ABOVE: Dave, his wife Sheryl, and family at their wedding
What makes my story different from others is that it is being written 11 years after my transplant. Why you ask? Not sure really… I just felt it was time.
I am Dave Converse; my friends just call me “shoe” after the famous shoes. It is a nickname given to me years ago now when I was racing remote control cars. It was not uncommon for the little kids to ask for Mr. Shoe!
My story starts when I was 32 years old. I am now 53, so for the last 20 years I have fought some type of kidney Illness. It all started with terrible headaches which lead to emergency room visits and then getting the news I was in kidney failure.
It wasn’t long before I started dialysis and was listed for a kidney transplant. I was very lucky and blessed as I only waited six weeks to get “the call.” On December 31, 1990, off to OSU Medical Center I went and I woke up in 1991 with my new kidney. I received five more years thanks to that gift, but unfortunately in 1996 my kidney failed, and I was back on dialysis.
It’s hard to explain what dialysis is like to someone who hasn’t experienced it – it is not a good life at all. It’s like a machine controlling your life. A typical day would go like this: I was on the morning shift , all of the patients lined up to be “weighed in” and after finding out how much fluid needed to be taken off, we went and sat down in an assigned chair. Then the wait started for your turn to be hooked to the machine – sounds easy doesn’t it? It wasn’t. It left me exhausted. I did this for three years total with the last seven months on home dialysis, which is done through the abdomen. It impeded my day to day activity and often kept me from participating in life.
In 1999, I was fortunate to have another kidney become available and received the “Gift of Life” on April 14. I try to explain to people who ask what it was like to wake up from that surgery. It is like I was living in a black and white world, then with the snap of fingers, color and flavor filled my world in all ways.
I was just getting back on my feet, when six weeks later my wife of nine years told me she wanted a divorce. Somehow having a transplant overpowered this so I was able to go on. I was often asked, “How did you do this?” Or told, “You are the strongest man I know.” I would just shrug my shoulders and say, “Anyone can do this, if you are pushed into a corner, you will fight your way back out.”My faith also helped me get through. I have never really been a religious person but I have a lot of faith in God.
My life after transplant has been wonderful – I have had a very full life. My donor families are my heroes! I celebrated my 11th transplant anniversary recently and as I look back over those years what do I see?
I have been able to resume a normal life, rich in love, even though I have had my share of heartache along the way. A major Illness humbles you; you really look at things in a different light. Life is shorter than we want it to be.
I found love again when I met a wonderful lady, Sheryl. She and her family have included me in every way. All they want for Sheryl is to have her loved for who she is, and I am happy to take on that role. We were married in 2006 on a beautiful day in August before more than 200 family members and friends! Sheryl’s two children, Jessica and Franz, have come into my life. I have taught them both to drive cars; taught her son how to ride a motorcycle; and watched them both grow into the young adults they are today. Franz will graduate from Ashland University in the spring of 2010 and I will be there. I saw my children both graduate from High School; saw my daughter marry a wonderful guy; my son meet a lovely lady; and I have been able to watch them both grow in life with grandchildren in my future.
I build, ride and drive custom cars, motorcycles and minibikes. I went to many meets and rallies, and have met people along the way. The people that own this stuff are a breed of their own, characters! Ya gotta love ‘em for who they are.
I think of all the places I have been over the last 19 years thanks to my donors and I just cannot believe it. Long bike rides along the reservoir with the dew setting in, smashing bugs on the face shield with the sun setting on my shoulders – these things are all so priceless to me.
I say thank you to my donors, my heroes for – if not for their kindness and giving – this story would not have been possible or written down for others to see. My wish for all transplant candidates that may read this story to find an inner strength, know there is always hope and never give up the fight till the end!
So here it is 11 years later… how can words explain how one feels after getting such a “Gift of Life?”
It is like the credit card commercial: priceless. Thank you is what I have to offer but is it enough? It has to be I guess, so I consider each day is a blessing. Yes, I am 53, and most would say, “Wow you have one foot on a banana peel and one in the grave.” BUT I look at it in reverse, I am plus 20. That is is how many years I have received from kidney transplants
I thank my donors as they are my heroes. I thank the doctors, nurses and other medical people that have made my journey possible. Where will my journey take me now? I guess that is in Gods’ hands and only the sky is the limit.