This is a story about a woman named Cindy, a wife and mother of two beautiful daughters who although sometimes it felt like there was no hope, they never stopped holding on to hope for life for their mother. After many prayers & being given very little hope by her physicians that she would live more than 48 hours as she had become too sick to continue to be listed for transplant and her body was losing the fight with liver failure, Prayers were answered and her miracle was delivered by God. Cindy was given the gift of life in 2009 with her donor liver. This is a story written by her then 15 year old daughter who narrates this experience through her eyes. This story is a lesson for everyone not to take anything for granted and to appreciate the “little things”. Our earthly life is a gift & it is short – we all need to remember to show our love for one another…S
Best of Both Worlds… People have always said to appreciate what’s there today, because one day it might not be there. I never really listened when people said this because I had never lost anyone or anything close to me. I thought my family as well as myself was invincible. Turns out, we aren’t even close. I always had what I needed at the right time. When my mom became ill, I learned very quickly that getting what I want isn’t the most essential thing. Gifts at Christmas were suddenly not what I wanted anymore. The only thing I was apprehensive about was my mom’s life. Someone would need to die in order for her to live. I rapidly learned that there are valleys we must go through in life in order to stand on the mountain top. Even though I had to learn the hard way, I am thankful for the journey I have taken. Through all if this, I have come to realize that my mom is my best friend.
In August 2009, my mom began to show signs of hereditary cirrhosis of the liver. Unknown to me at the time, she had this disease, and it was going to spread more rapidly than anyone thought it would. I watched for weeks as she became weaker and weaker. She never complained about feeling sick because she didn’t want to worry my sister and me. Even though I had not been told she was sick, I knew something was not right. She began to swell very badly. She would make a weekly visit to the doctor getting fluid drawn out of her abdomen. Her eyes and skin began to turn yellow. I knew this was out of the ordinary, but I never realized how severe it really was. I would question myself as to what possible thing could be wrong with my mom, whom I always pictured as a perfect invincible woman. I would ponder the possibilities but never came to a conclusion. I was afraid to ask because I didn’t want to upset anyone. Therefore, I kept all of my questions and concerns to myself for a long time. As September came and went, she was put on long-term disability and stopped working because she could no longer get up out of a chair on her own. I would leave for school in the mornings feeling terrible for leaving her alone. It felt as if I were abandoning her when she needed me the most. All I wanted to do was sit with her, talk to her, keep her company, and help her. At night after everyone would be asleep for the night, I would sit in my room alone and cry for hours. I remember one specific time when I began to realize things were not the same. I was stringing Christmas lights around my room for the holidays. My dad asked if I wanted to go get something to eat, so I agreed. I wasn’t in the mood to eat, so I went along for the ride. When we arrived back home, my mom asked me where my food was. I told her I wasn’t hungry and returned to my decorating. She got so upset because her sickness was causing me to grow deeper and deeper into depression. All I wanted to do was finish my lights and go to sleep. Instead, my mom made me drive back to the restaurant, and get myself something to eat. After returning home, I laid in my room under my twinkling Christmas lights. I wondered if things would ever be the same. In the back of my mind, I knew things were not going to end well without some sort of miracle. The valley seemed to be endless. It was as if it was a black hole that I was falling into faster and faster. I would pray and pray to God that He would somehow heal her. Everyone I knew was praying for her healing, but she continued to get sicker. Nothing was working and time was running out. The days were passing by her slowly. There was nothing that could be done to relieve her of the pain. Everyone had to keep living his or her own lives around her, as she lay there, dying. I was rapidly descending into a dark valley that I wasn’t sure I would come out of.
November passed by like a slow moving train, and she only got sicker with every passing day. I could see her lively spirits diminishing. I had so much thrown at me as a fifteen year old girl. I not only had to deal with my mom dying in front of my eyes, but also I had to step up and be a mother figure to Natalie, my younger sister. It killed me to watch her cry and ask me if our mom was going to die. I didn’t know and I had no answer for her. Natalie and my mom always did Natalie’s homework at night together. One night, Natalie was having trouble with some homework so she went to my mom. My mom was on so much pain medicine that she couldn’t even communicate. I had to help Natalie with her homework even though she wanted my mom. This was hard on me because it made me realize how much my mom does. By December, I could no longer even carry on a normal conversation with my mom. She was in so much pain that she took pain medicine and slept all day. I was devastated seeing her in so much pain, and me being so helpless. It was as if the valley I was in was never ending. It kept getting deeper and deeper, pulling me down with it. This is really the beginning of me realizing how much my mom meant to me. I began to rethink my relationship with her. I began to feel something more than just a mother-daughter bond, but I wasn’t sure what it was yet.
