- I am a 33-year-old wife, sister, daughter, friend, law school graduate, CFer, lifelong student of public service, blog writer, patient, Sagittarius, reader, Top chef fan, double-lung transplant recipient (twice!), and dog owner living in Colorado's beautiful Mile High City. I love all things colorful, funny, inspiring, or needlessly sarcastic. I share my city with about 2,500,000 other remarkable people, share my disease with 70,000 other beautiful souls, share my life with some unbelievable family and friends, and share my apartment with one very handsome guy and one really fat mutt with a kick-butt personality. We make it work.
About This Blog:
This blog is about me, my life, my sometimes craziness, my disease, and my current journey as a double-lung transplant recipient. It's also a celebration of everyone out there with CF (and other chronic illnesses). It's for you, inspired by you, and dedicated to you -- the community that keeps me writing, living, and breathing.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010
(Birthday) Guest Blog: Father Knows Best
Guest Post Stats:
Name: Michael Beatty (aka Piper's dad)
Age: 63 as of TODAY!
Credentials: Lawyer/law professor. Father for 31 years, "CF dad" for 28. Active volunteer and advocate for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Professional frequent flier. Granddad to Sampson the puppy.
Special Talents Include: Holding down the fort in Denver, traveling between Denver and NYC in less than 7 hours for multiple dry runs, trick bike riding.
Hometown: Denver, CO
We All Need Somebody to Lean On
Well, the call finally came. No, no, not that kind of call. After four dry runs, we've come to treat transplant calls with the same kind of excitement normally reserved for telemarketers. I'm talking about the call that my daughter made to ask me to write this post for her blog. Although Kathleen and Erin have both had their star turns, I have thus far been happy with my role catching planes, walking the dog, and providing comic relief with my bicycle crash. (Piper's editorial note: check out this post for the story of my father's bicycle antics.) Nonetheless, I will endeavor to offer my view of the life lessons learned on the transplant floor of Columbia Presbyterian last Friday.
A few days ago, Kathleen called my law office at the beginning of the Friday rush hour to tell me that she and Piper were headed to the hospital (again). My office staff flew into an organized frenzy and got me out the door with a boarding pass, some cash, and one hour to make it to the airport and catch the plane. I made it only because several drivers were nice enough to allow me to cross several lanes of traffic to get to a less congested side street and other people let me cut to the front of the security screening line. I boarded the plane as the door closed and made it not only to NYC, but all the way to the hospital before Piper was even take down to the OR holding room.
As Piper has already explained, the OR holding room is where both the primary and the back-up wait for word on the condition of the lungs. Like "Let's Make a Deal," both families wait together to see what is behind Door Number 1: a double lung for our daughter, a single for another family's loved one, or sometimes just a disappointing judgment call on the part of some very wise doctors. In the best case scenario, one family will win new lungs, while the other will go home without so much as a consolation subscription to Good Housekeeping.
That night was no exception, as we waited for the decision with the back-up, a retired NY policeman, and his sister. And, as we waited, we were privileged to learn his story: how barely a year before he had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis at his retirement physical, and received the shocking prognosis that he would soon need a lung transplant. He had been listed only earlier that week, and now found himself serving as the back-up to my daughter.
Although he probably didn't know that being a back-up to Piper seems like a virtual guarantee that you will get new lungs at this point, he was, quite understandably, a bit nervous. I tried to put myself in his position and am pretty sure I would have preferred facing down Tony Montana and his "little friend" ("Scarface" 1983) rather than sitting on his gurney. Less scary. And, because we had done this all before and he had not, the natural reaction was to start a conversation and try to learn from each other.
From his end came a mixture of genuine concern for "the young woman with the beautiful smile" and the inevitable nervousness of someone about to face a surgery for which he thought he would have more time to prepare. From our end came the joy of having known many amazing transplant survivors mixed with the somewhat jaded consciousness that comes with a few dry runs. Piper, as usual, was gracious, engaging, and reassuring (she's going to hate that I'm writing this!). She assured him that it was probably worth the sacrifice of giving up raw oysters for the chance to breathe; she made him laugh by complimenting his stylish hospital getup; she re-framed a terrifying prospect as an exciting opportunity. And when the decision was made and the judgment came down that neither of them would be getting new lungs, she took heart in his positive attitude and good humor.
So these are my two lessons from the transplant floor: First, God always has a custard pie up His sleeve. You never know when a volcano will erupt, an earthquake will shake your foundation, or you will be told you need new lungs by summer. Life is full of surprises and not all of them are happy ones, so take the time right now to give your life meaning. Second, the best way I know of to find that meaning is to understand that we are all in this together. Whether you let a father cut in line to get to his sick daughter in New York, offer a comforting word to a Clint Eastwood cop in an unfamiliar situation, smile at the doctor who has just delivered you bad news, or simply offer up a silent prayer every time a blog post announces yet another call, you have grabbed a golden ring on the merry-go-round of life.
And when we can no longer challenge our circumstances, at our best we can still challenge ourselves and reach out to others. Because, as the song says, it truly won't be long until we're gonna need someone to do the same for us.