In yesterday’s post I talked about miracles. I’ve always believed in miracles mainly because I have experienced them first hand. But the one that continues to blow my mind is when I found out I was an exact match for my husband in donating a kidney.
Mike grew up in Michigan and I grew up in Southern California. When Mike was 16 (I was 12), his family moved to southern California to a city called Fountain Valley. This was about an hours drive from where I was born and raised in Temple City. When I was 16, my family moved to Fountain Valley. When we moved, Mike was out of high school and was at Cal State Fullerton. The odds of us meeting are pretty incredible.
I met Mike through two friends I met in my economics class. These girls happened to be dating Mikes best friends. One weekend in September they invited me to tag along at a car race that the boys were involved in. That is how I met Mike. I was super shy and so was Mike. The night we met, my friend and her boyfriend were arguing, so Mike and I watched Taxi in her parents living room while the argument ensued. I remember it was awkward, but we talked here and there and sort of got to know each other. Over the course of the next month, Mike and I would grow to become really good friends and start dating. I really loved how smart he was. He helped me in school and we could talk about anything. He became my best friend. But I wasn’t in love with him; I was too selfish to be in love with anyone. However, he was in love with me.
When I went to UCLA and had a horrible roller coaster experience, Mike was the person I leaned on. Even though I had broken up with him, he would still drive out to LA after he had spent his morning in classes and his afternoon working. He would come in the evenings just so I wouldn’t feel alone. He was my angel. I fell in love with him that year. I realized that Mike truly loved me and treated me with dignity and respect even when I didn’t treat him the same way. He poured love onto me, and still does.
Mike’s health has always been an issue. But it never really affected our relationship until our third year of marriage. It was at this point, that we learned that Mike’s one kidney (only born with one) was failing. Five years later, during our eighth year of marriage, his kidney failed. Many friends and family were tested to see if we were a match. The process to match is rather simple. You have to match blood types and the antigens in the blood need to be compatible to the antigens in Mike’s blood. The odds are crazy for a spouse to match. His best chance for a live donor was from a sibling. The results of everyone getting tested showed that the best match for Mike was his older brother and me, of all people. Not only did I match, it was nearly a perfect match. Although statistics aren’t available, I read on Google that the odds of a spouse matching as a kidney donor are extremely rare, something like one percent of people match.
My being a match was incredible, but Mike didn’t want me to donate. He knew my strong desire to have another baby, and to try to get pregnant. Pregnancy can be very hard if you only have one kidney. Mike said he would hold out, go through dialysis until a cadaver kidney became available. Once again, Mike sacrificed himself for me! It wasn’t until after our twins were born, three years after he started dialysis, that he told me he needed my kidney. He was trying to hold out for a cadaver kidney, but with the stress of work and three kids under 3, he was at his wit’s end.
We scheduled the transplant for November 2003. But as we went to get the transplant another disease that Mike had (hidradenitis suppurativa) was out of control. The doctors felt it was too risky to proceed with the transplant until this disease was under control. A transplant requires that you be on immunosuppressant continuously or your body will fight off the foreign object. The doctors were afraid that if Mike was on immunosuppressants this disease would become even worse. They said it was too great a risk to proceed.
He had suffered from this skin disease for 10 years. He had gone through multiple surgeries and injections, but there was no solution. The sores just continued to come back and each time worse than before. Mike used to say that he would take dialysis over this skin disease. The pain, blood, and agony this disease caused him was excruciating. When we heard that the disease would not allow for a transplant, we were devastated.
We reached out to our church and they laid hands on Mike and anointed him with oil. Although I thought this was a nice gesture, I did not think for a second it would do anything. But I figured what could it hurt? A month or so after this, one of the doctors Mike had been seeing suggested we try something that was generally used for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. It was an infusion of a drug called Remicade. The doctor felt the medicine might help reduce the inflammation and maybe get the disease under some sort of control to proceed with the transplant.
After the first infusion, Mike was better – a lot better! The medicine was taking the sores away! After two more infusions, the sores were gone! An absolute miracle! When we went back to the kidney doctors and explained what happened, they informed us that the immunosuppressant that will be required for the transplant is very similar to Remicade. If true, the kidney transplant would not only make it so he has a functioning kidney, but it would also keep his sores from returning.
We scheduled the transplant for June 30, 2004. The transplant was successful. The day after the surgery, Mike was in his hospital room and he looked amazing! He was on his computer and working, per usual! I felt horrible, as this was the first surgery I had ever really had, besides a c-section. Mike and I were able to walk down the hospital halls to get some exercise. Mike soared down those halls, while I hobbled. I was the biggest baby, but he was incredible!
That transplant saved our life. Mike was not sick again for so many years. The sores were kept at bay. They did come back, but only one or two here and there. The immunosuppressant was not as strong as the Remicade, but it worked. He was able to play with our kids, take vacations, and live a life he had not had in many, many years. He was pain-free and feeling so good. These last 14 years have been an incredible journey.
When I think about it, I realize that God orchestrated this entire event, before I was even born. He knit me together in 1971 and made me a perfect match for a 4-year-old boy living in Michigan. To think of the odds of everything that happened as coincidence is too much of a stretch. For me it is obvious this was a miracle of epic proportions. Recently, I’ve had this burning nudge to tell this story. God performed this miracle and he doesn’t want me to sit on the story. Although I was asked at the time, I did not want the story reported in the local newspapers. My insecurity and worry about what people would think, made me say, ‘no way!’ In so doing, I took the glory away from God. This was his doing. He made this miracle occur. He wants people to know that he is here and he is at work. Mike did share this story with our church, so many people do know it. However, many people do not.
Today, even in the strife of uncertainty I’m faced with, I know, that I know, that I know, God is in control. He is in the miracle business. It may not be the miracle we hope for, but I am confident it will be the one that will bring him the glory forever and ever. God is so good!