Learn. Live. Hope, Uncategorized

I Am Grateful; I Am Not Satisfied

Don’t worry this isn’t a dictionary lesson.

Grateful:  a) feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful b) expressing gratitude Satisfy: a) to make happy, to please; b) to gratify to the full; appease

Overall, the last two months have been, for the most part, pretty busy and entertaining for me.  After the holidays were over and January rolled around, I went to St. Augustine, FL to visit my mom, step-father, and to surprise my little sister for her 25th birthday for about a week.  While I was there, my grandparents came to visit, and then I rode with them back to their winter home in Fort Meyers and stayed an additional week.  The following weekend after returning from Florida, I went up to Boston for a short weekend to spend time with a few of my friends from college who live decently close to each other.  The weekend after that I went to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT and saw Bon Jovi put on a 2-hour kick-ass live show…for free!  I can definitely agree that January and most of February were rather eventful months for me.  The last few weeks, on the other hand, have been more on the dull and uninteresting side.  I am not complaining, just stating facts.

I’ve been basically confined to the house with sporadic modes of transportation available to me here-and-there (depending on my family member’s schedules’), and it has begun to start to put me a little-bit “on edge”.  I absolutely believe I do a great job of finding ways to entertain myself and keep my mind busy.  I am also rather physically active, circumstances considered, which keeps me entertained frequently.  Still, it is unfortunately starting to wear away at me a bit; not having my independence that is.

I have noticed I have been getting very frustrated.  Frustrated that I can’t drive.  Frustrated that when I need to go somewhere that I need to find a ride.  Frustrated that I usually can’t be alone when I’m shopping, or alone at all sometimes.  Frustrated by all of the brotherly teenage bickering and yelling and farting.  My only “escape” is the room I stay in, but it is still not fully excluded from everything considering it is household public-access to the mini-office, work-out, and playroom.

This blog is not about me bitching up a fit.  This blog is about me realizing and sharing the true difference between what being grateful and being satisfied is.  Yes, I am frustrated that I cannot drive, but I am extremely grateful that I have enough of my vision field to still do many things.  Yes, I get frustrated always having to depend on a ride, but I am grateful that I have family that is willing and kind enough to drive me around.  Yes, I get very annoyed when the boys are loud and fighting, and when there never seems to be a moment of “fresh, clean air” while either of them are in the room if ya know what I mean, but, still, I am grateful to have them as my “brothers”.  Yes, I am frustrated that I used to live independently and now I feel like I am somewhat re-living my early teenage years, but I am grateful that my family has allowed me to be a part of their home, grateful to call them my family, and above all, I am grateful to be alive.

Today in the shower, as my mind was racing, “What is wrong with me?  What is your problem Mo?  Why are you on such a short-fuse so much lately?  C’mon get it together Mo.”  I kept thinking and asking myself questions, and thinking some more.  I came to the conclusion that I am grateful for everything and everyone in my life, but I am not satisfied with my life and that there is a difference.

Well, what is the difference between being grateful of your life and being satisfied with it?  The difference, for me at least, is I am so very appreciative of my life and that I have been given a second chance to make it satisfactory and fulfilling, but I am currently not fully satisfied with it.  Yes I am alive, but I want to be living; not trapped.

Not being able to drive does restrict my freedom and independence more than I would have ever thought, but I have been making-due.  The problem is I don’t want to “make-due.”  That has never been a mind-set of mine, and I don’t want to be content with “making-due.”  Ever.

I dream of being on my own, having a career, living in my own house, driving my own car, etc.  Not that I want to be alone all-of-the-time, I just dream to simply have my independence back.  I’m 27 and I live with my aunt, uncle, and cousins and the closest thing to my old “Mo-bile” now is riding shot-gun in my grandma’s Toyota Camry…with my grandma.  The luxury of “leaving and going as you please” doesn’t seem like a luxury until you have it suddenly snatched away from your feet.  I know “independence” is what I want, but how do I get it?  I went to the mall the other day and I didn’t see anything on sale for “Independence.” Purchase now and your first 3 months are free!”  Haha, I wish.

