My story begins several years ago when I did not have much energy and was tired most of the time. I visited our Family
Doctor, who was an INTERNIST. His standard procedure was to run a battery of tests including blood analysis. These tests indicated
that I was somewhat anemic. Over the next several weeks, he set out to determine the reason for my anemia.
The results from stool exams indicated that I was losing blood, and the Doctor
thought that the cause was probably stomach ulcers, and ordered upper and lower GI exams. These did not indicate that I had
an ulcer nor did I have any colon problems. However just to be safe, he prescribed ulcer medicines anyway.
Several months passed and some of the tests that I was undergoing showed that the
blood pressure in my liver and spleen was abnormally high and that some blood was not flowing in the direction that God intended.
My general health was going downhill and my energy symptoms were increasing. My Hemoglobin levels were continuing to decline
and by late fall transfusions became the primary treatment, along with other procedures, such as a TIPS procedure, the result
being, no change in my health. Also, a COIL procedure was performed, again with no positive results. My patience was wearing
thin and my health was nose diving. By this time, most all of the Doctors I was seeing agreed that my liver was dying and
that Alcohol consumption was the underlying culprit. This is an opinion that the Medical Community puts forward for all cirrhosis
disorders. I disagree.
The period of time between
blood transfusions became shorter and shorter and by February, 2007, I was receiving multiple units at a time, 2 or 3 units,
and sometimes twice a week. The trigger for seeking a transfusion was hand and leg cramps so bad that I could barely walk
or hold a glass of water. My appetite had degenerated to a point that I was rapidly losing weight. I weighed some forty ponds
less than I did four months earlier.
and I discussed the very real possibility of my not surviving much longer and we purchased cemetery lots and a head stone.
She and I agreed that I probably needed to have a liver transplant. We talked to our local Learning Hospital about a transplant
and were told that I had to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous before they could place me on the waiting list and that
after I had attended meetings for six months, they would reconsider my case. Six months that I did not have. The demand to
attend “AA” meetings was a rule that the Hospital had adopted for all liver patients needing a transplant, and
no exceptions would be considered.
Ann, my wife,
had been researching facilities known for transplantations. Nebraska University Transplant Center was one of those hospitals.
She made contact and on February 9, 2007, was asked to try to attain my medical records from our local hospital and Doctor.
She was told that she needed to forward my medical records to them for assessment. This she did. I had decided to throw in
the towel and did not want anymore transfusions. The Nurse Co-coordinator for NUTC talked me into getting that transfusion
so that I could be evaluated for transplant. On February 26, 2007 our family Doctor admitted me into our local hospital where
I received several more units of blood but my condition had declined so far that I was placed into ICU for treatment and transfusion,
Nebraska called to tell us that they would accept me for evaluation. The local hospital took the position that I was too ill
to be released and that a bed to bed transfer was in order. Nebraska saved a bed for me and awaited my arrival. Ann thought
that an “Air Ambulance was the best way to effect the transfer, but my INTERNIST refused to authorize it on the grounds
that in his opinion, I could survive the trip by car. He was right.
That evaluation took one week and was the most extensive examination I have ever undergone. Those Doctors were amazing
and very knowledgeable about transplants. No sooner than one test or another had been completed, a Doctor would be at my bed
side giving us an explanation of the results. The Transplant Team members and staff wear a slogan on their shirts. It says
“SERIOUS MEDICINE, EXTRODINARY CARE.”
six days of evaluation and while on the way home from Omaha, they called us on our cell phone, to inform me that I was as
of then on their “Liver Transplant Waiting List.” We were told to go home, pack a bag with essentials, get a pager
dedicated to them and wait for their call. A call that might not be forthcoming for some months. In the meantime, they wanted
me to continue seeing my Internist Doctor.
it turned out, we had no time to prepare; the call came just one week later at 3:00AM to inform us that an “Organ”
was available for me if we could come to the hospital immediately! We were confused, excited, perplexed, and most of all SCARED!
