I’m writing to invite you to an event that I know most of you won’t be able to make. In fact, if all 5000+ of you show up we will be in major trouble and the city of Westbrook will be crippled! But, I do want you to know what’s happening and share the joy.
On March 16 we are having a Commissioning Celebration here at this little, in number, church that has taken a chance and asked me to be the lead pastor. Why is that a big deal, so big that I want to tell you about it?
Travel back in time with me for a moment. Let’s go back two years to March of 2012. During that month I was hospitalized for 25 out of 31 days. My lungs were 60% filled with ascites fluid and my abdomen was grossly swollen. I could not walk much further than 50 feet without rest. My skin was an od
d yellow-orange shade. My sodium levels dropped drastically on several occasions putting me in danger of coma. In fact one doctor told me he had no idea how I was still conscious. On top of that I had a blood infection and an infection in my gut. At one point the alarm sounded as I went into a “code blue” crisis. I remember a plastic mask being held over my nose and mouth while medical staff barked out orders with urgency. The next thing I remember was waking to see about a dozen people around my bed looking at me anxiously. My first words? “You’re probably wondering why I called you all together.” No matter how bad things got, I always tried my best to make people laugh.
But those things, no matter how difficult and scary, were not the worst thing. The deflating thing about this hospital stay, one of 11 in the year, was that the doctors told me I was taken off the transplant list because I was “too sick.” They would not risk transplant unless the mystery of my multiple illnesses could be solved. Things did not look good at all.
Robin admits now that it was the only time her hope faltered. I had several times when I thought I was coming to the end and would never see transplant but she had always been the rock. We didn’t talk much about it. We didn’t want to. We both knew that a transplant was my only hope for survival.
Thanks to a kidney doc who wanted in on my case, I was put on a trial medication to manage sodium since the glands on my kidneys had shut down. My sodium level stabilized. Then, massive doses of antibiotic cocktails cleared the blood infection.
Jump ahead now to May 7, 2012 when my son laid down and saved my life by giving me 55% of his liver. Hope! Life. I had a chance again. Still, it was a cautious, optimistic chance. We knew recovery would be hard. We knew there were hurdles ahead and that I was still deep in the woods. In the back of my mind there was also a statistic I read that only 1 in 6 liver transplant recipients are able to return to work full-time.
Now, let’s zip ahead two years to March 16, 2014 when First Baptist Church in Westbrook will celebrate a fresh start and hope for new life with me as pastor, celebrating my own literal fresh start and new life. 1 in 6? Thankfully, I am that 1.
Wow. I can’t begin to explain how this makes me feel. I mean, I don’t think I could have sunk any lower than I was in March 2012. And now, I am being restored to a new ministry and charging ahead with health and energy.
So, I am inviting you to celebrate with us whether you are able to make it to Westbrook on March 16 or not. I’m excited to have my friend Travis Bush speak. Travis is a young pastor I have been blessed to mentor. My friend, Doug Elder, will be leading music. Both of these guys have been a tremendous encouragement to me throughout this journey. On October 5, 2011 I wrote a blog post about one of Doug’s visits to encourage me when my health was rapidly declining. He sang a song that still plays in my mind today, encouraging me to hang on, to look to the hills. (listen here) He is going to share it again on Sunday the 16th and I am sure I will be an emotional mess. But, a good mess this time!
Sunday, March 16 at 10:15 am at First Baptist Church in Westbrook, 733 Main Street. A luncheon will follow. If you can make it, I’d love to have you celebrate with us. If you can’t, I hope you are celebrating with us in spirit.
For those of you waiting for your gift of life, I pray my story encourages you to hang on and keep fighting even when things look hopeless. If you’re a transplant survivor, I know you know just how much this means to me because you celebrate every milestone too.
Wow. Some days I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I’m living a full and purposeful life once again because of the selfless gift of an organ donor and the faithful, healing touch of my God. I am blessed to know dozens of others who can say the same.
Are you a registered organ donor? Please register at www.organdonor.gov
Sunday, March 16, 10:15 AM
First Baptist Church
733 Main St
Westbrook, ME 04092
Every day is a bonus day!