Sunday, April 14, 2013

Living Donor

We generally have a lot going on in our life.  Well . . . things are about to get crazier!

I haven't really talked about it on the blog before, but Chad's mom has been very sick for the last year and a half.  She was diagnosed at the end of 2011 with Autoimmune Hepatitis.

Looking back, we can see that Mrs. Tina had experienced symptoms for a long time, but they had been easily explained away as from some other cause.  Chad's mom isn't much for doctors (who is?!) so the sad reality is that the disease went undiagnosed for many years when there were no symptoms.  Once the symptoms got bad enough for her to go to the doctor, the damage to her liver was already very severe.

Mrs. Tina spent a week in the hospital in January 2012, which was such a scary time for everyone.  At that point, she was officially put on the liver transplant list.  The last year has been full of ups and downs in her health.  I never realized how important the liver is in your overall health until seeing how many other issues can arise when the liver isn't functioning well.

Our hearts have been broken as we've seen Grammy suffer complications, pain, and a radical change in lifestyle during the last year.  In the midst of it all, though, her faith has remained strong.  Mrs. Tina is one of the quickest people I know to proclaim God's faithfulness, goodness, and provision.  Her faith has challenged and encouraged my heart!

Almost a month ago, Mrs. Tina was in NOLA for an appointment and ended up back in the hospital for a few days.  At that appointment, her hepatologist mentioned on option that had never been brought up before . . . a living liver donation (Ochsner has just begun their program in the last year and has only done 3 so far).

The liver is amazing.  Really, God is amazing.  Our Creator made the liver able to regenerate {in just 8 weeks!}.  This opens up the door to a living donation instead of waiting on the transplant list for an organ donor's liver {20% of people die while waiting on the transplant list}.

As soon as Chad's mom said that the doctor mentioned a living donor, Chad said, "I'll do it."  He told me that in that moment, without hesitation, he just had this overwhelming feeling that this was right.  Does this sound familiar?  Just like when I shared the HIV info with him regarding our adoption . . . when Chad senses in his spirit that the Lord is speaking, He is quick to obey.  I love this man. :)

A living donor coordinator came to Mrs. Tina's hospital room while Chad was with her to talk about the program.  He was also able to speak to a surgeon that week to get a lot of questions answered.

To say these conversations were intense for our whole family is an understatement.  The hope that this transplant could bring to Mrs. Tina is priceless.  Most recipients wake up from the transplant with 90% of their symptoms gone.  GONE.  Chad's mom sobbed (okay, we all did) when we heard that fact.  She hasn't felt well in so long, so the thought of her being done with the endless complications and this draining disease is almost too much to comprehend.

On the other hand, the donor wakes up from the transplant feeling worse than ever. :)  It is a major surgery (5-6 hours) with a long recovery (6-8 weeks).  It is one of the few times in medicine that they will take a well person and do something to bring them pain.  There are risks, like with any surgery.  The cost must be counted.

Since the moment it was mentioned, this has been the topic of discussion of our family.  Counting the cost.  Asking questions.  Gaining clarity.  Praying.  Crying.  Hoping.

After two weeks, we were all on the same page about moving forward.  Chad and his younger brother, Blake, were both willing and ready to be assessed to see if they could be a donor.  For several reasons, we decided together for Blake to be assessed first.  Blake had lab work and a CAT scan done on April 5th, but within hours the doctor called to let him know that his liver didn't have enough volume to be eligible to donate.  This is nothing Blake has control over, but the news was still crushing.  Our hopes for Mrs. Tina are so high, so this roller coaster has been so hard for everyone.

Once Blake got the news, Chad called immediately to ask to be assessed.  He spoke with the coordinator on Monday, April 8th and by that afternoon she had appointments set up for the next day.

The rest of the week is honestly a blur.  Chad had a total of 13 appointments, 8 on Tuesday and Wednesday alone.  It was important for me to be at most of these as we would be meeting with the surgeon, the coordinator, the social worker . . . and of course to give Chad someone to look at so he didn't pass out as he got lab work and IVs!  

We were so grateful to all of our friends who stepped up to watch the kids at short notice so we could make it to all these appointments!  Ava and Grayson had 6 babysitters in just 2 days . . . that is some kinda love and service from the Body right there!

Chad's CAT scan was Tuesday night so we expected to get word about his liver volume on Wednesday.  We met with the surgeon on Wednesday afternoon and he told us that everything looked good so far.  Whew . . . I think I had been holding my breath all day.  He needed to look at the CAT scan a little more, though, before he gave us the final answer, but promised to call later that night.  

