Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prayers Answered: Third Transplant scheduled!!!

We found out this week that Mark matched the potential donor!!! The Transplant Team has scheduled Mark's third kidney transplant for January 31, 2012!!! Rather than participating in a "paired exchange" in which my mother (i.e. Donor 1) would donate to a person in need of a kidney (i.e. Recipient 1) and Mark (i.e. Recipient 2) would receive a kidney from an individual (i.e. Donor 2) donating on behalf of mom's recipient as we had thought, Mark will be a participant in a "chained transplant." Chained transplants involve more than 2 donors and 2 recipients. In other words, several transplants occur in a "chain-like" or "domino effect." Chained transplants can occur across medical facilities and networks. Mark will actually be receiving a kidney from a donor in Georgia who was listed in a different "network" or "database." Mark's donor is donating as her loved one recently received a kidney from a different donor in the "chain". My mom will donate her kidney to expand the "chain" by giving to another patient in need. Although Mom's kidney won't be given to Mark, her gift enables Mark to participate in the chained transplant. As we have mentioned in prior posts, transplantation from a cadaver isn't really an option for Mark. Given Mark's history of rejecting kidneys, Mark needs plasmapheresis treatments prior to a kidney being placed in his body to decrease the likelihood of rejection. These treatments are scheduled the week prior to transplant and require the placement of a "deep line." The treatments take several hours as your blood is pumped out and cleansed of the antibodies found in plasma (i.e. the watery part of blood) that trigger immune response (i.e. rejection). Because of the time constraints of receiving a kidney from a cadaver (i.e. the kidney must be transplanted usually within 24 hours) and Mark's need for the treatments, Mark has to receive a kidney from a living donor. As we have also mentioned, Mark does not match any of the people (his Mom, his cousin-Jamaica, my brother, my Mom, my Mom's friend) who have wanted to donate to him. Thus, our only opportunity for a transplant is through a paired or chained transplant. My Mom's selflessness in donating to someone she does not know and probably will never meet is providing Mark with an opportunity to have his health restored.

This week has been filled with feelings of excitement, joy, thankfulness, fear, and anxiety. The prospect of receiving a successful transplant is amazing. The joy that would come from seeing Mark's health restored and seeing him enjoy the freedom from no longer relying on dialysis to sustain his life is almost unimaginable. At the same time we are hopeful, we are fearful. In many ways, we have compartmentalized and suppressed all of the bad memories surrounding our transplant experiences. The fears and anxieties we possess about the transplant are almost uncountable. As we approach the third transplant, those fears are becoming less of a memory and more of a reality. At the same time we are hopeful and fearful, we are thankful. It is amazing to think that the woman who gave me life is now giving part of herself to give life to my husband. The gratitude we have for my Mom's willingness to help Mark is almost indescribable. How amazing it is to think about how God has worked to join Mom, Mark, and all of the other donors and recipients across several medical facilities over several months in the same chained transplant. Reflecting upon the fact that God joined mine and Mark's hearts in love before we ever realized the impact my mother would on his health is also amazing. God's ability to work so intricately and powerfully across time and circumstances with so many people is truly unfathomable.

1 John 3:1-"How great is the love our Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God"-has a new meaning to our
family. Once again, we are amazed how our God can use the most difficult of situations to allow us to know and understand His love in new
and deeper ways. As always, please lift our family and the other families in the chain in your prayers! We will update the blog as we learn more about the transplant!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Potential Match Identified...testing to follow

On Friday, we received a phone call from Hopkins. Mark's nurse stated that a search of their database identified a potential match for Mark and my mother. This means that my mom appears to "match" a person in need of a kidney and that Mark appears to "match" the person's loved one who is donating on their behalf. The next step is to send blood/tissue samples to Baltimore for testing. It will take about 2 weeks to analyze the sample once received. This could potentially be incredibly great news (i.e. both pairs match-Mom and the person in need of a kidney-Mark and other Donor)! However, we are cautiously optimistic as we could find out that one or both pairs did not "match."

As I was painting Mark Thomas' room this afternoon, I listened to Chris Tomlin's "I will rise" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa8w7mGug0c&noredirect=1). The words of the first verse of the song are so applicable to our lives at this moment. Despite how crazy our life seems right now as we wait to hear back from Hopkins, I have peace about our future. As the song expresses, often times our hearts and flesh fail. It is often a struggle to keep a positive perspective and not to be overwhelmed by "not knowing" if and when Mark's health will be restored. Regardless of whether the pairs match or ultimately whether or not a third transplant happens and is successful, I rest in the fact that the "victory is won" and I can always rely upon the "Anchor for my soul" that my God has become.

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an Anchor for my soul
I can say, "It is Well"
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He has risen from the dead
And I will rise
when He calls my name
No more sorrow
No more pain!

We will post more information as we learn more. Please continue to pray for our family. We are also requesting prayer for the other patient and family involved in the testing. Thanks!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Seven months later...an update on Mark's health

Once again, I will begin by apologizing for not updating our blog! Unlike the past, we have a good excuse for not updating the blog. In the Spring, I was offered a faculty position teaching grads/undergrads pursuing careers in Speech-Language Pathology. After a great deal of prayer, we decided to move! Over the past several months, we have sold our home, bought a home, found a new school for Mark Thomas, and all of the other things that come with relocating. While we are enjoying our new home and I love my new job, Harlan will always be "home" and we miss our family and friends!

With respect to the status of Mark's transplant, my Mom was selected as the candidate for being a donor. While my Mom does not "match" Mark, she can donate in a paired exchange. In other words, Mom will donate to a stranger so that the stranger's donor will give to Mark. Last month, Mom and I traveled to Hopkins to complete the donor evaluation process. We learned last week that she was cleared to donate. Thus, at this point, Mom and Mark's names have been entered into a database. Hopkins will begin looking for matches. When they have identified a potential match, Mark and Mom will begin sending tissue samples to Hopkins. Once matching has occurred for the paired exchange, the transplants will be scheduled. However, there is really no way of predicting how long it will take to identify a match. We could remain in the database for 2 months, 2 years, or 2 days! Please continue to pray for our family! To be honest, we are trying NOT to think about the transplant and trying to just give it to God. Not knowing when the transplant will happen is difficult to say the least. We find comfort in the fact that God is in control of every detail of the situation! Thanks for your continued prayers!