Saturday, September 18, 2010

In Which I Break From Your Regularly Scheduled Blogging

You've probably noticed that over the last week there's been a distinct lack of blogging on this site.  It's not for lack of fodder or even for lack of time (although there's been precious little of that) but mostly because what's been going on is pretty intense and absorbing.  Something that started out small snowballed into involving my whole family of origin.

It started with a friend's baby.  This friend is like a brother to my sister.  They're very close and as a result he's close to our family as a whole.  His little girl started having health problems and over a period of several weeks it became clear that the only way to fix her issues was to get her a new liver.

She landed on the transplant list and waited just a few short weeks and a liver became available.  We were scared but optimistic that her problems would soon be over.  Unfortunately, she had complications during surgery and they had to stop the transplant.  The liver went to another recipient.

The baby's complications were nothing to sneeze at and she had to heal from those to a certain point before she could even be relisted for transplant.  She fought and fought and refused to let go.  She improved enough to be listed again and this time she was sick enough to be at the top of the list.

We waited.  We prayed.  No liver.

Until this point, the doctors involved in her case wanted to avoid using a live liver donor for the baby.  For reasons that aren't really clear to medical science, outcomes in those cases aren't as good as they are with traditionally obtained organs.  But, she couldn't wait anymore and they finally opened the door to this option.

A number of people stepped forward to volunteer as donor.  My sister was among them.  Of those that came forward, my sister, the baby's Godmother, turned out to be the best match.  That's when things kicked into high gear for me.

You see, my family may be spread across the eastern U.S. but in a situation of this sort, we come together.  I knew that this procedure was not without great risk to my sister and I also knew that she wouldn't back down if it meant saving the baby.  I knew that my parents would be worried sick during the whole thing.  I couldn't sit at home and watch that from afar.  I had to go and be there and that meant a road trip and three days away from Scot and the boys during a work week.

Did you know that it takes 6 people to do what I do when I'm not home?  It does.  Scot, Grandma, Granddad, a neighbor, daycare, and me - by telephone.  Holy crap.

So, was my presence strictly necessary?  Probably not.  But in the same breath, I just couldn't stay home and allow my sister, and my parents in particular, to face it without me.  The only problem was that there were still hurdles to cross and trying to be there on surgery day was like trying to hit a target on the back of a truck going 80 miles an hour.  Our best guess was a Tuesday surgery since my sister had meetings and tests to deal with on Monday.

Monday morning I hit the road after getting the kids settled with their respective caregivers.  Given that I was traveling without the kids, I was determined to gut it out and only stop when absolutely necessary.  I was making great time without speeding egregiously and more than halfway there when my phone rang.

It was my mother.  Not one, but TWO livers had become available that morning.  Harvest teams had been sent to evaluate both livers.  The best would be chosen for the baby and my sister would no longer be a necessary part of the equation.

Well, there I was, well past the halfway point of my trip.  I decided that I would go ahead and keep going and at least see my family for a short visit.  The baby wasn't even in surgery by that point and who knew what would transpire so I continued.

She went into surgery that evening.  Three hours later she had a brand new liver.  The liver they chose for her was a whole pediatric liver as opposed to a piece of an adult liver - which was the other option available.  I don't know what words to use to express the sadness I feel for the family that lost a child that day or the gratitude I feel for the decision they made.  Their gift saved another child's life.

I spent Tuesday with my family and then lit out at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning to drive home.  It was an uneventful drive home and I was home in time to get Liam off the bus - who was ecstatic to see me.

Just 5 days after her transplant, the baby is doing marvelously well.  All of her tests show remarkable upward progress and she's even managed to get off the ventilator and is breathing on her own.  The baby's father asked the team how much longer her liver would have lasted and was told only another few days.  She was that sick.  There is still a very long way to go in terms of her recovery but she turns 1 this week and it's very, very sweet indeed to know that the family can celebrate her birthday.

I'm not the most overtly religious person you'll ever meet.  I don't attend church regularly - mostly because of scheduling problems - but, I believe in God and I have faith, in whatever non-conformist way I choose to celebrate that.  I'm pragmatic enough that I never thought I'd see a miracle in action.  Yet, this past week, I did.  So many things had to go just right in order for this baby to have a positive outcome and when it came down to it, all those things fell right into line.  Believe me, I don't discount the knowledge and talent of the medical staff that's been caring for the baby - they are one of the many links in that chain of just right things.  All the same, I really can't think of any other word to properly describe what's happened.  Miracle is pretty much it.

And so, I pray.  I pray for the continued good health and healing of the baby and that her family has all the support they need.  I pray that the baby has the best of all possible liver transplant outcomes - she accepts the organ as hers and is one day completely off anti-rejection medication.  I pray for the family that lost a child - that they find peace in their grieving and that they know their gift was the saving grace of another.

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