Why I'm #Driven2SaveLives
When you're halfway through law school, you should start worrying about figuring out what Bar prep program to use or where you want to start working when you graduate. I was worried about if my father was going to survive until Christmas. Because back before I even started law school, Dad was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). He slowly got weaker, but this happened over the course of four years really. It wasn't until the end of 2011 beginning of 2012 that things really turned. That's how IPF progress, it's a step-down disease.
In 2012 it seems like the illness didn't step down, it took a giant leap off the cliff. There were secondary issues, a weird infection that we're still not sure what happened, and that really weakened Dad to the point that by the end of October, he was hospitalized just because he was weak. After that hospitalization, he was relisted on the transplant list, number one in the state and the region. We then started the journey of taking him to pulmonary rehabilitation at least three times a week.
That was a trip (literally and figuratively). Mom or I would leave work and drive home, collect one to three air tanks and put them in the back of our car. Then we would help Dad, and the air tanks he was tethered to, get into our car, drive to the hospital and complete everything in reverse. The hardest part was getting out of pulmonary rehabilitation and into our car after Dad had been working out.
I wasn't there when they made the call to admit Dad into the hospital at the end of November. I received a photo that morning from my Mom: Dad sitting on the couch with two air tanks around him, his cannula in his nose, dark hoodie on with the hood pulled up over his head. She sent it as a joke he looked like a decrepit rap star. About two hours later I got the call he had been admitted.
Then we waited. We waited as we had done for over a year. There was a false call early on. The whole room buzzed with excitement, the nurses all wore isolation gowns of yellow, Mom and I sat on the window seat, observers of a hive. Then the doctor came in, he turned to speak to one of the nurses, and both mom and I said to each other "it's not going to happen". So we continued to wait.
Dad ended up coming down with a fever so he was moved to an ICU floor. My office was in the midst of the physical move so I spent a few days teleworking from Dad's hospital room before I would leave at night for my finals. We kept on waiting. We started to have uncomfortable conversations. The conversations with doctors about "keeping him comfortable". On Friday, December 14, 2012, his primary doctor gave a very important piece of information: he would be reviewing every set of lungs that became available over the weekend.
Early on Sunday, December 16, 2012, a big man in an overcoat, carrying the Sunday paper came into Dad’s room and said: "I have a pair of lungs for you". What you'd expect would be the room would leap into celebration, what happened was we all just looked at him. Reality did not set in until we learned he was the surgeon, this was happening, and the surgery would be happening that evening.
I'm rather proud that I was strong through all of this, I never cried except for two times - one day driving home from the hospital and the moment I had to tell my father I loved him as they wheeled him back into surgery. Surgery, mind you, to remove his lungs and put another set of lungs in. Not a minor surgery.
We waited again, in the waiting room at Methodist. Every so often someone would walk over with news. First that they had put Dad on the bypass machine. Then that the lungs had arrived. Then the first lung was attached and had "pinked up", then that the second lung had "pinked up". Finally, he was closed up and would be moving to the ICU. Normally, this is where the stories end. Surgery is a success, rehabilitation ensued and I get to spend years with my Dad (all true). Except for a brief hiccup in the middle of the night where I had to drive back to the hospital at 2 am, without my glasses, because something got nicked.
In total, we spent approximately 65 days in the hospital. Dad went in on November 30th and left January 21 For the first week, mom and I slept in a waiting room chair, running home only briefly to shower and change clothes. We celebrated Christmas in a small hospital room on the top floor of Methodist. I finished one semester of law school, and started another one, studying on a window seat overlooking I-65. Dad had to relearn a lot of things: how to breathe normally, how to sleep laying completely flat, how to walk by himself, and how to trust his lungs.
I don't know anything about the Donor or their Family. I know that today we celebrate a wonderful occasion in our family, but somewhere another family remembers the tragedy. Maybe, just maybe, they know that lives were changed. Lives were saved. If you want to know why I'm so fiercely excited about everything the Indiana Donor Network, and the Driven 2 Save Lives Campaign, does it's because right now I can pick up the phone and call my Dad. It’s because I got to graduate law school, walk off the stage, and see my father standing there with his phone taking pictures. I get to spend days at the track with my Dad. I still get Dadvice. If someone didn't make that decision, I wouldn't be able to.
For more information visit www.driven2savelives.org and if you’re not a registered donor, take another look at the image up top – that’s what you’re saying yes to.