursday the docs came in and told me I’d be released on Friday. Again my first thought was that they must be joking. I wanted to say “Don’t do it, I feel terrible!” I was still only eating apple sauce and jello. I felt better, but I wasn’t ready to be  out was I? 

   I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. After all, they told me before surgery that they kick the donors out as soon as possible. They’ve found the longer you stay in the hospital the more you act like a patient. As it turns out they knew what they were talking about. Friday I was discharged. I was feeling pretty good. I walked myself out of the hospital. Partly because I was feeling up to the challenge and partly because I can be a little bit proud at times. I hate showing weakness. When the doors opened to the outside and I walked into the sun nothing could have made me go back to my hospital room. That fresh air was the best medicine I’d had all week.

   All in all my hospital stay was rather unremarkable, but I’m thankful for that. When it comes to hospitals, boring and routine is more than alright by me. After being discharged they have patients stay in a nearby hotel to make sure everything is ok before you go home. The hotel is nice because it gives you some semblance of returning to normal life, while also providing comfort in knowing you’re just minutes away from medical professionals. That weekend (might have been more like the first week?) I was visited by several close friends. Dan came the first night and admired my scar while listening to my stories as I tried to fight sleep. Becca visited and brought gift baskets full of entertaining little games, inside jokes and books for both dad and I, just like the teacher she is. Lisa came with cookies and stayed to make dinner for me and my mom, who was exhausted by this point. Meghan and Leigh took me out to dinner and we ate, laughed, and reminisced about summers of old spent at IDEXX.

   As is the reoccurring theme in this story, loved ones were there to take care of me when I didn’t deserve it and had nothing to give in return. I’ve forgotten a lot of details about what happened after surgery now that we’re almost 3 months out, but I’ll certainly not forget all the people who were at my side as I recovered. Even this past weekend a group of friends gave me a welcome back party (I’d been back for almost a month, but its the thought that counts) and card which made me a little more emotional than I expected. In my eyes my friends are sort of like the PCA I had in the hospital. Life comes and goes and my personal pain level fluctuates on a scale of 1-10. One day I might feel like a 1 and seemingly the next my heart hurts like its a 10. In those times though it always seems like one of my friends is there illuminated at my side saying “hey let’s get that down to a 7”. I don’t know your struggles, and I don’t know your pain level or if there is someone at your side trying to help. If not this is me saying “I’m illuminated for you, lets talk.”

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Open Doors

These posts have become less and less frequent, but there is a reason why. I tend to write when my heart and mind are full. Its a release for me, a way to process, and its a lot cheaper than a therapist. Before dad and I had surgery in May I was writing every day. I wrote because it was all I could think about. Getting through the surgery was consuming my entirety, so of course I wrote about it frequently. The fact that the blogs come slower these days is a blessing. It means there are other things in my life that can occupy my thoughts from time to time. I’m getting to the point in this episode where the focus of every conversation I have isn’t about surgery or livers or how sorry everyone is for me and I like that.

Ironically after starting like that, dad is back in the hospital today. He has a fever from an infection, they’re going to drain and abscess on his intestine and check some other stuff as well. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little worried. I can’t wait to be done with these unplanned hospital visits. When I told a friend about this yesterday her response was “I’m so sorry”. My response? Don’t be. Sure there have been some tough times this past year, but I prefer to focus on the good times of in the last few months. Since the spring I’ve completed my comprehensive exams, I was confirmed as a donor for my dad, we had surgery and it went smoothly, we have both started to recover, I got spend time in Maine with family and friends, I was part of a wedding for a dear friend, I feel as good as if I’d never had surgery, and I had the opportunity to meet someone who put a spark back in my eye. That’s three lines of blessings that have happened since March. Things are looking up and life is good. God is good and I’m excited for the future.

