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.