Sep 13, 2010  •  In Baby, Personal, Relationships

An Emotional Weekend

Friday night. I picked up my phone to troubling news from my mother.

“I debated the entire day whether I should tell you this. I don’t want you to worry too much — I know how you get — but I realized that you deserve to know because you’re family. Besides, you might become more upset if I kept the news from you.”

“What?” I asked as I sat down to prepare for the news. “Tell me what happened!”

“Your father is in the hospital…”

The tears immediately welled up in my eyes. I tried my best to keep my composure as I asked her to tell me what happened.

As long-time readers know, my father suffers from chronic hepatitis B, which is a disease that affects 1 in 10 Asian-Americans. Although the deterioration of his liver has plateaued somewhat in the past year, his liver is still nowhere as well as it should be.

One of the unfavorable side effects of an inflamed liver is that it has trouble properly processing all the blood that passes through it — as a result, blood flow can become compromised as the body becomes confused and starts using the smaller vessels instead of the larger, major vessels.

In my father’s case (and I am told that this is not too uncommon with hepatitis patients), some of the tiny blood vessels that line the esophagus had swelled up in attempting to perform their new role, could not handle the pressure, and ruptured. He had spent Thursday night vomiting and spitting up blood, and was admitted to the hospital on Friday.

In order to stop the bleeding, the doctors performed a procedure that literally blocks off the offending vessels. According to my sister (who took my father to the hospital) the surgery lasted all of 15 minutes and my father looked much better within just an hour.

This is actually not the first time this has happened — our family had gone through the same ordeal last year, when six of my father’s blood vessels had ruptured. This time, four vessels had burst, but my father will have to endure the procedure once more in a couple of weeks, because the surgeon had found another two vessels that looked to be in danger of rupture.

There are about a hundred blood vessels that line the esophagus, so the loss of these twelve vessels is not detrimental to my father’s health. However, this is most likely to continue to happen, and soon the level of blood that reaches my father’s brain will start to become compromised.

As a result, my father’s doctor recommended that he place himself on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

When my father’s condition took a turn for the worse three years ago, our family had discussed the possibility of a transplant. I happily volunteered myself to be tested, because I am the only one in our immediate family whose blood type is compatible to that of my father’s. Besides, isn’t his body more likely to accept my liver because we are family?

However, my father vehemently refused my offer. J then stepped up and volunteered to be tested as well (we had just recently gotten engaged at this time) and father became visibly upset. He raised his voice and almost shouted at us that the discussion was now closed. Later, my mother would tell me that she had caught my father with tears in his eyes that night.

Now that I am about to become a mother, I am certain that my father will be even more against my donating a slab of my liver. And I’m pretty sure that J will be opposed to it as well, as I will be our baby’s primary caretaker for at least the next couple of years.

On Saturday, J and I visited my father at the hospital.

“You’re going to be a grandfather soon. I want you to be able to play with my daughter and watch her grow up. You need to take care of yourself. Please cut back on your working hours, keep your stress levels to a minimum, and start attending church more regularly with mom,” I begged my father as I sat by his bed.

He agreed, and informed me that he will be placing himself on the waiting list for a liver transplant shortly. There are up to a hundred factors that the transplant committee will take into consideration — the first of which is the urgency of the patient’s condition — including lifestyle, age, general health, number of dependents, and so forth. And despite what the medical dramas and movies say, an organ transplant is a very complicated procedure without a good certainty of success. There is also the fact that my father would probably have a difficult recovery and would need to be on anti-rejection meds for the rest of his life.

However, if a transplant will give my father some extra years, I am all for it. And I pray that he will become approved for a transplant, and that donated liver will become available to him soon.

J and I stayed at the hospital long enough to see my father get discharged, and drove him home. My eyes stung with tears once again during the drive as I realized how much it must hurt my mother to not to be able to be by my father’s side because there is no one else who can watch the stores.

We considered canceling my baby shower which was set for the next day. However, my mother urged me to keep the plans. Although she had planned on preparing several dishes for the shower, she opted to order the food through a catering company instead.

The baby shower was wonderful, and I have to give HUGE props to my sister who not only planned the event, but decorated our home and prepared more than half the dishes. I was overwhelmed by the love and generosity of our friends and family — there was no doubt in my mind that our baby is already loved and welcomed by so many.

I tried my best to keep a smile the entire party. But I have to admit that it was difficult at times. Both of J’s parents had recently had surgery too, so the health of the baby’s grandparents weighed heavily on my mind. At the same time, I felt glad…I was happy that I am able to provide for our parents a grandchild, a new life to focus on and give them renewed hope.

24 Responses to “An Emotional Weekend”

  1. Oh bless your heart. I am so sorry. I hope your father has a good recovery and finds a liver soon. My father has Hepatitis and it's such a worry. Your baby sounds very much loved already.

  2. Sade:

    Praying for you and your family especially your father. Wishing you all the best.

  3. Oh dear, what an awful thing to have to go through!! I worry about my folks' health all the time, and they're fairly healthy people. I want them to live to 100 because I hate the fact of either of them ever dying… it's just too much to even think about.