However, I’m also scared. See, the past year of my life has been focused on getting to surgery and coming out the other side. Through the whole thing I put on my brave face, determined to show no fear and no sign of weakness. It worked, I fooled everyone… including myself. Although its true I was never afraid before the surgery, since then I’ve found that some of the emotions are catching up on me. In the last blog, writing about the morning of the surgery the emotions that came back to me were overwhelming. I cried, I shook my head in disbelief, and I thanked God for how far He’d brought us from that point. Now I’m finding some other emotions, thoughts, and feelings are catching up on me. Real life stuff. A lot of things got put on the back burners this last year. I figured they could be dealt with later. It seems like later has finally arrived.

As I was recovering I had a lot of time to think. As early as the hospital I couldn’t shake this one thought, this small voice in my head that kept asking me “Are you doing what you want to do? Is this what is going to make you happy?” It seems like the answers to these questions should be fairly clear. It is my life after all, why would I do anything apart from what I want and what makes me happy? I found that I couldn’t look in the mirror and answer these questions. I just wasn’t sure. And I was shaken by that fact. I come off as a cocky confident person, like someone who has it all figured out and suddenly here I am completely unsure about the decisions I’ve made. If this were a fictional piece of writing, this is where there would be some breakthrough that I could tell you about, where it was revealed to me exactly what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Life doesn’t work like that. I have no breakthrough, instead I have questions.

I believe God has a plan and that his timing is perfect, but that doesn’t mean I can just walk through life with my eyes closed and everything will be ok. I believe that he can open the doors to the paths that I should walk, but I don’t believe he will push me through those doorways, it is up to me to take the first steps. Right now I worry if I’m looking hard enough at some of these doors. I’m worried I’m standing in a room with my eyes closed saying “I wish God would intervene in my life” and meanwhile there are open doors in the room with huge flashing arrows that say “this way dummy”. He’s opened doors and I’m too scared to go through them. Although I’m not sure if I’m happy now, I feel pretty safe and I think that keeps me from looks harder at the doors. A new career would be terrifying. What if I’m not accomplished enough to do what I want? What if I get rejected? A new relationship is even more terrifying, who is going to put up with me and my baggage? What if they break my heart or I break theirs? Nope, much safer to just sit in this room with my eyes closed… Through this blog I’ve talked about certain goals I have for becoming a better person. One major goal is to love on other people, especially those who are hurting. Another has been to do a better job of living this faith I claim to have. I think the third one has become to look for open doors. To ask God for guidance, to not to sit in a room with my eyes closed wondering where I’m supposed to go and to step through the doors when he opens them.

I don’t know if you’re still reading this blog (I don’t really know why you even started, but that is a topic for another day), but if you are I promise I will finish the story that led to “thesixtypercent”. In the meantime though, would you think with me about what it is you’re doing? Are you happy? If you’re not sure, lets look around and see what doors God has opened for us. Peek in and see where he might be leading us. If you are on that sure path, how’d you get there? How much do you still doubt? Your comments would be much appreciated.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Is it water on the knee?

I guess I should probably start this off with an update since almost 6 weeks have passed since my last entry. The update is life is good! I got back into the city this week and am getting back into the swing of things. Likely at this point many of you have heard from some other outlet that the surgery went well and both dad and I are healing marvelously. I want to say that the thoughts, prayers, warm wishes, and support we received was overwhelming. Literally overwhelming, I didn’t respond to each of you as I had hoped in the rush of things. If I missed you, let me say thank you. Truly, thank you all.

My plan in writing again is to resume from where I left off. Telling this story about my dad, his liver disease, and the chance I was given to help. I want to carry this story to completion as both a release for me and potentially as catharsis for those of you who are still reading. If I’ll continue to write after that I have yet to consider, but that sounds like a problem for future Josh to figure out (+2 points if you get the reference).

   I woke up to darkness after what seemed to be minutes of sleep. It was 5 AM, but I wasn’t tired. The adrenaline rush of realizing “the day” had finally come far surpassed my fatigue. We loaded into the cars and drove made the short drive from our hotel to Lahey. While the rest of the family parked the cars, dad and I went to check in for surgery. The hospital was essentially empty. There aren’t too many 6:00 AM appointments to get blood drawn, I suppose. While I was pushing dad in a wheelchair around the hospital I had a sudden realization. I’m terrible at driving a wheelchair. I think I pushed him into a few doors, a wall, and maybe a few other things. Luckily we managed to avoid any major accidents.

