MY LIFE STORY
It all began in September 1987 when I was 22 years young. Out of nowhere, I started to manifest a variety of symptoms - fever, falling hair, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, and rashes on my face. After consulting a doctor who ordered a series of laboratory tests, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or lupus for short.
When the doctor told me and my parents the sad news, I felt a sudden tightness in my chest, and I had tears welling up in my eyes. I asked 'Why me??? What grave sin have I committed for God to punish me like this??'. My mother saw me crying so she comforted me and told me that as long as we have faith in God, we can weather any storm.
With this 'condition', I had to make several adjustments in my life. First, I had to change my line of work (it involved doing fieldwork) because I had to avoid sunlight, stress, and people with contagious diseases. My umbrella was my constant companion, rain or shine, and people would wonder why. With these limitations, I could no longer enjoy outdoor activities like swimming and outdoor sports. Getting used to my physical appearance was another major adjustment. Because of the medication (steroids), I had a moon-face, a buffalo hump (hunched back), and a mustache. I gained a lot of weight which caused me to have stretch marks. I didn't feel 'presentable' and my friends hardly recognized me, so my social life was also affected.
Along with these adjustments, I had to get used to a regular routine of check-ups and lab tests, and frequent confinements in the hospital because of the flare-ups. Since western medicine did not offer any kind of cure for my condition, I tried other possible means of cure -- healing priests and alternative medicine -- homeopathy, naturopathy, hypnotism.....but all to no avail.
So I said to myself, if there is no cure for this, I would just have to learn to live with it. It was a rough ride, but I was still able to be optimistic about life in general. This made people regard me as someone with a strong personality. However, I knew that whatever strength they saw in me was really by God's grace. He gave me the strength to endure all those trials and He gave me my family and friends who were very supportive, especially my parents. They gave me their all-out support during this difficult stage of my life. My mother, who used to work as a head nurse, took extra care of me. My father on the other hand, would patiently drive us around for checkups and lab tests. Both my parents also had their own unique strength, and I would like to believe that I inherited both of their strengths. My mother's was defined by her optimism. On the other hand, my father had this certain quiet strength. He always had a calm disposition whenever he was faced with life's challenges.
Due to my condition, I was not allowed to get pregnant because it would be too risky, and also stressful on my kidneys. But being the optimistic person that I was, I told my husband that despite what the doctor said, we were going to have a child. Fortunately, I did give birth to our first baby boy in 1994. We even used the lamaze method!
Then, in 1997, I gave birth to a baby girl. Unfortunately, I had pre-eclampsia and after only 1-1/2 months in the NICU, my daughter died. Of all the trials I went through, this was the worst and most painful. Not only because my daughter had to endure all the pain brought about by IV needles and tubes, but more so because I could not even comfort her through that grueling experience, even if I wanted to so badly. This was because I also had a 50/50 chance of survival. So it was my husband who provided all the emotional support and love that he could possibly give. The only time that I was finally able to hold her was right before she died, as if she was just waiting for me to hold her, even just once, before she finally went home to our Creator.
With my daughter's death and my worsening kidney condition, I felt so helpless and hopeless. At times, I would just cry, and I would sometimes have thoughts of God not loving me because He allowed all these to happen to me. Once, my father saw me crying, so he sat down beside me, comforted me and, at the same time, cried with me. All he could say was the same thing that my mother said years ago (she went Home to our Creator in 1992), that we would just have to keep our faith in God.
Eventually, I was finally able to recover emotionally. I also started feeling better physically. I was able to go back to work and I was even able to give birth to a 'bonus' baby boy, despite the risks of having a third pregnancy. Also, I no longer had flare-ups and my doctor finally stopped giving me steroids.
With these improvements, I claimed that the lupus was gone and that God finally healed me. Finally, I said, my trials were over..... or at least, that's what I thought.
I stopped my regular checkups in the year 2002 because I felt that there was no longer any need for them. Besides, it would be easier for me to maintain a positive outlook with regard to my health if I stopped this 'medical routine'.......it was sort of an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality.
Then in 2007, after five years of a relatively "normal life", I went to see a cardiologist because of palpitations. Because of my lupus, she ordered an ultrasound of the kidney along with an echocardiogram. The ultrasound had shown that my kidneys had shrunken because of the extensive damage done by the lupus. She then ordered me to see a nephrologist immediately.
After only a few checkups with the nephro, I was told that my kidney function was down to 15% and I had to prepare for hemodialysis. This came as another shock to me. Even if I expected this somehow, I thought that this would happen at the age of 60 or even later, not at age 42! Again, I just had to “face the music” because it was practically a choice between life or death, and it was obvious what my choice had to be!
