I don’t always get a chance to pour my heart out on the blog, especially in its rawest state. Today, I find myself to be in the midst of such a huge emotional roller coaster, this seems to be the most therapeutic thing for me to do.
This Christmas, I’m praying for a real Christmas miracle. Nothing materialistic, no big gift to unwrap or shiny new anything. I am on my knees, pounding the pavement, praying for my baby brother’s life.
A little history…
This summer, I had the chance to spend some time up north with my family and paid my little brother, Derrick, and his family a visit. (I say “little” or “baby” brother sometimes, but he’s 30 years old now lol).
Anyway, immediately after seeing my little brother in person, I noticed that something seemed a little off with his appearance. I don’t to see him as often as I would like since we live so far away; and even Skype can leave out a few details sometimes. His lower body seemed a lot larger than I’d ever seen on him and was disproportionate compared to his upper body. His skin complexion seemed a little off-color, as did his eyes. I figured this could be due to a number of things – he’s still a fairly new dad (my nephew is 1), he’s working while attending grad school to become a Behaviorist for special needs children, and just overall in the midst of a busy life. I hadn’t seen him since last Christmas and of course, we’ve all changed a bit and put on some pounds–but this was a little different.
Now, this is an awkward conversation to have – you haven’t seen someone in a while and the first thing you want to comment on is their change in appearance and the weight they’ve gained? So not cool, right?
So, I hesitated saying anything for a while, but let’s face it – I have a hard time keeping quiet sometimes and finally said something. He brushed off the weight gain and credited to his athletic stature. That didn’t console me though, knowing that he hasn’t really been a hard core athlete since college. Nonetheless, I let the subject go.
That encounter was in June and I got to see him again in September at our cousin’s wedding. That’s where he pulled me aside and spoke me. He told me that when I’d questioned his appearance last time, it actually encouraged him to go see a doctor. Turns out there was really something quite serious going on with his body. After undergoing a pretty intense series of testing, my baby brother was diagnosed with Chronic Cirrhosis of the Liver.
While the liver is generally an organ that regenerates itself, when someone has cirrhosis of the liver, all of the healthy liver tissue progressively turns into scar tissue and prevents the liver from functioning properly. This leads to a host of complications due to built up toxins and the final verdict for this disease is pretty clear…DEATH. (I am brought to tears again just typing this) Cirrhosis of the Liver is the 12th leading cause of DEATH by disease. Finding out that my little brother could die could possibly be the hardest news I’ve personally gotten in my life to date.
How did this happen? What causes cirrhosis of the liver?
My little brother does not drink heavily, smoke, do drugs, have promiscuous sex, nothing! I mean, out of all of my siblings and cousins, he is definitely not the party animal in the group! Doctors can’t tell him specifically what has caused this, but we speculate that it could be due to prescription medication. My little brother had really bad eczema growing up and his doctors prescribed him A HOST of medications and steroids to treat it. (they never worked, by the way). Imagine a 7 year old trying to treat a skin rash being prescribed drugs strong enough to turn his liver into a 50 year old alcoholic! sigh…
When he first shared this news to me, my first thoughts were incredibly positive. He was being treated by one of the best medical teams in the country at Johns Hopkins University and, although it had been determined that his only chance of survival will be a liver transplant, he’d been placed pretty high on the transplant list. Most importantly, he also has a fairly common blood type, so it is very possible that he may find a non-living organ donor. If not, I’ve learned that I am, in fact, a blood type match for my little brother. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has never had any type of surgery or spent any time in a hospital besides the maternity ward, the thought of being a living organ donor scares me to death!!!!. It’s definitely not the easiest of transplants (not that there are any easy ones) and it would certainly take a toll on my body, but I’d have no other choice. I will not let my little brother die!
The support of the rest of our family has been remarkable as well. Several members have stepped up and offered to get tested. Others are seeking more resources. Some members are a little crazy though and we fear they’ll go all John Q on us if things don’t always go in our favor. (Does every family have those?) We just all want the best for him. After all, he’s pretty much all of our baby. Lots to be positive over, right?
Over the past month specifically, it has become increasingly harder for me to be positive over the situation. His health has deteriorated much faster than we thought and we are racing against the clock. The only hope is to find an organ donor by the time his condition advances to the point of no return. Phone calls are hard because I’m only used to hearing my baby brother’s enthusiastic and very talkative self, not this fatigued voice that instead comes on the line. Seeing my nephew’s beautiful baby pictures are hard because they remind me of the little doll baby I got when I was 6 years old.
Really, it’s all hard…And I cannot let my little brother die!
Now to the emotional roller coaster that was my day actually yesterday. I got a call at 8am from my brother telling me that there was a person on life support who was a match for him. They were rushing to the hospital to be on standby for the time the person actually dies. I cannot tell you how relieved and excited that made me. Of course, my heart was breaking for that other family slated to lose their loved one right before Christmas. However, I hoped they could find some solace in the fact that their loved one could be a blessing to another family.
Hours and hours go by and its around 7:30pm before we finally get the call that the procedure is going to happen in the next hour. I was out Christmas shopping at the time and I’m pretty sure everyone else in the store knew what was going on by the time I was down praising God.
Then, just like that, an hour later we were told that the liver was not in a suitable condition for transplant and that he would not be receiving a new liver just yet. And my heart sank.
On the bright side (still trying to be positive), we now know that he is next in line for a transplant. However, even as I’m trying to be positive, it dawned on me that we are literally on the edge of our seats waiting for someone else’s demise, which is just the worst thing ever. The reality of it is that our blessing is another family’s tragedy. Plus the fact that any suitable donor has to be under 50 years old, we’d be benefiting from the death of another relatively young person who probably means just as much to their family as my baby brother means to ours. Life is just not fair!
I know my baby brother is scared, but still fighting for his life. I know his fiancé who has been such a rock for him, is crumbling on the inside. I know my family is still trying to make this a great Christmas, but our fear and wavering faith is getting in its way. Now ‘s the time we need to bond together, we need to pray harder than ever, we need to have faith and more than anything, we need a real Christmas miracle.