So, since “independence” isn’t for sale, how am I going I take my dreams and put them into an active game plan?  This can be tricky for my particular situation, because some of my goals are somewhat dependent on my medical progress, doctor’s diagnoses, etc.  My goals aren’t like, “I want to lose 10 lbs.” or “I want to run a 5K.”  While some of my goals are indeed like those, the ones I am talking about now are much different, such as, “I want to be able to see” and “I want to be able to drive”.  The only control I really have with goals like these is to just continue keeping-up with all of my doctor’s appointments, medications, staying healthy, and thinking positive.  After that, I am not sure if there is anything else I can do, but just patiently wait.

I often wonder what other people would do and how they would react if they were in my shoes.  The reason I wonder, is because I am constantly in conflict with myself, and always looking for more, and I wonder is that normal or not?  Then I question should I be satisfied with how things are?  Is it bad that I am still not yet satisfied with my life?  With all said and done, I did get a liver.  I survived two serious brain infections.  I am healthy.  I am alive.  I have wonderful friends and family.  Is it selfish of me, that I want more for my life than just being grateful and awake each day?  I want to be satisfied.

I would be satisfied if I was living every moment to the absolute fullest I could each day.  I know that isn’t possible due to time and monetary restraints, but this doesn’t stop me from trying.  I will steadily plug away each day at my goals until I get to where I want to be.  The problem is, I am never completely satisfied with where I am at, and I always want more.  Mo, always wants mo’–I am always trying to out-do myself in whatever it is I do.  I am my own worst enemy, and whether that is a good or a bad thing, I have yet to determine.

In one way, I believe it is a great thing, because I’m always trying to work harder, to make things better than they were before.  Settling is not in my vocabulary-for anything, or anybody.  On the other hand, sometimes I think I’m ready to do things, but my body is not, I push anyway, and I end up setting myself back a tiny-bit further from where I began.  It is vicious cycle of balancing, and that is something I have gotten much better at, yet still have plenty of room for improvement.

The truth of it all is I really don’t know what will make me truly satisfied?  Will I ever be able to get to a point where I can say, “That’s it?  I am here and this is the best life can possibly be.”  Who knows?  But ya know what?  That is okay because it keeps me continuously working hard at my goals.  When I’m working hard at my goals, trying until I can’t try any more, that is the one thing that I do find satisfactory in my life. That feeling that I’ve done everything I could possibly do, leaving no room for excuses.  It is a hard feeling to get to, especially with me since I am never satisfied ; )

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”
~Andrew Carnegie, American Industrialist & Philanthropist 

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” ~unknown



Against All Odds

“I’ve always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me, I never quit trying; I never felt that I didn’t have a chance to win.” ~Arnold Palmer

When I was released from the hospital (this past June 2012), the first step to getting back on my feet, was literally, getting back on my feet.  I was having a very difficult time walking without assistance. I had been bed-ridden for so long not to mention my body had just survived several traumatic surgeries.  Even though in my mind I felt like I was ready to basically jump on the saddle of life and say “giddy up,” my body wasn’t quite on-board with what I wanted to be doing.  When I wasn’t sleeping, going to one of my many doctor’s appointments, having speech, occupational, physical, visual, or psychotherapy, there was a very good chance you could find me reading and researching.

I looked up everything I could on my diagnoses, treatments and medications.  I read about pre and post-transplantation, organ donation, statistics, and truly educated myself on everything I could about basically anything I could.  To my surprise, I became somewhat intrigued by some of the things I had read, and it was a productive way to consume my time.  I liked it when my doctors were discussing results or numbers in front of me, because I somewhat had an idea of what they were talking about. That gave me a slight feeling of almost, comfort, you could say, considering it was MY body that was headlining discussion.

Obviously, many things in my situation were out of my control when I was in-the-hands of my medical team.  I was an active patient in my treatment though; I not only became more educated, but I was better prepared for what I was about to endure.  I knew it was going to be rough, but I had to preserve even when it didn’t seem like there was an ounce of energy left in me .  Rather than dwelling on all of the distress going on within my body and my surroundings, I somehow managed to put my game face on, and I haven’t seemed to turn it off.

My only hope of surviving the fungal infection in my brain, was to be on a very aggressive dual treatment of both the Amphoteracin B and 600 mg/day of Voriconazole (which I still continue to take, and probably will for another year or so).  The Ampho is a very toxic and rather intolerable form of treatment for many patients, similar to chemotherapy.  My doctors were extremely careful in monitoring my blood levels to make sure my kidney levels didn’t get too high, and also to make sure it wasn’t causing damage to other parts of my body.  This was while simultaneously managing my anti-rejection medication levels for my new, transplanted liver.  The more Ampho I was on (to kill the Aspergillus in my brain), the higher my kidney levels went.  My medication levels were like a see-saw, up-and-down, balancing anti-fungal therapy for my brain vs my kidney function.  The anti-fungal treatment needed to be aggressive if I wanted any chance of surviving, and even then, there was no guarantee.

