LOS ANGELES, August 7, 2007 (KABC-TV) - The push by the Department of Motor Vehicles to get more people to become organ donors led to one DMV employee giving the gift of life to another.
Gaston Gonzalez had needed a new kidney since 1999.
No one in his family was a good donor match.
But at a Donate Life event last year, fellow DMV employee Hooshang Torabi heard Gonzalez's wife tell their story.
Torabi offered to donate a kidney to Gonzalez in honor of the donation his daughter made to save her mother's life with a kidney donation in 1998.
The two underwent a great deal of testing and it was determined Torabi was a perfect match. The transplant occurred last week.
June 21st marks a very important anniversary in my family. Three years ago my father-in-law, Paul decided to discontinue dialysis therapy. This may seem to be a horrific thought to some of you out there. But for him it was a very courageous and well thought out decision.
You see, Paul had developed type one diabetes at 11 or 12 years old and lived with it for 48 years. He was originally told that he probably wouldn’t live to be thirty. He and my mother in law, Lynne, had three rowdy boys: Steve, Erick & Chris; followed by a very much alive daughter, Heather. Paul also got to see all of his boys married, as well as looking into the eyes of four beautiful granddaughters. So he’d seen so much more than he ever expected to.
Now during this time his health continued to decline. By the time that I met Paul, he was already sporting two prosthetic legs and soon thereafter lost three of his fingers. I saw him go in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation centers more times than I remember. Through all of this, he usually kept both his senses of wonder and humor. It often made me feel awed, myself when I was around him. His love of life tended to be contagious. Now I’m not saying that every day was fluffy clouds and flying unicorns. But looking back, his joy of life and thirst for divinity, are what I remember most about him.
When he went back into the hospital for the last time, he’d lost another dialysis catheter site and they were talking about placing a port in his last whole arm. It actually didn’t take Paul long to decide that this wouldn’t do. I cannot possibly imagine the conversation that he must have had with Lynne. To try to do so might just break my heart. We got the call later that day to tell Chris that his father had decided to allow himself to die with dignity. How could he not – it was how he’d lived his life. We made some phone calls and headed off to the hospital.
Paul couldn’t see very well by then, but was so overjoyed to have us present. There were so many photo albums to pore over and talk about. I left for a while as I knew that relatives would be pouring in and I wanted to clean the house. This also gave the boys some time alone with their dad.
Calls were quickly made to Hospice and Paul
was brought home to receive his constant flow of visitors. His last meal was
delicious biscuits and gravy ala my brother-in-law, Erick (who had raced back from
It took 3 days for Paul’s body to shut down and he left us on summer solstice – the longest day of the year. He breathed his last breath in the most, well, beautiful way imaginable – with his family all standing round holding him and telling him that they loved him. And we all meant it so incredibly much. I think that everyone who ever knew him is a better person for it.
It has been a few years since that night, but I still think about Paul every day. Whether I’m playing with his grand-daughter and she looks at me just so or I find myself gawking at the beauty of life with its full spectrum of possibilities, he’ll just pop into my head. As the anniversary of his passing has drawn nearer I’ve felt an increasing need to express my love and admiration for Paul – husband, father, son, brother, uncle, seeker, teacher, adventurer, inspiration…
Moreena over at Healthcare Hollaback & The Wait and Wonder has sent out the request for positive hospital stories as they pertain to the folks who in their kindness have pulled our stays further from unbridled terror. And I was so pleased to find myself torn when trying to decide who to honor. Finally, I settled on the thought possibly posting more than once.
The following submission is but a snippet of a(n even) long(er and more) rambling post I wrote in January of 2006. In it I barely mention our midwife and the wonderful pediatrician she recommended. Were it not for this chain of caring professionals; however, Kajsa would have wasted away to a toxic bit of nothingness. They forever hold my grateful heart in their souls.
The true honoree of the post is a nurse, named LaDawn. And bear in mind that while she was, indeed, a real live person; she has come to represent to me an archetype of sorts – so often have I thought of her.
And now for the real post.
One of the things that Chris always loved best about me was my parenting style. So when we found out that we were to have a baby, we were elated. We signed up with Baby Diaper Service, took Bradley classes, and found the best midwife imaginable.
