Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Missy!

For those of you currently in Texas, it has been getting hot lately, hasn't it? Could you imagine it being so hot that planes couldn't fly safely causing the airport to be shut down? That happened in Phoenix, AZ on June 26, 1990. The temperature reached a record high of 122. The planes had only been tested in conditions of 120 or less. It was very hot that day, but it was a dry heat...a lot like an oven. I know. I was there preparing for my wedding. On a side note, some math nerds may notice that the sum of the month (6) day (26) and year (90) added up to 122.

By August 11, 1990, the temperature had cooled off to only 110. It was a great day for a wedding. As Missy liked to say back then, it was a "special place". We had a unique ceremony. We were married in a gym as the church had a multi-purpose sanctuary. Because of the sunshine reflecting off of the flooring, I couldn't see Missy until she reached half court as she walked down the aisle. Both of our fathers were ordained ministers, so they tag-teamed the officiating of the wedding. Missy sang Steven Curtis Chapman's "I Will Be Here" to me during the ceremony. I wanted her to marry me, so I decided not to sing to her. I read an original poem instead. We also read poems to our parents. Our vows included references to many Biblical couples. Fortunately, I only had to repeat what Missy's dad was saying. That helped tremendously with pronunciation. While we went on our honeymoon to California, my parents drove my car back to Texas. We insisted that they keep the shoe polish messages on the windows. After the reception, we found out that Little Caesar's (at least the one that we went to) will give you free breadsticks when you pick up a pizza while still dressed in your tux and wedding dress. I don't know why Missy doesn't want to relive our first meal as husband and wife for our 25th anniversary. Yes, the same math nerds who noticed the relationship between the numbers of the hottest day in Phoenix have already realized that today is our 25th wedding anniversary.

We have been through a lot together: meeting under some interesting circumstances (see this post), never living in the same area until we were married, losing jobs, finding jobs, being involved in full-time youth ministry, being involved in volunteer youth ministry, moving to Arizona, moving back to Texas, dealing with the loss of Missy's parents, dealing with the loss of at least one known child through a miscarriage, waiting for adoption calls that never came, finally getting the call about a 7 month year old little girl who needed a home, embarking on a journey of a liver transplant (which you can visit in many of the previous blog posts), and just going through the everyday adventures of life.

The picture is from our summer vacation to California. We went to Universal Studios on our honeymoon 25 years ago. We celebrated early this year as life is getting too busy on our actual anniversary date. Thank you, Joy, for taking this picture.

By the grace of God, we have made it through 25 wonderful years. I have been blessed beyond measure by Missy's love, faithfulness, and patience. Those that know her are very aware of Missy's talents, abilities, and character. I'll never know just what she sees in me, but I'm not about to change her mind now. We don't have a lot in the way of material possessions, but we do have God, each other, and a wonderful teenage daughter. What more do we need?

Happy Anniversary, Missy! I thank God every day for you. I love you more!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Happy, Happy, Happy

My nephew, Jody's, kidney transplant has been completed, and we are very pleased with the results. Of course, an "Allen Adventure" had to be thrown in for good measure.

It seems that the best transplant surgeons are perfectionists who seldom achieve the fit they want on the first attempt. This is a very good thing. Jody's transplant surgeon finally had the blood flow to the new kidney the way he wanted it on the third attempt. The remaining challenge was getting blood flow from the kidney to the main vein in Jody's leg. A vascular surgeon was called in to take a graft from Jody's other leg. This procedure was successful, and the surgeons were satisfied. We are very thankful that they are so picky.

At one point, the doctors were considering whether to attempt to save the kidney or the leg. Their choice would have been to save the leg and attempt another transplant with a new kidney. Thankfully, that decision never had to be made. I don't remember signing up for a leg transplant before the surgery.

Other than the blood flow issue, the transplant was fairly uneventful. At least that is what they tell me. I remember being wheeled into the operating room. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't like I had seen on TV. I scooted over to the operating table, and tried to get comfortable. Yes, it was a little chilly in there, and I was definitely not dressed for cooler weather. The nurses put a mask over my nose and mouth. I started praying to get myself relaxed and ready for the surgery. I think I got as far as, "Dear God,...". The next thing I remember is waking up in my hospital room. They say I was in recovery for a couple of hours, but I don't remember any of it. I had a hard time staying awake for the rest of the day. Apparently, I am a big fan of anesthesia. I do remember falling asleep while trying to eat the hospital food. I think that was due to a combination of anesthesia after effects and the boredom of the clear liquid diet.

