Sheriff Sarah

Sheriff Sarah

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Heart Trouble

It was an interesting week which some of you may have followed on Facebook. I was admitted to the local hospital last Thursday following an ER visit for chest discomfort. There's nothing quite like a hospital stay to throttle your world a bit.

I wasn't concerned about having suffered an actual heart attack but did want to err on the side of caution to avoid such an episode. This was my first ER visit, for myself, in quite a few years and I must admit I was taken aback by how quickly they ushered me to a room following check-in. I guess my dad was right: mention you're having chest pain and you go to the front of the line!

Thankfully, following a full battery of labs, EKG's, a stress test and CT scans, the docs confirmed there were NO heart issues. In fact, I was pretty impressed I did so well on the stress test and learned even my cholesterol had dropped.

I share all of this to say that sometimes we need an abrupt STOP in our lives. This gives us time to ponder where we are and if that's really where we should be, and want to be. I'm not done re-evaluating my life yet - not my a long shot - because frankly that's a lifelong process. I don't think I'm fully recovered from the shock of a hospital stay and the realization there COULD have been heart issues noted. Then, how would I have acted, what would I have thought? It's a little numbing to consider the possibilities but I don't dwell on them.

To me, God is bigger than anything life can throw at me. Still, to think a serious diagnosis could have been reached is sobering. I think of my four kids and I can't imagine missing one moment of watching them grow. That's enough to give me pause - and to be grateful for the time I do have.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How Do We Close the Organ Donation Gap?

I just read an interesting article by Dr. Andrew S. Klein, a former chairman with UNOS. He reveals the problems our country faces with organ donation. In 2011, there were more than 110,000 people awaiting transplants but only 28,465 transplants completed. How can this be and how do we narrow this enormous gap? (You can read his entire article here.)

A huge part of the problem is apathy towards transplants remains. The number of people affected by transplants of any kind has certainly increased over time but that fact hasn't penetrated the culture-at-large. While Facebook's initiative to increase organ donor registration is a great start, we need so much more work done on a local level.

This can include any or all of the following:

- Letters to the editor of your local papers, print and online

- Reaching out to local educational institutions, from high schools to universities

- Contacting local businesses to help with information outreach

- Booking speaking engagements with local community service organizations

Many of you know I'm writing a book about our personal experience with transplant. Part of my hope for this book is that it will touch people who've never thought much about organ donation/transplant. Awareness is certainly key, but action is required to make a dent the statistics noted above.

You could probably come up with your own list or add many items to mine. Feel free to do so and post a comment with your suggestions, or what you're already doing to advocate organ donation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Real Heroes, Part 2: The Parents

This week's segment of Real Heroes focuses on the people who love those liver kids: their parents. These aren't just your average, everyday parents. These are people who must withstand regular bouts with disappointment; deal daily with many forms of stress; face extended time away from their spouse and/or other children; and who must be their child's advocate at every turn.

This post in no one seeks to take away from parents who are raising kids without life-threatening diseases. We all know how difficult it is to parent. Period. But I want to celebrate those heroes who  don't step out of the fire even when their bodies might be completely consumed by a poor prognosis, countless nights in the hospital and feel the strain on their marriage.

We've met many liver parents online and in-person. I'm continually struck by their tenacity, their vulnerability and their strength. They're willing to do ANYTHING in the best interest of their child. They're willing to RISK anything to insure their cared for the best way possible. 

Even these heroes need places to vent and meltdown on occasion. A real hero still needs someone to lean on. The strain of liver disease, transplant and the waiting, waiting, waiting would be insufferable if we all sought to do everything on our own. It takes a special person to acknowledge they need help and to seek it. 

The other parents who offer suggestions, share their own journey and walk alongside another families - they are part of this lineage of heroes. It's imperative we embrace each other no matter what road we're walking at the moment - initial diagnosis, awaiting a transplant, or post-transplant. 

Heroes are willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING for the people they love. That describes liver parents to a T. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Could I Have Done Better?

I was contemplating life as I walked during a work break. I find  myself doing this often, for good or bad. Since I've started writing Sarah's story I find myself looking back at that time in our lives for good reason.

I also catch myself lamenting things undone. Or not done well.

I strive daily to not hold on to the past, to have no regrets. But sometimes a creative mind can be a double-edged sword. One of those times was today.

Looking back on the segment of Sarah's journey where she and Patty were at Children's Hospital for the bulk of two and a half months, I recalled what I'd done to keep my family intact and as healthy as possible.

It was painful to consider what happened. Sure, I'd started a new job two weeks before Sarah's initial diagnosis in November 2008 and was working hard not to give my employer a reason to let me go. They were very gracious and supportive throughout our entire journey and I remember them fondly.

There are things I don't remember so fondly. I wasn't present for my three older kids like I should have been, both emotionally and physically. It never hit me to work on getting Patty breaks from the hospital until well along in the journey. I tried to keep things afloat but in the end it's only by God's grace we didn't completely sink.

As it should be. When we think we have everything down, or that we should survive & excel through every trial in life, that's when we get hit the hardest. I know from a lot of prayer and personal reflection that Sarah's journey was a struggle but also a beautiful episode in our lives. We've seen the blessing that's come as a result but I still wonder: could I have done better?