ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Addendum For the Prayer Team: My surgery will begin between 6:30 & 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, December 29th. Victor's will be one and a half to two hours later when my liver section is ready to be removed. I should be back on the ICU by 11:00 a.m., approximately 4 hours for surgery. Bob has set up a phone tree for the church including the webmaster who will update the church website as soon as possible on the status of both of us.

Thanks again for your prayers.

Photo: Marilyn and I ready to leave for the hospital

Pink Suitcase ready and waiting. Check. PJ's and Slippers, hot pink, of course. Check. Big fluffy robe. Check. My Bible. Check. Tom Clancy novel. Check. Devotional. Check. Crossword puzzles. Check. Laptop loaned by a friend. Check. Toothbrush...not yet. Just about ready for tommorow's trip to the hospital.

Christmas was wonderful. In the evening Bob proposed a trip to Chicago to check out the lights. Even though Marshall Field didn't have the spot lights on, the windows were lovely. And the tree in Daley Plaza...what can I say? The international booths are there, but not opened at 7 PM on Christmas evening. It was cooooold too. The temperature was theoretically only 30 degrees or so, but as usual the Windy City out did itself with a brisk breeze which numbed my fingers until I realized I did, indeed, have a pair of gloves in my purse. We got a picture with the Marshall Field sign behind us...and several around the big tree. (I'm uploading one of the pictures.)

Yesterday I had breakfast with Brad, Rachel and the girls. Then the girls spend a few hours here. We made "Little Golden" books and watched Vegetales' "An Easter Carol". (Who says we have to wait til spring for Easter?). Tonight the Rob and Christy will be here as well as Rachel and the girls (Brad is working) for dinner. Then tomorow my sister arrives.

And tomorrow...I'll be off to the hospital.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers. Next time I write will probably be post-surgery. The laptop is wireless, but I doubt they'll let me go on line in the hospital. We shall see.

God Bless Us Every One!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day. Last night we celebrated: Church service, dinner, and gift exchange. Life is good. Yesterday the article came out in the Daily Herald. I think she did a good job with a few mistakes on details, but then the interview was entirely by phone while I was at school writing lesson plans. I'm generally good at multi-tasking, but trying to direct Bismarck with storing Christmas decorations and fill Tony in on lesson plans while talking to Lenore on the phone is a bit much, even for me! I think I did a few quantum leaps while talking to her.

Rachel called and said her Aunt saw us on news. NBC never did call, but I guess they did the story. I tried to find it online but couldn't.

I still need to pack my suitcase. It's sitting here waiting for me. But I have three days left before check in time! I still have this incredible peace. Bob and the boys seem to have it too. I'm praying for those around me. I know some people are rather anxious. I guess my greatest concern is that if for whatever reason I don't survive, my family will be left to deal I'm so convinced that this is of God that whatever comes, I know a greater purpose will be served. My prayer is that those around me will be able to understand that, not just in head knowledge, but understand with a whole heart.

I talked to my Dad today. He's very anxious, but then it is his nature to be anxious. This has to bring up the spectre of my mother's death for him. There are some parallels: it was about this time of year. (The fire was December 28th; she died January 13th) There was a sacrificial element to her death: she was saving my sister and I. While I had inevitable (and some not so inevitable) difficulties being a teenager without my mother, somehow I always knew that there was a higher purpose in her death. I was angry with God about it for a long time, but God was well able to handle my anger. (If you don't believe that, read through the Psalms. David ranted at God at times.) God is well able to confront us at our weakest point and still provide comfort and direction.

One outcome I would so like to see if for Americans in general to repond by advising family members and signing their driver's license as donors. If all of us (at least those who have no religious objections) donated organs upon death, this shortage would not exist and people like Victor would not be placed on long waiting list with little hope of reaching the top before an organ becomes available. But it does mean dealing with mortality. If one is to leave instructions with family and sign a license, it means having to think about and talk about one's own death. Many just don't want to think about it. Yet death is so inevitable. Time marches one.

However, for me, I'm planning to use my new pink suitcase (Christmas present from JCC) for a trip to Nicaragua next summer. The children at the dump are hungry. I'm still looking for donors (money, not organs) to sponsor children who live in incredible poverty, filth and hunger. I visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico last summer also and was able to assist a bit with the feeding program that Pastor Saul Gonzalez has initiated at the dump there. It's absolutely incredible the job that he has done with volunteers and local resources. Of course, in Managua, Nicaragua there are not the amount of local resources that exist in a popular vacation spot like Puerto Vallarta, but doesn't my father own the Cattle on a Thousand Hills? And doesn't he keep count of even the sparrows? We must find the resources. As you can see from the picture above, the conditions are unbelievable. I must admit that it was so muddy and nasty that day that we didn't even get out of the truck. I took those pictures from the clean, safe environment of a vehicle. God is not finished with me yet!! Nor with you!

