Do you know what can change your focus in just a few seconds? I do. This past week in Orlando, Florida, I had a doctor stand by my bedside and tell me that “apart from something major” my life would soon be drawing to a close. She told me that the CAT scan of my lungs and abdomen showed that my liver is “shriveled up and dying fast.” My belly is filling with fluid and compromising my lungs. She told me I should do whatever I could to get on a transplant list immediately. And then, she walked out of my room without a second glance.
I laid there stunned. I have known that I have a condition called Fatty Liver Disease or NASH for several years. I have had annual checkups and scans showing no decline. Now, suddenly since March, my liver has gone downhill rapidly. I don’t know why. All I know is that I now am in serious enough condition that major changes have to happen.
First, I need the rapid decline to slow down or stop to give me enough time to get on the radar screen at the Lahey Clinic in Boston to be assessed for a transplant. If I am a good enough candidate, they will begin monitoring me closely and place me on the national list with approximately 17,000 others awaiting a liver in the United States.
My charismatic friends are claiming my healing. My predestinationist friends are cautiously praying for God’s Will. Honestly, right now, I prefer to stand next to my charismatic friends because their hope and faith give me strength. My other friends are praying cautiously so that God does not disappoint. That’s cool. I understand and have prayed the same way for most of my life. Prayer is good. I’ll take it!
Second, if the Lord grants me the time, we begin looking at the transplant process. I cried many tears on Thursday. My pain mostly came because I was so humbled by the love my family and closest friends started heaping on me. My sisters debated which of them was the best candidate to donate part of their liver. My children searched the internet to see if they could donate. My nieces and nephews called and texted and our best friends were ready to hop a plane to join us in the hospital that night. My oldest sister rushed in ready to give me part of her liver that afternoon if they would do it. All I could do was cry with my wife while seeing and picturing all the grief I was causing the people who love me. I started a letter to my Shara begging her to celebrate her wedding even if I wasn’t there but I couldn’t finish it … I think this might be less painful if I was alone.
I look at the transplant costs ranging from $300,000 to half a million dollars. That money could feed thousands of children, dig numerous safe wells or advance the love of Jesus in numerous communities. Truthfully, though I know the people who love me will disagree, I doubt I am worth the effort or the money. I think there are better investments. I am ready to die … I’m not ready to cause my loved ones so much pain. If I could spend $300,000 to spare their pain, I would. So, I will, if the Lord grants me the time, get on the list.
Third, hope. On Friday morning I spoke with another doctor who told me that while my liver condition requires me to take steps to get a transplant, he sees that I may not need a transplant for a year, 3 years or more. Guess which doctor I am deciding to believe? Yes, Friday’s doctor! I will see my liver doctor this week if he can spare some time to evaluate my life and am hoping he is of the same mind as Friday’s doctor.
What now? What can you do?
1) Pray for time and stability of my liver or a miraculous healing.
2) Pray I get on the national UNOS donor list. There are more than 100,000 people awaiting transplants. My story is just my story. Multiply it by 100,000 to understand how many families are hoping for transplants. Visit http://organdonor.gov/ to get on the national donor list.
3) Get an ORGAN DONOR sticker or designation on your drivers license by visiting the bureau of motor vehicles if your state participates in the registry.
4) Consider being a living donor. Scientific advances in medicine have made it possible for a living donor to give a portion of his liver to a recipient of matching blood type. The living match is more successful and generally allows the donor to fully recuperate in weeks.
5) Pray the Lord will provide our needs. As many of you know, we are planting a church and I have no salary package or benefits. We secured an insurance plan with a $15,000 deductible. I imagine my Orlando hospital bill will be several thousand dollars already. We have no idea how the Lord will provide. We have cut our bills, removed cable and phone but need to sell our house quickly. We are praying that God will supply photo customers and web design jobs to help me contribute.
To live is Christ. To die is gain. Paul said it. Mentally, I know what he meant. Emotionally, I am not yet at the point of embracing it. There are far too many people that I love deeply.
I’m praying for hope. I’m praying that I will go through whatever is ahead determined to glorify God and share His love. My MELD number is currently 17. (15 gets you on the list) But MELD numbers can change quickly. We’re praying that as my pneumonia clears, my MELD will drop too.
God is good regardless of the outcome of my journey.
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Please join us in praying. It’s time to let everyone of faith know we need their prayers.