We did not know what to expect. We called our Daughter and she drove us to Omaha. We arrived within the time window for the
transplant and I was rushed into preoperative prep. This was the last memory I have until much later, days, after the surgery.
I am told that the first several days post op went well and
that Rehab had me up moving in short order. Then something went wrong. My Bile duct was leaking, and this was causing peritonitis.
It had to be repaired. I underwent a second major surgery within a week, and they performed a Roux-en-y procedure so that
my very short bile duct could be reattached with healthier tissue.
During this surgery, my heart ran away and the surgery team could not quiet my heart beat to less than 140 for many
hours. They tried every medicine in their arsenal without effect. They used DE-Fib shock treatment, also without effect. I
suppose I would not have survived had not the Doctors remembered a medicine that had not been used for years. The administration
of this medicine brought my heart beat down to normal and every conscious person said a prayer.
My recovery from this second surgery did not go so well. I contracted C-Diff and
VRE simultaneously and became very sick. Mentally, I dissolved and hallucinated and did not know anyone or what day it was
or where I was or why I was there. This confusion was very difficult for me and for the nurses who were caring for me, as
I also became quite combative. I removed the feeding tube without medical consent. I tried to get out of bed on my own on
several occasions and they would have to reinsert IV lines. I would sometimes think that I was being held against my will
and I would rebel. Sometimes I thought that my wife needed me for life saving help and I would become very agitated because
no one would help me go to her.
After a week
or so, the gastrointestinal diseases began to abate and with psychiatric help I began to recover. Initially, I was so weak
I could not stand without help from the nurses and a bed that could reshape itself from a bed to chair to a lift. I could
not walk more than a few feet and then only with the aid of a walker. As we approached the third week of hospitalization,
my recovery began to take shape. I attended Re-Hab every other day. I could not do much to begin with but soon progressed
to doing many walking and stepping exercises, but I could not muster strength enough to lift even a one pound bar bell above
my head with my left hand. In fact my whole left side was much weaker than my right, and still is, even today. I may have
had a mild stroke due to the elevated heart beat and blood pressure during my second surgery.
One very impressive point about my stay at Nebraska University is that every day
at about 9:00am and again about 3:00pm the entire Transplant Team of Doctors and Nurses visited me in my room. This as a means
of staying abreast of my condition and as a group, make decisions about my treatment and to see firsthand how I was responding
to their treatments.
During the fifth week of
my stay, the TEAM began to speak of my being released to go home, and I was very excited about the prospect. The floor nurses
began to school Ann and me about what to expect and what to do once I was home. Ann was still dressing and washing a part
of the incision in my left side. This had been left open after the second surgery to affect better drainage, and did not completely
close for several more weeks. A drain tube was still in place in my right side and was not removed for another month.
My recovery at home went, for the most part, very smoothly.
(My opinion, not Ann’s.) All but having to take all those medicines. I took pills at 8am, 9am, and 10am. I took pills
at 2pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm. If I had fallen asleep, Ann awoke me to take pills, and she still makes sure that I take my pills
on time, even today, although the quantity and frequency has lessened substantially.
It is now some 18 months after the fact and my health is much improved and I now look forward to a long life and
a healthy life.
I do know the name of my Donor
and would like to express my sincerest gratitude to a young man with foresight to be a donor that someone else could live.
His very unselfish act of signing his driver’s license to become a donor gave me another chance at life. Even though
he will not see his children grow up, and his family will not be able to share his life, I will know what he did for me for
the rest of my life. God bless him and his memory.
is these thoughts that have prompted me to write this narrative. I have a sincere desire to repay society as best I can. I
learned of “The Gift of Life.” organization through some friends of ours as their grand child was involved in
the origin of “The Gift of Life.” I do not know if my donor was prompted to sign his driver’s license by
activities of “The Gift of Life”, but I am convinced that in some way “divine intervention” played
some part in my good fortune.
By the Grace of
And the charity of Organ Donors,