After 8 months of undergoing hemodialysis, I started to experience some difficulties. Instead of using only one arm for the session, both my arms had to be inserted with one needle each because I had a hematoma in my 'dialysis arm'. That meant not being able to move both my arms for 4 hours!! As if dialysis wasn't already difficult enough!!
This made us consider having a kidney transplant, but there were 2 major considerations. First, this was a very costly operation, and second, we didn't have a kidney donor since my siblings were not in the pink of health. So the question now was how to raise the money and where to find a compatible kidney donor........
My husband and I decided to pursue the option of having a kidney transplant. We even coined an acronym for our project and claimed it's success……SKTY09 (Successful Kidney Transplant Year ’09). As mentioned earlier, I didn’t have a living-related donor and waiting for a deceased donor would take too long, so the only option left was an emotionally-related living donor, (unrelated individual who had a strong emotional bond with the recipient) which, in this case could be my husband. It dawned on us that this could indeed be a possibility because we had the same blood type. (By the way, I didn’t ask for his blood type when he courted me :=).
With this new information, we had new-found hope. However, I had mixed feelings about “taking” one of my husband’s kidneys. I didn't want to let my husband sacrifice his kidney for me. Besides, we still had to raise two boys and I didn’t think it would be advisable for both parents to have one kidney each. But being the loving husband and the natural giver that he was, my husband told me that he really wanted to be my kidney donor and he said that it would make him really happy, that it would be a great honor for him to donate his kidney to me, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He said that if we were to tinker with our body, it should always be for the greater good, and, he said, saving my life was definitely for the greater good.
However, I knew that deep inside, he also had fears of his own, so we discussed these with the doctor. We were told that first and foremost, my husband would have to be healthy enough, precisely to ensure us that he would be able to live a normal life even after donating his kidney. Of course, he would have to be more careful with his diet and all, but the doctor would monitor my husband's condition closely. After having been assured about the safety of the procedure, we decided to push through with the transplant and start with the series of tests.
The first two tests determined the compatibility of the recipient and the donor. Waiting for the results of these tests felt like eternity, and when we finally got them, we were so relieved to find out that we were actually a good match!!! “Relieved” doesn’t even capture how we felt at that time, because we knew that the chances of husbands and wives being compatible was very slim (according to studies, only about 1 out of 30,000!!!). So it was very clear, this was definitely a miracle!!!
With everything in place, the doctor immediately set a date for the transplant, which was only 3 weeks away. So soon and we still didn't have any idea where to get the funds!!! We immediately put up our own angel network. Our family, friends, and relatives gave their share and we were able to raise enough for the hospital to admit us for the operation.
Thus, I had my kidney transplant on April 16, 2009, and the transplant was a big success!! My creatinine before the operation was already 13, but only 24 hours after the operation, it came down to 3 and 2 days after, went down again to 0.9 (normal range is 0.5 to 1.3). Also, right after the operation, I had several liters of urine output! Since that time, the doctors have been very pleased with my recovery and my life has never been better. It’s funny, but I had almost forgotten how good it felt to urinate a lot!! And urinating was an unlikely reminder for me of how grateful I am for this wonderful miracle!!
I am currently living a healthy lifestyle. I walk and jog 3-4 km regularly, after which I do a cardio workout. I also go biking with my husband and kids. Also, my energy level has greatly increased and I don't tire easily anymore. In fact, I was able to join two fun runs already. My blood pressure and creatinine are now under good control. I no longer have anemia or gout attacks and my complexion has a nice healthy glow. Best of all, I don’t need to undergo that grueling procedure of hemodialysis anymore!! Sometimes, people would say that I even looked healthier than them.
I feel really blessed to have had this transplant! Most especially, I feel blessed to have my angel….my husband. He is truly a giver, truly selfless…….a beautiful soul. His selfless sacrifice is the ultimate proof of how he is really living up to a promise he made to God several years ago.... He asked God to give me to him and he promised that he would take good care of me.
God is also definitely taking good care of me, as evidenced by all the blessings and miracles that I have received. Despite my doubts, despite all the questioning, the anger and frustration, the wavering faith, and despite my weakness, God’s love remains unwavering, unceasing, and unconditional. Indeed, we must always keep the faith because God is always faithful!
Now, I am living and enjoying life to its fullest because this is the best way to thank God, my parents and family, friends and relatives, and my dear loving husband, for making this wonderful miracle happen.
Your story is inspiring.
Your strong faith in God shows throughout all your trials!
I honor your husband. Both of you are blessed.
I praise God for your victory!