34 AND COUNTING

Andy Hollifield 10-6-17
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Sufficient. The only definition that makes any sense is “adequate for the purpose; enough.” I don’t whole-heartedly agree with that. Not only have I found the Lord’s grace to be sufficient, but I have found it to be MORE than sufficient and far and above what I would have expected and certainly more than I could ever be deserving of. While a lot of you that are reading this could agree to that statement, especially regarding salvation, I am talking about one particular event in my life. An event that no one saw coming and one of the last things anyone would have expected. It was one of those things that happened to other people, and old people, not to an 18 year old kid.
Let’s go back in time to October 6, 1983. I was a cocky but confident 18 year old kid, just graduated high school nearly 5 months before. This particular day found me in a hospital room with my older brother waiting for the orderlies to come and wheel us down to the operating room. As many of my classmates were just entering the military and many had just started college a couple months earlier and still others had entered the shocking reality of the real world; here I was 150 miles from home waiting to have a surgery that would change my life forever in ways I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
Somewhere over the course of my 18 1/2 years I had developed a problem. After going to my family doctor for a knee injury received in baseball practice when I was 12, I mentioned a problem that I had since shortly after I had started school. After discussing it with my mom and I, he felt it would be to my benefit to send me to Dr. Karl Bitter who was a local urologist. After visiting the doctor, he was optimistic that he could treat my condition and probably get it resolved with medicine and some lifestyle changes. To make a long story a little shorter, that approach didn’t work. Dr. Bitter then referred me to Dr. Miles Elmore at the Ashevile Kidney Center. When I was 16 during Easter break I believe, Dr. Elmore did a kidney biopsy. Due to the abnormally small size of my kidneys, about half the size they should have been, the surgery had to be done with a huge incision in my side. After the tissue samples returned, it was determined that I had kidney disease. It was believed that I had probably had a kidney infection as a small child that had went undetected and therefore untreated. Over the next 10 years or so, my kidneys had began to deteriorate and simply wash away in my blood stream. They also had a lot of scar tissue which couldn’t be explained. That spring day in 1981 when I went to Dr. Elmore for a checkup and to get the results of the biopsy, I was told that probably some day, when I was an old man, I would either go on dialysis or have to have a kidney transplant. I was told to have a nice life and he would see me back I think in a year. Roll forward a couple years to January 19th, 1983. It was a clear but cool winter day and I had an appointment for a checkup with Dr. Elmore. All that was really on my mind was getting to my girlfriends house in Barnardsville to pick her up for church. Little did I know after my exam, when he told me to come into his office and shut the door, that the world I had lived in from birth was about to disappear forever. As I shut the door and sat down, without even looking up from my chart, Dr. Elmore said the devastating words that are forever engrained in my memory: “In the next year, you are either going to have to have a kidney transplant or go on dialysis.” “Wait a minute, that can’t be right” I thought, “I am only seventeen. I am a senior and fixing to graduate.” Unfortunately, it was right and as I walked out of the doctor’s office that day, I left the world of innocence behind and stepped into the shocking reality of what was going to be my world.
As I got in my car that day,I don’t think I even cried right away. I may have on the way home, I can’t remember. All I could really think about then was how I was going to tell mom. How do you tell your mom that her baby boy is staring death and uncertainty in the face. How do you tell your mom that the future her son was planning and also the hopes and dreams she may of had for him are now shattered pieces of history. This may sound a little over-dramatic to you, but I pray that you never have to find out firsthand how wrong you are. Seventeen years old and now any plans I had were now out the window or at least put on hold. My kidney function had gone from 41% at the time of the biopsy in 1981 to 25% less than two years later. Then something else occured to me; how was I ever going to tell Annette? I had no right to expect her to have to deal with that. Shoot, I didn’t even know how to deal with it myself.
When I got home, I am not sure exactly what the conversation was because by then, everything was a blur. I told mom what the doctor said and then I went on to Barnardsville. When I told Annette what the doctor had said, we both cried and she made plans to go with me when I had the surgery but over the next three months, my personality changed and the way I was told about a year later; I wasn’t easy to be around at times. She broke up with me and I guess I can’t really blame her.
I was told by my mom that when she told my older brother what the doctor said; while making a bologna sandwich, he said without hesitation, “I have 2 if he needs one. Just let me know when I need to take off from work.” That really was all of the thought he put into it. Now, here we were, after him having a week of testing to see if he was a match and me having had almost 3 months of dialysis, just waiting for the orderlies. As we waited and talked to mom and dad and my pastor Bruce West and his wife Stella, we were cutting up a little and my brother told me “take care of this thing, you ain’t getting the other one.” I know there had to be a nervousness in my laugh because there were no guarantees. If this didn’t work for some reason, I had a lifetime of dialysis to look forward to. I knew from having been there, that it wasn’t really a bright future.
We had the surgery that morning and a few hours later the surgeon stopped by ICU and told me the kidney had started working within 30 minutes of being connected. It often took hours and maybe even a day. The Lord had certainly answered a lot of prayers. My brother and I were as close of a match as possible without being identical twins. That improved my odds but still was not a guarantee. I had been told that there was almost always a rejection episode a week after surgery and sure enough, they hit the nail on the head. After having overcome pneaumonia in ICU without the benefit of medicine, here I was at one o’clock in the morning with nurses running around and taking my cover and my clothes, except for my briefs, and packing me with ice bags on all 4 of the major arteries going to my extremities to cool my blood and reduce my fever and they also put me on a cooling blanket. Talk about torture, the only way I could stand it was to lay perfectly still and get numb. If I didn’t move, it was bearable but still pretty miserable. I didn’t know a whole lot but they had told me that a fever of 100 or more needed immediate attention because that was a sure sign of rejection. In three hours time I went from normal and watching the World Series to 105.3 and dreaming out of my head. That is most likely the only time in history that the World Series was moved to Ollie Weaver Road in Weaverville. See, I told you I was out of my head. When I got coherent enough to comprehend the seriousness of the situation, even I knew that it wasn’t good. I didn’t know until years later just how bad it was.
About 5:30 in the morning, the cooling blanket quit, which I was kind of happy about but at the same time, I knew that my kidney and possibly my life was hanging in the balance. Around 7:00 they took me downstairs for an ultrasound. To my surprise, when I asked the technician what it looked like, he actually told me it looked like it had rejected. Technicians never tell you anything but that one did. For the sake of time I will just tell you that my doctor began giving me 5 doses of I think steroids intravenously. She said that if they failed to jumpstart my kidney, there was nothing else they could do. A few days and 3 doses later they stopped the IV treatments. My creatinine had dropped into the acceptable range indicating that my kidney function had greatly improved. The order had already been written to remove the kidney on a certain date if it didn’t start working.
I would spend 3 1/2 weeks in the hospital before being discharged on the 28th, my mom and dad’s 21st anniversary. Dad made it down to the hospital right after mom and I walk out the door. I knew how long it took to drive from Asheville to Winston and it was a lot longer than what dad took that day. I was back in the hospital a couple weeks later for a high fever. They kept me about 4 or 5 days and I slept it off and have never been admitted for my kidneys since then. Today is my 34th anniversary of the second greatest event in my life. The first was when the Lord saved my soul on October 3rd, 1973. You may think that my wedding and the birth of my son should rank ahead of the surgery but without it, those two would have probably never taken place. I have had a few bone issues and 3 joint replacements but I will take them. For the life that God, by way of my older brother Jim, gave to me that is a small price to pay. I hope you have enjoyed reading this because I have sure enjoyed writing it. Sometimes it is good to look back at the dark times in your life and see just how much God has blessed you, then and now. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

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