Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dad's in ER

Sorry again for not posting as often as I was. Life's been a little hectic. Rest assured, anytime something major goes down, I'll keep you posted (no pun intended),

A few updates...

I had my additional blood tests last week. They were testing for some bacteria (because of my acid reflux) and my white blood cell count (because I had a virus when I originally tested). Haven't got the results yet.

January 7th is still the tentative date of the transplant.

I'm feeling a lot better about everything - especially after a great dinner with my old youth pastor. Great company - and great advice.

Lastly, Becky just called. Dad's gone to ER. Chelsea and I visited him yesterday and he wasn't very responsive. A part of my thought that he must just be tired. But in reality, I knew he was going to need a trip to the ER in the next few days. I don't think he's been 'regular' the past few days and that's causing a build up of toxins in his system. This is a typical symptom of liver failure.

Chel and I are off to run a few errands and then spend time with dad at the hospital.

Please pray that this situation will resolve itself quickly and that Dad will stay healthy for the operation in early January.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Just got back...

Sorry for the delay. Chelsea and I just got back from Vegas. Last week was hectic (getting ready for Vegas) so I didn't get a chance to post.

A few updates which I'll elaborate on later.
- my test results show that I'm a match and we're ready to move forward (pending a few other blood tests to check for minor things)
- surgery date as been postponed to Januray 7 (from Dec 8th)
- dad's doing well - He had a quick appointment in Toronto last week which was just a checkup. He also had his abdomen drained last Tuesday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fear of the unknown

Its been an interesting weekend.

The assessments last week were intense. When I got back home, I jumped right back into work mode and didn't really digest much of what happened. But the weight of everything really hit Chelsea and I this weekend. Lots of mixed emotions about the situation.

I visited mom and dad on Saturday afternoon. I shared my heart, my fears and my concerns. My poor mom... she is in such a unique position. A husband who will die without a liver transplant and a Son who's an eligible donor (we don't know for sure, yet) who she doesn't want to sacrifice.

It was a great visit - very transparent. We ended it with prayer - so appropriate. I think the bottom line is that we're all scared. My dad is so frightened. Sure we have faith that God will take care of us - but there's still the fear of the unknown... and for me, new experiences.

Anyway... we'll find out more about my eligibility on Tuesday. Until then, nothing is certain.

~

Dad has an appointment this week (I think Tuesday) to have his abdomen drained of excess fluid. This is great news. This means that my dad isn't making random ER visits like he was in October. He's able to make regular appointments to help manage the symptoms of liver failure. However - today, my dad did admit that he didn't know if he could wait 'till Tuesday as he is in a ton of pain.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ink of the Holy Spirit!

The morning we left for Toronto (last Sunday), I needed to print some directions from google maps. But, I knew I was out of ink. A few weeks earlier, I tried printing a photo from our printer and no black ink was used. I was absolutely, positively sure we were out of ink. I can even show you the photo that I tried to print that didn't end up printing entirely because there was no ink.

I was pretty desperate for the directions to print. I thought to myself, "God, if you print these directions, I promise I'll post to the blog about the 'Ink of the Holy Spirit'."

Sure enough... the directions printed PERFECTLY! I'm talking PERFECT - not a single blemish - no indication at all that the printer was even low on ink!

INK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!

~

Dad's doing fine these days, by the way. He sounds alittle winded when I speak to him on the phone, but thats normal these days.

I'm supposed to get together with him and mom tomorrow for dinner and to discuss my assessments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is heavy

The last day of assessments was a breeze. First appointment was for an abdominal ultrasound. They warmed up the gel before they lubed up the ultrasound-probe-thing. That was nice. Took about 20min.

Next was an appointment with a rando doctor who is unaffiliated with the Transplant program to get a completely unbiased outside opinion of my health. He quickly jumped on the heart murmur. He had me lie sideways, upside down, back, forward - listening to every little noise my heart made. He says that there's no question that I have a heart murmur.

