Blessed Assurance: Success Despite the Odds

by Jacquie Lewis-Kemp, Author & Health Coach for Living life with diabetes and organ transplants, rather than limiting life because of them.

Browsing Posts tagged kidney transplant

Unexpected Blessings

In my chapter of Victorious Living for Women, I talk about how we can never predict exactly where our blessings will come from. In fact I detail how my difficult period of kidney failure and dialysis was, at that time, the worst thing that had ever happened to me. My kidney transplant after seven months of dialysis then became the reason I was eligible for a pancreas transplant. And what a pancreas transplant meant was that I no longer had to follow a diabetes regimen.

As I reflected back to the time of my diabetes diagnosis at the age of seven, I recall that my grandfather and pastor told me that we would just pray that [diabetes] away.  You can imagine how my parents felt about my grandfather instilling hope into their daughter that they were talking to physicians about how to prepare me for a lifetime of diabetes management. While both my parents were Christian, they didn’t want me to be confused and spend my life waiting for a miraculous cure one day.

I didn’t spend my life waiting for that cure, and instead pushed forward to live a normal life. It wasn’t until after my pancreas transplant that I reminded my grandmother of my grandfather [now deceased]’s prayer. Could it be that he did pray it away? Why do we think that when we pray, God is somehow on the clock? That He has a timeframe in which to answer our prayer. Not only does he have a timeframe, but a manner in which He should do it. “To pray my diabetes away”, somehow seemed to me and my parents for God to perform some miracle and I would somehow be cured. A simple prong on the head and diabetes would be gone!

Who would imagine that He would use physicians and technology and achieve essentially a cure?

It is with that realization that I am careful not to predict and plan where my acts of kindness go, because I never know where my blessings will come from. In other words, I don’t decide to do nice things for people that I expect a return of good fortune. The idea of paying it forward is not finding a trading partner or deciding who is worthy to receive your gift. It is passing on a gift to someone in need or deserving, without expecting anything in return.

I recently had such an opportunity. At a Writer’s Expo, a young woman, before performing a song told the story of her intent to relocate to Georgia in order to donate a kidney to a long time friend of hers. What’s the chance that I was in that room of authors–both fiction and nonfiction–to hear this story. I was in a place to tell my story and experiences of being a two-time organ transplant recipient to someone who really needed to understand the process. I was stunned, even paralyzed to listen to her. I knew immediately that God had placed me in that place to hear her story and provide information and guidance for this transplant procedure. I wasn’t even sure why I attended this Expo; it wasn’t necessarily an event that I thought I would sell many books. But I received a blessing beyond what selling several books could provide: The blessing of knowing that my story mattered.

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Kidney Transplant

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Kidney Transplant

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Christmastime is when most of us decorate our homes and invite family and friends over to overeat, laugh and catch up on what has been going on since the last time the group was together.  If you have lost a loved one it is also a time when we remember Christmases past and the fun times we shared.

When I lost my father he was just 52 years old and there was a list of people that I felt God could have taken instead of my father.  Each holiday felt like my shopping list was so short–even though there was only one name removed.  My father-in-law perhaps suffered the most. His birthday was the same day as my father’s. We’d have a birthday dinner for both of them and I would buy similar gifts in different colors–it was fun. But after my father died, I couldn’t bring myself to shop for September 23.

Finally I rationalized in my mind that I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself about having lost my father.  There were many women that I knew who would never know what it was like to have a father like mine.  The old saying that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, is hard to grasp–AND SOMETHING YOU NEVER WANT TO HEAR RIGHT AFTER LOSING SOMEONE.  But in time, I got it.   The impact of my father’s love for me has lasted me and I believe will continue to last for the rest of my life. People (particularly my son) are probably so tired of hearing me say, “What my father used to say about that is . . .”

It’s a good thing that I learned that lesson before losing my mother.  By this time I had received the Gift of Life twice and survived the West Nile virus.  And so what brought me peace was that “things” were not my mother nor did they represent her. But the impact that she had on my life and the lives of so many others, is her legacy.

