As a child you think of playing outside, enjoying the sunshine, and riding bikes. I appeared to be a happy, well adjusted and healthy child. I had no idea the exhaustion I felt, throughout my childhood, would come to a bigger event that would bring turmoil and happiness to everyone that knew me and loved me.
I had to beg my dad for a place to stay. Richard, my best friend and now husband, had gone to my mother and father for me because I did not have the nerve. In the summer of nineteen-ninety, carrying my fifteen-month-old son Randy in tow, I went home. I got a job and a babysitter for Randy. I did what was asked of me for the first time in my life. I had a hard life during my times away from home. Nineteen-eighty nine, I had my right kidney removed due to lack of medical attention and a very bad infection from kidney stones. That was just the beginning of it all.
Richard and I decided to start our lives together. We bought a house in Killeen, Texas, in May of Nineteen-ninety two, where we proceeded to continue with our family. We introduced our daughter Rachelle Nicole in June of the same year. I had pregnancy jaundice, low liver
counts and continual problems with her pregnancy and the ones to follow. Everyone dismissed
this with being pregnant. We had Brittani Faith and Richard E.Johnson IV. After my pregnancy with Brittani, I had my gall bladder removed. Under normal circumstances you would not think anything of it. Normal healing time is a couple days, took me two months.
Characteristically known to have the personality of a red headed Irish mule, I avoided doctors. Every time I went to one they said, “I need surgery or I was pregnant.” One winter, I had caught the flu bug that was going around and just could not get rid of it. The decision to go to the doctor was not negotiable with my husband, and sure enough this is what we heard “Well your iron level is really low and you might need a transfusion. I need you to come in every week for the next six plus weeks for more tests.” Yet once again as tests came back negative for several diseases, it was dismissed as being only my imagination. I was not getting any better in two thousand and one I was admitted for a new battery of tests, which did change our happy home into a messy wreck of nerves.
I have a wonderful doctor, Dr. Sing; he still is my acting doctor. I had ultrasounds, MRI's, X-rays, and the Endoscope, a tube that has a light on the end that they stick down your throat and see your insides. The final test was the clincher though. Dr. Sing sent me down for one complete test, where they put me into a twilight sleep, stick lidocaine into my side and inject dye into my liver to see what it wanted to do. Well it was a complete success. The worse news anyone could have in their life. There is nothing that we can do for you at this hospital anymore. Wow! After hearing those words what do you think? Well floods of thoughts were racing in. The biggest one was what in the world is my family going to do? What do we tell the kids? How do we tell the kids? We were told that I had a rare liver disorder. It was not auto immune, and they
did not know what caused this disease. I became known as the lady with Idiopathic Hepatitis. Idiopathic meaning no known cause, hepatitis meaning that liver disease nobody wants ever. My liver became a mushy sponge in my body, not filtering out the bad material and contaminating the rest of my body.
Right away my doctors and nurses starting to call around to see what could be done. I was recommended for a liver transplant at Baylor Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas. They are a
wonderful group of doctors. I loved them all, accept one thing, a week worth of more medical
tests. Get up, blood work at 6a.m., seventeen tubes of blood every morning. MRI's, CAT scans, X-rays you name it I had it. Final evaluation day, visit with the doctor again, you had to love Dr. Russell for his candidness, the man did not hesitate to put the cards out on the table. My husband and I were told, you are a good candidate for a liver transplant, BUT, “yes that big word.” I'm going to tell you though, you can die, it's no guarantee it will work. You might get this and it works for a month, and you die. You might live for a year and die. I am sitting here thinking ok and I want to do this WHY? I knew why I would do it. I had four wonderful children back at home hoping and praying for a miracle.
I went through the process of evaluation and was sent back home. For two grueling weeks Richard, the kids and I sat there wondering if I would be accepted and put on the transplant list, United Network for Organ Sharing. I was accepted and put on the list in the year of two thousand and five. Going from bad to worse I had just hoped to go home, my heavenly home. I oh so prayed for it. I had no energy, because my liver was so badly damaged at this time I ate only lemons for the flavor, nothing else had any flavor. I ate ice cubes because at least I felt like I was eating something. I had medications that made me forget things, made me irritable. I lay in bed and could not even go out to eat dinner with my children, help them with their homework. My gums were bleeding profusely I sat for hours, planning my funeral, what casket would I get, oh heck with that cremate me and throw me into the Atlantic. Yes, that kind of humor did not help things.
I knew there was a very short time left. I was angry at my life, at God, and at the world. I wanted my children to be happy, to enjoy life, and I was determined. Hopefully they can get some good out of this bad situation and understand why I had to leave them. Mustering up what little energy I had left I took to the task of cooking them up a feast. Thanksgiving evening I started to make pumpkin, cherry and apple pies. Cheesecake that would make your mouth water, they would have the best I had to offer, their hearts enveloped in the love I had to share.
Well, God, as always has other plans for our lives, and when we least expect it. Thanksgiving eve two thousand and five will be the most remarkable eve of any Thanksgiving to compare. I got my call, the one that said, “You need to be at the hospital as soon as possible, we have your liver!” I listened in disbelief for 30 minutes while a man on the other side of the phone talked to me. I think he kept saying do you understand? I'm pretty sure my reply was yes. I was asked if I wanted to do this. I said, “Do I have a choice? Without five people being sorely disappointed, I did not have a choice. Richard and I said our goodbye's to the children, and left on our 3 hour ride to the hospital.
I had my surgery, received my new liver, not without complications. I had awakened from surgery with the belief I had been under only for the hours of the surgery. I was mistaken. There were several complications with the first liver having been a half liver and I did not have the part to connect the half, as my old liver was a mushy mess. I was then put into a medicine induced coma. Several surgeries and ten days later, I was brought out of my coma with a new whole liver transplant. I ended up with diabetes and on insulin. I had to get strength back and walked with a walker for several weeks. I take anti-rejection medication every day of my life so I can be sure I’m around for my family, a very small price to pay. The situation was quite demanding on our family and friends to help out, but they never gave up hope. Although I was separated from my home and my children for a three month evaluation, I kept them always close to my heart.
Some people believe there are no second chances in life. I always believe in happy endings. I survived an illness that should have killed me, but God had other plans for me. He wanted me to go home to my family. He wanted me to share my story with others and inspire the world to look for brighter days. Now I know that no matter what tomorrow brings, that I have been blessed. In all that I do, for however long I may have I will cherish the smell of fresh rain, the crispness of the morning air, and returning to my house full of warmth and love.