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Archive for April, 2012

The Waiting Room

Clearly the sock is that guy on the left's sleeve. Come on Highlights. Challenge me.

When you’re a kid, the waiting room at the doctor’s office is a top 3 place to be if you must be dragged along on some sort of tedious errand. There are these weird wire toy things that exist only here and in daycares, you get your own little private space away from the adults, AND they have highlights magazine (the hidden picture game is unrivaled). That is how I remember my doctor’s office at least. As you grow older though, it becomes less acceptable entertaining to play with the toys and highlights must only release one issue a year because by the time you’re 12 you know where the sock is every time. Suddenly when you’re in the waiting room, you realize that you’re just waiting. The last few months have felt like that for me. Here I am. I know what needs to be done, but it won’t happen until the nurse peeks in and calls “Mr. Linscott”.

My first blog ended with dad being released from the hospital after a pretty big scare. It was after this episode that he felt called to share his story with all of you. He talked about fear, blessings, and hope for the future. I was still a kid in the waiting room though. I read and remembered how scary it had been at the time, but when I was done reading I went back to playing with the wire toys. At first glance everything was looking up. Sure there was a very real possibility things would get worse eventually, but in my mind that could have been 5, 10, 40 years. Being in the city away from it all made it easy to pretend that everything had returned to normal. Still, at the same time I wanted to be home more than anything.

In the summer I got a chance to come home for awhile, but why seems to slip my mind. It was sometime in July and we had some type of family get together? Or something? I remember a lot of family and friends being there and eating some food and stuff… What was it? A jenga party? No. Pool party? No, dad hates water. Ohhh right. My little sister got married!

I received this comment from her on my last post, “Ok so how come as your one and only sister I didn’t get a special mention in this blog?? I wrote a song about you and multiple stories and you can’t even mention me? MAN! haha just kidding”. Oh the Dello, if you only knew what was coming. The Dello is what I call her. It comes from a cartoon I watched in junior high school. This character, homestar runner, was searching for a rare and beautiful bird “the yellow dello”. Shara was wearing yellow that day and the rest is history. Besides there is no phrase that is more fun to utter that “Helloooo dellooooo”.  She has a more affectionate name for me, “cwapface”, it comes from the same cartoon. I even have a voicemail on my phone from when she called to tell me she was engaged where she addresses me as such. I’ve always been close with my siblings. I guess you kind of have to be when you’re homeschooled, otherwise its tough to have friends at school. Joking aside, they are both wonderful people whom I love dearly. At holidays lately, Shara, Jake and I, like to sit around and reminisce on the few days where we were able to break mom’s iron will and earn an unexpected day off from learning. Now suddenly Shara was all grown up and getting married!

The wedding was beautiful. It helps that Shara’s husband (Jake G., yes another Jake. My poor Gramma) is an amazing man who is loved by our whole family. One of my favorite parts of the wedding was that my dad, who just 3 months before thought he might not live to see another week, was the one to join the two souls. I enjoyed this for two reasons. First, because I knew he’d been looking forward to it since the moment they had asked him and second because it meant we were able to tease him endlessly about how he would undoubtedly cry at the wedding. When the day of the wedding came I sent Shara a text that said “Its gonna be pretty funny today at the wedding, when dad, Jake, and I are all crying, and you and mom are just smiling”. It was meant to be a joke. Yet when dad asked Shara to speak her vows there was a little choke in his voice. Then from behind me tearful noises from little brother Jake and suddenly it was all over for me too. Because up at the front of the stage I didn’t see the stunning 21 year old adult woman the audience saw. I saw a little blonde haired girl pushing me over in the snow (onto a stake mind you), playing in the treehouse with me (upset she couldn’t pee outside), and quite contentedly singing “Josh is a plebian, plebian, plebian. Josh is a plebian YA!” (her way of remembering the Plebians were the poor, commoner class of ancient Rome). I love that all those stories have deeper back stories only she will understand. As the tears streamed, dad attempted to pronounce Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Groom.

