Monday, March 30, 2015

Out with the Old

Old winter clothes have to go.

It’s that glorious time of year in Georgia when warmer days prompt the trees to burst forth with color. I feel bad for my friends and family up north still stuck with below freezing temps and wrapped up in quilts and heavy sweaters. But I can’t wait to purge my closet of its drab clothes in favor of brighter ones. When I pack up my flannels, corduroys, heavy sweaters, and fleece I declare that winter is in its last gasp and will soon give way to the warmer days of spring and summer. I recently took two days and several trips up and down to the basement closet to make the swap. About the time I started the task, the thermometer took another plunge below freezing just to remind me who’s in charge.

Old eating habits have to go.

Climbing those stairs gave me some much needed exercise and made me realize how out of shape I am. Too many carbs and too many days piled in the recliner wrapped in a quilt have taken a toll on my body. Trying on some of last year’s clothes has been very painful. Well, let’s put in plainly—they don’t fit.  Ugh—I have to lose weight. It’s time to cut way back on the comfort food of winter and lighten up my diet with lots more fruit and veggies. It’s also time to take that daily walk to help burn some calories. How about a walk around the Mall instead looking at all the pretty new clothes?  The only problem is they won’t fit either.

Old ways of thinking have to go.

For the past few weeks our church has focused on the Sermon on the Mount during this Lenten season leading up to Easter. The words of Jesus in the book of Matthew have challenged my way of thinking. The eight Beatitudes or blessings in Matthew 5:1-10 tells the ways I am to live in relationship to God and to others. When I put into practice the challenge of the each Beatitude, I receive a blessing from the hand of God. The lesson of each Beatitude is not to focus on
self, but to focus on those around me. In our self-oriented, me-first society, it is indeed a new way of thinking. As you prepare for Easter Sunday and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, consider His words from the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Have a Blessed Easter.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Under the Microscope

When I agreed to be interviewed by my niece and her boyfriend—two first-year Mercer medical students—about my liver transplant, I didn't think it would be too challenging. In fact I was honored to have been chosen as a specimen for their research paper.

As we proceeded through the interview, I realized that the clinical questions would be few and that most of the questions revolved about feelings and perceptions. I really had to dig through my past and unearth emotions that I hadn't thought about in years. It was painful to remember how I felt not knowing if or when I would qualify for a donor liver and being fearful that I wouldn't survive the ordeal. I was asked how having a terminal disease affected my family life and how they reacted to that knowledge. Because in the early years of my disease I had two young sons, I had to be strong for them as well as myself. It was a time of wanting to be dependent on others, but because I was a widow for much of that time, realizing I only had myself and my relationship with God to sustain me. 

We also discussed the role and the work required of Charles, my second husband and caregiver. He married me knowing that I would need a transplant. After one year of marriage, I went into a rapid decline that led to me being placed on the national transplant list. He devoted much of his time and energy into transporting me back and forth to Emory Hospital for all the required testing and checkups. It seemed like he had to make that hour-long drive in Atlanta traffic at least once a week. We couldn't plan anything not knowing if and when a donor liver would be available. I never would have made it through the long ordeal without all this care and support.

Then the line of questioning moved into my post-transplant years. I explained how difficult it was to adjust to all the new drugs surging through my body, along with the lack of sleep that accompanied those drugs. I wanted to reclaim the years I had lost to disease, but some days I still struggled to put one foot in front of the other. Because I was immune suppressed I was always afraid of infection or that my body would reject my new liver.Those fears lessened over time as my lab reports showed that my body was adjusting very well to my donor liver.

From time to time I have some anxious thoughts about how long my borrowed liver will stay healthy. I often think about my donor family and the loss that they experienced.Then I remember how far God has brought me from that day in 1981 when I was told I had a terminal liver disease. He has never let me down and each day I choose to place my future in His loving and faithful hands. I just pray that I will faithfully serve Him with how ever many days I have left.