IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

In Sickness and in Health

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.

Lena Horne

When Herman and I took our wedding vows over fifteen years ago, we were committed to our relationship. We became best friends, sharing everything, holding hands, laughing at our mistakes and failures, as well as our triumphs and successes. We liked to go on mini-vacations and often would get away for rest and relaxation. Our honeymoon never ended.

Yet little did we know how much our love for each other would be tested through those five little words we proclaimed in our vows, “In sickness and in health.”

It was January 1990. Herman had just come from a routine visit to his doctor—a trip he had taken for over two decades since his kidney transplant in 1967.

Herman was only seventeen years old when his father unselfishly gave his son the gift of life: one of his kidneys. At the time, Herman was well known on the Centennial High School campus in Compton, California, where he excelled in sports. Baseball was his life, but the transplant ended his dreams of professional success. Even during those trying times, Herman kept his smile.

But on that day in 1990, Herman—whose broad smile and heartfelt laughter always bred celebration—showed terror, hurt and despair, mirroring the feelings in my heart. Without warning, the transplanted kidney had stopped functioning.

Herman began dialysis treatments two months later. A machine substituted for his kidney by purifying his blood three days a week, three to four hours at a time. His smooth muscular arms soon knotted with bulges from the constant needle pricks. His exhausted veins collapsed.

No more unplanned vacations; the dialysis treatments came first. Often passionate lovemaking became cuddling each other to sleep. We found solace in our love and made laughter the key to our survival.

And we prayed for another kidney.

Eleven years later, an unexpected phone call from UCLA Medical Center answered those prayers: “We have a donor.”

Together, we rejoiced and offered more prayers, this time in thanksgiving. But, would it be a match? We waited to hear . . . one hour, two hours, then three. The phone rang again, this time with disappointing news.

Oh, well, we consoled ourselves, we’ve waited this long. Surely we can keep waiting.

One week to the day later, we received another call. It was a perfect match! We anxiously rushed down to UCLA. As we drove, we reflected on all the years of dialysis and how we had prayed for this miracle, and then we cried— happy tears and tears of sorrow. For the other side of our joy was the reality that someone had lost their life to give Herman this opportunity to live.

It was a nineteen-year-old man who had died of head trauma. He had only been eight years old when Herman’s kidney failed. For eleven years we prayed for a perfect match. For that same eleven years this young man had grown up, graduated from elementary, junior high and high school. He was probably in college. It never occurred to us that someone so young would give life to a fifty-one-year-old man. We never thought that the answer to our prayers would be the devastation of someone else’s. How unselfish of his family. Now, instead of praying for a kidney, we pray for this young man’s family.

Throughout the process, I remained at Herman’s side. I learned every medication and followed the prescribed routine for his recovery. Everything else in my life faded. His care was my primary concern.

While he was in the hospital, one nurse remarked on my commitment to my husband. “You have no idea how many people separate and divorce because of the strain on the relationship when dealing with dialysis and transplants,” she told me.

Leave my husband during a time of sickness? Never. I was committed to our vows. More importantly, I could never leave the love of my life!

It’s been a year since the surgery, and Herman is doing well. His body is still recovering, but he is the same happy and joyful person he was when we met. And now we both truly understand that life is precious. We travel again, and we still hold hands and take long walks. We laugh a lot, even when Herman’s recovering body is not up to making love. Our marriage has been sustained by our commitment to love and to cherish each other in sickness and in health.

Dorothy C. Randle

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