All in all, he's pretty sure that the murmur will not affect my eligibility. However, it may have some long term implications on my health, unrelated to the transplant.

Last was the psychiatric evaluation. It wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be. It basically consisted of questions like: "When did you first think about giving your liver?", "Do you feel pressured to?", "How would you feel if you were deemed ineligible?", "How would you feel if you were deemed eligible?", "How committed are you to this?", "Do you trust that the recipient will strictly follow the post-op procedures?" (failure to do so could jeopardize the success of the new organ), "How would you react if the recipient died after the transplant?"

It felt like a breeze at the time. And I answered the questions honestly... I didn't answer them to try and 'cheat' my assessment. I told her I was nervous about the whole thing. Voiced all my fears and concerns.

However, now that both Chel and I have had a few days to reflect back everything, we're both feeling overwhelmed. Before the assessment, I could go on with my everyday life - just putting the whole transplant out of mind. But now we can't stop thinking about it.

It's clear that this isn't a cut and dry decision anymore. This isn't like getting a tattoo or a piercing (as far as the physical procedure). This is giving someone half of your liver - your only liver. If something goes wrong with your only liver... well...

So how does faith play into my decision making? I had to ask myself this question a few days ago as I realized I hadn't given it much thought. What does God have to say about this?

As soon as I began to meditate on that thought, two points came to mind almost immediately.

A) What's life without love? One of Jesus' sidekicks, Paul, says that I could give all my possessions to the poor - but if I don't have love, it means nothing. (1 Corinthians 13)

B) What greater love then to give your life for another. (John 15:13)

~

When your so close to love, life and death - our existence on earth at its basic elements - you see the world the way it was supposed to be - with new eyes. I can finally see that we've (humans) got our priorities completely wrong.

Its all a facade. None of what you accumulate on earth is important. None of it. When your lying on a stretcher being wheeled into surgery to give half your liver away, your not thinking about how big your savings account is. Or how big your house is. All I'll be thinking about is how grateful I am to have a wife holding my hand and God holding my life.

~

What's the bigger leap of faith? Living a safe life - keeping half my liver - and knowing that I'm doing all I can to keep myself safe? Or laying my life on the line - giving half my liver - and trusting that God is doing all He can to keep me safe?

This is so heavy. This is heavier than anything I've ever had to carry.

Back safely

We arrived back in Ottawa safely around 10:40pm last night.

Yesterdays appointments went well. More talk of a heart murmur from another medical consultation. The abdominal ultra sound and the psychatric review both went well.

I'll fill you in with more detail when I have some time this evening.

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reality check

Crazy day. We got to our first appointment at 9am. We met with one of the living donor surgeons.

The purpose of the appointment was to inform Chelsea and I with all blunt details of the procedure. By the end of that appointment, Chel and I both agreed that reality had finally set in. This is no longer a cut and dry decision (to donate my liver). There are so many considerations. For example - in the history of the world, this surgery (liver resection) has only been done in the last 20 years. That means that there's no definitive long-term information about the affects of this operation. What if I have half my liver removed - and 40 years down the road I develop some uncommon liver condition because of the resection? That's just one example of the many issues that were discussed. We left that appointment with a little less of a skip in our step... but still ready to continue with the assessments.

Just before we stepped out, I was given a new schedule of assessments for the day - including a new test... a heart echo.

The heart echo kind of surprised me... but not... I've always thought I had some sort of heart issue. Nothing in particular... its just been a feeling I had. I suspected that the echo was because the ECG showed something abnormal.

video
The echo was kind of fun. Great technician. He told me he thought I had a 'heart murmur'. But then he said 90% of people have a murmur. So no biggy.

After the echo, I had an appointment with a general practitioner. She was awesome! Super nice. Lots more reality checks. Great at answering our questions.

