These are the words I live by. Since a very young age, my Mom has said this to me in my most trying times. These words have gotten me through everything, and these words have made me who I am.
Growing up, I was more like a little adult then I was a child. My father had a horrific accident when I was seven years old that permanently disabled him. This caused our lives to shift dramatically. My stay at home mother went to working full-time and my workaholic dad became a stay at home mom. At first it was strange, full of anger, depression, and a little hostility. But, as time went on my family became accustomed to this new life. I remember my dad sitting on the couch crying, I was so afraid to touch him, because he was in so much pain. Then he looked at me, picked me up and sat me on his lap and said, “Baby girl, your daddy is okay. I may be in pain but I am still here. This is going to be hard on all of us, but remember; Jesus loves us and would never give us anything we can’t handle. He knew that if anyone was strong, and bull headed enough to handle all of this, it would be me”. At the time, this statement meant so much, but I really didn’t understand it until time went on.
The same year as my father’s accident, something amazing also happened. My baby sister was born. My mom says she was our surprise blessing, and I couldn’t agree more. My older brother and I took her under our wings. This little girl was the thing that kept our family sane. In fact, my dad says us kids are what kept him sane. We were homeschooled, so he always had something to do, and believe me; my brother and I are anything but boring.
However, at some point my brother began to grow up. He got a job, and I decided that I wanted to go to public school. By this time, my father was doing much better, so he was okay with the idea. So there I went off to 8th grade, and my darling little sister went to first grade.
Then once again, my family was struck with tragedy. On the day of my first date, the second semester of my first year of public school, right after Christmas; a fired destroyed our home. It was absolutely terrifying, but like always my family and I banded together, and made it through. That year however, was quite eventful. Five people and a dog living in a two bedroom home was not as comfortable as it sounds. I mean talk about no space! But, it does help if the five people have terrific sense of humors. We were never bored.
That year was probably one of the hardest years for my father. He was in the hospital over 60 times that year, and each time he stayed at least a week. The nurses at the hospital even knew us all by name.
But, like always, once we get comfortable, things always change. October 30th, 2011, my senior year, dad’s kidneys shut down completely. He was diagnosed with diabetic kidney failure (stage 4). This is what both of my dad’s elder brother died from, and what my mom’s mother died from as well. For the first time, my family broke down. My brother and I, now adults and my sister now old enough to understand could no longer handle this fear. The five of us sat in the hospital and cried. We held hands, and looked at each other without a word to say. Seeing both of my parents, who had been so strong before, crying and trembling with fear, and my comedian father sitting silently hooked to a machine that was keeping him alive was more than I could handle. I remember my parents asking everyone to leave except me, and then dad asking me to sit beside him.
I was not sure what to expect, but what he said I will never forget. He told me that I was strong, the strongest of the three kids. He said he wanted me to cry, but just in front of him. He said that he needed me to be there for my mom, that he needed me to help her not to worry. He said that most importantly, he needed me to take care of my little sister, and help her stay focused in school. And lastly, he looked at me and told me that no matter what I had to go to college. He said that I was smart, stubborn, brave, and strong. He said that if anyone in this family could change the world it was me.
My dad’s first day of dialysis was November 8th, 2011 – his birthday. He just laughed and said that it was a great birthday present. The summer before I started college I spent driving my dad to dialysis therapy, and just taking care of him when I was home. His blood pressure kept getting low, and he began to faint.
Dialysis took a heavy toll on my family’s life. My dad was going to a center three times a week for several hours. The treatment drained him for many hours afterwards – many times he was just too tired to do anything afterwards. Fortunately, earlier this year my parents learned about home hemodialysis with NxStage. To say that my dad has made a complete turnaround is an understatement. I am so happy with his new energy level. He is able to be an active member of our family. He does not have to leave the house three days a week to sit inside a dialysis clinic – he has a dedicated room in our family home to dialyze. Home hemodialysis has made such a positive difference in my family – and for that I’m very grateful.
Going away for school was the hardest thing I had to do. My family and I are so close and being away makes me worry even more. But I’m am very grateful to know that my dad is looking and feeling better thanks to home hemodialysis – and we hopeful he will receive a kidney transplant in time.
My mom is my role model, and my strength, and I am also hers. And my daddy, well he is my hero. That man has made it through so much, and every day he still laughs and makes the people around him feel so happy.