On-top-of the anti-fungal therapy, I was experiencing many side-effects from all of the medication I was on. Certain medications I was taking were prescribed to off-set the side-effects of another medication, which also would then have a minor side-effect of itself.  I was swallowing 46 pills/day at this time; add to that lingering anesthesia from all of the surgeries, and it is safe to say my world was a decent fog.

As I mentioned, I was a rather inquisitive patient (and still am).  I was always requesting my nurses to bring me my recent lab reports so that I could analyze them.  That curiosity continued throughout my “recovery” period as I would compile lists of questions based on my findings to ask my medical team.  During rounds my doctors would come in and rattle-off a bunch of big medical terminology that initially left me dumbfounded.  I was motivated to learn what was wrong with me and learn what possibilities lie ahead for me.

I wasn’t always in a state-of-mind to do this by myself.  When I was in a state of delirium, someone in my family was always there to get the recap from the docs what was going on.  I guess even when I wasn’t “awake”, I still inherently knew that my family was right there beside me, giving their full love and support, and that, I believe, gave me an insurmountable amount of strength and courage.

According to the data and the statistics of my research findings, there is not much data to support me being alive.  For myself to be doing as fantastic as I am, to have recovered as quickly as I have, was not anything anybody expected, except myself.  I knew I didn’t want to be sick or let being “disabled” get the best of me.  My impressive medical team at Yale, combined with my the love and support I was receiving from my incredible friends and family spread-out all over the country, gave me enough confidence and strength to believe in myself to fight for my life, fight through my recovery.  I had the feeling that everything was going to turn out all-right, and not just alright, but I have a feeling it is going to turn out better than I even imagined.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an MRI of my brain and a follow-up appointment with my infectious disease doctor, Dr. Topal.  Doc called me a “miracle child.” If that isn’t enough, he went on to say there there are only a “handful” of people since the early 2000’s to be diagnosed with invasive aspergillus and survive.  He also said that they are not exactly certain as to how long I will be on the anti-fungal medication, Voriconazole, due to how extremely rare and fatal Invasive Aspergillus is.  There is lacking data to support virtually more than a handful of survivors; fortunately, my body is tolerating this medication very well, and because of that I will continue taking Voriconazole to prevent any chance of the fungus returning to my brain.

I could be scared, I probably should be scared, because I am essentially a guinea pig relying on a medication to save me from an infection that has almost a 100% mortality rate in immunosuppressed patients post-transplantation.  While I have no control of how my body handles this medication, what I do have control of is to follow my doctor’s to a T.  I stay very active and eat healthy, and after that, I just cross my fingers and look-up and say pray to the big dude in the sky to keep looking out for me; the rest is out of my hands.  Knowing I did and still do everything I can do to get well, this physical and mental combination of satisfaction is essential in me being able to put my best foot forward in battling sickness, but more importantly, it is essential to my overall well-being as a human.

Now, for the odds.  Before the Invasive Aspergillus (IA) came about, getting a successful liver transplant was my number one priority.  Without a new, transplanted liver, (and without it very quickly I might add), I was sure to die.  I tend to aim-high and set goals that one might consider to be “out-of-my-league,” and that doesn’t stop when it comes to my medical attention.  I wanted the best medical treatment I could get and I was not going to settle for anything less than the best.  This was my body, my life, my future I was talking about.

It’s not all about me though.  What really motivated me was that thought if let liver disease kill me, that doesn’t just affect me, but many people would suffer from if I passed.  My grandma cries when a Whitney Houston song comes on, what the hell is she going to do if I don’t make it?!?  I did want to be strong for me, but really I had to be strong for my family, and for my friends.  If I died and was “Angel Mo-ski” looking down from heaven in my stunna shades and saw my family a mess because of me, I know my angel heart would feel a heavy weight of disappointment.

I wasn’t about to just sulk and throw a pity party for myself. No, sir.  Instead, I was like how do I attack this?  What do I need to do? Where do I need to go?  How do I get there?  With that being said, I did my research, and Yale has an amazing reputation for many things, including being one of the top transplant facilities that you can go to, and it also happens to be not too far from about 90% of my family.