Shortly after checking in they had us report to surgery. While we waited we tried to make some small talk, take our minds off of things. Its tough to come up with a topic that is more distracting than the thought “Hey, someone is going to cut you open in a few hours” (that should be read comically). I was called in first, through a set of formidable looking double doors to a little fishbowl room where told me “take off your clothes and put this on”. So much for the romance I’ve come to expect from Grey’s Anatomy. They didn’t even buy me a dinner first…

After I had changed into my johnny they pulled back the curtain so that family could join me. Mom, Shara, and her husband Jake (not to be confused with my little brother Jake) came in first, my Auntie Gloria was with dad and would visit later. None of them were looking particularly excited, it was about to be a much longer and trying day for them than it would be for me. The first thing I told them was “I love you guys so much and no one could ever replace all the love and memories you’ve given me.” At least I think that’s what I said. Shara claims I said “I’m not wearing any underwear.” It is up to you to choose who you’ll believe… Some nurses came to take my vitals (the first time of 302,407 that would happen that week) and had me sign some final paperwork and then I got to cross the hall to see dad. In his room we continued to make small talk until a nurse came to say it was time to prep me for surgery. It was time to say goodbye.

Except not really goodbye, I’ve always prefer “see you soon” over “goodbye”. As we shared a hug and I kissed him on the top of the head I realized I had been duped by Hollywood. This parting was too quick and nearly dramatic enough. I don’t know what I expected exactly, maybe some type of wide-angle shot with my family surrounding us, our doctor looking on, and a slow motion zoom into our embrace before cutting to black? This was far from that picturesque scene. However, there is one thing that Hollywood has gotten right about these scenes, the emotion. That short embrace, tears welling in our eyes, the nervous look on his face, words that didn’t need be spoken, this is what I remember most from that morning.

Back in my room they started prepping me for surgery. Poking me with things, asking questions, and doing who knows what else. My anesthesiologist came in to give me a sedative while they were doing all the prep work. She was quite entertaining. She gave me a shot and said “I call this the happy hour shot”. Why? Well, because a minute later I felt like I’d had 2 or 3 drinks. Hadn’t felt that in awhile! When I asked her if I could have some for after surgery, she reprimanded me and said I sounded too much like her boys. One of them is a football player at Tufts, where one of my best friends from college happens to coach, what a small world.

When the prep work was done my family got to come in one last time to say their “see you soon”s to me. People still tell me I’m very brave to do what I did, but they were the brave ones that day. I certainly wouldn’t trade my May 7th experience for theirs. I spent most of the day completely unaware of my surroundings while they had to spend it fully aware. I really can’t imagine what it was like for my mom having a husband and a son in surgery on the same day. Then again I really don’t have any idea how she has managed to do all she’s done until this point either.

After the room was emptied except for the medical staff, the anesthesiologist said “Ok, I’m going to give you this and it will seem like 3 minutes and you’ll be waking up…” As she finished her sentence I woke up, but it was several hours later. I have only two memories from that day post-surgery. The first is of a styrofoam cup with swabs hanging over the sides. It didn’t take me long to figure out what was in the cup, water! I remember trying to reach a hand towards the cup while making some guttural noise to convey desire. Suddenly an angel, or maybe a nurse, understood my grunts and handed me one of the swabs. The feeling as the moisture hit my lips and a slight trickle of water wet my tongue was one of the most satisfying “drinks” I’ve ever taken. The other memory is of my nurse Denise, the donor coordinator, leaning over me and saying “Josh breathe” (yes apparently I’m too stupid to breathe on my own) and then telling me the surgery went great and my family was here to see me.