Last appointment was the MRI. It wasn't as bad as the CT. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being a CT and 0 being riding a bike, it was 3.7. I was strapped to a tray and slid into a super small cylindrical tube. I actually had my eyes closed for the entire procedure as I was afraid that if I saw how tiny the space was, I would become claustrophobic and panic. It lasted about 40min long. But no IV. Awesome.

All in all, it felt like a huge day. 2 huge appointments with doctors, an enlightening echo, and a 40min MRI. If I could sum it up in one word, its reality.

I'm not chickening out... but reality has set in.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Robo-Ray

Woo - what a jam packed day.

We were a few minutes late for our first appointment because Chelsea was busy on Facebook. But I wasn't paying attention either so its not all her fault.

None-the-less, we finally met the Transplant coordinator. She was incredibly nice. We met with her for about 30min. She explained what to expect during my assessments. It was pretty straight forward.

She reiterated that she is here for me - not for dad. Her primary job is to make sure my health comes first. She receives frequent updates from dad's doctors on dad's condition. As long as my dad's condition remains stable, everything should continue smoothly. At the moment, my dad has been assessed as a 90% success probability. As long as his probability for his success stays around 90%, and my assessments go well, I should be able to donate my liver.

If my dad's probability of success drops below 50%, my dad will become ineligible for living donor donation. This is because they don't want to risk the health of a healthy donor if the outcome for the recipient looks less than ideal.

Quick clarification - the success rate I've been referring to above is the success rate of the transplanted organ, not the recipient. So, if my dad has a 90% success probability, that means that the liver has a 90% chance of taking and operating properly. My dad's prognosis is separate.

Our convo was great and very uplifting... except for two things.

A - for the first 5 weeks after surgery, I have to inject myself with some insane anti coagulant drug. One of your liver's many functions includes managing your bloods 'clottability'. After half the liver is removed, its regrowth is extremely rapid and liver will over produce the chemicals in the blood that help your blood clot. This means my blood will become very thick. The injection I have to give myself will ensure my blood stays at a safe 'thickness'.

B - After the surgery I will have a catheter inserted all the way into my bladder! Baaaa... Not cool. Right after she said, "all the way to your bladder", I responded, "Wooo... that's quite a distance!" - simply referring to the fact that it was going into my bladder.

Her response? - "Wow! Good for you!" We all laughed pretty hard. If you don't get it, don't worry about it.

After that appointment, we made our way down to the CT dept. The CT will show the doctors my blood vessel structure and the size of my liver. I had no idea what I was in for. After some trouble with my 'blue' card (an internal hospital id card), I made my way to a waiting room where I had to change into one of those hospital gowns. I also had to read and sign a disclaimer. So I read it...

Intravenous ink injection!?!?! Hold up... I thought this was just an x-ray thingy. Not cool. But after a few minutes... (45min of waiting), I had a chance to calm down. Then my name finally got called.

I made my way into a large room with, what looked like, a less elaborate MRI machine. The nurse wasn't from Canada - I couldn't understand a word he was saying. I just listened to the tone of his voice and guessed as to whether to answer with, "yes", "no", or "oh really?". I layed down on a very thin, uncomfortable tray that barely fit my body.

The room was so cold (not temperature). It wasn't friendly or inviting. I started to get anxious.

Total transparency. Laying on the CT machine - knowing that I was about to get stabbed with an IV for the first time - knowing that I was going to have ink injected into my blood - knowing that there's nothing wrong with me - knowing that this whole procedure is voluntary - I actually said to myself, "I can't do this." Lip quiver. I seriously just about walked out of the room. I was so scared.

I can't remember how I got through that moment. But I did. I must have prayed or something. Maybe I thought about dad. I'm just so glad I went through it because in hindsight, it wasn't all that bad.

The IV wasn't cool. It hurt more than I thought it was going to. It was my first IV ever so that added to the fear. Then the nurse left me alone in the room with freakin Robo-Ray (the CT machine). It was freaky... no one telling me what was happening - no one to ask questions to.