Jody had to spend some time in ICU, so I walked down to see him on Tuesday. It was good to get up and moving even if Missy couldn't stop laughing at me. I had green hospital socks, blue wraps on my calves to keep circulation going, and two different color (and sized) hospital gowns to keep everything covered. I also had my handy, dandy IV pole to wheel around with me. Add all of that to the hunched over, old man walk of someone who just had major abdominal surgery, and you have quite a sight to behold. Jody looked really good considering all that he had been through. The new kidney was working well, and his numbers improved day by day. Eventually, he did get moved into a regular hospital room a couple of doors down from me. I was released from the hospital on Wednesday, and Jody escaped on Friday afternoon.

All in all, it was a very long and very successful week. Missy asked me a few days ago if I would do it all over again. I told her that I would have to think about it because I only have one kidney now. I don't think that is what she meant. I have no regrets at all about donating a kidney. It made it a lot easier knowing it was going to my nephew. We give him a hard time sometimes, but that is part of the territory of being an Allen. We are very proud of the man, husband, and father that he has become. Jody has a great wife and amazing kids. We are continuing to pray that his new kidney will help him enjoy the quality of life that he deserves and desires.

If any of you are considering organ donation, I would highly recommend it. Living organ donation isn't for everyone, but I do sincerely believe that just about everybody should be organ donors when they die. You may be surprised how many people you can help with your gift. My father-in-law didn't have many useful organs due to a long list of illnesses. Several people, however, were recipients of parts of his eyes. Their lives will never be the same. Missy and I have been on both sides of living organ donation, and both are a blessing.

Thank you for all of the prayers, support and encouragement through this latest journey. Jody, myself, and our families greatly appreciate it. We are all doing well, and as Phil Robertson would say, we are all "happy, happy, happy."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Goodbye, Kidney

Two years ago this month, we were dealing with some "Mayo Madness" as Missy was being thoroughly tested for her liver transplant in Arizona. Today, the madness continues as I prepare to donate a kidney to my nephew, Jody.

As usual, the road hasn't always been smooth for us, but God has been present each step of the way. Missy and I are swapping our patient/caregiver roles. This could be interesting. I hope that I am as good of a patient as she was. Those roles will be back to normal next week as she has another stent procedure.

It is definitely different being on the patient end this time. This will be my first surgery, so I'm not quite sure what to expect. I thought that I might be more anxious or nervous, but that will probably kick in once we get to the hospital.

Jody, myself, and our families would greatly appreciate your prayers during this time. We are praying that this transplant will take care of Jody's health issues and that he can return to enjoying quality of life again. Now, all we need to do is find a red bow for his hair.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Long Time, No See

Wow, I didn't realize it has been so long since I posted to this blog. So much has happened over the last eleven months.

Missy's new liver is doing very well, but she is still having problems with bile duct issues. During the most recent post, Missy was dealing with stents in her bile ducts. She went through that procedure again in March, May, August, and October when they were finally removed. Lately, she had been experiencing some of the same symptoms. We really couldn't afford another trip to Phoenix, so we asked if a local doctor could run some tests. The Mayo staff approved that request, and Missy met with a new, local doctor last Friday. An MRI test was taken, and the doctors thought they saw some stones in the bile duct. Fortunately, they didn't see any strictures at that point. As we have experienced many times throughout this journey, what we see is not always what we get. The ERCP was performed this morning. The expectation was that the stones would be removed, and we would be on our way.

My hopes were up when the doctor came out after about 30 minutes. This procedure has never gone by so quickly in the past. He said that everything went well, and that he would see us in a few minutes. I waited with Missy in recovery for a while. When the doctor came in, he didn't have bad news, but it wasn't the news we were expecting. There were no bile duct stones. He referred to something called sludge in the duct. I guess it is a softer, more fluid type of stone. The sludge was removed without any problems. The doctor also said that he found one stricture. That stricture was opened up with a balloon, and three stents were placed in that duct. This was all done quickly and without complications. It does mean, however, that the procedure will need to be repeated in a couple of months so that the stents may be removed. In the meantime, we will send results and photos to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic and wait for their recommendations.