You guys are smiling a lot more than I am…

Although far from coherent, there was a rushing sense of relief in hearing that things had gone smoothly and having family by my side. Man is it a blessing to be surrounded by loved ones like I have been that past few months. What is more amazing to me is that this love hasn’t come from only close friends and family members, but from all kinds of people. People I hadn’t heard from in years, people I’ve only met once, and people that are states away that I’ve never actually met. That is crazy to me. I’ve done nothing to deserve this love, but still it comes and I think it comes because of our humanity. See, even though we spend a lot of time fighting about different things; politics, religion, and how any sane person could support the Yankees, we’re all human. We know what it feels like to hurt, to be scared, and to want to be loved. We know exactly what it feels like and how greatly we  don’t want to feel these things. So when we see someone who is we put our differences aside, and our hearts go out to them… At least sometimes. Admittedly some people are much better at this than others, and many of you are much much better than me.

Last night I was at an “end of the year” party for the graduate school. It was a great chance to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for several weeks. At one point a friend tapped me on the shoulder and said “Hey, I wanted to say welcome back. I hope my facebook message didn’t scare you. I know we’ve only met once, but I found your blog and wanted to give you my support.” She’d sent me a message before the surgery. I remember it because I was struck by how amazing it was that this person would make such an effort even though the last time we talked I’d been dressed as Vanilla Ice. So no, it didn’t scare me. It touched me. I wish we did this type of thing more, as friends, as a society, as humans. I wish that we would be more willing to put differences aside and realize, this person is hurting, how can I help them? Seems it should be something that comes easy to me right? After all, I’ve said several times that I believe this guy called Jesus and all these things he taught us and as far as his teachings go, this was kind of a big one. Turns out its a good thing he was Jesus because I’m far from it, but after this experience I’m determined to be better, especially in this aspect.

Last thought of the night. I know how hard it is to open up when you’re hurting, but after this experience I would encourage you to give it a try. Try, because there are people out there who will love and support you, even if you don’t know it yet. Don’t go it alone when there are others who would walk by your side.

Today is the day

Today is the day. The date on my computer reads May 7. The day that my dad will get a new liver. The day he gets a new lease on life and the day I’ve been waiting for since last year. Kind of funny that now that the “big day” has arrived all it involves on my part is sleeping on a table, perhaps we’ve been too dramatic… This will be my last post for awhile, probably best for the safety of the general public that my thoughts remain in my head while I’m on pain killers. In the meantime though I’ll hopefully have my lil’ brother or sister update my facebook page so you can check in. If not follow my dads page which is linked over here on the sidebar —–>

I set forth saying I’d do this honestly. So honestly tonight I have to get something off my chest. As people have found out about my journey, this process of giving a piece of me to my dad, they’ve said so many unbelievably nice things. They use a lot of adjectives like selfless, and brave. Tonight I have to admit that I appreciate all of this, but it makes me cringe a little on the inside to hear it. I cringe knowing that in my heart I am neither of these things. I really do appreciate the words, but let me explain.

I am not brave. Bravery involves standing in the face of adversity when every bone in your body screams run. Brave is the soldier who willing goes into battle knowing they won’t be returning. Brave is overcoming your apprehensions to make a hard choice because you know it is right. Me? I have no apprehensions about this decision and I never have. Yes there are risks, but I am no soldier. No part of me has wanted to run from this situation, only towards it headlong. All of this though has nothing to do with me. If you read through my blog you’ll see there is a source of this certainty. I take no credit for what I’m about to do or how I feel about it, but rather praise God every single day that he has allowed this opportunity and quieted my heart through the whole process. If I was terrified of doctors, then yes call me brave. If I feared for my life, then call me brave. Because there are people who have these feelings and go through with the process anyways. My dad is one of them.

This story has been about my dad and I, but I feel like I haven’t even begun to uncover the depth of  what “my dad and I” entails. I ran into the same problem while I was at Lahey interviewing to be a donor. See, they check you for all kinds of things; general health, blood type compatibility, liver physiology (did you know I have 2 bile ducts? I know now), and etc etc. There are also interviews with several social workers. I understand why. They have to make sure that potential donors truly want to donate. That they’re not being pressured, paid, or manipulated in any other way to donate. Its a good idea, but I found the process somewhat… tedious. Here is a complete stranger, staring across at me, determining if my relationship with my father is sufficient to warrant giving him a liver. He asks me questions like “How would you describe your relationship with your father?”. I try and answer as best I can, mumbling phrases like “We’re extremely close.” However, I can’t help but become aggravated in the process.

