Having arrived back in Michigan I was transported by ambulance from the airport to a rehabilitation facility with the goal of gaining enough strength to go home. Home had been our fifth wheel RV for the last eighteen months. We had sold our sticks and bricks house and our furnishings three years earlier. Mary and our daughter Melissa were working to secure an apartment, obtain all the stuff needed to make it a home and get moved in. Thanks to some incredibly generous friends Mary soon had the necessary items to furnish the apartment. All the while I am getting physical therapy at the rehab facility.
This is all happening in the midst of the Covid Pandemic. I was not allowed any visitors. My family members would come to the window of my first floor room. I was not allowed to leave my room. The therapists would come to me.
My fifth day in rehab my doctor became concerned with the results of my morning blood work. They took blood again that evening. About three the next morning I was told that my white blood cells had fallen to a critical level. I was in danger of possibly falling prey to a deadly infection. I was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.
In the emergency I received a Covid test, a routine procedure now. I was positive. The Covid virus was attacking my bone marrow and causing the white blood cells to drop to dangerous levels. After eight days of aggressive treatment I was dismissed and for the first time in forty days allowed to go home. A home I had never seen.
Even though we have a first floor apartment there are five steps to get in. Because of my weakened condition this was no small feat to get into the apartment. But I was home. Mary, with the help of our daughter and many friends, had made our apartment a cozy place and it was so good to be home. But my health continued to decline.
About three weeks later I had an appointment with the liver doctor. After examining me he declared that I could not go home but should go directly to the hospital. I had no appetite, no energy, and was swollen like the Michilan Man. I was admitted to the hospital where I would stay for the next ninety-eight days.
Honestly there are chunks of time during this journey that I just don’t remember. There are some memories that I’m not certain are accurate. I’m telling the story as accurately as I can.
I had a group of doctors. They were the Transplant team. There are numerous doctors on this team along with nurses and every other kind of professional needed to help a person through this journey. In addition to the Transplant Team there were dozens of other doctors involved in my care. It was as if there was a Carnival barker out in the hall beckoning doctors to come in and see me. “Come see the Michilan Man.” It was as if I were a carnival sideshow. Such a novelty that everyone wanted a glympse.
They began to do all the tests necessary to see if I could qualify for the transplant list. They also started me on dialysis.
About two weeks into my hospital stay I was passing blood in my stool. I was moved into the ICU where I would stay sixty-one days. I had had a colonoscopy in Texas so I didn’t have to do another one. They did an upper GI exam. They put a scope down into my stomach and into my duodenal. They discovered bleeding ulcers in the duodenal and made the necessary repairs. This was the first time I was intubated.
The next morning I was dying. I was certain of it. And I was resolved to it. I said goodbye to Mary and the girls. I told the Lord I was ready. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to die. I knew because I had faith in Jesus that when I died he would actually come to me and take me to heaven. But could I face death without fear? I was not afraid! I was relieved. But I did not die (obviously). My friend Tim says I didn’t die because God doesn’t want me! He is a comedian as well as a pastor. Don’t tell him I said so, but he really is funny.
The next day, March 3, I was placed on the Liver Transplant List. The following morning I was placed on the Kidney Transplant list. Later that evening the Head of the transplant team, Doctor Krishna Putchakayala, Dr. P, came in to see me and told me they had found my organs! About 26 hours later they were taking me in for surgery! WHAT! Whoever heard of such a thing. It just doesn’t happen. I go weekly for bloodwork. I have had the opportunity to talk with numerous transplant patients. Most of them waited years to get their organs. Here I am two days after getting on the liver list and one day after getting on the kidney list, going into surgery to get a liver and kidney. Surely God had intervened on my behalf! The surgery went well. This was the second time I was intubated.
Five days after surgery I began showing signs of infection. The infection was persistent and offered the doctors a puzzle. They continued trying to figure out what was going on.
One morning the news was on channel 4. To my surprise they did a story on my case. A group of Russian students somewhere in the Metro Detroit area had heard of my case. In Russia they had learned in cases like mine the problem was cleared up when patients ate donuts. I just couldn’t believe it. They were talking about me on TV and something as simple as a donut could make me well. (This did not really happen. But it was very real to me.) I immediately called Mary to give her the good news. She let me know that donuts would not make me well. I told my daughters, the nurses, doctors, anybody and everybody that would listen. I was convinced that the doctors were formulating a plan of treatment with the folks at Krispy Cream. I was absolutely certain!
