Friday, May 24, 2013

Faith Through Hearing: Thoughts on Bearing Fruit

"My Father's glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become my disciples."
John 15:8 (GNT)

I can't always predict when I'm going to write a "Faith Through Hearing" post.  But regular readers of this blog know that I haven't done one in a while, and that's because nothing really spoke to me over the past few weeks.  Every morning I wake up, and read the Bible. I don't make things too complicated--I just click on the YouVersion Bible app on my phone and read the verse of the day.  Easy.  This morning's scripture actually turned out to be the answer to a question I asked God right before my kidney transplant.  God, how will your glory be revealed in all this....stuff?  How will it show itself in the midst of all this blood and guts and IV cords and needles get the point.  How will people see You in this sucky situation?
Three weeks later, I open my Bible app and read John 15:8 and I have my answer! I love how God works like that.  I had pretty much forgotten about my initial question.  The effects of heavy anesthesia no doubt.  But when I read the scripture I had a mild case of deja vu and I was taken back to the night before the surgery, when I lay awake staring at the ceiling searching for God-- scanning the white wall for his face, listening for his voice, hoping to reach a conclusion.  I don't know if I even prayed that night.  I think I just watched and waited, and eventually I was asleep and the next sound I heard was my alarm clock.  That was my calm before the storm of anxiety arrived in the pre-op room.
Every day, lately, I've been thanking God for my new kidney and my dad, and asking him to use me, and use my experience somehow.  I know God's grace is what saved me on that surgery table (when I had no blood! Thank ya, Lord!), and God's grace is what allowed me to narrowly avoid having to do dialysis (Thank GOD).  Grace is my dad getting approved to be a kidney donor at 50-plus years old in like a month.  I'm not sure I deserved ANY of those gifts.  Actually, I know I didn't deserve any of that.  
In John, Jesus tells the disciples that God's glory (aka his awesomeness) is shown to others when those joined in a relationship with Him begin "bearing much fruit."  The last part took me back to this awesome Bible study I did with this great group of women at my church, and for three months we focused on the fruits of the spirit:  defined in Galatians as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It was one of my favorite studies because seriously, those are ALL good things.  It is my hope that from being a sick person, and now a "not so sick person" under the condition that I have this transplanted kidney, that I can become a little more loving, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, joyful, and peaceful, and learn to check myself before I wreck myself.  
I feel like it's not enough to just be healed.  People have to know why.  And our trials have to mean something. 
"If you only look at us you might well miss the brightness.  We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.  That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us." 
2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (MSG)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wedding Wednesday-- Something That's Really Not That Fun...Really

24 Days 'Til the Wedding

Sometimes I wonder what you're supposed to feel like when you're wedding is in three weeks.  Stressed? Irritated? Excited? Sad?  I don't know!  I feel a little calm. I have a lot to do! LOL Story of my life it seems like.  Story of this engagement!  I've had "a lot" to do since I became engaged last March!  Something is seriously wrong with me, people.  If you have "a lot" to do for more than a year then something is really really wrong.  But you know what's good about not working?  Even though I have a lot to do, I finally feel like I'm doing things.  I am really going to cherish this next week and a half. It's practically all I have left before I go back to the office and wedding planning has to compete with a busy workday.  OK so, what we did:

  • We're on the books!  Ben and I went down to the courthouse and made things semi-official.  We signed paper work, we raised our right hands, we said yes, we signed papers again, then we waited.  Five minutes later...we had our marriage certificate!  I'm a little slow, and apparently so is Ben, so at our "celebration dinner" with Jocelyn at The Burger Joint we had to keep asking each other if we're married or not.  We're not married yet, but the state now knows of our intentions.  We still have to get it signed by our officiant, my second cousin Rev. Dr. Sallie Cuffee.  She'll sign it after our wedding ceremony. Then we'll be married. The next time I go there will be to change my name! Gasp! Last three weeks as just an Edwards, before I enter the realm of hypenate-dom.
  • Ben ordered yet ANOTHER suit! I won't even get started on this.  But this is the last straw.  As long as he looks good and feels good, I'm good.
  • We reviewed our budget!  This is one of my most hated activities but it has to be done.  We've paid three vendors fully, which is great.  But there's more to come.  I guess the cool thing about these vendors is that most of them only take cash.  Which means there's not a super high credit card bill to pay after the wedding.  At first I looked at this as such an inconvenience.  But one year later, I'm thankful, because once the wedding is over I'll finally have money and be able to save like I really want to. And as a newly married couple, Ben's and my "What We Want to Save For" list is pretty long.  