Kajsa was born at home on a warm late spring day. She was full term (although a bit small) and had all her fingers and toes. We figured the rest was the easy part. After all, I was an old pro. I’d always remembered the words of Maya Angelou, “Ain’t no trouble when you’re packin’ for double.”
Toni, our midwife, came by at day three to do the heel stick. I cried and cried to think of anyone hurting my baby. It all came back normal. Kajsa was a bit underweight. But, we figured all babies drop at first.
When Kajsa was still dropping at 2 weeks, Toni gave us the name of a very good pediatrician. Dr. Oriel is this neat little guy who reminds me of Peewee Herman with out the annoying laugh or off beat movie preferences. He had actually taught at Albert Einstein, and has a huge love of babies. We went to see him.
He began to talk to us about vaccination schedules. We told him that just was not gonna happen. While he was not exactly OK with this he agreed that it was our decision to make, and asked only that we read his information, as well as the literature upon which we had based our decision.
Dr. Oriel was also worried about Kajsa’s weight and had me go to see a lactation specialist to make certain that I was nursing well and that she didn’t have any problems with sucking. While we were at it, we began checking to see if she was allergic to my milk. This, I thought was the most absurd and insulting of notions I’d ever heard. Now I wish with all my heart that this had been the issue. I would have been quite put off, but I would have eventually gotten over it.
I was pumping around the clock and mixing my milk with formula at high caloric ratios to try to fatten her up. But she just kept dropping weight. We met Dr. Oriel at his office on the 4th of July for a weight check. Down, still. Then he met us there two days later on a Sunday. He was so befuddled by our little bird girl. So, he said that he’d really like to take some blood to rule out a few things. Gulping down the nausea, we said alright.
We then watched in horror as he tried desperately to get blood from both arms. Finding this to be extremely difficult, we went downstairs to the lab. The woman there was eventually able to get some blood from her scalp. The poor girl was just SO dehydrated.
We went over to some good friends’ house that night for a visit and were just settling down to watch Lord of the Rings, when my phone rang. Dr. Oriel was on the line. Since he knew how little we valued Western/Allopathic medicine. He pulled no punches.
“Rowan, there’s something wrong with Kajsa’s kidneys. We need you to go to MaryBridge Children’s Hospital. You have time to go home and pack some clothes for yourself. Do not go anywhere else. You are in direct admission. That means they know you are coming.”
I hysterically went tearing into the other room where Chris was playing video games with his friends. I’m not sure that dolphins could have understood me as I tried to relay what I’d just been told. Chris took the phone and got directions to MaryBridge.
As we drove back to
As I arrived at our house, I couldn’t figure out what to pack. Should I take clothes for Kajsa? Would she wear them while we were there? How many diapers would we need? Would there be a place to wash them? This is how much I knew about hospitals. I grabbed about 500 ounces of my milk from the freezer as we ran out the door.
arrived safely (somehow) and were admitted to the seventh floor. Chris and I
filled out what seemed like sooo much paperwork. (I can now do this in my
sleep.) Chris stayed in the room as the IV specialists came up to draw more
there, she talked to me about her son. He had some chronic illness. She and her
husband had lived on an army base in
is who can provide emotional support like no one else. It is from nurses whose
children have had chronic illnesses that I learned how to be an unbelievable
advocate for Kajsa. They are a resource to be valued, and never overlooked.
They are, indeed, the key to hospital sanity.
I can't believe that it has now been one year since we got the call to
go down to Phoenix. And tomorrow will be the anniversary of Kajsa's
kidney transplant. It gets me all choked up to think about it. But
then again, I cry at the drop of a hat these days. (I'd be great in
movies - or maybe an after school special, eh?)|
Anyway, the Prescott transplant support group had a barbecue today, so we headed over there after I got off work. It was such a beautiful day. (80 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky.)
After we'd all eaten and had a while to chat; our host, Robin, brought out a cake with a #1 candle on top which she promptly lit. We all sang happy birthday, as there's not a happy transplant anniversary song. (I'll be taking submissions, if anyone's up for the task.) Then Kajsa blew out the candle and made a wish.