Any transplant program can claim to be the best. But when it comes to measuring how good a transplantation center is, data speaks louder than words. According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, a national database of organ transplantation statistics (through 12/31/10):

After digging for statistics I found just about everything one could possibly find about Yale Transplant on this website here:  http://www.srtr.org/csr/current/Centers/201206/pdf/CTYNTX1LI201206NEW.pdf

I communicated back-and-forth with five different medical facilities in the area, but I had my heart set-on Yale.  I just had this feeling that everything was going to be okay if I want to Yale, and I wasn’t planning on going anywhere else.  Applying to a transplant program I found to be a similar process to the college application process.  In terms of the transplant approval process, you have to apply, correspond, and get accepted based on whether your insurance approves you.  I had narrowed my five hospitals down to two; Yale and Mt. Sinai.  I was scheduled to meet with Mt. Sinai for an evaluation, but luckily, two days before that appointment, I was able to get an evaluation appointment at Yale.

My first appointment at Yale was to see if I was an eligible candidate to be a transplant patient.  The doctor who evaluated me was Dr. Schilsky, the head of Transplantation at Yale.  Dr. Schilsky looked at my charts from Greenville, looked at me, and his exact words were this looks “worrisome.” He called for me to be admitted right-then and there. The next thing I know they were calling for a wheel-chair to wheel me to the transplant floor.  After waiting for a prolonged time for the transport to come, Dr. Schilsky wheeled me to 9West (the transplant floor) himself.  There I was with no bags packed, just me, and my wheelchair, being rolled to the transplant floor at Yale, having no idea what was going to happen next.

I knew I was ill, and I knew it wasn’t looking good,  but I never fully embraced the notion that I was ill enough to die at any moment.  I don’t know if it was the medication, and that I was very lethargic and in-and-out of consciousness constantly, but when I was awake, and when I did know what was going on, I was never really scared.  I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I did not fear death, and honestly, I still don’t.  I didn’t allow myself to absorb anything negative; not words, not thoughts, not statistics, nothing.  I look back at photos taken in the hospital and I am smiling holding up some version of a peace sign in almost every picture.  You can see tubes coming out of my nose and mouth, my arms entirely bruised purple (from being poked by so many needles so many times each day), I’ve got staples in my skull with my head blingin’ like I just left the set of a Ke$ha video, but yet, I’m still smiling.  How is that even possible?

Most people in the same situation, I would imagine, would be freaking out.  Don’t get me wrong, I am human, and I did freak out inside a little, but in retrospect I think to myself all of the time, how did I not completely lose my cool?  I have to say, it must be because my extended family was right there with me the entire way.  I would sometimes be in dementia or unconscious for a day or two but sometimes I would wake-up and be coherent not missing a beat.  It was so strange.

It’s not like any of that was fun, but it was happening, whether I liked it or not.  And while I couldn’t control what was going on, I could control how I handled the situation.  I knew that losing my cool would get me nowhere closer to getting better, so I tried my best to keep it together.  Don’t get me wrong, had my moments where I was skeptical, but I was able to bounce back from them quickly and move on.  The key was not to dwell on what might have been negative at the moment, but rather to distract myself with positive thoughts of my friends, family, and future.  Did having a positive guarantee me of surviving?  Who can know for sure?  Deep down in my heart, I know the love that surrounded me combined with the faith I had in myself, showed a much more promising rate of survival than any stat you could (or could not) find.

I had missed calls, texts and Facebook messages that were so deeply encouraging, and utterly touching to me, I found myself laughing and crying throughout my time in the hospital.  I kept all of the messages and look back from time-to-time, just to remind me how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life.  I was, and I am still in complete shock, with everything.  I was like, holy smokes, I must be the luckiest person in the whole world.  It seemed like so many people cared about me, or cared about my health at least, and I feel so, so grateful to have that kind of support.

My hospital room in Greenville was unlike any other hospital room I’m sure anyone has ever seen in their life.  I had flowers and stuffed animals lining the windowsill and out-looking the parking lot of the hospital.  Every single person who came to visit me colored at least one picture out of one of the many coloring books floating around.

