Monthly Archives: October 2009

Gift of life

Want to organize a parade in Grove City? Talk to volunteer Andy Furr.  Ever heard of Genetic Alpha 1 Anytripsin Defect? Andy can tell you about it.

Maybe you want to know what his gift of life entails or what the 127 liver functions are? That’s right, Andy is your man.

In 2008, after two years of severe illness, including 37 hospital visits in a three-month span, at one time on 48 pills a day and a misdiagnosis of Cirrhosis of the liver, Andy received a second chance when he received a liver transplant.

His genetic defect is rare and more research is happening but that explains the misdiagnosis. Because of that, though, he transferred between hospitals, was over medicated, had bouts of dementia, combativeness he doesn’t remember, and the genetic defect was not discovered until after his transplant.

When he landed at the Cleveland Clinic (CCF) in February 2008, his kidneys were almost shut down and he was in renal failure. February 14, three days after his 43rd birthday, he was on the organ recipient waiting list. “I was given a timeline of three weeks to start dialysis but with a one in 500 chance dialysis would help,” Andy recalled. He headed home to Grove City.

“February 21, at 11:34 p.m., the phone rang with news of a liver donor.” His life changed rapidly.

A snowstorm hit Ohio that night and Medflight could not take him to Cleveland. “They only have 14 hours to transplant a liver. We had our own plan. My sister, Teresa Furr, watched the kids, my nephew, Jim Schreck, took us to Powell to get my brother-in-law, Jim Mink (who would drive them to CCF.)”

Often “the best laid plans,” have a hitch.  Jim was sick and couldn’t be around Andy. Jim’s wife, Roxanne, drove them. “She was afraid to drive in the snow but took five hours to get there. It was an amazing ride. She was calm and did a great job.”

Andy, emotionally and physically drained, rested in the back seat. “Spiritually I was great and prepared for whatever the outcome, hoping for the best.”

February 22nd he got his new liver and woke up Sunday, February 24th to learn the surgery was successful.

These two years were painful for this construction worker, husband to Mary and father to Christopher, 16; Joshua, 17; and Rachel, 14.  His Christian faith in God and support of family and friends carried him.

Today he wonders how he had time to work. As a volunteer for LifeLine of Ohio to promote organ and tissue donation, he talks to high school students; participates in Live on Ride on his motorcycle; talks to Rotary clubs, at health fairs or whenever he has a chance to tell his story.

 “One time, a boy asked if he could see my scar and I showed him,” Andy said chuckling. When he gave a talk to operating room staff at Riverside Hospital, something unique happened.  “That was interesting because one woman, a volunteer with Lifeline whose daughter was an organ donor, was there presenting her story of donation. It was inspiring to hear the other side of what the gift of life is about.”

One thing is clear; he’s not wasting time while giving back to his community.

I am only one

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” Edward Everett Hale, American Clergyman and writer 1822-1909

This quote was in Sally Myer’s memorial service program last month. I grew up around the corner from Sally and her late husband, Bill, and their two sons, Scott and Mark, in Westerville in the 50s and 60s. People like Sally and Bill were constants in my life.

I read about a woman who was employed in her adult life as a housekeeper in the White House. Each day she cleaned the Oval Office, she knelt and prayed for the president.

A small thing? Time wise, yes, but powerful .  

One person, one prayer, something each of us can do. Maybe not in school any longer, but silent prayers are heard as well.

We all need kindness. Often the simplest act can make our day and these are typically done by one person. Someone opens the door for us, and smiles. A neighbor leans over the fence with a bag of red tomatoes (and probably zucchini!) from their garden.  Somebody walking down the street replaces windblown garbage can lids. A friend calls to say hello. We receive a letter from our grandchild.

It doesn’t take much to make a person’s day a little brighter.

I always believed God let me become deaf for a reason.  He allowed my two cochlear implants to restore my ability to hear clearly for that same reason: To enable me to listen and show His love one person at a time.

It was a joy to be able to offer to make calls to help locate classmates from our Westerville (South) High School 1969 graduating class. We are celebrating our 40th reunion Labor Day weekend. Nearly 100 classmates’ information is elusive, but we have found many of the 390-plus graduates. We search the Internet; ask our mothers what they know – always a great resource – and our friends.

When I find someone, I get a real kick from hearing what they are doing today, where they are living, how many grandchildren they have, and if they can attend the reunion. These conversations give me a chance to be what many of us need – a listening ear.  Responses range from, “Will anyone remember me?” to “Sign me up!” As you might imagine, we have scattered like the wind. Yet many have remained in or near their hometown, or returned, like me.

Reading the quote above, I know I can’t do everything – and don’t really want to – but it’s not all about me. No matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, I believe God is the orchestrator and someday it will all make sense.

Meanwhile, during these turbulent times in our country, each of us can do something. One day we will learn how the dots are connected and see the whole picture.

Welcome to my blog

Advocacy is important to everyone with a worthy cause. Why do I say worthy? Some causes seem self-serving, but that’s my opinion. This blog will give you just that, my opinion; my experiences; and hopefully give you courage to advocate for yourself. Do you think it’s  selfish to do so? If you take care of yourself and work to  improve the quality of your life, those around you also benefit. Besides, when we take care of our basic needs, we become more effective – and let’s face it, we become nicer to be around.

My most complicated self-advocacy came about as I was becoming deaf. I started losing hearing as a girl for no known reason. By 29 I knew I needed hearing aids but put it off. The average person waits seven years, after they know they need a hearing aid, to get one.  I waited 10. I jokingly say I knew I was above average – but maybe that’s below average? In any case, by 43, I had two. By 48, I had two of the highest tech digital hearing aids on the market. By 50, they no longer helped. I was deaf in my right ear and heard about eight percent in my left ear. I was a candidate for a cochlear implant.

From 1999-2000, I became a copy desk typist at Suburban News Publications (SNP), the local weekly paper with 23 suburban neighborhoods in and around Columbus, Ohio. I didn’t need to hear to type and I type fast – since I had been a secretary for 28 years, this was a given. But within a few months, the activity in the newsroom began to interest me. Then it pulled me in. I asked the Editor what a stringer was. He explained it is a reporter on assignment, not necessarily to a specific beat. That sounded good and I was hooked. The next day was my first assignment and within a month I had a regular beat.

Since I had been writing a column for SNP since January 1998,  I think the editor knew I could write. Later, he would tell me he was disappointed when I didn’t go for the reporter job right away and opted to be a copy desk typist. He wrote the forward to my book in 2008 saying just that. Day by Day, The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter was published in June 2008 by Gallaudet University Press. A dream come true for me, to be a published author.

My first implant was done successfully in 2002 and my second one, in my left ear, was in April 2009. I like to keep a sense of humor so my first implant was on 4/22/02 – our wedding anniversary. So my second surgery was also done on 4/22 but in 2009. My husband always jokes our anniversary is on April 21st. So this is a fun way to help “us” remember the anniversary date of our marriage and both my implants.

More later…