The Gift of Parenthood
ABOVE: Ron and his daughter Joy
On July 31, 1993 my wife and I exchanged wedding vows and began our life together, a life in which we wanted to have children, to own a home and to live happily ever after. However, soon after our marriage my health began to deteriorate, and all those dreams were put on hold.
In 1985, as a freshman at The Ohio State University, I was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). PSC is a chronic, incurable disease where the bile ducts in the liver become scarred and eventually close off. This causes bile to back up into the liver and destroys the surrounding liver cells.
This diagnosis cleared up some unexplained illnesses in childhood, but offered no hope of a cure. I was told that I would eventually need a liver transplant because PSC is ultimately fatal.
This is not what most 19-year-olds want to hear from their doctors, but since I was young and the disease was in its early stages the only option was to regularly monitor liver functions and wait. I tried to get on with my life. I finished college, and graduate school, started teaching and got married.
Within a few months my health deteriorated. I lost weight, I began to get fatigued more easily and my abdomen began to swell from fluid retention.
In June of 1994 the evaluations for a possible liver transplant began. By September all the tests were completed and I was awaiting word on approval. That approval came in early October.
By the time my name went on the list I could no longer drive, I was too ill to work and I was sleeping 12 or more hours a day.
On October 14th the call came, a liver was available, and on October 15th I received “The Gift of Life” from a complete stranger.
That gift worked wonderfully well for a week, then disaster struck. I developed a blood clot that starved the liver of the majority of blood it needed to survive. We were unable to clear the blood clot and my condition drastically worsened and I nearly died from the complications.
The physicians stabilized my condition and they sent me home to recover from the surgery and to gain my strength back. It was not to be. Over the winter I became increasingly ill and I was readmitted to the hospital and placed back on the transplant waiting list. We knew I was not going home again unless another liver became available.
By early April, I was slipping in and out of consciousness; I was yellowish green from head to toe, and fast becoming too ill to re-transplant.
Then on April 12, 1995, I was blessed for the second time with “The Gift of Life.” A second family, in the middle of a horrible personal tragedy, said “yes” to organ donation. That decision saved my life and gave me a future; a future to pursue our wedding day dreams.
On September 16th, 2001 all those dreams finally came true, for when I heard my wife’s doctor say, “Congratulations Ron, you have a beautiful baby boy” I knew that the journey was worth the effort.
As I helped the nurse clean up and clothe James and the awesome new responsibilities began to settle on my shoulders, I couldn’t help but think about the long road we traveled to reach this point and as I fought through the fatigue and fought back the tears, I silently thanked my personal heroes… my donors and their families.
Two and a half years later, on March 30 2004, my wife and I celebrated the birth of our daughter, Joy. She too is a gift from my donors.
On a beautiful September day, in 2005, I lived another lifelong dream. I was able to take James to his first Ohio State Football game, hold him and sing “Carmen Ohio” and cheer excitedly as the “I” was dotted and Ohio State went on to victory. That day, my prayers weren’t for the team; they were prayers of thanks for the heroes who made that day possible, my donors.
Without my donors, the past 17 years never would have been possible. Without them I wouldn’t have experienced the miracle of my children’s birth, and without them I couldn’t get up every day and…live.