Ten days after the transplant surgery I went back into surgery yet again. My lungs had somehow attached to my chest wall in three places and had to be detached. They also removed infection from around my lungs. Several tubes were put in place to drain infection. This was the third time I was intubated.
For a number of days after the transplant I was only occasionally lucid. Right after the transplant everything was in neon color. I told Mary I thought they were giving me LSD. I saw swarms of gnats in my room and bugs on the walls. I became convinced the examination light over my bed was broken and I needed to repair it. I became quite agitated when the nurse refused to let me work on it. I felt totally disrespected. I am told that at times I had to be restrained because I wanted to remove the tubes.
In mid April I took a turn for the worse. Somehow I had contracted the Covid Virus while in the ICU. At this point I was moved to the Covid Ward for the specialized treatment. Eventually I turned the corner and began to make steady but slow improvement.
If you have never been through this kind of illness it is hard to understand how weak it can leave you. The nurses began having me sit on the side of the bed. The bed which I had not left under my own power for weeks.
Finally it was time to leave the bed. Two women, a Physical Therapist and a Nurse, moved the chair two of three inches from the bed. All I had to do was stand up, turn and sit. Nothing could be easier. One of them was on each side of me to help me up. “On the count of three…” The next thing I know the three of us were flailing about in the bed like the three stooges! I was mortified wondering where my hands might have been during the fiasco. The next time they tried to get me in the chair they brought a crain.
After having been intubated three times my left vocal cord had sustained damage and was paralized and my voice just wouldn’t work. I was taken into surgery yet again and given an injection in the vocal cord. This was a temporary fix which helped for a few weeks. Two weeks before the writing of this post I had another surgery and received an implant in the vocal cord and my voice is improving.
Finally after a lot of help from my nurses and therapists I gradually gained strength and learned strategies to get into the chair on my own and walk around the room. After months I was discharged from the hospital and transferred to Physical Therapy. I never actually left the building. PT was in the same building, just a different area. I guess for billing purposes I was discharged from the hospital and admitted to PT. After three weeks in PT I was finally well enough to come home.
I am continuing to improve. I am back to driving. I am walking well enough that I am weaning myself off the cane. I can ride my bicycle a few miles at a time. I believe I’m about ready to begin preaching again and begin telling others this amazing story.
I am so thankful for Mary. This journey has been in many ways harder on her than me. But she has been a fighter and negotiated this journey like a champ. She has been my helpmate extraordinaire! When I think of how she has traveled this road with me I am overcome with emotion. My daughters have been incredible through this whole thing. Traveling many miles, being away from their families for weeks to help me and Mary with this journey. And what can I say about those son-in-laws? These two men have supported their wives and taken care of the children for weeks. I love them more than ever.
A family lost a loved one and gave me life. I can’t even express what this means to me. Every day I thank God for them. I ask Him to bless them. And I ask God to help them to negotiate their journey through grief. Finally I ask God to help me be a good steward of the gift they have given me. Are you a registered organ donor?
I am blessed with hundreds of friends. They have and continue to pray for us. They have called, sent cards, contacted me through social media and been a wonderful encouragement through this entire journey.
Most of all I thank God for seeing me through this journey. I thank Him for the journey. Because the journey has made me better. He has been with me every step of the way. How else am I to explain the astonishing circumstance surrounding my transplants other than God’s intervention? There have been a lot of people along the journey that ushered me down the road, but behind them all has been God’s guiding hand. I certainly did not do anything to earn His favor. And I don’t understand why he chose to bless me so. But I will always praise him and tell others of His great love.
There will be one last post in this series. Next week my baby girl will be writing about the funny things that have happened along this journey. There is nothing funny about liver and kidney disease. But a lot of funny things have happened along the way.
4 thoughts on “THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Part 4”
I enjoy reading your blogs
You are a special man of faith. Not all would recognize the humorous side of what you’ve been through. You are certainly still here for a reason. We hope to see you soon.
Love, Barbara & Howard
Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. Ever sending love & prayers. 🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼❤️
God bless, Lyn
Be strong and let your heart take courage ~ Psalm 31:24
Sent from my iPhone
Mary and Larry, How I miss you both and how much more I am glad to the Lord He has protected, provided and sustained you through the difficult season of life. I pray it to pass soon into a better season than this blizzard of pain and uncertainty. We don’t know what the future holds but be do know who holds our future. Still thinking and praying for you all. Love much, your brother Don A.