“We’re extremely close.”? Is there any possible way this funny little man in those perfectly round glasses can gleam even a thousandth of a percentage of what that phrase carries? I don’t know. I’m not even sure if he could, that I would want him to know. Why would I share this with this stranger? Describe my relationship? Really little man? You best cancel the rest of your appointments for the day. How do I tell him about my relationship with the man who shaped me into whom I’ve become?

This is a man who went to Florida for 2 weeks during my senior year of college and missed more of my baseball games in that span, than during the rest of my life. In 16 years I think the number of games he’d missed was countable on a single hand. He was always there. When I was young he was a coach. He’d take me to the field and I’d beg him to throw me just one more round of batting practice and after the fifth “last round” we’d leave as the sun was setting. When I had a bad game he would focus on the one routine play I’d made and pretend it was a highlight. Do you think I don’t know how hard this was for him? I know that’s not how he grew up. This is a conscious decision he has made because of his love for my brother, sister, and I. Does the phrase “extremely close” convey this love? I doubt it.

I can’t tell you how old I was, not old enough to remember the details, but I have a distinct memory of being in the kitchen one day and being a terror to my mom. What I said I haven’t the slightest, but it must have been baaaaad. What I remember? In an instant my dad sat me down and was VERY sternly telling me that I would NEVER disrespect my mother again. He told me I could be angry at her, I could be angry with him, and I could be mean to him, but if I ever spoke to mom like that again I would see him like I had never seen him before. In that moment I learned to respect and defend the women that I love. Still today, rarely am I seriously upset by anything, but disrespect my sister, my mother, my friends, my loved ones and you cross the line.

In a world where it seems like every movie involves the cliche touching moment where the cold father finally admits he loves his children, I grew up constantly engulfed in love from both my parents. I am blessed beyond a doubt. In a world where many people are afraid they’ll be as bad at parenting as their parents were, I’m afraid that I can never live up to mine. They’ve taught me integrity above all else. They’ve taught me that you’re never above  a job when their are mouths to feed. They’ve taught me if you want to get respect first you must give it. Most importantly they’ve taught me that nothing can fill the void of love.

Is any of this covered by “extremely close”? I’ve already said there is no way to squeeze my relationship with my father into a curt little response that fits nicely into the allotted space on the questionnaire. To ask me to do so is near offensive. Which is why I cringe when I hear people say that I’m being unselfish. Really? Unselfish? Is it unselfish to give a small part of me to someone I love so that I can keep them around? Is it unselfish that I’m not ready to let go of one of my best friends? Is it unselfish that I’ll take the small risk that comes with this procedure so that my children will meet their grandfather? (although leaving my future mini-me’s with this crazy old man is actually what I probably question most;-)) No. The answer is no. Its selfish. I Joshua Abram Linscott, am selfish.

There is another reason I squirm at the term, selfless. I’m giving up relatively nothing. My liver will grow back. I’ll lead a perfectly normal life after recovery. So what am I giving up exactly? Then I start to compare this to my example of selflessness. A man who never even met me. A man who gave up not just a piece of his liver, but everything. A man that prayed to God that he didn’t have to die, but saw no other way to save me and then hung willfully on a cross. This man is selfless, this man is brave, this man is my savior. For some of my friends, I realize reading this this may be more than you ever wanted to hear, but this is honest. Christ is my example. Don’t judge him by me, I fall short in every single way. If you wan’t brave and you want selfless ask me about him and judge him for yourself.

4 hours from now I will be in a hospital. 12 hours from now I’ll be ending or coming out of surgery. In the meantime I have the opportunity to share life with a man I love. Yes there are some small risks, but I would take them if they were ten fold greater, all the while knowing if the tables were turned he would do more than the same for me. I do this willingly, I do this lovingly, and I do it without hesitation. Today is a new day and today is a new start. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers. We can’t wait to celebrate with you after the recovery. God bless.

 

– Josh

Let me leave you with a song that has stuck with me today and come and listen.

