Coming back right in time for the season to begin
For the past five years, you have been used to reading my columns right here every week – without fail – around the year.
I know that many have asked where the column has been over the past three months, and I have answered so many of you who took the time to write and send messages.
Because I am very private when it comes to my personal life – and never make things about me – there was one huge part of my life that I rarely shared with many.
For the past 10 years, I have battled kidney disease. While I found ways to slow down the process – with diet and other health-related ways of dealing with something of this serious nature – my body began to give in to the disease at the middle of 2013, forcing me to step up my quest to find a transplant, so my quality of life would improve.
It had been a huge mental and physical struggle to keep up the kind of schedule that I had been accustomed to for nearly 35 years of my professional life – so being on a transplant list was my only alternative in dealing with this.
When I came out and began to tell many about my condition, the response was overwhelming. People who I have known for 30 plus years began to support me and understand that my life would be changed forever.
While I remained on the list through Jackson Memorial’s Kidney Transplant unit, others began to actually step up and test to see if they could be possible donors. That was something that really made me understand how special people could be – especially in a time of such need.
In November of last year, I was told that I had a match – and someone would donate a kidney and that it could happen by the end of the year. Losing weight and watching my energy levels drop, it was truly something that had me excited, but at the same time, scared of what would be ahead.
As the time drew closer, the person who donated didn’t want me to know who it was – but being the reporter I have been for over four decades – I found out. It was a friend from college who had read my letter that I wrote on social media about having this disease and living with it daily.
Getting ready for the Dec. 30th transplant date, my excitement grew as I wondered how it would feel to be “normal” again and want to eat and drink without feeling sluggish and worn down. But even in the most joyous of occasions, there are always setbacks – and that I found out on Christmas Eve.
As I prepared to go for my final blood matching, I was called back to the transplant center immediately. They saw that my blood platelet levels had dropped – almost to a point where it was too dangerous.
With the time running down and the holidays right in front of us, things didn’t look good. My donor was ready to fly in from the Midwest, but was I ready? That would be something that didn’t start the new year off in the way we had hoped. Three days before the scheduled surgery, the doctors had to postpone the operation to see why by platelets had dropped.
While I still remained optimistic, much of January, February and March had been seeking out blood and liver specialists to see why this was happening and preventing this life-changing surgery. It became a mental drain, as my joy began to turn to wonder. It was a very challenging time. With my struggles to keep my weight up, and several procedures to seek out answers, I was told that blood injections could raise the levels enough to get the transplant and then pray that the kidney was the culprit in this entire change.
While I spent little time worrying about my kidney and more on the cause of what was happening in my body, the time moved along slowly, waiting for something positive to happen.
With a May 6th date now planned for the surgery, it was a very trying April that would hopefully pave the way for the transplant. While so much effort went into finding out if certain injections could raise the levels enough, a solution was found and the injection was the answer.
Now, as we waited, was this going to be enough? Was the timing right to have the right levels on that Tuesday, May 6th? Again, while nothing is ever certain, we had hoped and prayed that we found out what was delaying my life change.
As we counted down the days, each and every moment became a milestone. Dates and times were more important than ever. Six days before the scheduled surgery, we were given the first injection. Would it be enough? As the weekend came and went, that Monday – less than 24 hours before the surgery – and my donor in town with his wife – I went for that final blood test. The injection had indeed gotten the numbers to that line where it was safe for the transplant.
All Monday night, I tossed and turned, happy for the outcome, but scared of all that had transpired and what was ahead. On Tuesday morning, I woke at 4:00 and went with my wife to the hospital. My last tweet on Twitter read: “Life-changing Day, Pray For us.”
On Tuesday afternoon – nearly five hours after I went into surgery, my life had indeed changed. I had the kidney, but the road ahead would be long, still challenging and daunting.
After five days in the hospital I came home, but the next three months have indeed been filled with trial, error and many ups and downs in a process that began over a decade ago.
The only thing that had gotten me through these past three months is my always positive attitude and the belief that someone always has it worse.
Last week, I celebrated three months as a transplant patient. Still watching my diet and ever-changing kidney and body levels, I realize that this is not a one or two month fight, but something – with daily medicines – that will be part of my daily life.
As I head back to my football and work grinds, I am indeed a blessed man. I realize how others have not been as fortunate to have someone special step up and make this change for me and my family and those who I contact every day.
With as many contacts as I have made throughout my professional and personal life, I have channeled my energies into helping others deal with what I go through daily. I started the Our Boy Blu Foundation, which is dedicated to bringing awareness to kidney disease and the need to do more research when it comes to organ donation.
The foundation has been a voice for me to use in blogs, articles and support others who share and help me with information that is vital to others. I am using the fact that people have followed me and listen to me on radio, watch me on TV and read my many columns and website postings.
I am indeed happy to be back and writing this column – and understand that this fight that I am going through will be in me always.
If you would like to help our foundation grow, please send what you can to: Our Boy Blu Foundation, P.O. Box 3181, Hallandale Beach, Fl. 33009. You can help miracles come true. I have seen it first hand.
Thanks so much for all your support. Now, let’s get on with the 2014 season!