Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sing Me Back Home

And just like that, it's all over. I was released from clinic on Tuesday, a few weeks early of my original date. Apparently, the new liver is doing so well that I don't need to be monitored so closely anymore. I've just got a few complications I'm trying to get over, but as I always say, "Don't sweat the small stuff," right? The crazy high blood pressure is probably a result of some of the drugs I'm on now, and should pass as we taper them down. The intense pain in my legs is likely a result of the brutal infection I keep catching. Hopefully this round of pills will knock it out for good and I can get back to work in a few weeks. Beyond that, I'm whole. I'm getting used to the fact that I have energy now, and I don't feel self-conscious about jaundice or body image issues caused by fluid retention. It's all over now. Even things I never knew were connected to my liver have cleared up... sinus problems, gone. Itching and abdominal pain, gone. I look and feel younger... some gray hairs have even disappeared. It's all working at 110% now.

The strange thing for me now will be assimilating back into normal life at this point. I've walked with death for so long now, I've realized I don't really know how to enjoy living. I never understood what hope truly meant until now, and I have to admit I'm still pretty cautious that this could really happen for me. Even those closest to me never knew how deeply this darkness hung over me. I didn't talk about it, couldn't complain about it, and would not admit it to myself. I tried to act as if everything was fine for a long time even when I was in a great deal of pain. I just didn't want my friends and family to worry, or to feel any sorrow or helplessness. I tried to put a smile on my face every day and be a hero. In retrospect, I'm not sure if that was the healthiest way to deal with it all, but it was the only way I knew how. Laughing at the gates of hell.

And yet the blackness and unspeakable doom that I had felt for years did vanish overnight with the transplant, like a spell being lifted with one magical kiss. I feel as if my entire biorhythm has finally gotten back into sync... the vibrational energy of my body now being aligned with the natural flow of the universe, or Tao, if you will. I had the privilege to meet the amazing surgeon who performed my transplant, Dr. Goran Klintmalm, when KVUE came up to Dallas to do a fantastic story on my journey and organ donation. Thanks Jade and Scott! I didn't know until Jade asked the good doctor how close I was to actually dying. I knew I didn't have long, but until he said so I was unaware that I was actually a few hours away from dying... this time for good. And yet, I didn't die in the physical sense, but I was reborn in the most real way.

Now I'm left with a new psychology that I'm trying hard to accept. It's a very foreign feeling to know know that I've suffered enough, and that's it's okay for me to want good things and to have hope that I could have them someday. I probably don't need to commit myself to the Pat's Promise cause. It's probably enough that I just rest and enjoy the years of good health ahead that I've never had before. But some crazy part of me tells me that it's just not enough. I have to learn what it means to enjoy things without this creeping feeling of dread lurking just below the surface. Until that day comes, I'll continue to put more work into the Karmic Wheel than I probably have time for. I know that until I feel that I'm doing enough to give back and save more lives, my spirit just won't rest. My soul has been sick for so long that I'm quite sure the only way to heal is to do more and more good for others. I'm thirsty for it, I have to have it. The trick will be balancing this need with a healthy lifestyle, rest, and attention to my family and friends. I'll hopefully find that balance through prayer. Prayer got me where I am today, and will undoubtedly deliver me tomorrow.

I know I have often sound like a cheerleader for hope and for spiritual strength. I did because I had to. The alternative was far too dreadful to entertain. And yet I do realize how much death and pain there is out there. I've seen it. I've seen people on my floor at Baylor Medical pack loved ones to go home and die once they get the news that a  liver won't be coming. I've seen Dr. Klintmalm tear up as he confessed to Jade how hard it has been over the years to be the one to make the decisions on who gets to live and who dies. How it's easy for people to say everyone deserves the same chance when they're not the ones with the responsibility to make those choices. And feeling the guilt of knowing you were chosen to live because you were young and otherwise healthy when many others in the same situation were not given that chance. An increase in organ donor registration will fix these issues. And that, my friends, is why I won't rest until we get there.

If this post has a less than jubilant tone, it's because I'm feeling the weight of this responsibility now that I'm back home. I know I'll need my friends to remind me how to have fun and relax. Are you ready? Lord knows I am. Help me find the silliness again. I know it's in there somewhere.

I did manage to get away to the Port Aransas for a few days after clinic with some friends and greet the sea once again in victory. As I walked out into the rushing waves and was greeted by the windy spray of salty ocean water, the tears began to flow. I realized that I was here again, doing one of my favorite things. I had very recently thought I would never get to see the ocean again or feel the healing waters surrounding my body. I made it.

Just in a few months from this...

To this...

Finally, thanks to my old pal Tommy Siragusa for reminding me to have fun with this song. His ukelele version at the beach was far better than the original, but this is all I've got for now:

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