I shared the wonderful news of receiving a kidney in the announcements I made on Thursday. (Certainly take the opportunity to catch up on those important announcements about the upcoming weeks). What I want to do in this post is share my journey, testify of God’s grace towards me, and also give thanks.
(One thing I do want to make a quick note of is this: I received my kidney through a deceased donor. I do not yet know who my donor is/was – I will be finding out either this week or next. There is a family who is grieving today for the loss of a loved one, who in my mind is a hero, but I want all of us to keep that family lifted up in prayer. I can’t wait to find out who my donor was so that I can honor their life to the best of my ability in how I continue to live on.)
How do I feel?
Since receiving my kidney this past Sunday, I have been repeatedly asked, “how do you feel?” Each time I have responded the same way – “it feels like a dream”. To me, that has been a question of great endearment, so I want to share with all of you how I feel today but how I have felt the past 5 years. This is my testimony.
At the start
June 6, 2016 – I was diagnosed with end stage renal failure – my kidneys were failing. Now, let me show you how good God was in this situation from the beginning. My kidneys never completely shutdown as they still functioned well enough to produce about 450-500 ml of urine during 24 hour urine collections. The normal range is anywhere from about 800 to 2,000 ml per day.
Now, at the start of this journey, I felt completely let down. I would go into the dialysis center, full of anxiety and frustration which blinded me from seeing the blessing in still having some functionality.
I could not understand how or why the Lord would let such a thing happen to me. Many of us go through this same feeling when we find ourselves in such tribulation. We cannot let these feelings fester because the only thing they end up doing is blind us from the Lord.
After time, I let go of my anxiety and frustration with my situation and when I did so, I was no longer blind to the blessings. Not only did I still have a little functionality of my kidneys but my lab numbers were always really, really good – they were great!
When you’re on dialysis, your diet becomes very strict in how much you can drink and even in what you can eat. For example, you have to let go of things that are high in phosphorous (certain meats, dairy, legumes/beans, cereal, and even something like frozen waffles). To help with phosphorous, dialysis patients are given binders which helps to control phosphorous when eating those things.
However, again showing you how good God was to me at this point of the journey, I was able to get away with being able to drink just a bit more. Not only could I drink a bit more, but I had absolutely no restrictions in my diet – I didn’t need the binder. My lab numbers were always really good!
I got to the point with my blood pressure that I only needed to take 1 12.5mg pill. In fact, I only had to take a pill for blood pressure and for vitamin D! When the kidneys aren’t functioning, the body begins to stop producing things it requires and the vitamin D helps with the bones. So, all of this really was a blessing from God.
The last 4 years
In 2017, I was able to become a home hemodialysis patient. So, instead of going into a center for my dialysis, I could do my treatments at home. Again, God was really good to me throughout this whole journey. My mom, who had retired to help me, became my care partner – she didn’t think she would be able to do it at the start! Yet, with great training and patience, we became machine-like in how we would get up 4 days a week and do my treatments. I could not have asked for a better teammate/care partner!
All thanks to my mom and my brother because once I started doing treatments at home, life became a great deal better! My brother would diligently do the little things that I could no longer do for me and for the family. (Because I have a fistula in my left arm for dialysis, I cannot lift more than 20lbs with my left arm.) So, my brother became a jack of all trades over the last 5 years and I’m so appreciative of all that he did for me as well.
When I started my treatments at home, I had to change doctors and nurses. My first doctor was really good and my in center nurses were also really, really good. I actually didn’t want to leave them, but the Lord showed me that my place was moving. When the Lord is moving on our behalf, the worst thing I believe we can do is sit still.
My new nephrologist (Dr. Sheldon Shore) was/is truly a blessing and I highly recommend him. My home hemo nurse (Amber) was/is truly God sent. Then there’s my dietician (Rachel) who I often joked around with because her job with me was really easy! My social worker (Britt) also made things easier for me and was very supportive.
The home hemo team made these last four years run so smoothly for me. I was able to pastor full time to a very understanding congregation. I was able to continue ministering online and, of course, I was able to do one of my favorite hobbies – yard work! Again, I found myself being so thankful for God’s work.
Yet, I must admit, even though things were going much better from 2017-2020, I found myself growing more and more tired of the dialysis at the start of this year (2021). Honestly, I began to feel mentally exhausted from the repetitive nature of waking up, doing dialysis, eating dinner, and going back to sleep and having to do it all over again. In fact, February was a very rough month as I lost a little weight which cost my blood pressure to temporarily rise because fluid was remaining in me hidden.
And now, this past week
Again, to show you how good the Lord is, my blood pressure and weight got back on track as fast as it had got off track. Then, out of nowhere, this past Saturday (May 8, 2021), I was wrapping up scheduling the Sunday School lesson when my transplant coordinator called. Now, I have been called twice to be the backup for a kidney. (The backup is on standby just in case the intended receiver is unavailable).
Last year I was called on my dad’s birthday to be the backup and did not get called in. As you know, COVID-19 hit right after that and both me and mom said the same thing at that time – maybe it was a blessing not have gotten the call last year! The call to be the backup happened again as recently as this past February, so when my phone rung last Saturday night, I initially figured it was to be the backup again.
However, the magic words were said to me this time – “we have a kidney for you”. I told my mom and she shouted for joy and immediately started calling everybody. I’m pretty sure that mom was far more excited than I was as I was just trying to do my best to remain calm. My brother cried tears of joy, and again, I remained calm. Mom was so excited that my brother’s girlfriend had to do the driving – so thankful for her as well! (My brother could not drive because he actually had hernia surgery a couple of days before I received the call).
We got to the hospital and after about 3 to 4 hours of waiting, I was moved to OR for surgery. After 3 hours of surgery, I was laying in my room recovering from surgery. I remember laying on the bed in OR, just prior to the surgery, being in both amazement and disbelief. For the past week, the only I have been able to describe how I feel is to say that it feels like I’m dreaming.
Everything flowed so smoothly this past week. Again, I ended up having a really good surgeon. The team of nurses and techs that helped start my recovery were all really good – God sent. As you know, I have great memory and I will cherish every person that was a part of this journey for the rest of my life!
As soon as I am healthy to preach, I am going to preach about trusting the Lord’s timing. We have to learn how to trust God’s timing. So often we get impatient with God and end up getting out ahead of Him which only makes the tribulation worse. Again, if there is one thing I have learned these past 5 years, is that we must trust God’s timing. Whatever you are going through in this moment, I encourage you to trust in God’s timing – everything is going to be alright. When the Lord has worked on your behalf and things come to fruition, it will all feel incredibly wonderful – like a dream – except you won’t be dreaming!
You are a testimony
We often don’t see the good in the bad (in tribulation). We don’t care much for tribulation because it goes against our vision and our plans for our life. Yet, God will use us in any way He pleases. We desire to be the children of God, but many of us want nothing to do with being used as a testimony for Him. I truly do believe that the Lord has a plan and purpose for all of those who are His children.
No, I did not want anything to do with having to go through dialysis for one day, let alone go through dialysis for 5 years! We have to be willing to trust in God’s plans for us. I have been quoting Jeremiah 29:11 for a couple of months now and I will quote it here again for all of you. Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Trust the Lord. Trust in the plan He has for you. If God is going to use you, be His vessel and testimony of His goodness!
I kind of wanted to add more to this, but I have honestly lost my train of thought with that last statement! So, I tell you what, let’s end this post on that note. I’m sure there will be more to come in weeks. I do want to say, this journey is not over for me so definitely keep me lifted up in prayer. Again, all praise, glory, and honor goes to the Lord!