Then all of a sudden, the tray I was laying on jolted forward. Of course, with my first IV, all I'm thinking about is the IV ripping out of my arm along with all my veins in my right arm. I was freaking out. Furthermore, I was told that when the die is injected into my body through the IV, I'd feel a weird warm feeling and then I'd taste and smell metal. So - it was just a big evil game of anticipation with Robo-Ray.

Tray moves some more... stuff starts spinning... Robo-Ray says (in a hot female robot voice), "Take a breathe in a hold it... (2 second pause)... and release". More tray moving... more spinning...

When's the freakin ink going to inject? When is this going to be over?

Then all of sudden I felt the IV stiffen against my arm - some weird fluid noises... still no metal taste... no sense of ink injection. Robo-Ray tells me to hold my breathe again. And release.

More tray moving.

Then... my whole chest went warm... then my head... then it felt like someone put some metal flavoured powder Koolaid in my face... I could taste and smell metal. I'm freaking out.

Robo-Ray asks me to hold my breathe again. But, all I'm thinking about is that I need to keep breathing oxygen because I don't want my blood to turn into liquid aluminum. But I held my breathe anyway.

Then it was over. I was freaking out. I thought I wasn't going to be able to stand. But I was fine. The nurse removed the IV fine. That felt great actually.

Then I left and drank three water bottles of water to drain Robo-Ray's ink from my system.

Next - X-ray. But when we got to the X-Ray dept, the wait was too long and would have interfered with my blood work appointment. So, we headed to out to get my blood work done instead.

I sat down for the blood work not OK with the fact that I had to get poked again. But I had a great technician. He drew 12 viles of blood! I was freaking out when I saw how many viles he had to take, but he did it in 60 seconds... no pain. He even used the same vein as the previous IV from the CT scan. Immediately after the blood work, I had an ECG (to monitor my heart). Then I peed in a cup.

Then I headed back to the Image Dept for my X-Ray which was a breeze.

Now here's the kicker. In my first appointment with the Transplant Coordinator, she actually said that if I felt comfortable, I could book a potential surgery date.

Ready for it? December 8th is the potential surgery date.

Next Tuesday, I will know the results of my tests and my surgery date will be confirmed or rescheduled.

Looking forward to getting these assessments over with. I'm glad the CT and Blood word is over with. Chel and I are very much enjoying our stay in Toronto. So great to finally relax.

Tomorrow: Surgical consultation, MRI and general practitioner.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Safe in TO

Chel and I arrived safely in Toronto today around 2pm. Yay for four hour car rides listening to old school New Kids on the Block while your wife is doing the original NKOTB dances in the front seat. Shoot me directly in the face.

Chillin at the Marriott Courtyard on Yonge Street. Sweet hotel. Great rate because I'm a patient at the hospital. But for some odd reason, the bathroom in our room is split up in such a way that you go to the bathroom in one corner of the room, and wash your hands in the other corner. Therefore, you have to walk across the entire room in order to wash your hands. So, we've adopted a procedure: after going to the bathroom, one must walk across the room with one's dirty hands in the air repeating audibly, "Unclean!" This ensures no dirty digits contaminate the room or either of us.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Overwhelmed

I'm overwhelmed with thankfulness. We've got such amazing friends! And such a wonderful God!

Today was an incredible day. Friends of ours dropped off a gift bag of goodies to help us on our trip to TO. Magazine's, snacks, Esso gift cards... so incredibly thoughtful! Chelsea cried. I'm so emotionless these days that I had a hard time expressing my thankfulness. I was so overwhelmed.

Moreover... We had my parents over for dinner where I delivered an envelope that was delivered to me from an anonymous donor. My parents could not stop sobbing with joy when they opened the anonymous envelope with $1000 in cash.

"I was so down on myself today," my mom said, crying. "But isn't God so good!".

It was so great to see them cry like that. It was as if they were yelling at the top of their lungs, "We're going to be alright!"... except with just some tears and a smile.