Our feelings are mixed at the moment. We are very glad that everything went so smoothly today. We are a little disappointed that Missy will have to go through this again in a few months. We were really hoping to get the stent issues behind us for good. The good news is that feelings don't dominate our lives. Sure, we would have loved for things to have happened a little differently. That doesn't change who we are or where we go from here. God doesn't always answer our prayers in the way that we would prefer, at least not at the moment. More often than not, we see later on down the road that what we would have liked really wasn't what was best for us. So, we are very thankful that all went well today and that Missy's recovery is going very well so far. We will continue to trust in God's provision for what lies ahead. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Speaking of different answers to prayers, we have seen a new benefit from an answer that we originally didn't prefer. It has been almost two years since I was tested to be the donor for Missy's liver transplant. I was extremely disappointed not to be able to make that sacrifice for her. God had some other things in mind, however. Looking back, we can see situations that were better since I was not the donor. I was able to be Missy's caregiver. Very soon, she will get to return that to me.

I have been approved to donate a kidney to my nephew, Jody. The transplant is scheduled to take place next Monday in Oklahoma City. If I had donated part of my liver to Missy, I wouldn't be able to donate a kidney to Jody. Kidney transplant is more common and seemingly less complex than liver transplant, so I am thinking this will be a little easier than Bobbie's surgery. My surgery will be done with a laparoscopic incision, so recovery will be much easier. I will only be in the hospital a couple of days, and I could very well be home on Thursday. This will be my first surgery of any kind. I'm not really nervous about it, but I am a little anxious. I am excited for Jody in hopes that my kidney will help him have a better quality of life in taking care of the kidney disease that he has. I have seen what Missy's transplant has done for her, and I am praying for the same kind of improvement for Jody.

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Thank you to those who have prayed and supported Missy through her journey. As I have posted before, the journey is ongoing. Thank you for those that will pray for Jody as he continues his journey. I'll do my best to make another post soon and let everyone know what new adventures God is leading us through.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Where's the Fun in Taking the Easy Way?

Four months ago, Missy had her liver transplant. We are currently back in Phoenix for her four month checkup. We are also here to have her stents replaced that helped to fix her bile leak. It doesn't seem like it has been four months since the transplant. In some ways, it seems shorter. In other ways, it seems longer than that. It seems like I was just here, sitting in the Transplant House updating our blog. Sometimes, it's hard to remember how sick Missy really was before the transplant.

In keeping with our tradition of making things interesting, we have had a couple of hurdles this week. The doctors anticipated that the stent replacement procedure would take 45 minutes to an hour. Then there would be about 30 minutes or so in the recovery room. There was even the possibility of not needing to place new stents. We were encouraged and looking forward to that outcome.

We really didn't expect to take the easy way, did we? One of the bile ducts was extremely constricted. We don't know if that happened before or during the procedure. It took a lot of time and skill by the doctors to open up the duct and place two new stents inside. It took about 3 hours.

Then came the recovery. After meeting with the doctors shortly after the procedure was done, they told me that I could see Missy in about 30 minutes. The 30 minutes turned into about 4 hours. Missy was having a hard time waking up from the anesthesia. Once she did wake up, she was very nauseated. They gave her some medicine for the nausea, but it only made her more sleepy. They tried some other meds, and finally decided she could be released. Missy was extremely nauseated for the remainder of the day and evening.

Wednesday was filled with poking and prodding appointments. Those went as well as could be expected. Thursday was our day of consultation appointments. Most results were very good. Missy's itching and nausea are most likely side effects of her many required medicines. Her hair loss will slow down and be back to normal soon. She is a little anemic, so she will need to start on an iron supplement. The liver doctor wanted to take her off one of her anti-rejection drugs, which would be a very good thing since she takes 8 pills of this drug each day. The problem (and we always seem to have one) is that her liver enzymes are higher than the doctors would like them to be.

The liver enzyme problem could be an early sign of rejection, or it could be a result of the bile duct issue. To make sure, the doctor wants to perform a liver biopsy on Friday morning. The doctors don't seem to think that it is a big deal, but we don't want Missy to have to go through any more pain. We will know the results of the biopsy on Monday.