Hospital Room

I had visitors left and right, friends spending the night, it was like a 24-7 party going on in my hospital room with everybody and everything going on.  The nurses loved it, doctors would come in and be like is this a hospital room?  The brightness of my room, the vibe my room gave-off, combined with my friends and the laughs–it never gave me the time to let any of the negativity really set-in.  If you have no one to share good times and laughs with, then what really is the purpose of life? I was surrounded by love, and without-a-doubt that contributed greatly to me surviving, and I thank each and everyone one of my friends who came to visit me in Greenville in the hospital, you guys are so incredibly amazing, and I love you so much.

When I moved to CT and was admitted to Yale, it didn’t take long before my family got on the same trend and started coloring and hanging pictures in my room to keep the vibe going. I kept getting switched hospitals rooms from the 9th floor (transplant floor) to the 4th floor ICU depending on how sick I was.  Even though each room was slightly different in shape and size, it was always filled my family and that is what matters.  For 52 days, those hospital rooms were my “home,” and it just seemed like I was never going to get leave.

As soon as I got through one surgery, and everything seemed for a brief second like things might just be okay, somehow, something worse would happen to me.  I get through a liver transplant and think I’m done and ready to be home within 10-days, but no then I manage to inquire an extremely rare and lethal fungal infection in my brain that has almost a 100% mortality rate?  Okay, I survive the first surgery, but my surgeons were unable to remove all of the infection for fear that it would paralyze me, or leave me completely blind or deaf, and that’s only if I survived.  This meant a second, risker brain surgery was in my near future if I wanted to survive. As my family would say, “you can’t even make this shit up.

“Cerebral aspergillosis has a poor prognosis in immunocompromised patients, with the mortality rate approaching 100%.” (“Invasive Aspergillosis of the Brain:  Radiologic-Pathologic Correlation.”  Radio Graphics. http://radiographics.rsna.org/content/29/2/375.full.  June 2008.)

Everything happened so quickly and I was going through so much physically and mentally, that it is only until now, months after being discharged, that I was able to process and understand everything that I went through. It had initially taken a toll on me physically, mentally, and psychologically, but I did what I could to take on each day as a new day.

How I make the best of each day is by being physically active.  I feel myself getting stronger on a daily basis, which is motivating in itself.  I have always loved listening to music and occasionally drawing and writing silly poems, but since my transplant I have found additional comfort in writing, and discovered that it not only keeps me productive, but people seem to enjoy what I have to share.  I also have found writing to be therapeutic, so it serves a multiple purpose. I also really enjoy  baking delicious gluten-free recipes, and it excites me to change-around recipes I have found and make them my own.  I designed, created, and maintain my aunt’s website for her group, COPE (www.iwillcope.com) and potentially might be able to make some more websites here soon. (Months after writing this blog, I created another website, http://www.justsaymo.org).  The point is, even though I can’t do everything I want to do when I want to do it, I have found other more creative ways to utilize my time, and that is fine by me.

“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” ~Orison Swett Marden



COPE (Community Outreach for Purpose and Empowerment)

COPE (Community Outreach for Purpose and Empowerment)

I have always had this thought in my head that I was going to do something great one day, but never knew what.  I am constantly asking myself questions all of the time in regards to what I really want to do, but have never found any concrete answers, and it has been chipping away at me each and every day for years.  I know what I like, but what do I love?  What is my passion?  What am I destined to do?  Is this something I will be proud of ten years down the road?  I’m 27, and I still don’t really have everything figured out; all I do know is that I don’t want to spend my life feeling “stuck” doing something that I find meaningless.  I want to be able to look back on my life and be satisfied with who I am and what I have done.

Through self-interrogation, I’ve found that what makes me feel good is when I make other people feel good, especially about themselves, and that I want to make a difference in people’s lives; whether it is one person or potentially millions.  I want to take my experiences, my mistakes, my regrets, my victories, everything, and be able to share what I have learned with people who are maybe in the same place I recently was.  I want to show them that no matter how down or horrible life may seem at times, it is basically just testing you to “see whatcha got”.  When you are confronted with a difficult situation or any obstruction, you have the choice to let it block your path and stop you from where you are going, or you have the choice to find a way around it and keep moving forward.  I personally choose to knock my road-block down, right on it’s ass, screw the detour, and now I am traveling (slightly over the speed limit) cruising headed straight for “Achievement Avenue.”  If you are headed in my direction I mostly certainly have room for you, but if you are headed south toward “Sink Town,” you might want to consider a boat to keep you afloat to get you to where you are going.  Metaphors aside, most importantly, I am on the path in which I am proud of who I am and what I am doing.