Whoever that was - my parents want you to know that they are so grateful for your sacrifice and your warm hearts!

~

I don't wish the situation I'm going through on anyone. However, God forbid a similar situation take place in the lives of any of you, Chel and I can't wait to show you the kind of love that has been shown to us! Can't wait!

I think the only thing better than receiving the kind of love we've received is having the chance to be the one giving that love.

Fruit Cake

Just got in from baking fruit cake with my dad and my Uncle Paul at the bakery. Dad didn't do any work - just bossed Paul and I around. It was fun. Started at 7am.

Best fruit cake in the city - Artistic Cake Design!

Funny story. Not sure if this is a symptom of liver failure, but my dad's sense of taste and smell are going wonky. When we walked into the bakery after the fruit cake had been baking for a few hours, it smelled incredible! But the first thing my dad says is, "It smells like cheese in here!". Poor dad! Believe me - I don't like fruit cake that much, but it did not smell like cheese in the bakery.

Not sure when I'm leaving for Toronto. I'd like to leave later today, but I'll most likely leave early tomorrow morning. I'll try my best to keep you all posted throughout my assessments.

Hopefully by this time next week, we'll have a surgery day booked!

God, please go before me during these assessments. Give me the will power to stay as healthy as I can for dad.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Seventeenth!

Talked to Dad last night. They got back around noonish.

Dad says the appointment was just a checkup. The doctors in Toronto want to stay on top of my dad's situation and stay apprised on any changes in his health.

My dad found out that he's number SEVENTEEN on the liver transplant list. The list has over three hundred names. The doctor said my dad's position on the list could change depending on my assessment as a living donor or the availability of a deceased liver that may not match other recipients higher on the list then dad.

Oh - I forgot to mention this earlier. My dad's actually been given a pager from the Toronto General Hospital. I didn't even know he had it until I saw it on the kitchen table last weekend. He must have received it the week prior. This pager will only be used to page dad the moment a liver is available. When the beeper goes off, my dad has only hours to get himself to Toronto for surgery. Pretty cool!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cell is off

I've been trying to get a hold of my parents but their cell phone is off. No updates.

However, I did just fire a link off to liverdie.com to a website called www.giftoflife.on.ca. They have a section of blogs. I asked if they'd be interested in posting the liverdie.com blog.

I think it would be fantastic for others who are going through a similar situation to be able to read a first hand experience. I know this blog has already touched many peoples lives - which is so amazing to hear. Hopefully it can make an even bigger impact.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On the road

My parents are on the road to Toronto. They left this morning at 6am. My dad's appointment is today. I think the plan is to hit the appointment, then come home immediately after. But I'm not sure.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

Just had a fantastic weekend with the family! My dad said, "[this weekend] was such good medicine... its still working even today!"

It all started last week when I realized my mom's birthday was drawing very close very quickly. I knew it was Nov 3 - but my dad was convinced it was on 'Sunday'. He was later proved wrong and felt like an idiot for messing up his wife's 60th b-day. None-the-less, we celebrated her birthday on the Sunday as it was the only day the whole family could get together.

As her birthday drew closer, I began to realize how critical it was that I put all the energy I could into making sure my mom's birthday was all about her! Its her big day. During a time when life isn't being too kind, I needed to make sure she had a day that would guarantee her to smile and to have a light heart.

Then during the planning, I realized that with my assessments so close, this might actually be one of the last times we as a family could hang out together. Heck - with my dad's current condition, any family get together could be our last. Thats it! Family nights way more often then just birthdays. Once a week at least!

We surprised my mom at 8am with flowers and an offer to either make breakfast for her or to go out to a restaurant of her choice. She was so surprised! I could tell by the look on her face that she was not expecting it. She choose to grab some breakfast at PJ Quigley's (Greenbank Plaza, across from Woodvale).

Before we left for breakfast, mom insisted on giving my dad a gift that she's been waiting a few days to give him. It was no occasion for my dad - she just wanted to surprise him with something.

