It has been 3 years since Randy, my husband, received the last minute gift of a double lung transplant. Randy had been on life support for almost 2 weeks, and time was running out. His lungs had failed, but no one really knew why (after the transplant at UT Southwestern Transplant Center it was determined that Randy had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis). The past 3 years, post transplant, have been full. Full of fear, sorrow, hope, joy, and relief. I think we have run the gamut of emotion, and it has been a true roller coaster. The last year has been much more tranquil, though, for which we are grateful. Both of our children married in 2015 and we have welcomed two new family members! Looking back, I want to reprint my post from September 10, 2013, reminding us all that Miracles do Happen!
The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind of emotion. Yesterday, about 11a, Dr. Builineni informed me that Randy had an offer of lungs. He said the offer looked very promising, and there was a 50/50 chance that Randy would be transplanted. He said he would keep me informed. Of course, my heart was racing, and I was hopeful and scared and worried and excited, and relieved…and probably another 100 emotions were in there as well. My father in law, Rex, came to visit….and again, I had to keep my mouth closed, which is not the easiest thing for me to do. Offers had come before…and not gone through, so I didn’t want to raise anyone’s hopes on a 50/50 chance. My friend, Harmony, arrived and surprised me with a delicious assortment of goodies: vitamin water, energy mix nuts, chicken salad (I’m a vegetarian, but it’s the thought that counts and my daughter ate it), and wonderful broccoli salad. Best of all, she brought Luna Bars! So thoughtful, and very cheering. It also kept my mind off of the offer…I knew I wouldn’t hear any more about it for hours. I was right.
Alexandra came to work at the hospital, and more hours went by. The doc came back by and said it was looking really good, he was ordering tests from the donor, he would keep me informed. At that point, the cat was out of the bag and I filled Alexandra in. I told her it would be hours and hours before we knew, probably, and not to get her hopes up too high, but to still keep praying or thinking positively about it. Finally, I got her to go home around 6p or so, I think.
A very long evening followed, with my pacing around the ICU, eavesdropping where I could, basically learning nothing until about 10p. At 10p the doctor called and told me there was a 90% chance this was a go. He said the match looked great. At that point, I started shaking.
There is always a chance that the surgeons who go to remove the organs may find something wrong with them….something the testing didn’t reveal. So you never really know it is a go until the surgeon (the harvesting surgeon) has seen the organs. At 1 a.m. they booked the Operating Room for 6a.m., and I knew at that point we were at 99%. I felt blank, almost disembodied, but I managed to call Alexandra and Wes to let them know to be at the ICU at 5a. I waited until 5 a.m. to call Rex…I really did not want him up worrying all night. He’s one of those guys who gets up at 6 a.m. I grabbed a couple of hours of sleep in the “family room” ( a private room off of the ICU) and set my alarm for 430a.m.
When I went to Ran’s room at 445a.m. they were already there, doing a 3rd bath prep, and consolidating tubes and lines. They wanted him “on the table” at 6 a.m. I spoke with the anesthesiologist, the nurses, then one of the surgeons, Dr Wait. I signed a lot of documents, and the kids arrived. A quick kiss and a few words to my sleeping Randy, and off he went. Ally, Wes and Carisa, and I headed to the 4th floor waiting room…where we are right now. Waiting.
But…they did just update us that the right lung has been attached! Now they will remove the left and attach the new left lung. What a miracle!
You know, there are two of me, or more, maybe I have Multiple Personality Disorder, but I have a very romantic, magical, believing side of myself, let’s call her Tammy….this is the self who creates fairy dust for Christmas and the sound of reindeer and sleighs….the spiritual side that has faith that there must be something…something greater than ourselves….the idealistic liberal democrat who believes if everyone could just be nice to each other, we’d all be happier. Then, there is Tam, the logical argumentative one who shakes her head and says Tammy is an idiot….the one who believes in Occam’s Razor, a scientific precept: the simplest explanation tends to the be the correct one. The one who watches the news and cannot begin to understand the cruelty of the world, the one who says, “everything that happens is just an accident of time and place, so don’t kid yourself.” A universal spirit? A white bearded guy on a throne with angels? Angels on earth? Please. Get yourself a dose of reality. And yet.
And yet….sorry to sound Age of Aquarius…but the stars or SOMETHING seemed to align to create the environment for Randy’s illness and healing. Strange, small things that made no sense at the time, but now, looking back…seem to lay out a pattern. For instance, in my college consulting business, I have a very high “close” rate…meaning that of the families who come to consult with me, I end up getting about 85% of them as clients. 35 percent of my business is repeat with siblings. I am pretty proud of those numbers….I had several consults with families of students for the 2015 school year, and I felt really positive about all of them. Out of them, I only had a couple who were still thinking about it, and the rest went with someone else. This was a first. Granted, many of these interviews/consults occurred in June when my mother was dying and I was spending most of my time with her, but I really was stunned, and felt like I must have lost my touch. Randy and I went to Cozumel for July, and I received very few inquiries during the month…also strange. On August 2nd, when Wes and I rushed Randy to the hospital, we certainly never expected anything like this….we thought okay, infection…antibiotics, steroids, home and better. Wes and Carisa left for Alaska. Randy did not get better. His friends began to fly in from all over the country to see him, his friends in town were in constant touch with him. My family flew in to be with me.
He was put on the transplant list….as number one. When that happened, Wes decided to return from Alaska, and shortly afterward, during his brother Russell’s visit, he experienced a severe “episode” that ended up with him on life support….because that is what ECMO and a ventilator is. We can say ECMO, but the truth is, Randy came very close to dying on August 30. ECMO saved his life, and he has been “under” ever since. I decided to finish my students for the 2014 college admissions year, but take on no other students…I suspended my practice, and only had to inform a couple of people who had not yet committed. For some reason, I just didn’t have solid students for the 2015 admission season. People have prayed for him, lit candles for him, sent energy and healing to him, visualized lungs for him, come to the hospital to pray for him, prayed during the high holidays….surely, such collective energy and prayer must have an effect somehow? Is there a force in this world that is inexplicable…does fate really exist?
Now….I know this is weird, but I carry with me, always, a Ho Tai Buddha and a Fortune Kitty. Both are Chinese good luck tokens. I have done so for years and years. Several months ago, Fortune Kitty disappeared. When Ran became ill, I brought a different Chinese cat to his room, but he continued to worsen. With offers for lungs that didn’t go through, I was becoming less hopeful, yet still promoting a positive attitude. Yesterday morning, when I went to wash my face, I found Fortune Kitty sitting on the counter by my sink. I was so excited, and I thought, today is the day! The real Fortune Kitty is a sign. I took it to the hospital, and taped it on the door where it looked over him. Two hours later I was told he might have organs.
So, Tammy is in the ascendant, with a sense of wonder at how the “stars aligned”, or perhaps the music of the spheres stirred and were heard? The universe heard our wishes, God answered our prayers? I think it may be. It really may be.
I know we have a long way to go, a hard road of recovery, but how many people get a second chance at life? I believe a miracle happened for Randy and I, our children, family and friends. A large collective has been united in a cause….and it has made a difference.
Bless every one of you. We wait with hope and anticipation that Randy will recover.