So, I got “the feeling” that I can feel it in my gut, when something good or bad is going to happen.  I am sometimes not very good at articulating these gut feelings into words that others will always understand.  My gut has an innate ability to sense the good and the bad in the near future, and over-time I’ve learned that I need to just go with what my gut is trying to tell me.  It is a tingling in my stomach, a subtle feeling of nauseousness, but I am able to differentiate it from being sick.  Well, I got the feeling a few days ago, and today I have had it all day long, which somehow turned into me dancing and singing like a crazy fool around the house in my headphones singing Carly Rae Jepsen songs.

“Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine” (Mario Fernandez).  It couldn’t be more true for me right now.  Last year, I basically experienced a living-hell.  If you know me at all or have kept up with me via Facebook or my blogs you may know a little bit, or maybe even a lot about of what I’ve endured.  The storm (more like a category 5 hurricane), came and went, the fog followed shortly after, and now I can finally see the sun peaking through the clouds.

As I mentioned earlier, I have always had in my mind that big things were eventually going to come my way, but I just didn’t really know what I wanted or where I wanted to direct my energy towards.  My aunt has also always had a big vision of what her future would hold, which would include helping people in some way, but she wasn’t exactly sure how either.  In the past couple of years she has been brainstorming several ideas, but it is not until I got ill, that Caryn and I realized that our own strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and we make a great team together.

With that being said, we have formed a community outreach group called COPE (Community Outreach for Purpose and Empowerment) which we have just recently launched this week.  I have been working hard to put together the website, Facebook, Twitter, yada yada and it is up and running.  Caryn has been really excited for COPE, and her energy feeds right into mine, and then I start to get excited.  It’s hard to say exactly where we are going from here, but what I am certain of is that the combination of Caryn and myself with our driven, resilient minds, and huge dreams collaborating together, there is not a doubt in my mind that we are going to change people’s lives.

As horrific and terrifying this past spring/summer was for me, I could not be more thankful for everything that has resulted from it, because it has gotten me to this place that I am at now.  Besides bringing me back home closer to my awesome, one-of-a-kind, loving family, my frame-of-mind is like it has never been before.  I think it is a mind-set that I do not see many others experiencing for themselves.  I am not convinced that many people out there dream like I dream.  Even if they do dream big like me, the difference between my dreams and their dreams is that I actually believe that my dreams are going to come true.  My aunt is the same way.  That is why we make a great team together, and that is why COPE is going to be awesome; because we will not let the opportunity arise for it to fail.

This past year has been a test for me.  I had many chances to give-up and throw the towel in.  It was a test of my inner strength, a test of my character, and a test of who I am.  Each illness or set-back I acquired was an obstacle.  I had to be patient and overcome all of the “obstacles” thrown at me.  It was, and still is difficult sometimes, to have your entire life changed.  It has required great patience, and ask anyone in my family, “patience” isn’t exactly my greatest attribute.  Somehow, I was victorious over impatience and even though I was deathly ill, I have been successful in overcoming every obstacle in my way thus far.  I did not just overcome the obstacles, but in some ways, I came out even better than before I was sick.

I have learned so much in the last few months about life, about myself, and what is truly significant. I’m sure it is difficult to relate to me unless you have walked in my shoes, because I don’t even know that “me” a year ago could even relate to myself now, simply because I, myself, had never experienced anything of this magnitude or of this great importance before.  I mean what is of greater importance than your own life?  It took me practically dying on more than one occasion for me to come to the realization, that this is my life, this is my body.  Any change I wish to see in myself, and any goals I want to pursue, has to start with me, and nobody else.  I understand that what I went through is not exactly easy for everyone to relate to because they haven’t been in the same near-death situation, but what I can offer is a deeper appreciation for what is meaningful in life.  No matter who you are, or what you do, something is of meaning to you, and I learned that no matter what you previously thought was of great meaning to you, nothing outweighs your family, friends, and most importantly yourself.

What I am here to say today is that everything that happened to me, happened for a reason.  Of course, my life would be so much easier and less expensive if I did not need a liver transplant or two major brain surgeries, but it has made me who I am and the person I was supposed to become.  I will embrace what I have learned and who I have become and live this new, totally different life-style with great meaning that I hope to share and inspire others within our newly-formed group, COPE, and in my day-to-day life as well.

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