Friday, August 8, 2014

#transbrant: a lesson in waiting, and the start of a new normal

DISCLAIMER: this is a very long post. And kind of emotional. But there is a happy ending (sorry if I ruined it for you).

photo by my awesome mother, @sharid86

In the past, I have prided myself on transparency and honesty. I have claimed to hold myself to a standard of genuineness (is that really the noun form of genuine? Come on, English language, do better.) of sharing my thoughts and worries and struggles with those around me.

But in this area, I have failed. Many times I have shared things from the "universal you" perspective, life lessons that I did not have to claim as my own, so that I could share the lessons I learned without having to share the tricky things that got me to those points. But rarely did I talk about my own shortcomings and struggles and hardships, as to avoid any weakness or vulnerability.

One major area of my life revolves around my father's health, and this is something I rarely discuss with people. On the occasions I do discuss it, I briefly summarize the situation, play down the seriousness of it, and gloss over how it affects me and those I love. I keep a smile across my face, despite my averted eyes, and attempt to move the conversation forward, hoping no one asks probing questions. I am well-versed in making it look like things are under control, and only those who know me closest can see beyond the fa├žade.

My dad has end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) and idiopathic thrombocytopenia (dangerously low platelets). These two things make his diagnoses a bit more complicated than if it were just one or the other, and there is no relation of the two things. He was diagnosed with ESRD halfway through my sophomore year of college. Around this time, I developed chronic acute migraines, but that's manageable and non-life-threatening. It is interesting to note, however, that I have never correlated the two instances before now.

For a while, the burdens of kidney disease were easily managed, just monitoring numbers and vital signs, making sure that nothing he did damaged his kidneys any more. He always felt generally crappy, but life went on without much disruption.

Soon enough (July 2012), his kidneys failed, and he was put on dialysis, a commitment that claimed ownership of fifteen hours of his week, in addition to a physical toll.  Life changed, greatly, and my family and I were forced to adjust to a radically 'new normal.'

Some might argue that, out of everyone, I took this the hardest emotionally. Realizing that my dad was not invincible, accepting that what keeps him alive is a machine that he hooks up to three times per week, acknowledging the fact that I was unable to save him; these were the things that toiled constantly in my mind. Additionally, I did not feel like the rest of my family accepted the gravity of the situation or responded emotionally enough, so I accepted the role of 'mourner' throughout all of it, taking on the emotions of each family member that was not emoting enough by my standards. (These assumptions were all false, FYI. This is just what I perceived and how I dealt with it). I was a wreck, right at the beginning of my senior year of college. In fact, the thought of going back to school that semester caused me much strife, and for a while I was planning on staying home, whether to take care of my dad or to have my family take care of me.

Many things helped to carry me through that time. I (reluctantly) leaned heavily on a very small group of friends and mentors, seeking consistent guidance and security from them. I read a lot of self-help articles (no shame) and visited a psychologist. I recognized that this time was too much for me to handle on my own, despite my best efforts to do so.

Somehow, by the grace of God, the care of some pretty special people, and frequent trips back to Houston, I made it though my senior year at school. I returned to Houston, only to turn around and retreat to Paris to reflect, grow, focus, and regroup before situating myself as my dad's right hand man, there to help at every turn. Paris was wonderful, and I crave it hourly.

Some people tell me that I am brave and selfless and good. I do not even hear it when people say that though, because it feels so far from the truth. I put my life on hold for this because I have to, because my heart will not let me do anything else, and because I really do not even know what else I would be doing. I do it because I have this need to be needed, to be helpful, and this is the only way I see to fulfill it. In fact, I was even upset that I was not able to get tested to donate, as I wanted to be the one to make things better, I wanted to save my dad.

This past year has been a tango; one step forward, two steps back, and on and on and on. We make progress, and then his platelets go down to a dangerous level. We begin testing donors, and then he's hospitalized for RSV (a very very severe and dangerous cold, for lack of better term). We find a match, and then the dates do not work for everyone. Up and down, back and forth, hope tethered my heart around and around. Eventually I shut off my emotions from the whole situation, not letting myself believe progress was being made. I became comfortable with the waiting, and I continued to wait and wait and wait.

Until now.

Until this moment in time.

Until the reality of the news that we have a match, a surgery date, a solution. A closing of this chapter in our lives, and the start of another 'new normal.'

On August 19, 2014, my father will receive a kidney from his sister, my amazing aunt.

On August 19, our lives will change.

I do not know what August 20 will look like for us. Or any of the days after that. I can only rest confident in the knowledge that God has carried us this far, and He will continue to guide and protect my family with His loving embrace for the days to come.

all my love,

P.S. For those of you who have been asking how to help out in this time, all I can request of you is your continued prayers for this surgery and recovery, both for my dad and my aunt. Pray for the surgeons and nurses and other doctors and every associated with this healing process. Pray for comfort and peace and endurance for my family. And please send encouraging messages, cheesy quotes, poignant verses, or silly jokes to distract us to my family and me throughout this whole process. I want to hear from you, pretty please! That is ALL that we need!

Also, stay tuned for a soon-to-be-revealed blog to document the entire transplantation. Also, keep checking the #transbrant hashtag for information and status updates on this adventure.

Come, let us return to the Lord. 
For He has torn us, but He will heal us; 
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 
He will revive us after two days; 
He will raise us up on the third day, 
that we may live before Him.
So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. 
His going forth is as certain as the dawn; 
and He will come to us like the rain,
like the spring rain watering the earth.

Hosea 6:1-3


  1. So glad you are back on the blogging bandwagon! Lots of prayers for Brant!!!

  2. Just happened to spy this incredible post. Your heartfelt writing had to have been difficult, as you said that you are quite adept at dodging the "heavy stuff" when friends check on you. I recognize those skills, as I did pretty much the same thing when my precious Dad was succombing to bladder cancer 6 years ago. You will never regret a moment that you're spending with your Dad. These moments are precious and it's apparent that you recognize that. Quiet times, silly times, reflective times. . . all equally important. Praying for peace and comfort for each of you as you move forward.