And now for something we did that no one should have to do ever again in their lives:  we started working on the seating chart for the wedding.   Luckily, we finished.  And as a result of that process I've developed my tips for putting together a wedding seating chart when you're having a big wedding:  

Tip #1:  It's kind of a nice thing to put all the parents together, with their parents, if it works out.  We're seating 10 people to a table.  And even a part-time wedding planning cynic like me can see the benefits of sitting some of the most important people to the bride and groom at the same table.  

Tip #2:  If you're having a big wedding, 150 plus according to DC area stats (where the average wedding is 100 people), it's good to divide everyone into categories.  Some of our categories included "AU PPL" (my friends from college), "Old Friends" ( people not in the bridal party whom I've known forever), and "People with Kids."  The purpose of this was to make sure we didn't put certain types of people at tables where they would be uncomfortable.  For example, I chose to sit all the people who brought kids at the same tables, while my college friends are mostly divided up at tables with people who are in a similar age range.

Tip #3:  It's nice to put people who know each other together, but sometimes it really doesn't work out.  This is especially difficult when someone is coming by themselves and is only really close to one person at the wedding.  At the end of the day, you just hope that everyone is nice to everyone at each table.

Tip #4:  Try not to stress out about who's sitting where and whether or not they're going to like it.  When I worked on the seating chart by myself, while I was recovering from surgery at home, I did this a lot. And not much got done.  But as soon as Ben jumped in, it was like the seating chart was completed in 10 minutes.  That's because Ben is no-nonsense!  And we really don't have time to stress about who's going to be uncomfortable in what spot. That said I think we took a lot of people's personalities into consideration when making this list, and for the most part, no one should be scrambling to try to find a seat. Since it's a wedding, I'm sure there will be at least three people who will complain.  But if we only have three complainers out of 180 people, I'll take that.  I'd consider that a win.

Next Up...
Jocelyn and I will spend the next week completing our DIY projects and I've got a few more payments to mail off and several emails to write.  I guess there really are no more big things to do.  No more research, really.  Just a lot of emails, online ordering, and typing up timelines/schedules/emails to vendors.  I'm feeling good about this wedding.  Things might just go OK.   

In other wedding-related news!

My best friend since high school and one of my bridesmaids, Sajia, is getting married this weekend to her boyfriend of 10 years!!!  Sajia and I have been through several of phases of life together.   And now, we're about to enter a new phase together, wife-dom, which is super exciting.  I can't wait to watch Sajia get married to her longtime love this weekend and get tons of advice from her about married life since she'll be ahead of me by three weeks!   I'm so thankful for her friendship, and can't wait to see how God blesses her and Imran's marriage.  

The friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.  
~Elbert Hubbard

We've both changed a lot, and I'm glad we still like each other  :D 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Livin for the Weekend

First visit to my beloved DC Metro Church since the transplant. 

"My hope is in you God
I am steadfast, I will not be moved
I'm anchored, never shaken
All my hope is in you."

Hope's Anthem, William Matthews

Friday, May 17, 2013

"We Did It!" and More Tales from My Hospital Stay

2 Weeks with the Kidney

"Congratulations! The surgery is over!" were the first words I heard while coming out of anesthesia.  In my head, I said "GOD...THANK YOU. Thank you."  I couldn't quite speak yet.  Well, that's a lie.  Because the first words I said were "PAAAAAIIIINNN.  PAIIINNN." And to this day I don't really know if I was actually in that much pain.  I mean, yes, I had just been cut.  And yes, I probably should have been in pain.  But could I actually feel it, and I mean really feel it at that time?  I'm not so sure.  But I guess it was just my automatic reaction to coming out of anesthesia knowing that I'd just had major surgery.

"What?  You're in pain?" the nurse said.  "Here."  She handed me a button attached to a wire connected to a box on an IV stand.  Those of you who have stayed in the hospital before know what this is.  For those of you fortunate enough to never have experienced this, that button is what connected me to my pain medicine:  hydromorphone aka dihydromorphinone aka dilaudid aka morphine aka...all hell, let's just call it what we know it is...CRACK! OK!  Let's just be real.  It's hospital grade crack in an IV.   So of course, I press the button, and I'm out. Unconscious. 

