5th Anniversary of a sacrifice

If you have not already read my early writings, please check them out on my website, here’s the first one. I have written about the process and journey of becoming a live liver donor for a friend’s husband.

October 22, 2020 will have been 5 years since we had surgeries. Here’s our update and story.

Can you believe that it’s been 5 years since I donated part of my liver to Lupe? Me neither – only it feels much longer than 5 years! Time is a strange thing.

Last I heard, Lupe is still cancer-free. He was permitted to go to work, but with him having a sensitive immune system, he is not working because of covid-19 in our world. He still has pain daily but has a good attitude. He’s also very grateful for each day he gets with his family and friends – and for each opportunity he has to share Jesus with someone.

Since the last update, I am still having abdominal pain as well as back pain. I was not approved for back surgery and doctors say that there is no way to really see if I am allergic to titanium. SIGH! I am still using a cane and have been unable to drive since February 2019. I have been blessed with SSDI and also In Home Support Services has allowed me to have care providers come into the house where I live to help with laundry, bed changing, errands, cooking and taking me to appointments. I would have never imagined being in pain for 5 years, being this young and needing care providers, not being able to drive or even walk very far by myself – BUT GOD…

GOD is faithful, GOD has not left me and I know that GOD loves me. I know that GOD is sovereign, GOD is in control and that GOD has a plan. I’m not sure why He has allowed this for me, but I trust GOD completely – more than I did 5 years ago. More than anything now, my prayer is that GOD will be glorified in and through all we have been through.

If you haven’t known GOD or JESUS personally, I would encourage you to seek Him while He can be found. Your life won’t become suddenly easy, but you will know a peace that surpasses all understanding. You will know that the GOD who created you still holds you in His hand and He loves you more than you can ever imagine.

Lessons from a sacrifice

Well, donating 60% of my liver was much, much different from what I thought it would be. I had done A LOT of research, I had gone through several rounds of explanation of what was to be expected from all levels of my medical team and even read a lot of stories from people who had already donated through a live organ donor blog on Facebook. I thought I knew what to expect, but it was nothing like what I planned or thought. It really was a sacrifice, but it was worth it. Let me explain.

Lupe and I met with our surgeons on October 2, 2015 and were given the go ahead to have the surgeries as long as I found a place to move before the date of surgery (see my blogs in the “Steps of Faith” phase of blogging).  Temporary housing was found for me, but it wasn’t going to be in a home, it was going to be in a room in a back yard where there was no insulation and no bathroom. But there was plenty of room for myself, my step-Mom (who was coming as my caregiver), my furniture, etc so two days before surgery we moved into the room – arrangements were made for a camp toilet in the back and showers/laundry could be done in the house in the mornings.

On October 21, both Lupe and I were admitted to UCSF for surgery.img_20151021_153854 We were both placed in shared rooms at first. I was placed with a lady who thought she had a cold, so when my nurse said I could stay in my clothes and visit Lupe, I went quickly. Within about 10 minutes, a nurse from donor services named Lisa came to get me and said that as much as possible they like to place donors in a private room, so she showed me a private room with a bit of a view. I gladly took it.

I thought it was very interesting and sort of a sign, but my Personal Care Assistant for the night was named “Easter”. img_20151021_231834She put little bunny ears by her name as she wrote it on the board in my room. I told her that it was very interesting to me that the whole process for me to donate part of my liver started on Easter weekend. (See Waiting for an answer – steps of faith to a sacrifice.)

My friend Lisa stayed the first night with me and was able to go down to pre-op very early the next morning with me. As my gurney was pushed to the elevator, Lupe’s gurney came behind. He asked if I still wanted to “do this”. By then, it was no turning back for me. I thought I was ready.

In pre-op, there was a flurry of activity. We met part of my team and part of Lupe’s team since he was in the next “stall” from me. We discussed the surgery once more and then medicines were started. I was awake long enough to watch the operating doors open for my arrival. I met a few more people on my team, realized that it was extremely cold and then I was out.

I do not recall going to recovery at all so the next thing I remember is being on a gurney and being pushed into my hospital room. My step-Mom, friend Lisa and Lupe’s wife Hilda were all in my room. The nurse asked me what my pain level was from 1 to 10. I don’t recall my answer, but all three of the ladies told me I said “45” and mind you that was with the morphine!

Another memory that is super special to me is that at one point (possibly in the recovery room but maybe in my room), Dr. Roberts who was surgeon on me until the 60% of my liver was removed and then Lupe’s surgeon to put it into him came to visit me. He gently rubbed my arm until I was aware of him being there. He then held my hand and put his face near mine and told me, “Michelle, your liver started working in Lupe almost as soon as we put it in!” It was as if it were his first time ever doing the surgery – sort of an excitement in his words even though he is a the Chief of Transplant Services at UCSF.

I ended up staying in the hospital 10 days instead of 3, I moved 7 times after my surgery, and I am still on disability due to continued pain in my side and incision. All the pain, the frustration of moving, the loss of a years wages. I would never have imagined any of this.