A few years ago, my parents enjoyed their first all-inclusive tropical getaway to the Dominican Republic. During their stay, my dad bought two canvases (canvasi?) of local art that he loved. They've been sitting in their basement now for a few years getting wrinkled and dusty. My mom had the canvases stretched and framed.

My dad was truly surprised and loved it. Although the day was supposed to be all about mom, it was still a fantastic way to start the day.

We arrived at the restaurant for breakfast and enjoyed a great meal together. It was so good to be together as a family - we don't do it often enough. My mom kept saying throughout the meal, "I still can't believe I'm sitting here with you guys! What a surprise!"

Then came the moment us kids had all been waiting for. The four of us (Becky, James, Chelsea and I) all chipped in and bought her an Acer One Netbook (laptop). If you haven't seen one already, they work just like a normal laptop, but they are just a bit bigger than a reader's digest. Coolest thing ever. We wanted to make sure it was small enough to fit in her purse and easy for her to use when she needs to work and check her email.

Anyway, somehow, James slipped the laptop into her purse when she wasn't paying attention. When my brother gave me the signal that the laptop was in place, I asked mom, "Hey mom, you got a pen?" She always does - in her purse.

To our surprise, she actually dug around in her purse for a solid twenty seconds searching for the pen before she finally gasped with excitement. We knew right then that we had nailed her birthday gift.

She was sooooo excited! I haven't seen her this excited and happy in so long. Soooo good to see!

Just as we were about to leave, we bumped into some long-lost family! It was great to see them! They are also struggling with a health crisis of their own, in fact. It was great to encourage each other. Please, keep them in your prayers as well.

After breakfast, my parents went home for a few hours. My dad needed to take a nap. He seems to be constantly exhausted. My mom wanted to walk off breakfast. James and Becky headed home with Chelsea to start cooking a delicious feast for dinner - some crazy chicken pot roast.

I have to take a moment to publicly acknowledge the bomb that is my wife. She slaved all day preparing an amazing dinner - all for my family. Sweetheart - I can't even tell you how much that meant to me!

My parents made their way over to our house at 3pm. There was a cake waiting with a card from the girls at the bakery (Artistic Cake Design). She loved it. We spent a few minutes talking. I suggested my parents chill in our TV room and watch a movie - so they did.

My dad kept saying, "Your house is so beautiful - I need to come her more often! Its so relaxing."

Dinner was finally ready around 5:30pm - and boy was it worth waiting for. We ate like kings (and queens) and enjoyed each other's company.

What a great freakin weekend.

Dad called today and reiterated how much he loved our weekend and how important it was to him that we do it more often.

My dad's growing frustration with his situation makes it more and more difficult to bring a smile to his face. It was great to hear him sound so happy.

~

Just want to say how wonderful it is that so many people are following my dad's story! I bumped into an old friend-of-mine's mom on the weekend - a very unexpected and delightful surprise. We couldn't spend too much time catching up. In the few minutes we had together, she mentioned that she was following my dad's story on the blog. I was blown away. I asked her how she found out about it. Her reply was, "I think it was the facebook". I love parents. It was fantastic seeing you, Mrs T! Really encouraging! G & S - I'm honoured that you'd read the blog. Thanks so much for keeping up with the blog and for your prayers.

And to all of you who silently read this blog and think/pray for my family, and I know there are many of you because I can feel your support in so many ways, thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

~

Currently, dad's doing ok. Even after the doctors drained 6 litres of fluid from his abdomen last week, his stomach is still huge and he's in a lot of pain.

I was unaware of this - but dad actually has an appointment this Wednesday in Toronto. He'll be staying with my Aunt Gail in downtown Toronto - just eight blocks from the hospital. I think the appointment is just a checkup. He has two more of these appointments the two Wednesday's following. Lots of driving coming up.

~

Happy Birthday Mom! Next year - Punta Cana! And no - dad didn't ask me to write that.