"Here! Want some water?" The nurse holds the straw from a styrofoam cup filled with ice water in it up to my mouth.  I suck down the water as if I had never had ice water before.  Then I hit the button.

"Here! Want some water?" The nurse holds the straw from a styrofoam cup filled with ice water in it up to my mouth.  I suck down the water as if I had never had ice water before.  Then I hit the button.

"Here! Want some water?" The nurse holds the straw from a styrofoam cup filled with ice water in it up to my mouth.  I suck down the water as if I had never had ice water before.  Then I hit the button.

No, that's not a copy paste error.  The previous three paragraphs are meant to be an exact representation of what coming out of deep anesthesia connected to an IV of hospital heroin is like after surgery.  It was literally "Crack Button," pass out, wake up, water, "Crack Button."  I did this for, according to my family, 3-4 hours following the completion of the transplant.  

At some point in there, Ben and my mom came to visit me.  I only sort of remember this part, mostly because my eyes would only stay open for seconds at a time because the Hospital Heroin pulsing through my veins would force my eyes shut.  

During my time in recovery, I was allowed to see my dad for a few minutes.  The nurses wheeled his bed over to mine. I don't remember our conversation fully. But I recall saying "We did it, Dad."  And I remember him saying "Yeah, we did."  

* * *

Once I arrived in my private room at the hospital (from what I've heard this is a pretty big deal, to have you're own room) I was greeted by my fiance, sisters, aunts, my uncle and my grandma.  I think I was happy to see everyone, even if I could barely open my eyes and had to squint because my glasses were taken before I went into surgery.

And for some reason I just couldn't keep my hand off the "hospital crack" button.  I just kept pressing it, falling into some sort of half sleep, then waking up to pump my fist and say "We did it!" according to my sister Jocelyn, who derived some pleasure from taking videos of me in a morphine-induced coma with her iPhone.  

Even in this trippy state, where I just barely was able to absorb what transpired in the previous hours, I was celebrating, sort of.  I think I was mostly proud of the fact that I let the doctors put me to sleep for several hours and perform organ transplantation on my dad and I.  Like...what?! That just sounds crazy doesn't it?  I feel like it does.  Who gets organ transplants?! Well, apparently I do.  And my dad...apparently he's a super hero because he's one of those people who donates his organs to save another person's life.  

In the moments when I was able to comprehend things being said to me I gathered that the transplant was a success; that my dad's kidney was a perfect match with my blood and tissue type; that once they received my dad's kidney and hooked it up to my arteries and veins and stuff, it started producing urine immediately, taking over for the two kidneys in my body that were barely doing anything; that I am lucky to be ALIVE because the surgeon almost cancelled the surgery when they discovered that I had NO blood in my body!!  Yeah. That right there...that's God.  Because I would have been A) pissed if they had decided to cancel the surgery after putting me under and putting me through all this stress; and B) dead if God hadn't intervened and said "Um, no, Jewel's gonna make it through the surgery, with 1 pint of blood, because I said so."  I'm so thankful that I survived (can't believe I had no blood!) and I'm happy that the kidney worked immediately.  

For my first examination by the doctors, early in the morning on the day after the surgery, I learned that my creatinine level was 1.1.   Creatinine is basically chemical waste that your kidneys filter out of your blood, and nearly all of it is supposed to leave your body when you pee. If you're kidneys aren't working right, you don't pee out this waste. It floats around in your blood and makes you SICK.  When I my kidneys started failing, my blood had a ton of creatinine in it.  So to hear that my dad's kidney was actually making me better was pretty great.  And then I fell asleep.  It was the drugs, I tell ya! The drugs made me do it.  

But really, I was happy.    At that moment, hearing that my kidney function was normal, I was happy, and every day since then I've been pretty happy.  And grateful.  And very aware that this thing, my dad's kidney, buried inside of me, is what's keeping me going every single day. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: 1 Month!

30 Days 'Til the Wedding

OK y'all.  Things just got a little bit real. Or more real. The wedding is officially in one month. 

YES.  WOW.  That means officially I'm not going to be "dating" anybody anymore.  Oh I know, I know.  Married people like to say "But you still have to date your spouse! Make them feel special!  Date night!" etc etc. But no.  Just no, married people.  It's not the same thing.  As my sisters put it so kindly:

Danyelle:  "Jewel, how does it feel?  You're not going to be a 'single ass lady' anymore."
Jocelyn:  "Yeah. You're gonna be a 'married ass bi%ch." 
Danyelle:  "With a ring on it."

