6: Resilience

6: Resilience

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

  
Resilience

Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.
~Bern Williams

Shortly after my husband Ken’s diagnosis of kidney failure, we were told the only way to extend his life would be an organ transplant. In the meantime, regular dialysis treatments were to begin immediately. Our “new normal” began with the surgical placement of a port in his chest, and just hours after the surgery, my husband went directly to his first “dialysis run.” That heart-wrenching first day of dialysis was the only time I ever saw my heroic husband weep. Just three weeks later, Thanksgiving Day happened to be a dialysis day, so instead of the usual big family gathering, our family of three chose a simple meal at home accompanied by a simple prayer of thanks, “Thank you dear God for time together.”

In the weeks following, our perspective and our emotions swung from high to low like a pendulum almost daily. While the situation we faced pulled us together as a family, it drained our time and our energy. One possibility that kept us buoyed was the hope of an organ transplant. Suddenly, making memories with family and friends compelled us to set aside the trivial in favor of somehow emotionally extending our life together.

The phone call with news of a kidney match finally came in the early morning hours one snowy December day. The university hospital several hours away meant we needed to leave immediately, and despite a blizzard we arrived at the hospital by mid-morning. While Ken was being prepped for surgery, a nurse brought in a Styrofoam box bearing large orange letters that spelled, “Human Organ for Transplant.” They literally put the kidney, in what looked like a cooler for a six-pack of pop, on the foot of the bed! With shock and suppressed giggles, Ken and I looked at the box and then at each other.

With comical disbelief, I sputtered, “Do you believe this!” A very sobering event was lightened by the sweet sound of my husband’s chuckling. The laughter we shared was a precious gift before they wheeled him to surgery. A few hours after our kiss and saying, “See ya soon,” the kidney had been transplanted and immediately began producing urine.

That Christmas was one of the most wonderful of any I remember. Our son, David, was home from college, Ken was still recovering, and every other day there was a snow storm. The gratitude in our huddled hearts rivaled the warmth in our fireplace. We spent many weeks in a perpetual state of awe. Our future together had been restored because of an organ donation. To this day, our family is mindful of the fact that because someone else’s life had ended, Ken’s could continue. We never take for granted our ability to celebrate an extended future together. Somewhere an organ donor’s family is grieving an empty place at their family gatherings, and every time my husband swallows his medication or has blood drawn, we humbly remember that.

Ken’s doctors told us that the chances of him rejecting the transplant will remain slim as long as he continues to take his medications at precise intervals. Blood samples collected every other month for the rest of his life will continue to be monitored for signs of rejection by the University of Michigan and Mayo Clinic. Gratefully we reflect on the network of a caring medical staff, family and friends who continue to surround us, and we now seek opportunities to walk alongside others going through devastation. Rebounding from life’s tremendous challenges requires resilience, but oft times, resilience requires some assistance. Offering and receiving.

~Linda Tabbert as told to Debbie Harrell

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