Psalm 69:6 The Message (MSG)

Don’t let those who look to you in hope
Be discouraged by what happens to me (through the suffering),
Dear Lord! God of the armies!

Don’t let those out looking for you
Come to a dead end by following me—
Please, dear God of Israel!”

I think that sometimes people think that sacrifices should be easy, even for Christians. Or, we think of Jesus’ sacrifice only of what He did on Easter weekend. And that was not an easy sacrifice. The weight of the world’s sin were upon Him. Jesus gave up a lot more than just the sacrifice at Easter. He gave up His seat in heaven to be born not in a place of luxury, in a home with heat and water that was clean, not even in an Inn where there was some luxuries of “home”, but in a dirty, messy, stinky stable.

Today during worship I thought about how after surgery, my belly with the 11 1/2 inch incision felt like a pain level of “45”. I knew between a morphine drip and deep breathing, I could get the pain down.

Before the crucification, Jesus was flogged 40 times, which would have ripped his flesh front and back nearly disemboweling Him – He had no morphine. Then on the cross, His arms stretched and nailed, as well as His feet nailed together would make it near impossible to take a deep breath. And on top of that, if that wasn’t bad enough, the weight of the world’s sin (past, present and future) were placed upon Him.

The sacrifice I made for 1 man was no small thing, but I do not feel it was a waste. Lupe has been saved from an early death. He is 100% Hepatitis-C and cancer free + his body has accepted my liver.

The sacrifice Jesus made for all people was beyond human understanding, and He would do it again even if it was for one person. We celebrate the hope of Easter because He overcame death by God’s resurrection power. Those who believe and receive Him as LORD and Savior are saved from an eternal death, where we will be freed from disease and pain and will live for eternity with God.

Waiting for an answer – steps of faith to a sacrifice.

For awhile now I’ve been getting email updates from my friend Hilda asking me to pray for her husband Lupe’s health. He’s had some liver issues so has had to get regular testing. Now he has liver cancer and had hoped to get on a list for a liver to be donated. Unfortunately, there are far more people who need livers than there are people who are dying who have signed up to donate their organ, so Lupe’s chances for getting a healthy liver donated by a dead donor are slim.

Hilda’s last email update described a growing sense of urgency but with a new request. You see, Hilda and Lupe have a beautiful little girl who is kindergarten age. If Lupe doesn’t get a new liver, he may not get to see his little girl grow up. So Hilda’s request was not just for prayer for Lupe to be healed, but also for God to provide a living donor.

I am a single woman who lives in an area where the economy is insanely crazy. It’s near impossible to make it financially for a lot of people. I am a senior caregiver working part-time, so in order to make it financially, I rent a room from a friend, who praise God is charging me below market value. The thought of being a live liver donor for Lupe crossed my mind but my thoughts were, “there is no way I could ever be able to do that financially!”

After praying a little, I asked one friend from church to pray and then did some research. The answers started coming. I could receive short-term SDI and another friend suggest we set up a go-fund-me account to help cover some of my lost wages plus Lupe’s insurance would cover all medical.

I asked more friends to pray I would have clarity on what to do. The more I prayed, the more peace, joy and excitement I was having. I also started believing that if God wanted me to be a liver donor for Lupe, then everything I need would be provided….everything.

Easter Sunday, I let Hilda and Lupe know I wanted to know what the next step was to get the process started. Because I had already researched I knew I would need my primary care physicians (PCP) approval and then I would have to do a medical questionnaire on-line. Let me tell you, Easter takes on a whole new meaning to a person who is considering to sacrifice part of their liver.

I read about the scar – either called a Mercedes or Lexus scar. The first goes from above sternum and goes out to the sides, like a Mercedes symbol. The second starts at sternum and goes to mid-belly then goes to the right side, like a reverse “L”. I immediately thought about being single. What would my future husband or my possible children say? Later, while reading John 20 in the Bible, I read Jesus saying, “Look at my hands and my side.” He was talking to me, “Michelle, look at MY Scars!” It was all I needed to stop worrying about what people might think. I also better understood Jesus’ sacrifice.

So, I sent my PCP an email believing I wouldn’t hear back until Monday or Tuesday. I was very surprised to find an email just a few hours later from her acknowledging that I have prayed and encouraging me to move forward in the process.

I then thought I would have to wait until Wednesday to fill out the questionnaire but my client’s daughter cancelled me for the day giving me time to contact Kaiser for my first interview. Adele informed me of the process but also listened to my story of faith, answer to prayer for clarity and doctor’s approval. She said I was “lucky” and that her “fingers were crossed” that I would pass the questionnaire and move forward to become Lupe’s liver donor.

Since I still had time before my PM shift, I was able to fill out the questionnaire without it “kicking me out” which means I would be able to move forward! Wow! Excitement completely filled me.

Before I went to bed Tuesday night, I had already had an email from UCSF Living Liver Donor Program. I’ve been accepted so far but have to wait for Lupe’s medical insurance to approve me for blood tests, physical and other tests. It’s been six days since I started praying for direction in regards to donating part of my liver to Lupe and now I am waiting to approved by his insurance to move forward. I feel like a little girl waiting for Christmas morning.