Yeah.  One more month  until I become a 'married ass bi#ch."  Awesome!

This is the first Wedding Planning post in like two weeks I think.  You should know that after I wrote that post I did nothing until I guess May 10 when I resumed my planning activities.  It was great to dive back into getting things done, knowing that the wedding is just a few weeks away.  It's pretty great actually.  I can really really REALLY say, things are coming together. I'm sure I've written that before but it's not like this.  Things are legit coming together.  It's kind of a great feeling.  OK sooooo here's what I did:

  • DIY Review: I resumed the hunt a little "photo legacy project" that my sister and I are working on.  It's basically a showcase of old wedding photos from all the married couples that are attending our wedding.  I really really hope it comes together.  Jocelyn and I took a major leap forward with this project last week when we ordered the display that we're going to use to show the photos.  Really looking forward to putting this together.
  • Guest list:  we closed out our guestlist!  Officially have 180 people attending the wedding.  Just a little bit big!  A little bit!  But a lot of our favorite people are coming and I guess we just have too many favorites.  I'm just happy this part is finished because that makes the next parts of planning just a tad bit easier.  This includes figuring out how many tables we need, how many centerpieces and flowers, how many menu cards, and how many high chairs for kids.  We have 17 kids coming.  Yep. 
  • Along those same lines:  Jocelyn and I started working on the seating chart.  It's definitely not going to happen in five minutes.  But we're hoping to finish up a good first draft by the end of the week.  
And today, Ben and should be on our way to the courthouse to get our marriage license, which we have to use in the next 60 days.  

I'll end today's blog post with a special treat from our photographer.  Remember when Ben and I went to take engagement photos?  Well, they are HERE.  Our photographer, Vicki Grafton, has done an awesome blog post of all her favorite photos.  We really do love these photos.  I told Vicki these are like the best photos of us EVER and this is especially good because I actually look like I know how to take a good photo!  I'm still handicapped in the "taking photos" area of life, but when you have a talented photographer holding the camera anything is possible.

Enjoy our photos on Vicki's blog:Ben and Jewel's Engagement week's post will be at the three-week mark. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Happens Before a Transplant

10 Days With Kidney

I cannot believe it's been almost two weeks since I wrote anything meaningful on this blog.  My fiance helped me keep the blog from disappearing into the realm of "blogs that we start and then never ever come back to again" by doing an ah-mazing guest post last Monday.  So I'm pretty thankful for that and him.  I think he did an excellent job of not only sharing his perspective on the whole kidney transplant event, but also describing what the mood and atmosphere were like for most of us really.  After editing Ben's post and blogging it, I turned and looked at him from my hospital bed and said "Why didn't you say you were feeling that way?! The whole time I thought you were calm but you were actually freaking out like me!"  It's probably for the best that he didn't tell me how he was really feeling, or else I would have gone into full scale panic mode. I was only flying at about half-staff with the nervousness and that was mostly due to my mom's and Ben's positive and supportive presence with me in the pre-op room. 

So we've heard what Ben has had to say about the surgery. Now it's my turn! For today's post, a list (obviously)!  ThingsThat Happen Before You Have a Kidney Transplant. And... go!

1.   You shower for the first time in a month.  Yes.  I....actually can't remember if I revealed that on this blog but the Thursday before the transplant, May 2, was my first shower since I had the PD Catheter placed.  Because the holes in my stomach were still healing and they didn't want me to get an infection, I'd been taking sponge baths.  Let me tell you, that first shower after 4 weeks of not showering felt so good, I didn't want to get out of the tub.  It was also the last time I would shower with the catheter. So to all of you wondering if my hair smelled when you saw me that one time out in that one place, the answer is...probably.

2.   You wake up pretty freaking early.  Kidney transplants have to begin in the morning.  That is the rule. Actually I don't know if it is. I just made that up. But we had to arrive at the hospital at 6 AM to check in.  Around 6:30 and 7:00 they called my dad and me back to the pre-surgery areas where we had our vitals checked and started having us get undressed. 

