48 hours ago we were anxiously waiting for any word from his transplant surgeon.
24 hours before that, this picture was taken:
(6:00 pm 1/16/2011)
I have so many thoughts I want to share. So many details that I never want to forget.
Mom and Dad (Nona and OB) got the call from the May0 Clinic as they were waking up Monday morning. OB called us as we were waiting for this:
I was standing in the waiting room, waiting for the radiology nurse to come get us for Luke's upper GI test. He was fretful, Dwayne and I were taking turns walking him around, when my phone rang. A bit unusual to have a call from my dad so early in the morning.
"We got the call," was my dad's greeting.
"The call for what?" I responded.
"From the Mayo Clinic. Okay, bye. Love you." Click.
I was so shocked that I didn't get to deliver my very thought out speech I had prepared to share with him. I immediately asked Dwayne to call the church to get out a prayer e-mail.
At that point, Luke fell apart, screaming and crying. I was cuddling him and crying (as I was thinking, I don't want my dad to die) when the nurse walked in. She thought I was crying for Luke.
"Honey, this test is not that big a deal."
Blubber, sob, blubber.
"Oh...I'm not crying for him. He's going to be fine. I'm crying because my dad is going to have a lung transplant today!" BLUBBER, S.O.B.
Her immediate response was "PRAISE GOD! PRAISE GOD!"
God had sent me an angel in the flesh. When the devil was planting seeds of doubt in my mind, God was sending me my very own angel to remind me to praise Him!
17 years ago on January 17, 1994, my dad was diagnosed with puliminary fibrosis. Exactly 17 years later, he got new lungs. Don't tell me God isn't in the details.
From the months before my dad's diagnosis, God was preparing our family for this journey. Actually, from the beginning of time, the Lord knew that steps we would take, but let's focus on the fall of 1993 and move forward. Well, it really starts before then...the story is so large and so grace-filled that I don't even quite know where to start.
In October 1993 (on my 16th birthday!), we moved from a house with stairs at every entrance to a ranch style house with only one tiny step at the entrance. This would prove to be an important move. At this point, my dad seemed healthy, but Mom noticed that he was coughing a lot. She thought he must have walking pneumonia and told him she was making an appointment for him when he came home for the holidays. (My dad was working in a town 5 hours away and commuting each weekend...that's another God inspired decision for my parents.)
When Dad was home for an extended vacation during the Christmas holidays (1993), he went to his regular doctor to check on the coughing and shortness of breath. It was the appointment that would change his life. The doctor realized pretty quickly that something was very wrong and sent my dad to a specialist. My dad never returned to his job.
On January 17, 1994, he was diagnosed with puliminary fibrosis. They (always a mysterious they) aren't sure what caused the disease...he might have been born with it or it might have been caused by chemical exposure on his job.
The doctors were able to pretty quickly stop the progression of the disease and for many years, my dad just lived a modified life style that allowed him to have a fairly decent quality of life. Granted, he relied very heavily on medicine to have that quality of life, but he enjoyed seeing all of his children graduate from high school and college, two of us get married and start our families, one of us graduate from the police academy...he's been actively involved in our maturity into adulthood. He would have missed many of our "milestones" if he'd still been healthily working hours away from our hometown. Instead, he was there. THERE. For everything. He never missed a play, a ball game, a special event. Despite being sick, he was present. God made that happen for our family. He designed a life path that forced a workaholic father to be present.
There were scary times during the past years when his disease would rear its terribly ugly head and he would have a rapid decline in lung capacity. There was a drug trial from a university with meetings from drug companies and refrigerated medicine boxes delivered to the house. There were mistakes in dosage that resulted in manic cleaning episodes and night terrors. There are funny stories that only our family can laugh about because the only other option was to cry. Dad chose to laugh, so we chose to laugh. God was there. He was in the details.
Then a few years ago, something changed. The disease wasn't being managed by the medicine any more. The doctor in Savannah realized he'd come to the end of his expertise and it was time to call in the Big Shots...it was time for drastic measures. So, the doors were opened for a relationship between my dad and the Mayo Clinic. (Ironically...or not, a lady that my mom taught with for years had a heart transplant at the same facility with the same group of surgreons and was a source of tremendous knowledge for my parents. God in the details...again.) 18 months ago, my parents took a trip to meet with the doctors. At first, they determined that my dad was eligible for a transplant, but not a candidate yet. They wanted to try a few things to manage the disease. Six months later, his status changed and in January 2010, he was placed on the transplant list.
12 months later, the call that we've all been waiting for finally came.
And today...48 hours after the new lungs have been transplanted, my dad was sitting up in a chair, talking to us on the phone, eating applesauce and drinking gingerale. He was moved from his ICU room into a regular hospital room. Tomorrow, three days post transplant, he will work with the physical and respitory therapists to practice walking and breathing with his brand new, perfect, beautiful lungs.
We are so very thankful for the gift of the donor family. We will never meet them. Never know the story of their loved one who gave my dad a new lease on life. But we will forever be thankful to them. So very, very thankful. They have, literally, given the gift of life. God was in that detail, too.