    My dad found out he has a fatty liver about a year ago, and I called him up and sternly told him to start exercising, stop eating crap, and get healthy so he could see his (eventual) grandchildren get married some day, darnit.

    How serious it to give someone part of your liver? Is it a 'cut-you-all-the-way-open thing" or a laproscopic thing?

    It IS wonderful to see how much you love your family, and how loved your daughter will be. I'll be praying for your family.

  4. JoAnna:

    I adore your blog and am sorry to hear this. My father had a liver transplant almost 4 years ago in Ft. Worth Texas, after waiting 6 years on the list (he was in stage 4 liver failure and they gave him 2 years max when he went on the list). He suffered from Hepatitis C. I'm not sure about Hep B, but with Interferon treatments, he was able to take his viral load down to 0% and he has had no signs of rejection since the surgery. Over night, his symptoms visibly improved after the transplant. It was hard to see he and my mother go through it- but success is possible. Keep your thoughts positive and your head up. Best wishes to you and yours.

  5. My thoughts are with your family during this time. My parents-in-law have had a rough year healthwise too, so I deeply empathize. Hugs.

  6. I'll definitely be praying for you all. That's rough.

  7. Liesal:

    I'm so sorry you've had to go through this. I'll keep your family in my prayers. I hope things turn out well for your dad.

  8. Vir:

    I definitely feel you. I have not been able to bring myself to blog about it but my dad also has liver cancer. He was given a year to live just a couple of months ago after an aggressive chemotherapy program did not work. My mom told me he told baby k the final prognosis even before he told me, about how he was sorry he couldn't be there to see her grow up. I can't even begin to describe the range of emotions I've been through lately… It has been really challenging trying to have balance.

    Due to the size and number of the tumors, he was not eligible to be on the transplant list. He undergoes a rather experimental treatment this Wednesday as a last ditch effort to shrink the tumors to a size where he can reenter the list and have a chance for a longer life. I covet your prayers since I know you can deeply relate.

    For us, i know the best thing is to spend lots of time with our dads and cherish that time, and try our hardest not to let what we know of their futures with the disease affect what joy we find in today. Your little one will bring much joy, hope and life to your family just like k has for ours. God's timing truly is perfect.

  9. I'm so sorry to hear about your father! I'll definitely keep you and your family in my prayers.

  10. Keeping your father and your family in my prayers!

  11. oh it breaks my heart to hear this. your father and family are in my prayers.

  12. I am so sorry to hear this. As you know, I know firsthand what it is like to be at this point in your pregnancy and have your father's health be so precarious. I have nothing to offer for advice; just prayers for grace and healing mercies.

  13. nellie w:

    I'm sorry you're going through this Jenny. My heart goes out to you. I went through the same thing with my uncle a few years ago and it was very difficult for me. I was his medical advocate and researched a lot on transplants, Hepatitis C, and all the complications. The transplant process can be very frustrating. My thoughts are with you and I wish you the best to you and your family.

  14. BB:

    I'm very sorry that this is happening, especially right now. I hope everything goes smoothly and he's able to get the transplant quickly so he can spend his time being a new grandfather.

  15. I am so sorry to hear about your father. You and your family are in my prayers!

  16. Jen:

    That's so scary! I'm sorry that you and your family have to go through this. I hope that things get better soon!

  17. I'm sorry that you and your family are dealing with this. Transplants are so stressful to everyone involved. I'll keep your family in my prayers.

  18. (((HUG)))
    Your father and your family are in my prayers.

  19. I am so sorry you are going through this right now.

  20. Holley:

    I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. FYI, my dad had a liver transplant in 2002, and it was amazingly successful. He survived for 7+ years after that, and was in excellent health for quite a while. His quality of life afterward, even on the anti-rejection meds, was vastly improved. Let me know if you ever have any questions or want to talk, as I went through something similar with my dad.

  21. I'm so sorry to hear this. My thoughts and prayers will definitely be with your dad and family.

  22. I'm sorry your family is going through this, Jenny. Your father (and a new, healthy liver) are in my prayers.

  23. Reading this made me cry. I am keeping your dad and your family in my thoughts and prayers. xo

  24. Susan:

    Your story sounds so similar to my own. My father (also Korean) had hepatitis B, which led to cirrhosis of the liver. I remember when I was in third grade, I also saw him vomiting and spitting up blood, so reading your post strikes very close to home.
    He had a rare blood type and also needed a transplant. He had a miraculous liver transplant in 2002, when he was at his weakest condition. The doctors assured us he would be fine and would recover well. A few months later, however, he went through another surgery for internal bleeding (which, after they performed, turned out that he hadn't been bleeding) and developed cardiac arrest, from which he passed away. I think his body was too weak to go through that surgery, and the surgery was unnecessary.

    My family is also Christian and my mother and father prayed together and read the Bible together up until his death. It was still really difficult for our whole family. We have comfort and know God's love is with us, but it was and still is not easy.

    I will keep you in prayers… let me know if you ever have any questions or want to talk.

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