3.  You yell at your mom for touching your neck.  And she shouldn't have touched my neck! Especially, after the anesthesiologist had JUST come in and done something to it.  What had happened was the anesthesiologist asked me to turn and lift my head so that she could make a mark where my main artery was with a marker.  During surgery they inserted an IV with three different tubes into my neck to deliver transplant medicines and antibiotics directly to my heart during the surgery.  My mom, of course, because she's always touching me (my face, my hair, my neck), walked over to where I was laying in the pre-op area, balks "What is that?!" while trying to rub the marker off my neck.   OK soooo, I do watch House and I do watch the news. And that type of s*#t right there...that's the type of s*#t that will have you going into the operating room for a kidney transplant and coming out with no legs. Real talk. So of course I yelled "Don't touch me!" and cried for the nurse to bring the anesthesiologist back to redo the mark.  Fortunately, my mom did not manage to wipe off the marker spot and I probably shouldn't have yelled at her.  But I had to do what I had to do! I used to cover "wrong side surgery" for a health care publication.  That stuff is real.  

4.  You meet a lot of different doctors and nurses.  All during pre-op several nurses and doctors were coming in to introduce themselves, to let me know that they would working with the main surgeon to do the transplant.  Luckily at Inova, everyone was super nice and extremely accommodating. One thing that some people might find annoying (my mom was irritated by this) they ask you the same question over and over again: why are you going into surgery.  Kidney transplant.  I didn't mind this. I knew they just wanted to make sure all their ducks in a row and that everyone was in the right place.  This doesn't bother me because, like I said, I watch House and the news, and I know what can happen when there's a wrong answer to a question. Anything to keep everyone safe.  One of the nurses also, set up one of the three IVs I would have over the course of the procedure. 
5.  You wait for about an hour and a half.  After all of the above was done, my mom, Ben, and I waited in the pre-surgery room for about an hour and a half, until it was time for me to wheeled away.  During that time, I started to think, maybe the surgery won't even happen.  Yes, I wanted to be healthy.  Yes, I wanted to get a new kidney.  But did I want to undergo major surgery with risk of complications?  No, not really.  After meeting all the nurses and talking to the anesthesiologist, the reality of what was about to happen was kind of starting to get to me.  I didn't want to be put to sleep and I didn't want them to slice me open and spread apart my skin.  I didn't want to be cut and poked and prodded. I just wanted to magically be healthy.  So while we waited, there was a part of me that was wondering if the surgery would even happen.  Well, at 9:30 when the anesthesia nurse  came in and gave me "the good stuff" aka hospital strength Valium, it was time.  They wheeled me out of the room in my bed, wearing just a gown and a blanket. I barely had time to say bye to Ben and my mom, not that I would remember saying it anyways.  

The last thing I remember before the surgery started was me trying to roll onto the surgical bed, but just laughing uncontrollably instead of moving.  This may or may not have happened. And then I remember the lights on top of the ceiling as the nurses were strapping me onto the table. Then they gave me "oxygen."  And I was gone for about six hours.

There's something that happens in the seconds before surgery, where despite all the fear and accumulating anxiety your mind, and body, just sort of gives up and gives in to what's about to happen to you.  There's no room, space, or time to fight back or even say no. You deeply inhale the air being pumped through the oxygen mask and something inside says "Finally."  It's almost a relief that you've gotten to the point where you can't worry anymore, even if you wanted to, and you can't think about the may or may not happen. In those seconds before it all went dark, I thought "Finally. Time to find out if this is it.  If this will work.  Time to find out..."  

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Celebration!

And new blog posts coming May 13, 2013!!

I'm excited to share my take on the surgery, the first week of recovery, and what it's like to be...healthy. Whoa! Can't believe I just wrote that.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

When Your Fiance Gets a Transplant -- Ben's View

Hi Readers! Jewel, here. I'm resting up, but my wonderful fiance is taking over blogging for me for a bit.  Enjoy, and I'll see you soon :)

4:30 A.M.  I am woken by the sound of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”   I dozily realize that Jewel has elected to start the most important day of her life, to date….with a song about a white rapper and the trials of battling in the ghetto.

I consider for what must be the millionth time how strange my fiancé is, but then brush it off along with the sleep in my eyes.  It is a cool morning so I am grateful for the warm water in the shower.  I contemplate how this may very well be the only relaxing thing I do all day long.  My thoughts are interrupted by Jewel requesting that I hurry up.

Breakfast is not in the cards for us this morning.  Jewel isn’t allowed to eat or drink so I figure the polite thing to do would be to not gorge in front of her. 

We arrive at Inova Fairfax Hospital by 6:00 AM.  Several members of Jewel’s family are already there, including some out-of-towners.  They greet us as one group of zombies greets other--mostly with grunting and awkward shuffles.  We settle into our seats in a spacious waiting room.

