When I launched Style Stories last year, I promised to be as authentic as possible with you all. That promise was put to the test this past week, when my world of try ons and photoshoots, morphed into a world of hospital visits, tears, and more than enough ”realness” as Athena underwent a Kidney Transplant to get her daddy’s kidney.
When attempting to “prepare” myself for the transplant I thought a lot (and I mean 3am, I-can’t-sleep-so-I’m-eating-cheerios-in-the-dark kind of thoughts) about Athena, and how she would do with the operation. I worried endlessly about how she would handle the hospital, if the surgery would be a sucess, and of course if she’d even make it through the operation. I had my blinders on and I was filling every inch of my brain with reminders of how strong she is, how amazing her surgical team is, and that God would watch over her in the OR that morning. I spent 6 months or so, completely zoned in on our sweet girl. And when the morning of the operation came I held it together. I played with her in the operating room “holding area,” I sang to her on the operating table while they put her to sleep. I quietly prayed like crazy for 7 hours while they operated on her.
I felt, so emotionally equipped to withstand the stressor of her operation.
What I wasn’t prepared for however, was my husband’s operation. Now if you’ve read this far, you’ll see how my mind felt for 6 months. So consumed with preparation, emotions, worries, and so much love for Athena and her situation, that I hadn’t even had time to process what Reuben would be going through in donating his kidney to her.
Getting Reuben approved as Athena’s donor was an uphill battle. Giving someone the gift of life is amazing, but you can’t just walk in a hospital, sign a paper and walk into the OR. It‘s a process. Reuben went through countless health and Psychological evaluations. And even though Athena is his daughter and they were a perfect match, the hospital had to ensure he was in optimal health to donate. He was nearly ruled out as her donor many times. He had to change his diet, his workout regimen, and dedicate quite a bit of his life these last few years to making sure he was the perfect donor candidate. Because of these ups and downs (not to mention all of his hard work to get there) I was absolutely thrilled when he was approved to donate one final time at his pre-op appointment two weeks before their scheduled OR date.
In my mind and I’m sure in his mind too, Reuben had to be her donor. We had no other matches in the family, I wasn’t a match. And of course he wanted to do it, it was going to save Athena‘s life after-all.
It wasn’t until the night before the operation, that my fear for him really started to manifest.
When you have kids, you Immediately sign an invisible contract where you vow to protect your children, even if it’s at your own expense. When you get married, you vow to love and cherish, in sickness and health. Never in my life have I felt such a pull in my heart, to honor two very different promises I had made. How could I protect Reuben from pain in this operation, and save Athena at the same time. And as the time of the operation approached. I realized something really heartbreaking, I couldn’t.
I had planned and planned for Athenas transplant, I had rehearsed it in my mind, I had prayed and meditated.
I was ready.
But no matter how much time I had, I never would have been ready for Reuben’s. Watching him give her a gift so monumental, while risking his own life was by far the most heartwarming and nerve wracking experience I’d ever been through personally as both Athena’s mom, and Reuben’s wife.
When scrolling through Facebook I came across an Article on transplant recipients writing letters to their donors families (most organ donors are usually deceased) Thanking the donor for what they had done.
The day after Athena‘s transplant I scripted up something similar to Reuben, and with his permission I’m going to share it with all of you.
To My Daughter’s Organ Donor,
”Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
I’ve been sitting here for the past hour, waiting for some kind of breakthrough where suddenly all of these wonderful words start pouring onto the page, each one more meaningful and sincere than the one before. But I just keep thinking, “I never thought it’d be you.” And gosh doesn’t that just sound so lame. But follow me for a minute.
I never thought it’d be you, to take me to homecoming where we were 16 and I was terrified to go with someone I didnt know.
I never thought it’d be you, to take me on my first date in 3 years and breakdown the mounds of walls I had built up.
I never thought it’d be you to marry a single mom, still In school, having absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with my life yet.
I never thought it would be you, to raise Christopher like your own.
I never thought it would be you to hold me in the hospital waiting room the night we lost Eva.
I never thought it’d be you, to send me that picture of Athena holding your finger in the NICU that first morning.
I never thought it’d be you, googling Kidney disease over and over again with me when Athena was diagnosed.
I never thought it’d be you, showing Athena around our new home the evening we brought her home from the hospital
I never thought it’d be you, marrying me in blue jeans and a hoodie that December morning.
I never thought it’d be you, encouraging me to go after my dreams, the day we took our first set of pictures for the blog.
I never thought it’d be you watching Videos for Days and days, trying to perfect taking pictures with the new camera for work.
I never thought it’d be you, working your job at night, and helping me with mine all day long.
I never thought it’d be you, to be the only one of us to test positive as a match for Athena.
I never thought it’d be you, going into the OR that morning.
I never thought it’d be you to give her a part of you for her to keep forever.
I never thought it would be you dealing with pain and discomfort for days, before smiling like you won the lottery when you finally hear that she’s okay.
I never thought it would be you, to save our daughter’s life
You see, our whole journey has been a medley of “I never thought(s).” A combination of events, both good and bad, that I never thought we’d face together. When I was a little girl, I always wanted someone to have a great life with me. What I didn’t know I NEEDED was someone to make a difficult life great.
I never thought it’d be you, but I thank God every day that it is.