We got the call while at church, but it was to tell us that something was wrong with the CAT scan disc and he would have to try again the next day.  AHHHHH!  We were exhausted (thanks to a 6 am MRI appointment) and the anxiety of waiting was taking it's toll.  

Thursday we waited. And waited. And waited.  No call back.  Chad went by the transplant office after another appointment and was told that the surgeon was off.  Now I'm fine with people having a day off.  But don't tell someone you are calling with life-changing news and forget to mention that it will be AFTER your day off!

Again, Friday morning was spent in agony.  Chad literally had his phone in his hand at all times.  It rang often, but it was usually someone in the family calling so see if we had heard anything yet.  We were all emotional wrecks.  I just wanted to KNOW.  I wasn't letting myself go down the road of surgery until I knew that we would even be walking that road.  I was absolutely sick at the thought of hearing a "no" because of our hopes being crushed.  Only 25% of people who get assessed can actually end up being a donor.  Our odds weren't good.  

Finally, at 4 pm on Friday, the doctor called to give us the YES!  Everything with Chad looks good and we are moving forward (the delay was a technical difficulty with the CAT scan results . . . get it together people!).  

Unless something changes, the surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8th. 

It is better for Mrs. Tina to have the surgery as soon as possible so she doesn't chance getting too sick to be eligible.  We are also in favor of asap . . . I'm still praying we'll be in Ethiopia this year so I want Chad recovered and ready to fly!

While so thankful to have a yes, our emotions are hardly stabilized.  We are so grateful that this is even a medical possibility.  We are beyond excited about what this will mean for Mrs. Tina's health and recovery.  Hope is such a precious gift from God.  We are looking forward to Grammy getting to enjoy a full life for many years to come!

At the same time . . . holy cow this is big.  I was texting someone that we got a "yes" and had this internal dilemma about using an ! at the end.  I'm so excited, but do you really use an ! when talking about your husband having a massive surgery?  :)

I'll go into details about what all this will mean for Chad and our family in another post, but here is what is important to know . . .

There are risks.  But Chad isn't being risky.

At least for us, the difference is big.

There are risks with any major surgery.  Complications can occur.  Crazy, unexpected things can happen.  Our greatest fears could be realized.  But these risks are highly unlikely.  There is a 99% chance that the surgery will go beautifully, Chad will recover well, and he will have no lasting effects {except for a huge scar, but what guy doesn't love a battle wound!}.  Those odds aren't a gamble.  It is almost a sure thing.  It is a reasonable risk.

If the statistics were different, if it was really risky, if Chad was likely to lose his life . . . we wouldn't do it.  Chad's mom and dad wouldn't let him do it.  The doctors wouldn't even let him do it. 

At the end of the day, we are walking forward in faith and trust in our great God.  We have the highest hopes of both Chad and his mom making full recoveries.  We trust that God can and will write a better story for our lives than we could ever imagine.  We pray that this whole process will be used to proclaim God's glory.

Isaiah 26:3 is the Word that I've been proclaiming over and over . . .

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 Please pray this for us.  Remind us of God's character.  Encourage us with the Word.

We would love your prayers for our whole family as we spend the next few weeks preparing physically, emotionally, practically, and spiritually for the surgery and recovery of Chad and his mom.  

{Just a side note for anyone reading that knows Chad's family personally . . . I know you might want to jump in your car right now to go visit or pick up your phone to call.  With great love, I'm asking you to refrain.  If you know Mrs. Tina, you know that she is an incredible hostess and loves nothing more than to have friends come visit and talk for hours.  That hasn't changed!  But she is very sick and extremely exhausted.  Her heart would love to welcome every visit and phone call, but her body just isn't up to it.  Some better options for now would be to send her an encouraging letter (221 Karen Dr., Lafayette, LA 70503) and to faithfully pray.  Thank you!}


  1. Oh my goodness, Cole! This is so much! Wow - amazing news that Chad is a match and that this surgery will help his mom so immensely! I know that God is holding your family close during this time as you prepare for the surgeries. I'm praying peace and protection over your entire family and wisdom for the doctors. Hugs to you, sweet friend! Please keep us all posted!!!

  2. Hi Cole (If you don't remember me, I am friends of your parents from when we lived in Arkansas). What a beautiful thing Chad is doing for his mother. This cannot be easy for you and the children either so you and your entire family are in my prayers as well. Praise God for people who love sacrificially. In Him, Michelle Culbreath, Wake Forest, NC