Jewel and her father are called into the back for processing.  I am struck by a strange parallel between a hospital wing that specializes in organ transplant and a slaughter house.  I push it aside and follow at Jewel’s heels.  Her father, Dallas, is accompanied by his wife, Waltina.  

Jewel heads to prep room “R”.  This tiny rectangular room might as well be a torture chamber.  For the next two hours, six different nurses come in to perform various tasks.  One takes her blood pressure.  Five minutes later another has her sign some consent forms.  A third asks her about her medication history.  Yet another asks if she has a living will.  The experience is peppered with Jewel’s whimpering:

“Ouch.  That IV needle really hurts”

“I’m really nervous”

“I’m very cold and thirsty.”

“I’m scared.”

Each sentence she speaks pangs me.  Her words are so heavy.  I cannot remember the last time I ached with sadness.  I barely spoke at all.  I feared that if I opened my mouth or even made eye contact with Jewel that the dam would break and I’d begin sobbing uncontrollably.  I feign interest in some medical equipment hung on a wall and struggle to hold up appearances.  I’m supposed to be strong for Jewel’s sake-- to inspire confidence and make her feel at ease.  But this day the only “support” I could muster was to not crumble to pieces.  If Jewel’s mother had not also made her way into the room I question if I would have been able to do it.  

Jewel asks me if I am sick.  She tells me I don’t look well.  Apparently, I’m not faking being OK very well.  I’m cautious to not make anything more than very brief eye contact for fear that she will see my eyes glistening with moisture.

I am afraid Jewel will die.  ‘No operation is without risk’ one nurse had said.  This fact has been drilled into me for the past year.  I’m convinced this is the last time I will see the love of my life.

And like a flash they inject Jewel with some drug that begins to force her eyes shut.  Half-assed goodbyes are exchanged.  No kiss.  No “I love you.”   Not even a, “I’ll see you soon!  Good luck!”



Four hours pass. Amy (the post-op nurse) introduces herself.  She speaks:


Jewel is still in surgery.  There must have been some confusion but I’m here to clear that up for you.”

Really?  REALLY?!  You led with ‘unfortunately’?!?!

She explains that only Dallas is in recovery.  A previous nurse had earned a collective sigh of relief from Jewel’s entourage by informing us that both she and Dallas had successful surgeries and were in the recovery area slowly coming out of anesthesia.

The anxiety begins to creep back into me.  I’m already sore in my shoulder and neck from being so tense earlier.  What’s another few hours of wondering about the welfare of your future wife?  We thank Amy and she skips away.

Two more hours pass.  I’ve found distraction in answering technology questions for Jewel’s family and responding to the flurry of emails and text messages coming through both of our phones.  I am in the middle of responding to a text message when a nurse appears in front of me telling us that the surgery was a success and both patients are in recovery.   I may see Jewel in about 30 minutes.

I am escorted to the recovery area with Waltina, Jewel’s mother.   Jewel’s area is a mess of tubes, machines, and IV bags with long, complicated words printed on them.  Another nurse pokes Jewel in the head and she wakes up.  Her eyes struggle to focus and then she locks on me.  The word “Hi” limps out of her along with a tiny smile.  I repeat the sentiment and beam back at her.

“Am I healthy?” she asks.

I smile even brighter than before and kiss her on the forehead.

“Yes, Jewel.  You are”

Friday, May 3, 2013

T-Day: The Art of Remembering

Transplant Day

By the time this is read by most, I'll be asleep on a hospital table, while surgeons do what has taken more than 50 years to perfect.  May 3 is the last day that the kidneys that were provided to me at birth, perform their last few functions, and curl up and die.  May 3 is also the first day of my second chance at living.  

In the days leading up to the surgery, my nervousness played second fiddle to excitement.  Two years ago, when I was told that my kidneys, which had been declining in function for the past ten years, would eventually fail I rejected the idea that I would need a transplant. I protested.  I kicked, and screamed, and cried.  I was angry at myself, my family, my fiance...God.  Fast forward to May 3, and the thing I want most is to have this transplant. The thing I want most is to not be on the last leg of my life.  I want to feel what it's like to be 15 years old again, because that was the last time my kidneys worked perfectly.  