Upon doing so, she proclaimed to everyone, "Now I'm five!" So we had to tell her that this was celebrating her new birthday, not her old one. It might take a while for her to fully 'get' it. But at least she doesn't think she's five anymore.
Tomorrow evening we're heading over to another barbecue. I guess it's the season. Yep, with our newfound freedom, and as time goes by, we're making more and more friends. I guess you could say that her transplant actually brought new life to the whole family.
What a precious gift.
Sorry I’ve been so absent lately. But we got both a Wii and a puppy this week. Not to mention that I still have the rest of the family and am working 6 days a week now. So…while there’s an awful lot to write about, there’s very little time.
Let’s see. Our puppy’s a twelve week old black lab who’s absolutely full of energy and poop. I mean really super full of both. I sure am glad that Kajsa’s potty trained these days. Otherwise, I’d never stop gagging.
Speaking of otherwise (were we?). Kajsa used the word in a sentence yesterday. I was so proud. She just pops up with new vocabulary all the time.
Anyway, we spent all night trying to figure out what in the world we were going to name this little fella. We tried Odin, but Chris didn’t like that since the mythology has Odin siring Thor. And since Thor is our old dog, he thought that would be inaccurate.
My response ? “Chris, not only are they dog’s, but everyone knows that reincarnation always mixes the relationships up a little.” I mean Jeez. How could he make such a silly blunder, anyway? Still, it was a no go. Much to Maya’s chagrin, as that was her #1 pick.
So hours and hours later we arrived at his name. By that time Maya had gone off to bed, but the rest of us were up. I believe the last thing I heard before drifting off was:
So Rufus it is.
Maya was a little concerned this morning because Rufus is the name of Kimpossible’s naked mole rat. And if you know what that means, then you’re one step ahead of me. What we really took the name from is Dogma. If you’ve seen that movie say, 834 times like we have, you’ll easily get the connection.
As for the Wii; what can I say, I totally rock at fake 9 ball. Kajsa’s a champ at fishing. Maya excels at bowling and baseball. And Chris, big surprise, loves shooting things. So everyone’s happy around here. Which is better than I can say for these people.
I hope all is going well for you, too.
Let’s all give
It is my hope that as organ donation becomes more highly regulated throughout the world, greater numbers of people will find themselves comfortable with making the contribution. After all, we’ve all heard the horror stories about the tourist who woke up to find himself in a bath tub full of ice with one kidney missing. And to tell the truth, before Kajsa was born, this was the first image that popped into my mind when ever the subject was broached.
But since her birth, I’ve learned how absurd and paranoid my line of thinking was. Having been there though, I can fully empathize with anyone’s fears around the subject. Truly, I can. So if you’d like to find out more information – ever, just drop me a line. I won’t judge you. I’d simply love to help you to find the information you need.
Cross my heart.
I was just over at The
Mother of All Blogs today and found an interesting post about the newest
Well, actually, not so much. Not really at all, once you think about it. Ann Douglass and her commenters focused quite a bit on copy write laws, the inherent value of one’s contribution, and the ilk. Most of them appear to be writers, so they immediately went in that direction with their feedback. It’s a thought provoking post/discussion. I thoroughly encourage you to go check it out.
And while I enjoyed reading all of their thoughts, I still had this niggling concern that just kept buzzing around the back of my brain. After washing a few dishes and making up Kajsa’s meds, I finally pinned it down. It was this: We as moms have finally been recognized as a rather desperate population. And once that acknowledgment was made, did corporations stop to find a way to truly try to unite and uplift us? Of course not. Why would they? What they did do, though, was find a fairly effective way to exploit our isolation, our feelings of invisibility, and, yes, our “I haven’t slept well in five years. It’s a good thing I don’t have to think about how to make a peanut butter sandwich” boredom.
“Come on down!” they say. “We’ll give you an outlet. We’ll let you talk to other grown ups. Just give us (give us!) all your original ides and stories. Then you can watch us make over your life with prettier people who are bound to have more sex appeal than you. But that’s OK, ‘cause you, and you alone, can bask in the knowledge that it was your life to which you’ve now given away the rights. You are the funny, inspirational, touching lady beneath Leah Remini’s skin.”
