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The Ones We Love
Growing up, I have steadily watched my father lose energy and become less of the man that has raised me. From the color in his face to his ability to make quick movements, everything about him seemed to be leaving his body right in front right in front of my eyes. This shattered my heart.
Many people have near death experiences that change their lives. For my life, the near death experience was not even my own. My traumatic event forever changed my outlook on life. The thought of losing a loved one can be disturbing, let alone both of my parents.
Alport syndrome is genetic disease that manifests itself in males more than females since it is a sex linked trait. It is a disease that is extremely rare and leads to hearing loss as well as kidney failure. People tend to know when they have the disease because it is characterized by blood and protein in their urine. My dad was one of those people.
My dad has lived his whole life knowing he would need a kidney transplant one day. Over the years, I had seen a decline in my father’s energy levels as well as his hearing. Both of these are symptoms of Alport syndrome, which deeply concerned me. I thought of my Uncle Hal, who had gotten a kidney transplant 15 years prior. He’d received a kidney from a 17 year old boy who’d committed suicide in Oklahoma. I wondered who would have to die so my dad could live.
As my dad’s condition worsened, he had to decide if he wanted dialysis everyday for the rest of his life or a transplant. My mom, in true mom fashion, decided to get screened to see if she was a match. As fate would have it, she was. A sense of relief flushed through me when my mom said she was going to give my dad a kidney. The comfort, however, was short-lived.
The surgery was scheduled quickly so my dad wouldn’t have to go on dialysis. Now, looking back on it, the weeks prior went by quicker than I could have imagined. As a teenager, I was barely able to comprehend the severity of the situation. Until it was the day of the surgery.
On the day of the surgery, my family drove to INOVA Fairfax in an unsettling silence. Once there, I had to keep switching between hospital rooms so I didn’t show favoritism. As I watched my parents get prepped for surgery, I felt a sudden feeling of anxiety. I felt the cold sharp air that reminded me of hospitals, the dread of not knowing, and the need for this to go right.
I listened as the doctors explained the risks of anesthesia. I distinctly remember the strongest smell of lemon cleaner in the hospital and the overwhelming odor of cologne coming from the doctor explaining the procedure. There was a chance of death, and both my parents would be going under. I had the chance of losing both my parents within the span of an hour. It’s not something I was ever prepared to handle, seeing both my parents prepping to head back into the world of uncertainty brought along with surgeries and procedures.
I have never been a religious person, but for the first and only time I can remember, I prayed. Everything was in the hands of a doctor that I barely knew. An electronic procedure chart showed what stage my parents surgery was in. Currently my mom was in surgery, and an overwhelming anxiety hit me. All the possible wrongful outcomes flashed through my mind. What if the procedure goes wrong? What would I do without my mom? What about my dad? What about both? I tried to compose myself for my siblings and family members who were there to support us through this time in our lives. Talking to my grandfather, he told me I had to be prepared for whatever happened and had to be the one to be strong for my older sister and twin brother. I glanced over at the chart, my mom was still in surgery, and now my dad was too. The anxiety didn't falter. This was the two biggest people in my life on the verge of death while I had to sit in the waiting room.
From what my watch said, 15 minutes had past before the next change. In my mind, however, this felt like hours of waiting and thinking of all the terrible outcomes that could result from the current situation. This change showed both my parents were out of surgery. Just as I recognized this change, a nurse came from behind double doors to explain to us how each of my parents were doing. I barely heard the details from the nurse due to my own inner stress, but I got the main point. Both my parents’ surgery went according to plan. The wave of relief finally crashed over me. My parents were going to be okay.
Over the next few days, my siblings and I visited my parents in recovery as much as possible until they were cleared to be able to go home. It took a few months for my dad to get his energy back, and now he has more of it than ever. I realized that I finally had my father back. As for my mom, she returned to being the same mom that I have always and will always love.
Looking back on the experience, I realize that I had never valued the time spent with my parents as much as I do now. The time I have spent with my parents is worth more than any amount of money, or any tangible item: I would not trade it for the world.