For additional information see:

Friday, December 23, 2005

One more visit to the hospital. I left a unit of blood this morning on the chance that I would need a transfusion at some point. This way it would be my own blood. And they took another test tube full, too--that's 26 (I'm counting) tubes plus the pint bag full. They say this is the last thing until next Wednesday when I check in overnight before surgery on the morning of the 29th. Check in overnight. Sounds like a hotal stay. I haven't actually packed, but I do have a small stack of books and things I want to take.

Last night I stayed up until we had the Christmas presents wrapped -- Bismarck helped me. He said he's learning a little bit of everything here. Bob helped too...he's great at cleanup and does an awesome gift bag!

We finished writing my Advance Directives (Living Will). That makes everything seem so real and a bit ominous. But I suppose it's something everyone should have. It's not that we haven't talked about, we have. But talking is one thing and writing it down and signing is another.

I go to Victor's in a few minutes for an interview and photo shoot with a reporter. She's doing an article about this "Chrstmas gift". I'm hoping a bit more publicity will encourage people to sign for organ donation. It's a miracle for Victor that someone close is a match. There are countless others just waiting. The difference in his emotional state since I've been approved is tremendous. It must be terribly difficult to be so ill and know that there is little hope your name will reach the top of the list in time.

The 29th is just around the corner. But in the meantime, I plan to enjoy Christmas to the max. One downer is that I can't do any strenuous activity for 24 hours from the blood donation this morning, so I can't play soccer tonight. I did play Tuesday night for a short period. I felt okay, but Bob was reluctant to put me in any more time.

Soccer not withstanding, I'm going to enjoy the time with the girls and the Christmas Eve service. Thank you God for life and health!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Whenever I get a call from the hospital, it's as though the world pauses in its rotation; Earth's orbit ceases; the universe holds still. My total concentration focuses on this next task I must finish, the next step. For those few minutes, it's just God and me. Nothing else exists; nothing else moves.

They called today at 4 pm. Surgery is now officially set for the 29th of December. Doctors are scheduled; the OR notified, the anesthesiologist contacted. We check in to UIC hospital on the afternoon of December 28th. I must pack a bag.

M2 was so happy tonight; I could hold her again. After the biopsy I was told to lift nothing heavier than 10 lbs. M2 loves to be held almost as much as I love to hold her. Just to think that in a few months, not only will I be able to hold M2, but Victor will be able to hold Sammy again!

Thank you God for miraculous things whether wrought diectly by Your hand or indirectly through ministry of others -- in this case, the Doctors. Guide us, Lord.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My info to friends and family sent today.

I have a saga to tell...but I'll try to keep it short, especially since I'm sending this to my entire address book and some of you already know what is going on.

Victor Gomez, a long time friend, former Bible School student and current member of our church has had most of his liver removed trying to defeat hepatocellular carcinoma. The tumors have not returned, but the remaining portion of his liver is not large enough to serve biological needs and has not regenerated as livers are supposed to do.

Last March we became aware that he needed a liver transplant. While he has been on the National Liver Transplant Recipient list since that time, the possibility of his receiving a cadaver liver in time to save his life is fairly remote. Doctors at UIC where he is receiving care suggested that they look for living liver donor. Since I am a match, I volunteered, but could not be accepted until I lost about 20 lbs. I tried throughout the spring and summer, but lost only 10 lbs.

Sometime last summer his sister, Charro, from Peru volunteered, had some tests in Peru and came to the U.S. this fall in order to become a donor. I became very concerned about Victor and a couple of other situations at church and began a program of fasting and prayer. Subsequently Charro was disqualified, and I discovered that I had lost the additional 10 lbs. So, again I volunteered to be a donor for Victor.

Finally on Monday, December 7th I started the medical tests to see if I could withstand the surgery. Twenty-five vials of blood, a liver biopsy, a cat scan, MRI, x-ray, EKG, psychological exam, an ethics review, two interviews with surgeons and some miscellany that I have forgotten, later I have been given a clean bill of health and am tentatively scheduled for surgery on December 27th.