We knew he’d cry. One reason being that he cries at everything, especially these days, and the other reason being that there is no doubt he loves each of his children more than words can describe. In a world where it is common to grow up in broken homes, to have fractured relationships with parents, and to feel it is impossible to measure up to expectations, I have a dad who has made sure that above everything else I know he loves me. Don’t think that I say that lightly. I’m blessed. I’m spoiled. I know. See, if it were me in my dad’s position, if my liver was failing he’d make sure I got a new one. If my liver was failing and he could give me his, but it wouldn’t grow back, he’d still try and give it to me. This is why when my parents told me they didn’t want a family member risking the donation process I laughed at them. Its not their choice. Besides, there is another Father who’s got my back.

This is a cool move!

No its not...


 

 

 

 

 

At the reception we danced like no one should ever dance! No really. I doubt that anyone has ever truly looked good while dancing, but when you realize that I think it only increases the level of fun. That night though, in the waiting room, I was suddenly distracted from my toy. Downstairs I heard SCREAMS of pain. The day had been a little much for dad. His calves were cramping uncontrollably and he was in agony. I hated watching it. There was nothing I could do to help and it felt terrible. Luckily though with a little rest he was feeling better again by the time I left for Manhattan, so back in the waiting room I grabbed a highlights magazine.

The next few months were somewhat uneventful. At least compared to how I would describe eventful now. Unfortunately, things were definitely still on a decline. It was frustrating. In my heart I wanted to believe dad would never get any worse. I prayed that God would keep him at least at some semblance of health. I even prayed for a miracle, that He would heal my dad! Those things didn’t come. No matter how hard I tried to deny it, eventually I had to accept that my dad was sick and that things may get worse. And they did. I remember the point at which I stopped denying in my heart that he was sick. It was the end of October and he called to tell me he had just been at Lahey Clinic. They had decided the time had come to start evaluating him for a liver transplant. He was on “the list”. Within an instant things the situation became very very real. The toys were no longer interesting and it was obvious that the sock is in that guy’s sleeve. I was still in the waiting room, but suddenly I was just waiting…

Much like how you’re going to have to keep waiting until later for this story to continue. Goodnight friends.

 

– Josh


I love you

Micahel Scott makes me laugh. He just wants to be loved. I love people. Maybe not something you’d expect to hear from a sciency type like myself. I’ll be the first to admit, I do come in contact with quite a few who feel much more comfortable talking to a plate of bacteria than being forced to interact with horrifying multicellular humanoids (especially the female kind). This weekend was our nerd convention pharmacology retreat and I had a great time, because people energize me. Sure we spent a good amount of time discussing research, pretending we understood each other, and encouraging one another that our work will someday be the next big thing, but the retreat has a bigger purpose. Building community. Stowed away in an expansive retreat center we become peers, student and faculty alike. Yesterday afternoon some of us spent a few hours playing basketball, faculty vs. students. I don’t know if they realize it, but to me this simple act speaks volumes about the Pharm program and faculty. On the court jostling and joking around were all three program directors. Suddenly they became tangible people, peers, and even friends in a way that the student-faculty gap can’t normally be transcended.

It made me realize how blessed I am to be here. To be a part of this community. See, God has a plan and even when I have no idea what it is (which is most times), its always better than my plan. It happens time and time again, yet still I’m surprised. It reminds me of how much my friend Ryan and I love “object permanence”. Object permanence is a phenomenon we learned about freshman year of college in a psych 101 class. Essentially, during our course of development there’s a point where if we can’t see something we forget it exists. This is why babies love peek-a-boo, and why you can hide a toy behind your back then reveal it to the delight of some tiny human. Ryan and I like to talk about it and laugh at these foolish little children. We’ve talked about it and are both 98% sure neither one of us ever suffered from this object permanence thing… Except for the fact that I still do sometimes when it comes to God. I’m trying to do better. Maybe its like development and I’ll get better with time?

I think that part of His plan in bringing me here was that he knew about this transplant and he knew about it well before I did.  As I’ve been through consults at Lahey Clinic preparing for the surgery they keep asking me about loss of work and what will happen while I’m away. My initial reaction is normally a slight chuckle. When I went to tell my PI (science speak for boss) about my dad and our situation a few months ago, he told me to take as much time off as needed, make this the first priority. I met with the administration last week and told them I’d have to be away awhile recovering from the surgery. They told me they’d take care of everything and that all they asked was that I let them how the surgery goes and keep them updated. I think it’ll be ok if I miss some work. Last night our program director talked to me about the procedure. Asked how I was, how my dad was, and gave me a hug. She was one of the ones who was on the court in the afternoon. This is what I’ve been talking about, community.