My brother and I were also fortunate in that  we were able to carry out her final wishes and that was to donate her organs to people who needed them. It is interesting that we did not discuss her wishes during or after our kidney transplant.  But we both knew growing up that both our parents wanted to donate their organs–it was something that they discussed with us as children.

We missed the opportunity when our father died, however we were able to oblige our mother.  Even though it wasn’t my organs that were donated, that we completed my mother’s wishes, felt like I was paying it forward.  One day I will ACTUALLY pay it forward since I am a registered organ donor.

Even though they are not likely to use my brother’s transplanted kidney in my body or my new pancreas, I don’t want to make a medical decision that I’m not qualified to make.  The way I figure it, let me donate the organs when I’m through with them and let the doctors decide who may be able to use them.

IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED AN ORGAN TRANSPLANT, REGISTER TO BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR AND PAY IT FORWARD!

 

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Kidney Transplant

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On our parents' balcony before Jacquie's wedding

I can hardly believe that it has been 11 years.  Eleven years since my little brother donated his left kidney to me so that I might live.  In eleven years you would think that I would be pretty used to saying that, but it still brings the same tears to my eyes just writing it.

You know Jeff has never known a big sister without diabetes–taking a shot is what she did everyday, a couple times a day.  But slowing down because of illness is not what he was used to either and I think that is why he stepped up to become the big brother (despite our ages) and save my life.

I had lunch with my husband, mother and brother Jeff to tell them that the doctor recommended that I begin dialysis.  Because I was running my dad’s business at the time, Jeff asked, “What will you do?” I told him I wasn’t sure, perhaps I’d have to find a job.  Jeff piped up with a proclamation that no one expected nor could we proove would be possible.  Jeff said that he would give me a kidney.

We knew that we were the same blood type, but tissue type is another hurdle.  Nevertheless, my hero, my little brother was willing to undergo serious, complicated surgery to save his sister’s life.  And his wife supported his decision.

While all this is serious stuff–we had a ball making light of the process.   From doctors testing us to qualify us for transplant “from the rooter to the tooter”, to Jeff’s journey in the hospital from his room across the hall, to my room with foly catheter in tow and having to remind the newbie nurse that neither he nor the lead in the catheter were as long as the distance between them, so she should slow down.

I will forever be grateful to my little brother.

God bless and keep you Jeff. Much love,

Jac

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Kidney Transplant

 

For those awaiting Kidney Transplant, listen to these transplant experiences and prepare for your own.  For those who are donors or are potentially donors listen to this wonderful series of second chance at life stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The final risk in our three part series on the long term use of prednisone, is that of Osteoporosis. Tips to reduce that risk include:

Eat and drink milk, yogurt, sardines, orange juice, green leafy vegetables, calcium with Vitamin D supplements, soy products, salmon, nuts & seeds, reduce salt, sunshine (best source of vitamin D).

To get the most out of your bone-boosting diet, you’ll want to do regular weight-bearing exercise. This includes any activity that uses the weight of your body or outside weights to stress the bones and muscles. The result is that your body lays down more bone material, and your bones become denser. Brisk walking, dancing, tennis, and yoga have all been shown to benefit your bones.

(Sources: Encyclopedia.com, Medscape Today, WebMD, Net Doctor.)

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Both transplant anti rejection drugs Prednisone and Tacromulis have a long term effect of raising cholesterol levels.  Because we need both drugs to preserve our life saving organ transplants, we must find other ways to reduce cholesterol.  Here are a few suggestions:

1. Eat a heart-healthy diet with plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Avoid saturated fats (found mostly in animal products) and trans-fatty acids (found in fast foods and commercially baked products). Instead, choose unsaturated fats (particularly omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils and canola).

2. People with an active lifestyle have a 45% lower risk of developing heart disease than sedentary eople. Physically active people tend to have higher HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Research suggests that regular aerobic exercise can help increase HDL levels. Even moderate exercise reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Resistance (weight) training offers a complementary benefit to aerobics.

3. Quit Smoking

(Sources: Encyclopedia.com, Medscape Today, WebMD, Net Doctor.)

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