Saturday, May 26, 2012

When God says "no" He has another plan

I had a five organ transplant in 2006- small bowel, pancreas, liver, duodenum, and stomach due to conditions that paralyze the GI tract- gastroparesis and chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction. When I arrived at the transplant center for initial evaluation, I was 68 pounds and starving to death. The doctors at the University of Pittsburgh said I was so late in arriving and should have been done a long time ago. They weren't sure I would survive long enough for the transplant. Typically, the wait for these transplants is about 3-6 months. I was too sick a lot of times when they got a call for organs for me that my surgeon couldn't do it. I also got three or four false alarms where I was called, told they had organs, went in to the hospital for all the pre-op prep, and then last minute was told there was something that didn't quite match and sent back home. That was always devastating because I had my hopes built up, and then they were dashed as I continued to get sicker and sicker and my time was running out.

In the initial transplant testing, my liver didn't look perfect, but they thought that it would reverse itself once I had the new organs. The surgeon told me if the organs came with a liver, he would do it, if not, we weren't going to wait for that. At about the one year wait mark, I got a call and was told the organs were an absolute perfect match. They hadn't seen a better match before. I was within minutes of being wheeled into the OR when the surgeons came down and said that the organs did not come with a liver, and the way my anatomy was they would not be able to hook up the new small bowel to my original liver. I was devastated because I had already waited a year, most of my friends had been transplanted, I was 62 pounds by then, and I was running out of time. I cried and shut myself in the room we were staying in all weekend. I was depressed and angry. I thought the organs would never come in time and I would not receive my gift of life.

It was another three-four months before I got my next call. I was in the hospital at the time with perhaps a week left of life. Mentally, I had already "checked out" because of the extreme malnutrition and poor state of health. I don't rememeber the last few weeks pre-transplant. The docs came up and told me that these organs were even better than the others and an absolute perfect match. I was prepped all night for the surgery and taken down to the OR. This one was a go! When I woke up in the TICU (transplant ICU) a couple days later, I was informed that I had received all five organs, including the liver.

What is amazing and a God given gift, is that the docs said that although my testing showed my liver wasn't in horrendous shape and they expected it to reverse and heal after the transplant, once they got in there and actually SAW my liver, it was twice it's normal size and full of fatty deposits. They told me if the organs had not come with a liver and they hadn't transplanted it, that I would soon have been placed on a waiting list for a liver. I would have had to go through a separate transplant for a liver. This would have increased my risk of rejection of all organs because it's much better for all five organs to come from one donor. Plus, my liver may have failed before I could get another one.

I look back to that and realize God had said "no" to the organs that looked so promising a few months before because He knew I needed a liver too. It was worth the extra 3-4 month wait because it spared me from so many other complications and I am so much healthier as a result of getting all organs from one donor!

One of my favorite quotes is "When god shuts a door, he opens a window." God taught me a lot through that experience. While several calls were no go's and I was in fear for my life, He had me right where He wanted me and was in total control of my situation. In spite of my anger over the long wait, He continued to show me His love and did not give up on me even though I had given up on Him.