Last time I was home my dad and I stayed up talking late into the nights. It was awesome. At one point he said, “Boy, you’ve certainly been blessed with some great people throughout the years.” I couldn’t agree more. In my early high school years a tight-knit group of us that met at youth group would hang out constantly. We were a mix of young impressionable boys and girls. We laughed, we fought, we dated, and we grew up. Some are married now, others have moved away, but sometimes I still stumble across a picture of us all dressed up at a murder mystery party and smile. From that group three guys became like brothers. We spent days, weeks, and years traveling around playing music or what we called music. Mrs. Tounge is still convinced we were just as big as relient k at the time. 

Senior year of high school led me to an amazing group of guys. It was a bible study that turned into more. All were welcome and more always meant merrier. A pair of giggly girls started to tag along more often than not. One would later hold an amazingly special place in my heart. College brought new experiences and friends from every walk of life. There were scientists, bollywood dancers, classmates, and amazing team mates. It also led me to something I never thought really, truly existed. Life-long closest bestest most special friends forever friends (LLCBMSFFF). I’ve already mentioned Ryan, who was my room mate since basically freshman year. Senior year we picked up two more room mates, Dan and another Ryan. Anyone who has seen the four of us together is absolutely certain that they’ve never met a dumber group of humans in their entire life. Its that type of friendship. We are altogether too comfortable with each other, constantly laughing at jokes that don’t really make sense, and carrying out entire conversations no one else can understand. I pray for them, I thank God for them and I know they do the same for me. We’ve even established a tradition of vacationing together once a year, we call it mancation. Even my iPhone now recognizes mancation as an actual word (a near impossible feat considering the completely non-customizable Alcatraz of an operating system apple has imprisoned us in). Man, its great to have friends.

That brings us full circle to where I am now. Again surrounded by people who astound me daily with their love. I believe God created us in his image and its in people that I see him daily. We’re made to laugh and love and serve each other. When we do those things, man, it feels good. This is why I told you that I loved you at the very start of this post. Because I do. Where I am now, its a journey, but you’ve been there to help me through those things and I appreciate it. The reason this post is so long is because of you, so don’t complain to me its your own dang fault. You’ve blessed me. Maybe not directly, but if you’re reading this we probably have a connection somewhere and if we didn’t before, we do now. So this me saying thanks. For being there for me. For being there for my dad. For praying if you’re the praying type, or keeping us in your thoughts if your not. Even for the sole purpose that you’re made in God’s image and remind me of him daily.

The next posts will probably focus back on the story of the last year and whats to come, but this one had to be about you. Thanks for reading and thanks for encouraging. Lastly, thanks for teaching me not to read your comments on the blog in public because then I have to fight back tears and look I like a fool. You rock, don’t ever change.

 

– Josh


The Start

I find this to be slightly ironic. That I, who rarely confides in anyone, find myself spilling thoughts out here in a supposed public arena. I imagine somewhere some head shrinkers are studying exactly what it is about the internet that allows us to feel comfortable exposing our innermost secrets for anyone to stumble upon. In my mind its the fact that it feels like you’re talking to no one and everyone simultaneously, and you can decide which depending on your mood. Maybe part of it is that I’m my father’s son. He felt called to blog honestly about his journey this past year. That transparency has amazed me. It has also helped me feel connected to him when I can’t physically be there.  So I guess my hope is to do the same. To write honestly about my thoughts, emotions, ups and downs, and everything in between for anyone who cares enough to read. If you didn’t know, my dad needs a liver transplant. So I’m giving him 60% of mine.

It was almost a year ago today that this all started. I remember because I was about to head off on a retreat with the Pharmacology Program. I remember that mom had called and left me a voicemail. This was weird because normally our conversations start with a text and even missed calls rarely are accompanied by a voicemail. I listened to the message from my lab, “Hey honey, It’s mom. I’m in the hospital with dad, give me a call when you get a chance. Love you.” My heart jumped to my throat and at the same time that my stomach dropped through all 19 floors of our research building.

