May 2013 Flashback: Coronado Anniversary & Kidney Transplant Update

To catch up on previous “Next Chapters” detailing my year to my kidney transplant, click here.

In May 2013, Patrick and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary!

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May 26, 2006

It is hard to believe that almost 8 years have passed since I met my soul mate.  I feel blessed every day to be married to such a fun, funny, loving, courageous man.  We are perfect for each other in every way –It really does boggle my mind!  When we were engaged, I kept pinching myself because it seemed too good to be true.  Now, over seven years later, I am still pinching myself!

Along those lines, for my soul food this week, I thought I would share an excerpt from my book, “Meant For Each Other,” which details how we met and and how my chronic disease has allowed Patrick and I to cherish each other every single day and love with an eternal perspective.  You can read it here.

Patrick and I have never been too big on surprising each other with gifts because we would rather hang out and shop together but mainly because Patrick can’t keep a “gift” secret – he just gets too excited!  Before he even proposed, he told me he already had the ring “Here, in this room…want to try it on?!”  Even when I have told him not tell me what a gift is, he can’t help but drop not-so-subtle hints!  One thing we do gift each other are handwritten letters.  They are my treasures! For my last anniversary note to Patrick, I made a wordplay off one of our favorite movies, “Life is Beautiful.”  I made a big poster with a picture captioned, “Life is Beautiful With You” and wrote a mushy, yet heartfelt note on the back.

We celebrated our 7th year wedding anniversary by making more memories in glorious Coronado (island located by downtown San Diego):

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Exhausted by so much fun!

 I am grateful every day for my sweet little forever family!

In May, I also finished all of the testing required to be listed for my kidney transplant and to pursue a living donor transplant.   Prior to all of the testing, I had been told by the transplant coordinator that it probably would take a long time to find a suitable kidney donor due to my presumably high levels of antibodies.  The body makes millions of antibodies which are primarily intended to fight off disease.   When people have a blood transfusion, pregnancy, previous transplant or some infections/viruses, however, they usually produce “HLA antibodies” which react with donor tissue and cause rejection and kidney failure.  I would have to find a donor whose kidney I didn’t have any antibodies against and in turn, they didn’t have any antibodies against mine.

I had received a blood transfusion (during my lung transplant), essentially two transplants because my lungs were from two separate people with two different types of DNA, and had numerous pneumonias and other infections.  I was assuming I had developed lots of HLA antibodies and I was prepared, even expecting, that my donor circle would have to become very large before a suitable match was found…or pursue a cadaveric transplant.

Yet I was blessed, shocked and relieved as I was delivered the news that I had NO HLA antibodies!  I couldn’t quite believe it.  Another miracle.  Now, finding a donor would hopefully be much easier than I had previously thought.  Still, I assumed my donor would have to be male due to the antibodies that potential female donors usually develop during pregnancy.

The last milestone of May was meeting with the kidney transplant team for my transplant listing evaluation: the social worker, dietician, nephrologist, pharmacist and surgeon.  They each conducted an interview and in two weeks they would meet as a board to discuss whether or not I was a good transplant candidate.  In the meeting with the social worker, she asked how I coped so well with everything that has happened in my life?  I simply said, “Faith and family.

When I met with the surgeon, he inquired if I had asked either of my past lung donors to donate a kidney?  My mouth dropped at his question.  I hadn’t even considered them! Graham Bullick and Jim Davies had already given me everything, including my very life.  I could not ask more of them.  I told the surgeon something to that effect and he said he understood but he continued to encourage me to ask them to donate.  He reasoned that I had done so well with my lung transplant, so they were obviously a good match.  I smiled but knew I would never ask that of them, even if I was ever in a position where I needed to.

Still, when both Jim and Graham heard of my situation, they both offered me their kidneys… again (they had both offered in past years when they knew a kidney transplant was a future possibility).  Graham left me a voicemail that brought me to tears as he expressed his genuine desire to donate his “big healthy kidney” to me “that [he] didn’t need.”

You might think these men would be tempted to put a big check in the “service box”, or at least in the “donate organ” box after donating a lobe of their lungs to me and saving my life in 1999.  Yet their Christ-like character translates into Christ-like service:  selfless, compassionate, courageous. They were my heroes 14 years ago and they are my heroes still today!!!

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14 Comments

  1. Ali Lindgren says

    You are just amazing!! Thanks for your example..

  2. Jen says

    Thanks Sophia! Kidney transplants usually last between 15-20 years, so assuming I am still around 🙂 I will need one at that time. So I have a lot of time to feel great before then!

  3. Terry M. says

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your posts. I received a heart transplant in 2011 at Cedars in L.A. What an amazing gift. My husband of 36 years received a liver in 2000 in S.F. So I understand how much you have been through. I wish you continued good health. On a side note thanks for the Toffee, Caramel and Pecan cake recipe. I love it.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Terry for letting me know you enjoy my posts, that means so much to me!!! That is incredible you received a heart transplant and your husband received a liver transplant – what a rollercoaster you must have both been through! I am so happy for both of your incredible blessings – isn’t modern medicine miraculous?! I am so happy for you both and wish you both continued good health as well! xoxoxo! Jen

  4. Brooke says

    Jen! I’m reading your posts as I lay here on the couch trying to recover from a surgery. Your story and your words are giving me courage and strength to get through it! What I’m going through seems so minor to everything you have gone through. And here your story is lending me strength and light when I need it most. You are the perfect combination of young and vibrant with a beautiful vintage soul.

    • Jen says

      Brooke, you are so wonderful! Thank you so much for your kind words. I love your phrase “beautiful vintage soul” – I had never heard that before but I think its beautiful and perfect for you too! I knew you must have been in pain on Sunday but you didn’t let it show. Instead you were Brooke as always – making everyone else feel loved and making everyone else laugh. I hope and pray you have a speedy recovery!

  5. candice says

    What a precious person you are. You are such an inspiration and uplifting. From one born again Christian to another, you go girl! Keeping you in prayer. Oodles of Christian love to you and your loved ones.

    • Jen says

      Candice, you absolutely made my day, my week! What a precious person YOU are for taking the time to fill my heart with warm fuzzies :)! Thank you for your super sweet kind words, support and prayers! They are very much appreciated! THANK YOU!

  6. Sheila Schwartzmann says

    Congratulations on your successful multiple transplants. I received a new kidney this past May, unfortunately from a young 19 year old who had a brain hemorrhage. I’m 71 years old and I guess the Lord isn’t done with me yet. I teach piano and am active in my church and could not have dealt with the difficulties I’ve had in my life without my faith.I, too had a high antibody level and waited for seven years but it was worth the wait. Incidentally, my daughter is the Development Director for Cystic Fibrosis for Louisiana. She loves her job but it is emotionally taxing. Even though I don’t know you, I’m so happy for you. Keep up the good attitude and work. I believe attitude is one of the keys to our success.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your kind message Sheila, and congratulations on YOUR transplant! It sounds like you live an active life full of service and have many more lives to touch on your journey here. I agree, attitude and faith make a HUGE difference in everything big and small. I couldn’t be happier for you (especially after the long wait!) and will be praying for many more years of health! Also, please thank your daughter for me – I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster she goes through, but I hope she knows what a difference she makes. What a special family you are. All my love!

  7. Jen Hodder says

    Wow Jen! I am in awe of you. I came to thank you for a recipe we’ve been using for years and couldn’t stop reading your story. Gifts who and that keep giving. You’re what life is about.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Jen

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for taking time to read my story and for your thoughtful comment! God bless you!

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