I just don’t buy it. I won’t contribute. I don’t really want you to either. If you want to have online friends and recognition, start a blog. Write posts. Visit other moms’ blogs and tell them how great you really think they are. That’s where the real empowerment lies. Not in some artificial environment brought to you by people who will never see your brilliance as anything but another faceless dollar sign.
Sorry I’ve been away so much. But what can I say, the new job is good. I’ve picked up two extra shifts. So now I’m working six days a week. Crazy!
Who'd a thunk it?
Not that I’m having lots of work yet. It takes a while to build up clientèle. But I did have my first person come in just to see me. Woohoo. Yep, one of Kajsa’s pre-school teachers is coming back in next Friday for another massage.
On the home front, Maya and Kajsa are well. Chris burned the heck out of his eye at school the other night. He had his visor up and was working with just the safety glasses when a piece of slag popped up, bounced off his visor and fell into his glasses only to stick (yes, stick) to his eyelid.
So he went to see the doctor, who probably now thinks Chris is a somewhat dim witted he-man. Especially since Chris was sporting some other nasty work related sore last visit. He advised Chris to be more careful and sent him on his way.
Needless to say, we’ll be buying Chris a self dimming visor with our tax refund. Not only that, but I get to fix the car. No more jump starts at the grocery store, and hello windows that roll up in the heat & rain. I’m so excited.
There’s this thing that happens when you tell people that you have a chronically sick kid. They stop looking at you as the woman in the second hand clothes with unwashed bad hair. Suddenly, you become this angelic martyr worthy of being placed upon a golden pedestal. People tiptoe around you as though you are somehow fragile as a flower - to be coddled and admired.
Well, it sucks. And it’s hard to say so, because people only mean the best by it.
You see, it’s easy to feel guilty when we don’t live up to the impression that the world has of us. Sometimes our “miracle babies” act like little shits – so we yell at them. Then, not only are we “bad moms”, but we further are not appreciating this amazing gift for which we’ve struggled so hard. And the really ironic thing is, these times so often coincide with the huge medical news/issues/procedures.
Now is one of those times for a friend of mine. Her daughter’s going through another really rough patch. No, I take that back. Annika isn’t going through another one. The fact is, lately, the crap just doesn’t seem to end so much as build up. And Moreena's such a kind, smart, funny, and yes – human- woman who’s given me strength when I honestly had no reserves left. I just want to lift her up and give her a huge hug.
Yesterday, she wrote this post, but closed the comments. Frankly, I don’t blame her. Sometimes you just need to get it off your chest without everyone lending their glib reassurances. But, if people could just send a little strength her way, it’d probably make a difference…of some sort.
So if you pray – pray.
If you just love – love.
Really it does.
What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys?
Parvovirus B19, of course. Actually, no. I take that back. Parvo absolutely sucks. In fact, it worked really hard to destroy Kajsa about 6 months ago. So she became well acquainted with our old friend IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin).
And it worked wonders. At one time she had over ten billion DNA copies running around in the blood. But, with a little help from IVIG, she was able to recover. And we’ve been monitoring Kajsa’s Parvo levels since that time. For the most part we have been relieved to see a steady decline.
As of last month they were down to 100 (or fewer) copies. In fact, we’d started to joke about the ridiculously, unbelievably high levels she’d once shown. As you can imagine, this month I expected to hear that they were gone completely.
So imagine my surprise when Mary called yesterday to inform me that Kajsa’s Parvo levels are once again over ten billion.
It turns out that IVIG is incredibly helpful for 2 weeks to 3 months. After that, honey, you’re on your own. So when Dr. Morgenstern called the infectious disease docs, their recommendation was quarterly IVIG treatments. Yippee.
The good news is that we’ll be able to do this outpatient. They have a little room with a recliner. (Gads, am I ever glad I took up knitting.) So we’ll go sit there for four or five hours while she has her infusion. I’ll try to read and knit. She’ll try to climb out of the chair. It should be fun.
Oh, and for a couple of things completely off topic: