Thursday, September 1, 2011

Healing in Every Form and Fashion

It's been overwhelming in every sense to finally have the physical freedom once again. It's 3:13 AM and I am in bed, wide awake like many nights recently. My romantic answer for you is that my body just doesn't want to shut it's eyes now that I'm free to do whatever I please and am not chained to an oxygen compressor. I can't sleep cause I'm so excited and I just want to soak up every solitary second of being ALIVE.

Well, as much as I long for that to be the cause of my insomnia, it isn't. I've been experiencing nightmares and keeping odd hours just in the past week. I can only think that when I first got home from the hospital, my body was still so physically exhausted every night, that no dream, no matter how strange was going to interrupt my sleep. However, now I am stronger and probably sleeping more like you or any other healthy person would... except for the fact that I'm not sleeping.

My "nightmares" aren't nearly as terrible as what I experienced in real life over the past year. To me, the surgery and the physical recovery has been a necessary means to the end of a year long, real life nightmare. If you were there or in contact with me on the day of my surgery, you know that I was cool, calm, and happy. There was no stress or worry running through my body anymore. The true test of strength and the time I found out who was really there for me in my life had already come and past. The trial was the long battle of staying afloat during while the rejection took over. And the surgery was not a celebration in my mind, but rather the closing of a chapter; a collective sigh of relief for those close to me and for myself. Some people stepped up to the plate, reached out, and pleasantly surprised me by really being there during a year that I can only describe as purgatory, at times hell, on Earth. Others bowed out or never even showed up. But that is neither here nor there.

The nightmares is experience on nights like tonight take me back to those days when I was still struggling to fit in to the world of a healthy person and hide my illness from everyone around me. Despite the fact that my parents still pay for my cost of living, I do think of myself as somewhat independent. I live(d) alone in a condo that I fixed up with my mom to have reflect my life, passions, and personal style (think Texas Hill Country meets New England). It doesn't take long to realize that cooking, concerts, toile, ticking, and my friends are all things I love. In college it's common to have 3, 4, even 6 roommates. But this 655 sq. ft. space was all my responsibility and I cherish my tiny apartment so much. I give every inch of it as much TLC as I can. Before I got so tremendously sick, I also had Abel up with me in Austin and I took care of him on my own. Despite a few mishaps like him chewing up a retainer and his own doggie bed, he is a successfully potty trained dog who doesn't bark or beg for food. I'd like to think that my time with him alone during his formative months has something to do with that.

I am always punctual, to a point where it stresses me out. Being late to even a lunch date with a friend embarrasses me. Being late for a class? Even worse! I learned how to creatively cook for one and I even preferred going out shopping solo. So, despite the tiny little fact that all my money was flowing from Jodey Burkholder, I felt very proud to be my own functioning little entity thriving up in Austin.

These dreams I have at night take me back to when I lost all of that. I'll be facing a steep (we're talking San Francisco steep) hill or I'll be told by a friend that it's a two mile walk to our car and I'll crouch on the ground and just be overwhelmed with the fact that I CANNOT get to where I need to go. I am literally stuck. Like I said, these dreams are not as bad as some of the realities (and hallucinations) I faced in ICU and telemetry over the past few months. They are stressful enough however to wake me up and keep me from that carefree rest that I thought I would experience so easily after transplant.

The physical part of me is healed, but my mind is taking time to catch up. I am SO BLESSED to have patient, attentive, and understanding parents who are doing everything they can to help me get back to that place where I am healthy in mind, body, and spirit. For a while now, I have had the goal to attend the first Longhorn football game of the season. It will be hot. It will be crowded. But it's something that means the world to me. Less than a month out of one of the most major surgeries a person can have, my parents could have easily told me the game wasn't an option. Instead they are driving up, attending the game themselves and staying in a hotel. If the temperature outside, exhaustion, or simply the anxiety of sleeping alone for the first time in 3 months gets to me, they will only be moments away. I feel my parents need to be lauded for how far above and beyond they have gone in this experience. There was no manual on how to handle our situation, but they have done so in such an impressive way. If you ever get a chance, please praise them for being so exceptional because the two of them have been completely self-sufficient in keeping a positive family environment throughout a time that could have been very tumultuous. Along with a few other people who I can count on one hand, they have kept me smiling down here in San Antonio and lessened the sting of not being in Austin, working toward my degree. And I owe those people to the ends of the Earth.

So yes, this weekend I will be at the Texas season opener against Rice, three weeks after a bi-lateral lung transplant. And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to even be breathing the outside air at DKR Memorial Stadium with my fellow Longhorns. I've been planning snacks to make for a friend's family tailgate for the past week and I can't wait to sit and catch up with everyone and bask in the Texas heat, while staying plenty hydrated. Though I am an adult, and in most cases, I feel that things like the decision whether or not to drink are personal and shouldn't be scrutinized, I've felt a conviction to make my personal stance on alcohol public since so many people have been concerned for my health and want to see me succeed in the future.

Anyone who has seen my Facebook page or knows me fairly well knows that I have done my fair share of partying, like most college students. And the idea of sitting outside watching football at a tailgate with a cold Shiner Blonde in my hand sounds like a perfect day which I'm sure one day I will do further down the road. However, I am very aware that a lot of people watched waste away and come close to death. As much trauma as I have internally experienced, I know my disease has put an enormous amount of stress and heartache on the people who love me as well. Out of respect for all of those who prayed for my health to be restored, I do not want to it to even APPEAR for one moment that I am not taking this new, unimpaird body of mine for granted. This extends past alcohol, of course. I want to reach a healthy weight, a healthy body imagine despite being cut up like a ragdoll, and I am striving to mentally reach a place where I am at peace with all that has happened to me in the past year. This recovery period is not just for my body, but for the whole person. I want to emerge in the coming months strong, driven, and tougher than I ever have been before despite having experienced things I wish I could forget. God has given me all the tools to move on in a positive fashion. It is up to me to use the time I have responsibly and to glorify Him in every way possible and find the small flickers of light in what was a year of darkness.


  1. What I found most inspiring about reading this post is that not once throughout this entire experience did you seem to wonder "why me?". That's amazing considering the obstacles you've had to bear! You're on the right track MK. You're going to be just fine. Mentally, Spiritually, and Physically!

  2. Mary,

    I tried to leave you a comment the other day on your post about whether or not to contact your donor's family and after several failed attempts to post it from my iPhone, I gave up :(

    It basically just said that as an organ donor, I think it would be great if you contacted the family. I know I would like that for my family if something were to ever suddenly happen to me and someone as amazing as you received one of my organs. I went on for a few more sentences about how strong and courageous you are and that I think your donor's family would be proud to know their loved one was able to help someone out in such a tremendous way.

    However, this comment is not about that! I wanted to tell you that I've been lurking in the background of your blog for months now and I always feel so inspired and positive after reading your posts. I'm not afraid to admit that I've struggled with severe depression for many years now and I have often had a hard time getting out of bed and attempting to live my life. I read your blog and I realize how incredibly blessed I am and that I should adopt a point of view similar to yours. I want to thank you for being such an inspiration and positive person because you have greatly influenced me, even though you may not have realized it.

    I'm so happy (and jealous!) that you're getting to go to the game this weekend. I hope you have a fabulous time, girlfran!


  3. Thanks for the amazing comments, girls! Some days are more struggles than others, but just knowing I am not the only one struggling makes it better! Hope all is well with both of you! <3 & AOE