Can’t sleep?

Monday morning we report for surgery. I’m hoping while I’m under they can tack on a Tommy John too. For those of you who don’t know, Tommy John is the name of a surgery that is common for baseball pitchers with elbow problems. You may remember a few post ago I said I hated to use the term “former athlete”, but now as I sit on the couch 8 hours after our Bates College Alumni baseball game, I don’t have any problem with that anymore. I had completely forgotten the game was scheduled for this weekend and was crazy excited that I was able to go. It was another reminder of how wonderful the people in my life are and have been in the past. Back on the field with the sun shining down I could feel my smile stretching from ear to ear.

It was quite a change from how I was feeling just a month ago. Hmm, how do I explain it. March SUCKED! I think that’s the most honest way to describe it. If you know me, you know I like to have a plan. I like to have some semblance of control, and I like to get my way (if I’m being honest). For the entirety of March I didn’t have any control and nothing was happening according to my plan! I was taking my qualifying exams, which is the last landmark before officially becoming a doctoral candidate, I was trying to continue my research, and Dad was in the hospital for essentially the entire month. That would have been a lot to handle in itself, but then it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. I got the flu and fell behind on the written part of my exam. Dad was released from the hospital only to be readmitted days later when it was clear nothing had been fixed. I was losing control and soon I was losing sleep.

One of my friends had a bout with insomnia last year. He says it was miserable. He would try and sleep because physically he was tired, yet no sleep would come. His body wanted off, but his mind pushed on. That was how I felt. I’d fight exhaustion all day trying to be productive, get home and get ready for bed and then my mind would be off to the races. It seemed nothing could slow it down. Eventually I would stop fighting it and watch TV or read or stare at the ceiling til 4 or 5 in the morning. One friend suggested I read before bed to relax, my nurse friend suggested benadryl to make me drowsy, another suggested just sleeping whenever I was tired. Nothing worked.

Eventually though, I did find something that worked. Giving up. I had been fighting hard for control, but losing sleep over the fact that I didn’t have it. I wish I could say I at some point I stepped back from the situation, a light bulb popped over my head and I realized how simple it all was, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I gave up because I lost the fight. I lost. I’d been standing bashing my fist against a stone wall and my fist broke, while he wall remained unmarked. I hated it. I hate losing. I felt broken, I felt lost in despair (melodramatic much?), but then I felt something else, relief. I came back to the one thing that has remained constant through my life; trust God and he will provide.

That statement doesn’t mean I stopped working my hardest on my exams, that I suddenly didn’t worry about my dad, and that I spent the rest of my month on the couch watching spongebob saying “Oh I’m not worried, God will provide.” It meant that I tried my best and I had faith that whatever the outcome God would get me through it, like he always has. I worked hard, I still worried, but suddenly I could sleep. Often when my mind would start to race and I’d think I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, I’d open that old leather bound book I keep by my bed, the one that far too often I let accumulate dust, and I would read. I especially liked reading the Psalms (I have one tattooed on my back). I liked to see that David, the same David who was called a man after God’s own heart, was moody like me. Sometimes he’d be thankful or happy, but other times he was sad, angry, even depressed. In these times I’d remember that its OK to have emotions. God gets that and I think he prefers to see these emotions. If you’re the all knowing creator of the universe, you’re probably well aware of the fact that no one is going to be uber happy every single day of their lives and therefore pretending to be is just lying. I’d read these Psalms and talk to God, telling him what I felt. It brought me peace.

Some days were still harder than others, and some nights didn’t involve much sleep, but in general I felt much better. I had peace. Now, we’re two days away from surgery (technically one since its 2:39AM) and still I find peace. There have been ups and there have been downs, but still peace. After the surgery there will be more ups and downs, but hopefully more peace.

Tomorrow I’ll likely log the last entry for awhile. It’s one that’s been on my heart for awhile. After that we’ll find a way to make sure updates are available on how dad and I are recovering. Until then thanks for your endless support and love. From Maine, from New York, and from Florida. From Ireland, Canada and Mexico. Thank you and pray for peace 🙂

 

Peace,

Josh