My dad had been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) a few months before, but the disease tends to have a gradual onset (if it even gets worse) so there shouldn’t be any need for panic… Unless you really really know my family. I told my cousin Stephanie the other day that sometimes its hard to gauge the reality of the situation. See, dad takes after his side of the family where one bad touch of the flu and people are starting to talk about when to pull the plug. Mom on the other hand, “they’re having a tough day” could mean someone had flat-lined and then been resuscitated with a defibrillator.

I called back to find out what was really happening. Dad had gotten sick while my parents were in Florida on vacation. A similar event had occurred the month before and a  short hospital stay put him back in balance. This time was different. From what I gathered he was sick again, but this time the doctors thought it was serious. One doctor said his liver was “useless” and if he didn’t get a transplant in 48 hours it was over. I cried. Thank God that idiot was wrong and by the time I was leaving for the retreat it was clear dad would make it home and we weren’t in an emergency situation.

Still it was confusing. I remember feeling dazed while at the retreat center. If you’ve ever had a concussion (somehow I’ve managed two from baseball), it was kinda like that. I knew things were happening around me, but whatever was happening seemed to go about 100 times more quickly than I could comprehend. I kept wandering off during breaks to be alone. The weather was beautiful. Gorgeous sunshine rained down on patches of new flowers. I appreciated that. Nice weather always makes me feel better. Not quite better enough to overcome my emotions though. I was sad, scared, angry, and mostly confused.

Confused as to how this could be real and happening to my dad. This was a young man, full of life, who had recently set out to start his own church. He had a vision of reaching out to people that a church institution wouldn’t connect with. People who were lost to the world. How could God let this happen now? It didn’t make any sense. I spent a lot of time talking with him about it. God I mean, not my dad. Asking him why this was happening? Pleading with him to give me understanding and begging him make it go away. Over the year I’ve still spent a lot of time having these same conversations… Although that’s not entirely true. I’m sad to admit that sometimes I don’t really talk to him. Its not that I don’t believe he’s there, or think he’s not listening to me. Its just that its a relationship. One in which he’s perfect and I’m oh so deeply flawed. I get frustrated with him, and I punish him by withdrawing. Yea that’ll show him! It doesn’t. It just makes me feel alone. I decide since he hasn’t healed my dad yet its time for me to be in charge. That hasn’t worked out either. Eventually I decide to talk again. I come running back crying, saying “This is too much for me. Too much.” He acts as though nothing has happened and welcomes me back. The beauty about having a relationship with this unfathomable higher power is that he’s always perfect and I’m always not. When I can admit that he doesn’t hold it against me. It’s been a long year, but faith has brought me through it.

Back on the hillside of the conference center as I prayed I suddenly had this feeling. Like there was a way to make it all go away. Before the retreat I had read up on transplants (a perk of being affiliated with the medical school). As it turns out, brilliant surgeons and scientists have figured out that a part of the liver can be taken from a live donor and given to a recipient in need. Being a nerdscientist I am fascinated by the process. Can you believe that the donor’s liver grows back to almost 100% in 3-4 weeks? And the piece in the recipient becomes a fully functioning organ? What!? As I sat there praying somehow I knew even then, that I would be that donor. It wasn’t something I wanted to talk about to others. It was weird. It still seems weird. That’s just the nice way to say it. It was crazy. That’s what I tend to think of people who say “God told me blah blah blah”. The blah blah blah is the part where I’ve already stopped listening. It’s not that I don’t think God doesn’t still tell people things. Unfortunately, I think some well meaning people can be a little over zealous about what “God told them” and make the rest of us skeptical. Maybe the reality is that I should spend more time listening and less time talking.

Crazy or not, this week I received official word that I’m “an acceptable donor” for my dad. Last April we didn’t even know his blood type. Turns out its A+, just like me (I have always been a perfectionist). Was it just a coincidence that I had this feeling that I could be his donor? Was it God showing me things would be alright? I dunno. Don’t know don’t care. My God is great and he has a plan. If this wasn’t part of the plan then I would be ready to trust in him for whatever was.

This is already way more than I intended to write and milkshakes are calling. I think I’ll wrap the first post here. A year ago I was scared, angry, sad and confused. Tomorrow I leave for the same retreat. At the moment I’m still confused, but I have a feeling that is often apart of our lives no matter how old and wise we may become. I’m learning to deal with it and enjoying the fact that amongst the confusion, today I’m content and hopeful as well. More to come later.

 

– Josh