After everything is said and done, and I regain energy, stamina, health...I don't want to ever forget this time.  I want to have this past year burned into my brain and imprinted on my heart.  I want to think about this period of my life everyday.  I want to photograph my scar. I want to stare at it.  I want to flaunt it. I don't want to wake up one morning and forget what it has been like to cry, to wish I was dead, to wish I was alive, to wake up feeling awful, to go to sleep feeling awful, to be in pain, to feel alone. I don't want to forget what it was like to miss out on things, to take it easy, to quit drinking, to watch what I eat.  I don't want to forget what it was like to have to call for help, to have to rely on Ben, to have to depend on God every second of every day. To count on God to perform miracles. I don't want to forget what it was like to watch other people, healthy people, and feel happy, sad, or jealous.  I don't want to forget was it was like to want to give up, but then decide to push forward just one more day.  I don't want to forget what if feels like to know you can't live without your kidneys. I don't want to forget all the people who have done so much for me. I don't want to forget what God has done for me. I don't want to forget that this has been the worst and best year of my life. 

I want to remember this time so that there will never be a doubt in my mind that I am stronger than I think I am. That even when I feel most alone, I can count on more people than I could have imagined to be in my corner.   That Ben and I can conquer anything, together.  That hope is enough to keep two crippled kidneys chugging along for a whole year, functioning at less than 10 percent.  That nothing is impossible for God.  That He is good, all the time.

I don't want to take anything for granted. I want to be thankful for every single thing.  Good and bad, because at the end of the day, it doesn't go to waste. It's all absorbed and becomes part of who we are.

"We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.  In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged.  Quite the contrary--we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day/Night Before

I wasn't planning on deviating from my three-day posting schedule, but what the hell. It feels almost unnatural to NOT do a "before" post just as something as huge as getting a kidney transplant is about to happen.  It seems like it goes against everything we know about changes or expecting them and experiencing them.  How can you know where you're going until you know where you've come from, right?  I don't know if that really applies in this situation...but oh well. This whole blog is kind of like a "before" post.  

Anyhoo, the transplant is tomorrow.   I'm feeling...calm right now, as I'm writing this.  I was actually just a little bit bored before I decided to do this post.  This whole day has been a pretty good day.  I went to work, which was a surprise to some people. Not because I didn't have crap to do at home today.  Trust me, I had a lot of last minute items.  But really because I needed the extra paid day of leave.  And there will definitely be a blog post coming up on what it's like to work and not work when you have a chronic illness and/or surgery.  Stay tuned.

I went to work.  A coworker of mine made lemon bars. I ate two and experienced bliss while eating them.  I'm actually planning to make them during my "spring break."  I finished cleaning off my desk. I emptied out my email inbox.  I didn't drink coffee when I went into the office! Yes!  This is kind of a big victory for me.  The nurse practitioner at the transplant center told me to stay away from coffee at the beginning of the transplantation period.  I balked because until today, that has been impossible for me. Hi, my name is Jewel. And I'm a coffee addict.  Or maybe not...anymore.  Yesterday, while I was in the middle of my second cup of coffee, every sip I took caused pain in my abdomen.  Seriously! Every time I took a sip, knives. Stabbing me.  That's when, of course, I went to WebMD. I either have a tumor or some condition that is exacerbated by eating or drinking certain things, like coffee.  And just like that, I quit coffee, right then and there.  I think it's safe to say I have enough health issues (my tooth started hurting last week).  I don't need to deal with another thing RIGHT NOW.  

So instead of my usual cup of coffee, I downed a bottle of cranberry juice.  For lunch, I walked to the bank in GORGEOUS weather, and deposited three checks.  I returned to my desk with a cute card on it, signed by all my coworkers.  Everyone was REALLY nice to me all day.  Not that people aren't nice.  In fact, at my job, there are hardly any mean people.  But everyone was wishing me good luck and asking me a lot of questions, and saying they'll be thinking of me.  It was pretty great.

I came home, started packing.  Ben cleaned out the refrigerator. With me off my feet, he won't be cooking much at all so I told him it might be a good idea to get rid of everything that could rot, i.e. all the fresh vegetables.

And now I'm just...waiting for the next thing I guess.  Ben and I are going to dinner tonight.  A celebration.  Last meal. Last hoorah.  Whatever you may call it. Then we'll probably turn in for the night.  

