Tuesday’s Tale: My Unlikely Journey
For some, a journey starts with a single step. For me, it started with a sentence, “I’m sorry Suzy, you have Hepatitis C and your liver is failing.” My first thought when I heard this was “How? Why me?” That one instance, that one fleeting conversation, forever changed my life. It hasn’t been the easiest journey but I have made it this far. And my story will live on because of it.
When I was 20 I met my best friend; biggest supporter; and husband, Steven, who made my world complete. Our journey together was pretty ordinary as we got married, raised children and planned to grow old together. But as I sat in that doctor’s office in July 2006, I realized it might not happen. It was determined that I most likely contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion I had when my son Jeremy was born in 1986. This was at a time before they tested donated blood like they do today. As always, Steven was fearless as we began this journey together. Even when I was listed for a liver transplant in March 2007, he was still the calm, cool and collected man I fell in love with years ago. We endured a full range of symptoms, drug reactions and hospital stays with the faith that that everything was going to be OK. On January 4, 2008 I happened to run into Steven when he was on duty as a Deputy Sheriff in Perry County. I remember him walking up to me, giving me a kiss and saying “I love you. I’ll be waiting for you, Wife.”
Steven wasn’t usually overly affectionate, so this came as a pleasant surprise. It was almost as if he knew these were going to be his last words to me, but- I didn’t know at the time that they would be. He passed away that day of a heart attack. In his death, Steven was able to give the give the Gift of Life as a tissue donor. Today, I know of five people who have received his gift and have a second chance because of it. It helps to ease my pain knowing that he is living on through others.
My journey changed the day that I lost my Steven. I tried my best to keep his positive faith, but I began to make plans for the worst. Another year passed by and I became more and more tired and helpless to change the situation. I had neither the strength, nor the energy, to live my life the way I was used to. In February 2009, as I watched my son, Jeremy, graduate from Army basic training, I was convinced it was going to be the last time I would ever see him. Like Steven, I thought I was going to lose him too. I felt as though I was losing my grip on my own life.
It was 11 pm on April 8, 2009 when that miraculous call finally came. A liver was available for me. As I laid there I felt such an overwhelming conflict of emotion that I couldn’t help but cry. My family was overjoyed that I was getting my second chance but I knew that chance came at such a great cost to another family, and I knew exactly how they felt. I knew what it was like to be on that other side.
The course of my journey changed once again as I was released from the hospital, six days post transplant. After another 60 days I watched my son graduate from his next level of Army training and after 90 days, I was able to go back to work full-time. My life was getting back to normal again. It was going to be OK.
Before being listed for my transplant, organ donation was something Steven and I had never discussed although we were both registered donors. It was something we never thought would touch us, but it did. Today, I have been able to continue my journey thanks to my donor’s gift. I can never repay it but I have the opportunity to volunteer with Lifeline of Ohio to tell both my husband and my donor’s story. My hope is that maybe just one person will hear my story and choose to become a registered donor. You never know who, when or why, but the need is great.
As my journey continued and things began to once again take on a sense of normalcy, a lovely and surprising change of events came along. I met a wonderful man by the name of Kenn. After my transplant he would come over and mow my lawn, and afterward, he would sit with me on the front porch. We would talk for hours and after a few months, he worked his way into my heart. We began dating, and now we are engaged to be married! As I see my journey continuing on, through its twists and turns, I don’t worry because I know my faith has been restored. But, whenever I feel myself starting to teeter-totter on the point of despair, I just repeat the phrase Steven always would say when the road got rough; “Not a problem, we can do this.”