Even with all of this news, we are still being positive. God is still in control, and none of this has surprised Him. We are still trusting Him for good outcomes. He hasn't and won't let us down. So, we get to spend an extra day in Phoenix. The airline, rental car company, and Transplant House have been great in working with us to extend our stay. God is good...all the time...even when things don't seem to go the way we planned.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home for Christmas

When we were in Arizona, it was our goal to be home by Christmas. God has been very good to us, and we made it with a couple of weeks to spare. We did miss Joy's all-city choir program at the high school, but we did see her in the church program and at Six Flags. The highlight of our Christmas season was seeing Joy run down the aisle to hug Missy at church.

It doesn't really seem like today is Christmas Eve. We spent the entire month of November in Arizona, so that month was totally different for us. Christmas actually came early for us this year. We feel like we have already been blessed with so much this year, especially recently. Missy has a new liver that is working very well. Her pre-transplant symptoms have almost all disappeared. She has ankles again. The only negative so far is that she doesn't have many clothes that fit due to her weight loss. I'm not sure that she sees it as a negative however.

Missy's liver transplant had dominated our thoughts and plans for so long. It seems strange to have the transplant behind us. Her journey is not over by any means, but we are past one very large obstacle. The recovery has gone well so far, and Missy is trying very hard to be good. She has always had a tendency to try to do more than she should, and that trait hasn't changed. She will slowly make it back to her usual self. She already has much more energy than she had before the transplant.

God has always been very good to us, but we are especially blessed this Christmas. We hope that all who read this experience the true meaning and blessings of CHRISTmas this year. Have a very merry Christmas, everybody!

"For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

Thursday, November 24, 2011


This post has been on my mind for a few weeks now, but I am just now getting around to writing it. At least I picked an appropriate day. Four weeks ago today, Missy had her liver transplant. This month has been a blur, and it doesn't really seem like today is Thanksgiving. We do have so much to be thankful for, and I would like to list some of them here. Missy and I have been completely overwhelmed by the love, support, and encouragement of so many. I'm sure that I will miss something or someone, and for that, I sincerely apologize. Items are listed in no particular order.

I am thankful for an awesome God who loves us and supports us through all circumstances.
I am thankful for an amazing wife who inspires me more each day.
I am thankful for a beautiful daughter who always gives me more reasons to smile.
I am thankful for numerous family and friends who have encouraged us so much over the last several months. It's amazing how much a simple "I'm praying for you" can mean to us.
I am thankful for the outstanding staff at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. Each doctor, nurse, and staff person has been extremely friendly, courteous, helpful, and encouraging.
I am thankful for the Arizona Transplant House and their atmosphere that promotes healing and recovery.
I am thankful for our neighbors at the Transplant House and the family that they have become.
I am thankful for the Kerr family in inviting us to spend Thanksgiving with them today.
I am thankful for all of those who contributed to our fundraising efforts so that this transplant could be possible.
I am thankful for Bobbie and Dan Diaz in the sacrifice of part of her liver so that Missy might live. Bobbie sure picked a big one for her first surgery.
I am thankful for Tim and Kathy Williams in their sacrifice to be a donor and their willingness to do whatever was needed.
I am thankful for a wonderful pastor who flew out to be with us in July and October. His shepherding heart truly is an inspiration and encouragement to us.
I am thankful for all organ donors who help meet the medical needs of so many people that could not be done in any other way.
I am thankful for Facebook, this blog, and the texting feature of my phone that allows us to stay connected with so many people all over the world. Missy and I have never felt alone through any of this.
I am thankful for the power of prayer and the faithful saints who have prayed so fervently for Missy.
I am thankful for the Pickard family in their care of Joy while we are gone. It is so comforting to know that she is happy and in good hands.
I am thankful for Ani in watching over our house and dog. We especially appreciate her efforts in keeping snakes from coming in the door. That is something you will have to ask her about.
I am thankful for jobs and sick leave that allow us to come to Arizona for treatment.
I am thankful for the beauty of the desert that we have seen in Phoenix.
I am thankful that I learned enough cooking skills somewhere along the way to keep Missy, and sometimes others, well fed.
I am thankful for Netflix in helping keep us entertained through long waits for appointments and infusions.
I am thankful that all the people I neglected to mention will forgive me. You will do that, won't you?

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!