After writing posts like this sometimes I wonder:  what ARE you supposed to do the day before a transplant, besides fast after midnight?  You know?  Sometimes I feel like we're expected to live bigger than things actually are.  I blame it all on Facebook and Instagram and the pressure to make it seem like whatever you're doing is awesome all the time.  And it really could just be eating a taco.  In a way it's nice, because it makes you celebrate the little things in life, like tacos.  And other times,  it's annoying because..they're just tacos.  And this is JUST a transplant.  I'm kidding. This is a big deal. But I have no regrets about how I spent this day.  Sure, there haven't been any shots of tequila, and there won't be any tomorrow either.  I'm content listening to Ben shave before dinner and watching the cat sleep in his climbing tower.  This is the day before a kidney transplant.  It's been a pretty good day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Taking a Break

45 Days 'Til the Wedding

YAAAAAAAAY.  In a month and a half, I'll be a married woman!  Woo hoo!  I'm excited.  I'm finally super excited. My "excitement" level took a bit of a hit sometime in the middle of the engagement, when I ran into a few snags booking vendors and accepting my monetary limitations.  But now that we're heading towards the homestretch, I'm really looking forward to the wedding day, and formally starting my life with Ben.  

I basically went through a rundown of all the wedding details I wanted to accomplish over the weekend. And on Monday, I did complete my second fitting for my wedding dress.  I LOVE the dress. It looks perfect. Dare I say, I look perfect??? I don't know! But it's awesome and I'm excited for Ben to see it.  

SO:  What now?  More honeymoon drama unfortunately.  I've written about several "realizations" we've had to come to when planning this honeymoon.  A recap:
  • Realization Number 1:  Back in January when we booked the honeymoon to Greece, Ben and I agreed it would be good to purchase vacation insurance, just in case we needed to cancel our trip.
  • Realization Number 2:  At the beginning of April, Ben and I finally accepted that we would have to postpone our honeymoon until a few months after the wedding.  
  • Realization Number 3:  And this is a new one.  I discovered Monday after going through the pre-surgery teachings, that planning an overseas honeymoon probably won't be practical, or safe, in the year 2013. And now, Ben and I are talking about scheduling it for Spring 2014.   
The reason we're thinking about postponing it even further into the future is because after the transplant, for at least six weeks I'll be going to the transplant clinic for check-ups twice a week.  During first 3 months after the transplant I have to be closely monitored to ensure my body doesn't reject the kidney, and if there are any signs of rejection I need to be close to my home transplant center.  The doctors are OK with travel after three months from the procedure, but that kind of only means travel within the continental U.S., where there's more certainty with acceptance of health insurance and more available information on U.S. transplant centers.  
This is not ideal of course.  But we really have no other choice. As much as I just want to be like, "Well, f*&K it! Let's just go anyways!" I also kind of want to be healthy, after such a long battle with being unhealthy.  

Right now, Ben and I are looking into other honeymoon options within the U.S.  At this point it sounds like we're doing a 2-3 day thing after the wedding, then a five-day thing three months after the transplant, then EVENTUALLY, a 10-day celebration in 2014.  That doesn't sound so bad, right?  I'm getting used to the idea.  I guess it doesn't matter where we go or even when because I'll be with my HUSBAAAAAAND. Aw...yeah!

Another teeny-tiny drama:  RSVPs.  I'm telling you, NOBODY returns these things anymore.  The RSVP deadline is this Friday and right now I'm waiting on 15 more responses.  But so far the guest list for the reception is at 163. When everything is said and done we'll have about 175 heads for dinner, I believe.  And so far we have 13 children attending. 

What's Next:  Well...nothing really.  The "Wedding Wednesday Series" and I are taking a 12-day planning vacation due to the fact that I'm going into surgery Friday morning.  I'll be diving back into the planning pool May 15, exactly 30 days away from the wedding, and there will be lots to plan and talk about.  I'm kind of looking forward to this new phase of planning, because two obstacles for me will be gone! I'll have a new kidney, so hopefully I will have that super-strength and super energy that everyone talks about. And second, I won't be at WOOOORK.  I like working, but honestly, working can suck when you're engaged. You have to coordinate all your vendor meetings and planning sessions either after work hours (which for me, means AFTER 6 PM) or during the weekends.  So that combined with my illness, makes it feel like I have no time to do anything! I'm hoping that by eliminating the 8-9 hour block of working from my day, I'll be able to accomplish more things in a more relaxed manner.  Plus, I'll have a chauffer to drive me to meetings (Jocelyn) if I need to.  I can see us having little planning sessions at home over tea and big breakfasts or lunches.  Which could be fun!

Welp, here goes. Wedding planning pause starts...NOW. ;)