I know. It is December 11th and I’m making a post about October 17th but now that I have time to collect my thoughts of that day I realize that October 17th is the day that I forgot. I remember very little details about that day. But let’s back up.
Andrew was approved to be my donor! What an awesome feeling that was. Also very humbling to me that my baby brother would risk his life to save mine. We were all inspired by this act of kindness and selflessness. My extended family at LCB put together a fund raiser that would ultimately help Andrew and I both get through 3 or so months of really trying times. We knew what we were about to endure, I just don’t think you’re really ever ready for it. Our family and extended family at LBC knew this as well and they were so prepared to stand by us the entire time offering prayers and support that goes beyond words. I can’t thank them all enough for stepping up to the plate and helping during the time that we went through. With each day that was growing closer, I thought I would be getting nervous but I wasn’t. I was just living day by day like normal trying to tie up loose ends at work and helping Ashlee take care of the children. And then it happened. Infection.
Infection. It was our worst nightmare. I’ve had numerous infections (Cholangitis as they call it) throughout this past year, each infection would land me a stay at the Baylor Inn for a week or two or sometimes three. This made the doctors nervous because we were only 2 weeks away from surgery. So instead of spending the last two weeks before the surgery with my wife and kids, I ended up spending it with all of my favorite nurses and a miserable bed. The doctors were concerned that the infection could cause them to cancel the surgery but more than that if they chose to go through with the surgery that I would need to be on some very powerful antibiotics. So that is what they did. I was on 4 very powerful antibiocs and would continue to be on them throughout the surgery and after.
After 8 days of antibiocs the day was almost here. My doctors decided that because I had not run any fever that they would release me from the hospital for the weekend to spend time with my wife and kids before the surgery. Andrew came down that weekend as well to get settled into the apartment before the surgery. The picture below was taken that weekend right before the surgery.
Photo Credit (See bottom for link) : Jacqueline Spivey
‘Twas the night before surgery
‘Twas the night before surgery and every creature was stirring….especially me! It was about to get real, and I was feeling the anxiety. I wanted to hug my kids over and over because you’re never really sure how this stuff goes. They say It’ll be fine but that doesn’t really sink in. My wife had been by my side since the day before because the doctors admitted me to the Baylor Inn back on saturday night so that I could start IV Antibiotics again before the surgery. My kids came to see me and that was the best feeling in the world. For those of you who know Ashlee and I, our kids are our entire world and it broke my heart to hear them asking so many questions. The hospital looks scary for adults and I just can’t imagine what its like for children. But they are troopers!
Giving the kids some love the night before the big day.
I remember at this moment realizing that this would be the last time in a few months that we would all be together and me being able to hold my kids, picking them up and just holding them. I didn’t sleep much that night. And then just like that the nurse came in and said its time to go. I felt my heart drop. I thought of a million things I forgot to do or had not done and more anxiety just set in.
When I arrived downstairs in the pre-operation room, I was able to see my brother. That made my day so much better! He was in good spirits. We laughed about the wired things that they were making us wear, like this really odd butt patch thing. (That’s a story for another day). The family was able to come in and see us off. They came and got Andrew first. He was nervous but we just laughed and told some jokes. Until they came in the room and said its time to go. I was the last one to hug Andrew and tell him that I would never forget what he has done for me. We cried and then he was off. They would not come get me for a few hours as they had to open him up and make sure that his liver was going to work for me.
*I’m pretty sure we had been laughing about the butt patch!
And then, the nurse came back and said the Doctors were ready for me. I felt immediate panic! I felt like there is no amount of time on earth that would be enough for me to say goodbye to my family. And one by one I received words of encouragement, hugs, and I love you’s and then that was it. When we got to the OR Room, I remember just crying thinking of my wife and children and not knowing what the outcome was going to be. This was a very complicated surgery and thinking about it lasting for 12 hours was just something you can’t think of when you’re right in the middle of it. But I thought well here goes nothing and I started to breathe the oxygen. The Doctors and nurses were so wonderful, they made sure they gently put me to sleep and then …….. I don’t remember. So we will have to let these pictures tell the story.
Right before they took me back. I was loving on these two as much as I possibly could.
There are not enough words to tell you how much I love and respect this Lady right here. Sara Wilhite was there every step of the way and she is an absolute angel to me and my family. We go way back all the way back to the Sonic Days LOL
For 5 hours the tension was on. I’m not sure what everyone was doing but I am sure Sassy (Sara) made the kids have some fun. Andrew was now in recovery and doing well. The wait was still on at this point. I had another 5 hours of surgery to go. Thankfully I wasn’t aware of it 🙂
Surgery was finished. The Doctors explained to Ashlee and the family that it went very smooth and that it almost seemed as if Andrews liver was designed just to do this. Normally they can have alot of complications with living liver donor transplants because with my disease PSC they must cut out all of my bile ducts and portal veins which then makes it very difficult to find or make ducts to sew the new liver to. But Andrew’s liver gave us just exactly what we need. Now starts recovery. Thank you God that I didn’t remember too much of this part.
* In ICU for 24 Hours to monitor
* DR. Stephanie Houck (my sister) looking at vitals and levels making sure nothing is changing and that all is headed int he right direction. She has been my best friend through alot of this. She has been helping me with my disease since we found out and was able to help me get into Baylor and be seen by the absolute best. Thank you Stephanie, I Love you.
* So then I’ve been finding these pictures. Posing with me. Ha Ha Sara…..Funny :). At least let me wake up!
* Andrew and I seeing each other for the first time after surgery. Unfortunately I don’t really remember it, but I know I was thankful. So very thankful.
* Meanwhile back in the room we have pumps, medications, pumps, and medication….
Over the next few weeks, I spent healing slowly, getting use to taking new medications and dealing with stomach and digestive complications. But not before I got to see one of my best friends up there on the unit. Jaqueline Spencer, the poster child for PSC. She is such a trooper and an inspiration to endure what she has. She and I have been dealing with PSC together for a while. My sister was her palliative care doctor and we were introduced as she spent alot of time on 14 as we call it. She has such a great heart. She came by to help me walk. We met so many great people, I even met a guy named John, who had a brother who donated his liver to him just the day before.
Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I wanted to share this experience with you to let you know that it’s okay to think you’re not capable of going through something big, but its not okay to not try. And in the end, it all works out exactly how its suppose to. I’m thankful for family, friends, and my shiny new liver.