A true life story of faith, hope, and love.
Have you ever met someone and you just knew there was something special about them, or you had a connection with them that was different than anyone else? This is a true life story that is truly based on faith, hope, and love through the eyes of a daughter. Several years ago, my dad was diagnosed with end stage liver failure. Now, before anyone assumes he drank himself to sickness, he didn’t. He was always a hard working father and husband who made sure his family was always provided for. If I ever needed anything, my dad was the resource for just about everything. And if you needed advice, or the answer to something, it was highly likely he knew the answer or someone to give you the answer you were looking for. He had the best knowledge. You bet he also never missed a volleyball, softball, or football game, either.
Liver disease was not only a challenge with learning how to cope and deal with the daily struggle, it literally drained the life out of him, and my mom who was (and still is) his caregiver. During the initial diagnosis, I think everyone was taking it as “yeah right”, this can’t happen to us. But it did. And wow, no one knew what this would mean.
As this horrible disease greatly progressed, it would mean that my dad would retire from his general managing position that he held for countless years and close his thriving business. This also called for my mom to retire from 27 years of teaching in order for her to take care of my dad full time. He became a full-time sick person. And my mom, she became a full-time, around the clock, 24/7 caregiver. This certainly wasn’t the retirement life they dreamt of. Nor was it the life they desired to live at such young ages. But this was the life God challenged them with and a life He knew they would somehow get through, even though all those days and nights would never make sense.
A small liver lesson: it filters toxins out of the body. Without the liver working properly, toxins remain in the body causing harm to other organs, especially the brain. Ever cleaned your house with ammonia? Now imagine that in your body because the liver didn’t do its job. This is what began to happen with my dad. His body wasn’t able to get rid of the ammonia toxins through the liver, so it began to build up in his brain. With this symptom he dealt with, it caused severe confusion, similar to an elderly person with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The only way to help his body get rid of some of the ammonia, he had to take a laxative type medicine that made him extremely sick in his stomach- which is a whole other story.
Because the confusion he had was so severe, this is why he needed around the clock care and someone to be with him at all times. It honestly was scary and such a dark time in life that trying to decipher how life was, seems impossible. Though these couple of years were extremely difficult to witness, there was some good that came out of it. Prior to my dad being so sick, he worked a lot. For me, I was able to help my mom in the smallest ways (compared to what she did) so she could have breaks to go to church, the store, or for a pedicure. I have to say, during this time when I would “dad-sit”, I was able to get to know my dad a little better, watch his favorite shows for the hundredth time, or take him to random places. Though it was tough to see him this way, they are also times I will never forget; it is a strange time, I am grateful for.
Now back to the question of having a connection with someone for some reason… my brother played football with the same group of guys since they were small. My dad always loved them all but loved one young just a little bit more- a special connection. Even at my dad’s worst, this young man would always talk to him, ask how he was, or make a silly joke, just to make him laugh. It truly was a special bond.
One dark August night, the unthinkable happened. This shining, bright young man met our Lord far too soon. It was a tragedy that still leaves everyone wondering why. In a time of sorrow, this young man’s family offered to donate his liver to my dad. How can in a time of tragedy and loss, a family be so selfless to save the life of someone else? But that is exactly what happened. In a time of loss, my dad’s life was saved. This was truly the gift of life.
Though life after transplant meant learning about new routines, lifestyle, and medicines, we had a real life hero. A hero who will forever remain in our hearts. A beautiful soul who will never be forgotten. This liver transplant gave my dad a new outlook on life. He was able to live again, be a papa to his grandkids, and remember what his purpose in life is.
Our family is forever grateful for the gift of life my dad received. My dad is able to volunteer and donate his time to many local organizations, share his donors’ story, and help take care of his grandkids. My mom is back to work as a full-time teacher, though she still takes care of all the things my dad still needs and requires- doctor appointments, medicines, etc. It is not a perfect life, but it’s our life and what a journey it has been.
Through every day of sickness, unknowns, tireless nights, heartache, and the “why us”, the faith of God prevailed, the hope of God healed, and the love of God shinned through.