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.


  1. Hi Piper's Dad!!

    How wonderful to 'meet' you! Piper is so very fortunate to have such a supportive family network! I love reading her blog and admire all she has accomplished, I can't wait to hear all about her adventures with her new breathers!

    I am almost 2 yrs post tx and I never, ever, ever, ever dreamed it could be this wonderful....

    Love and good vibes for the REAL DEAL to come REAL soon!

  2. Your post was wonderful, now we know for sure her writing talents aren't exclusively from her mother.

    This reminds me of a story that I recently shared with my church group for the chronically ill, myself being a CF'er.

    Mouse Story

    A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

    "What food might this contain?" The mouse wondered - he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

    Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning.

    "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap
    in the house!"

    The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and
    said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

    The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

    The pig sympathized, but said,
    "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray.Be assured you are in my prayers."

    The mouse turned to the cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

    The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose"

    So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected,to face the farmer's mousetrap-- alone.

    That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

    The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

    The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.

    Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

    But his wife's sickness continued,
    so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock.

    To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmer's wife did not get well; she died.
    So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

    The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness

    So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't
    concern you,

    remember --

    when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out
    for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.
    To do the right thing.And be all we can be with kindness & compassion.

    "Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for."
    Seamus Heaney

  3. Michael,
    I find your words both comforting and inspiring. You are obviously a great Daddy and have brought up the most beautiful daughter. I too wait by the phone with packed bag by the door. Thank You from Charleston, SC.
    Paul Peters AKA CysticGal's (Beth's) Dad.

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  5. Michael,
    Thank you.. Piper has affected so many lives in the CF world and in the world. Your writing has left me with tears and gratitude for my own family who endures each hospital trip, surgery and clinic with me. We are fortunate people. I am one of the quieter blog responders ,but I read each day and pray.
    Your family uses language with such craft--- your humor is so similar to Piper's--- I loved it.
    Thank you for taking the time to write. I'm glad you got your call and Piper's true call will come.

  6. Well Piper, you certainly came by your gift of writing honestly - from BOTH parents. Good to hear your perspective Piper's Dad. Such encouraging words. You offer peace and that is so valuable right now. Thank you and I hope we hear from you again soon (aka, as Piper is healing)!

  7. Great post Dad, it is clear now where Piper gets her awesome writing ability from. So glad she has you in her corner.
    Happy Birthday!

  8. So writing really does run in the family! In my experience fathers are often the strong silent ones in the back. Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  9. Your whole family has an amazing talent at writing! I love it! Xx

  10. Hi Piper's Dad! I'm so glad that Piper has such a loving and supportive family to help her navigate all things transplant. I know that she's in good hands with all of you there for her!

  11. Wow....the writing from this family is amazing! I am new to the CF world with a 14 months old daughter diagnosed with CF at birth. This blog gives me so much hope and inspiration daily. Thanks to the whole "Piper Clan" all are a TRUE inspiration for the CF world and through your written words.

    Sandy :)

  12. Hi Dad!
    It was fun to read your blog and learn more about your wonderful family. I have been following Piper's blog for several months now and she never fails to inspire me. I live in Fort Collins and our Colorado connection makes me feel closer to Piper somehow. I am facing the evaluation process for tx myself--but I also live in this wonderful place called denial, so I haven't acted on the suggestion yet. :) Thanks for sharing all your insights; it helps others more than you will ever know. Hope you have a wonderful birthday. Hugs to you Piper!

  13. Hi Mike,
    Great to hear from you! And what a great way to spend your birthday-in NYC with the whole family. I am of course impressed at your flying proficiency and happy to hear that you have made it out to NY for all of the calls. You all provide such wonderful support for each other, so I know you will stay positive and continue to learn as time passes.

    Hopefully the next one will be the real thing, I think we have all had enough dry runs to perfect this situation!

    Amy R

  14. At this point in life, knee deep in medical school and having gone through 2 transplants with my sister, it takes a lot to make me cry. Currently, I'm pretty sure the entire Pacific Ocean has decided to drain drop by drop through my tear ducts!

    Lots of CFers write ... and some siblings do ... and lots of moms (mainly of little kids), but we never get to hear from the dads! So nice to hear from another point of view ... it just makes me want to call my dad and tell him how much I love him ... but I will respect the fact that he is rapidly getting older than dirt and is probably sleeping and will wait until morning. :)

    Thanks again for sharing ... and I think it is through you (dad) that I ended up finding this blog ... maybe you know someone who knows my dad's (Don Detrich) best friend, Bill Thomas ... at least, I think. :)

    Hope you get the right call tonight!

  15. I am excited for you when Piper eventually gets her second chance. It truly is the most marvelous miracle. You are in good hands at Columbia.

    Tim TX 11/10/09 by Dr. Sonnet

  16. **I'm way behind on your blog, and feel completely terrible about it :( So, I'm playing catch-up :)**

    Your dad is definitely a wonderful man! It's so great that your family has such a tight knit relationship! It's rare to find that these days, so you are very blessed!!

    Your dad is also a wonderful writer, and I can definitely see where you get your humor from :)

  17. What a wonderful blog! Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It is a terrific reminder of the fact that we are all interconnected and consequently have the potential (& responsibility) to support one another as we can. I am the mother of 2 daughters - one, Lo, has had 2double-lung transplants and the other, Jane, posted a comment on your blog a few days ago. Your words brought me back to our waiting periods. We all felt such a keen sense of love from so many. We depended upon our faith, the prayers of family and friends, laughter, puppies, hugs, phone calls and visits. I will join the throngs who are following your blog and praying that your real call will come very, very soon!