Otherworldly Strength, 2. Steadfast Faith and 3. The Importance of Community are what I have witnessed while watching one special family navigate their unique transplant journey. Teddy endured three. We can all take a leaf out of this family’s book to enhance our spirituality. Buckle your seat belts. What follows is a story of tremendous bravery.
I loved meeting Kristen and Teddy when I first entered the family, while dating my husband, Rich. He and their dad, Ted, are brothers and have so much fun together. At age thirteen, Kristen was already quite an accomplished swimmer, and interesting to talk to. On one wintertime visit, Teddy, ten, had just constructed a spherical snow fort. It had a perfect, portal entrance. He proudly proclaimed, “Aunt Terri, come check out my igloo!” Oh, what total music to my ears that he called me Aunt! What a warm welcome. Rich and I would marry a year later.
“…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
As a youngster, Teddy was no stranger to hospitalizations. I marveled at the courage of that young boy. At just six years old, he developed cancer in one of his kidneys. Chemo treatments followed its removal. His mega-talented mom, Kathie, shared some of their experiences with me. She told me that Teddy took losing his hair in stride. He’d grab a handful, hold it high and announce, “Look what I can do!” He could also swallow 13 pills at a time, saying, “Ta-da!” What a kid! And big sister, Kristen, was always supportive of her brother throughout his health crises. She held a maturity beyond her years.
Parents Kathie and Ted, both beloved teachers, never let the health issues interfere with Teddy trying all sorts of opportunities in his childhood. He loved participating in all kinds of sports, and he loved to laugh at goofy stuff with Dad and Uncle Rich.
I remember being in our little apartment with my new husband when he got the phone call from brother Ted. Rich collapsed on our bed, placed a pillow over his face and began to sob. Teddy’s good kidney was in failure.
On our next visit, we saw Teddy’s at-home dialysis apparatus. I was astounded at Kathie and Ted’s meticulous and patient management of it all. I also noticed Teddy’s practical, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other attitude about his nightly plight.
This family never stays down-in-the-dumps during any misfortune. Just do what needs to be done, still live your best life and stay strong.
The next year, Ted gave Teddy one of his kidneys. The family felt bludgeoned when Teddy’s body rejected it. There are no words… We all have high hopes and do the best footwork we can, but we truly never know, without having a crystal ball, what the final outcome will be.
Few of us will ever experience a faith test of this magnitude. I think of Corrie Ten Boom, WWII survivor’s words. “Faith is like radar that sees through the fog –the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.”
Back to dialysis Teddy and his family trudged. But not with their heads hanging. With their shoulders back and their chins lifted. Their motto is never, “Why me?” It is always, “Okay, what next?” I aspire to hold that exemplary attitude and confidence in life. These remarkable people embodied this verse: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
2nd Kidney Transplant
13 year-old Teddy got the miracle call that a kidney was available for transplant. With trepidation after their previous experience, the family took a deep breath and helped Teddy prepare to undergo the surgery.
My husband and I remember when this amazing tween and his amazing dad were on T.V. telling their compelling story. The voiceover was riveting, as father and son played catch.
SUCCESS! And the LA Transplant Games
What a colossal relief; the transplant was successful! In LA this intrepid soul participated in the Transplant Games. Teddy has multiple pictures holding his trophies in the air! Ted described these games as opening up a whole new world. He and Kathie enjoyed the camaraderie of the other parents –who truly understood what this journey was like. Some families had attended with their children for years.
Ted, a fabulous storyteller, told us about a boy named Stuart, who provided organs to many people participating in the Games. Stuart’s dad, present at the Event, despite his son’s new residence in Heaven, exclaimed to the Team, “Go, Stu!” Not a dry eye in the crowd.
A vital bumper sticker states: “Don’t Take Your Organs to Heaven, ‘Cause Heaven Knows We Need Them Here!” Amen.
Teddy’s kidney transplant did its job for thirty-one years! In that time he earned his Communications Degree and has worked as an Editor and Technical Support Engineer for two big-market T.V. stations, for almost a quarter of a century.
After the glory of the mountaintop, this spring the family found themselves in the frustrating valley once again. Teddy’s monthly bloodwork showed that his kidney had lost its effectiveness. A gut-punch after decades of spot-on productivity. It was hard to hear of the commencement of Teddy’s home dialysis regimen, all night, every night, evocative of the past.
During a recent get-together I was again struck by the way Ted and Kathie spoke of the bad news to us. They communicated in their signature matter-of-fact way. Those two never complain! (I would’ve been blubbering all over the place). I’d love God to grant me just one-sixteenth of their perennial can-do attitude, no matter what. This pinnacle of unconditional faith is something I may never achieve in this lifetime.
I am constantly receiving valuable lessons from this outstanding group, and they don’t even realize what incredible role models they are to me.
This fearless young man once again, waited his turn for a kidney to become available, for his third transplant operation.
Sister Kristen decided to get tested to donate, and got approved! Kristen is a valued CRNA, DNP and arranged for the procedure to take place at her hospital. Friday, June 16th, 2023. IT’S A GO!
I had Kristen and Teddy on three Prayer Walls, and notified my friends. Multiple Rosaries went up. Heaven was cheering, blowing trumpets and doing flips on the clouds. As busy as Ted and Kathie were, keeping in touch with their hundreds of friends, they texted us updates during the entire surgical process.
Most of us take our kidneys for granted. No thought to the magnificent functions they perform for our bodies. We might lament, “Gotta pee –how disruptive –what a hassle!” Kathie texted us, “Kristen’s kidney is OUT, and producing urine already, on the table!”
A TRIUMPHANT SUCCESS! Brother and sister came through with flying colors. We jumped up and down at the news, doing a happy dance in our living room.
Teddy enjoyed turning in all his dialysis equipment and supplies; the wall of boxes taking up almost an entire room in his house. Teddy is so grateful for his sister’s precious organ. What a bond for these siblings to share forever.
The Importance of Community-“God With Skin On It”
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt.11:28
Ted emphasized that this was not at all a solo journey. He expressed how vital and nurturing their community was, stalwart throughout the many ordeals. Way back at the beginning, when six-year-old Teddy was in the hospital getting his cancerous kidney removed right before Christmas, they were traveling back and forth multiple times. One neighbor went down the street, gathering hospital parking garage cash to present to Ted and Kathie. So incredibly thoughtful and handy –one less worry, while they were bursting with everything.
Also during these rough weeks, Kristen performed in a Christmas Concert. Kathie started to choke up when they sang, “Silent Night”. She walked into the church’s Cry Room, and fellow concertgoers, plus the pastor, came to her and held her hands. Thirty-nine years later, Ted and Kathie’s hearts fill with this memory.
Not only people from their schools showed up, but also friends who helped in ways this couple will never forget. Some lifted up copious prayers. Others listened. Social Workers helped with navigating all facets of relentless hospital paperwork and insurance.
When Ted taught an Acting Class days before that rugged Christmas, his students chipped in together to present a wonderful, cuddly Teddy Bear for Teddy. That beloved stuffed animal followed Teddy to college. To this day, at forty-five, Teddy has that awesome gift in a place of honor on his shelf.
My favorite family are all SUPERHEROES. I will always look up to them. I love their happy ending.
“You have turned my mourning into dancing.” Psalm 30:11