The day my mom went into the hospital is plastered in my mind forever. My sister and I left for school like we did every morning. My mom was going for yet another doctor’s appointment. It was a half-day for the end of food drive. My dad was supposed to pick us up. I knew something was wrong when my grandfather picked us up instead of my dad. My grandfather broke the news to us that my mom had been admitted into the hospital. She went into a coma because of the ammonia in her bloodstream not long after being admitted. The moment I heard this, I couldn’t even breathe. It felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach as hard as they could, over and over again. My world was spiraling out of control. Right before my eyes, I was losing the most important person in my life. Later on the next week, my sister and I were going to visit her. I had spoken to my dad before the visit; he said she wouldn’t know who I was. At that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks: My mom was dying, and I would never be able to tell her loved her again. My sister and I both decided we didn’t want to go that night. At this point, I hit the bottom of the valley. A few days later, she was transported to Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She developed pneumonia and was put into the Intensive Care Unit and put on round the clock watch. Everything that was done by the doctors was very critical. The doctors knew she was not doing well. The doctors and nurses in Memphis amazed me. I have never seen doctors and nurses who love and care for patients and their family as much they did. I was very comforted by the fact that they were trying everything they possibly could to save her life. The day I heard her head doctor, Dr. James Eason, say she only had forty-eight hours to live if she didn’t improve was the most devastating thing I have ever heard. I had come to a point where I couldn’t even cry anymore. The smell of the Intensive Care Unit is burned in my mind like a fire. In my mind, it smelled like a funeral home. It was so distinct and scary. The ominous feeling on that one floor can be felt as soon as the elevator doors open. Everything that happened from this point on made me wish I had one more day with my mom.
Christmas Day came, and I was not in the Christmas spirit at all. I didn’t care if I received one gift for the rest of my life. All I wanted was for my mom to improve enough to get a transplant. I prayed constantly for some sort of miracle to happen. As the day went on, I began to become disappointed because she was not improving, but thankfully she hadn’t got any worse. The night began to draw to an end. The last visit of the evening was quickly approaching. My aunt, uncle, and dad were going to visit with her. As my dad approached my mom’s bedside, his phone began to ring. It was Doctor Eason on the other end of the line. To our surprise, my mom had improved enough that afternoon to be put on the transplant list; and she was put on the very top! She was going to have a liver transplant the following morning. At this moment, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I have never been so happy to hear anything in my life. It is almost impossible to describe the feelings I felt at this moment. It was as if an angel had been sent from heaven to take care of my mom. A family we had never met decided to give my mom a gift for Christmas. God had finally answered all of the prayers that had been going up to Him for months. I finally could begin to climb out of this gloomy valley.
After my mom’s transplant, I was afraid to see her. I hadn’t seen her in almost a month; I didn’t know how she was going to look. As I walked around the corner into the ICU, I could feel my stomach churning and my throat getting tighter and tighter. I couldn’t even imagine what her reaction was going to be. As I rounded the corner into her room, I saw her for the first time. She looked over toward the door and saw me. We both began to cry and hugged for the first time in almost a month. Feeling how small and frail she was shocked me. I didn’t want to touch her because I was afraid I would hurt her. She was so small, and yet so strong as well. She amazed me over the next few weeks. She became stronger and stronger every day. The day she was able to walk down the hallway by herself was thrilling for me. Finally, we were able to go home to Nashville. I knew when we got home; we still had hurdles to jump through. She had to overcome a lot more before our life could be “normal” again. But I knew if anyone could do it, she could. I watched as she began to get up and do things for herself again. This inspired me so much. Being able to sit and talk with her again felt so good. Something inside me had changed; I had a new appreciation for my mom. I could finally see the light at the top of the mountain as I climbed for the summit.
This experience has made me realize that my mom is my best friend. Before her illness, I took her for granted all the time. I never appreciated everything she did for me on a daily basis. When she wasn’t able to do her daily tasks anymore, it really set in that she is superwoman. Simple things such as cleaning, going to the grocery store, or cooking dinner were impossible for her pre-transplant. I love sitting down with my family after my mom cooks a wonderful dinner for us. The first night she was able to cook dinner for us was amazing. I have never had food that tasted as good as it did then, only because she was finally able to cook again. Also, being able to give her a gift on Mother’s Day was a marvelous feeling. I didn’t think I would be able to experience another one with her. The fact that I did still amazes me every day. I love our late night talks about everything going on in our life. She tells me about all of the things happening at her work, and I tell her about my boy problems. It has become routine for us in the past few months, and I absolutely love it. She is not only my mom; she is my best friend. I have the best of both worlds. I was finally at the peak of the mountain. It felt so good to know everything was going to be okay. I knew I was going to have my best friend around for a long time.
My mom is the most amazing person in my life. A year ago, I did not comprehend this. I now tell people to appreciate the people they have in their lives because one day they will be gone. This is very real to me now. I realize how precious the gift of life really is. God gives us valleys to go through in our lives. I have been able to come through this dark, gloomy valley with a new understanding of my mom. Through everything I have endured, I have realized that my mom is my best friend.
I want to thank Ashley for sharing this story. It is a good lesson for me & I hope it touches the readers as much as it did me. This story reminds me of a quote by Mother Teresa…S
“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.”
— Mother Teresa
Cindy with her precious family before transplant (Christmas Tree) & three months post-transplant.