Victor is going tomorrow for a physical to be sure he can withstand the rigors of surgery at this point. Assuming that to be the case, he will receive about 2/3 of my liver a couple of days after Christmas. I expect to be in the hospital 4-5 days and recovering at home for another 5 weeks or so. Within 3 months my liver should reconstitute completely. Victor's recovery will be a bit longer since he will need anti-rejection meds and his system isn't as strong as mine at this point.

I really feel at peace about this. It is God-directed. Whatever happens, it was meant to be. I will appreciate your prayers for Victor and me.

The surgery will remain tentative until the incision is actually made. Victor remains on the liver transplant list. Should a cadaver liver become available before the incision is made, Victor will still receive that one instead of mine. If by any strange reason my liver should fail to reconstitute, I become number one on the Transplant List and would receive the next matching liver. Again, your prayers are appreciated.

I'd also apreciate your prayers for my family. While they are all totally supportive and behind, anxiety for them is an inevitable by product of this decision. Pray for God's peace that passes understanding.
Still waiting. Victor will have a physical tomorrow. The tentative surgery is December 27. I have one week of time to get things in order. Looming large is my classroom and lesson plans for a sub. My family has been so very cooperative. Bob, as always, is my biggest supporter; the kids have all offered to help in any way; Bismarck is delaying a visit to Nicaragua in order to be here to help during my convalescence. The church, too, has offered help in anyway I need. They'll be bringing in food a couple of times a week for the time I'm off my feet.

Christmas will be very special this year. With a life-threatening surgery on the horizon, I find I'm not stressing over things like parking spaces. Time with my granddaughters becomes even more precious; every hug, every word, every hand hold is priceless.

I do believe all will be well. But will be hapy when the waiting is over. Grant me patience dear Lord.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Illusions of control. Unrealistic expectations that life will bend its ways to my will. The wheels of the Medical team turn slowly. My attempts to speed things up are to no avail. Nothwithstanding that my convenience would be better served to have surgery by Friday and, therefore, be a bit more healed by Christmas Eve. It may or may not happen so quickly. To me, it seems my life is on hold. Waiting is not my strong suite.

Lord, grant me patience.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

More bits and pieces... One by one the tests are finished with positive results. I'm ready, physically, emotionally, spiritually for this journey. The doctors say there is still the liver biopsy and the stress test to verify my health. I'm strangely relaxed about the entire thing. I'm ready to donate 2/3 of my liver to a friend. It seems weird to some people--I've gotten unbelievably contradictory feedback, but this isn't about feedback. It's about doing what I'm positive is destined as my next step.

In the devotional today from Os Hillman, he speaks of Paul's personal mission statement: To know Christ, to know and experience his power, to identify with him in his suffering. (Phil 3:10-11) This step is more about knowing Christ and experiencing God's power. Even though I am warned on all sides about possible complications, I'm fully prepared to see God's power take me through this with flying colors. I'm not foolish enough to believe that it will be without pain, but I have faith enough to believe that it will not be anything that I can't handle.

I really want things to move forward quickly, as soon as possible. It was gratifying to see Victor looking so much better this morning. I've know Victor long enough to know that it's the power of hope, the power of faith, that is improving his medical condition. His zest for life has returned and he's ready for the new liver, or half liver as the case may be and a return to life in the mainstream instead of on the sidelines. A return to playing with his five year old son; a return to productive service.

In the long run, the blessing will be mine. Of that, I have no doubt. In God's economy the giver is blessed one hundredfold. I enter this surgery understanding from a human standpoint the risks and possibilities for complications; I also understand from a spiritual standpoint that there's no way I can lose. Even if in the giving my life is spent, I'm still the winner. In giving there is blessing. What greater heritage could I give my children or grandchildren than that the act of giving is its own greatest reward?


Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Bit and pieces. Life comes together like that, in seemingly insignificant small events, daily happenings, the odd coincidence, a chance encounter and ¡Voila! it all becomes a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime. Added together those tiny bits create a life, a lifework.

Bits and pieces. A piece of verbiage, simple words that encourage; a touch, a pat on the shoulder to lighten a heart; a look, a smile that brightens the spirit. Help comes in small packages, given casually, carelessly even, but essential in the fabric of human existence. Bits and pieces of self given daily to one another unthinkingly, link us together, part of the eternal brotherhood.

Bits and pieces. Vials of blood, my blood are tested for compatibility. Electronic scanners check my system for properly functioning organs and systems. Then soon half of my liver will given to a longtime friend becomes a whole vital organ for him, maybe as soon as Christmas. Bits and pieces make a whole, a more complete whole, parts of the larger Kingdom.