Learn. Live. Hope, Musical MOtivation

One

Aunt Kia and myself last May 2012
Aunt Kia and myself last May 2012

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my very miraculous liver transplant. The third of May was just one day of many last year in which I was tested mentally and physically so far beyond anything that has previously tested me in my 26 years of life combined. Today I fortunate enough to say that I am a living proof of a miracle.  One of my favorite quotes says, “I’m not a one in a million kind of girl. I’m a once in a lifetime kind of woman,” which I think describes me quite perfectly.

For surviving transplant patients, their transplant anniversary is a very special day that will forever be celebrated. It is a magnificent  and reflective day because it signifies the day you were given life, just like on the day when you were born and first entered the world, but it also celebrates all of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges you had to overcome to survive.

I learned it is a recognized tradition of transplant recipients to celebrate the anniversary of their transplant as their “new birthday.” This third day of May 2013, I celebrate this one day, of one year, of hopefully many innumerable days, and many bountiful years with the most MOmentous, MOnumental, meMOrable gift I will ever receive (I love throwing those “Mo’s” in).

Like I said, I’ve already received the greatest gift I could possibly ever imagine, which is the gift of life. There is not many people in this world that can say they have experienced, endured, and persevered what I went through, at my age, or any age for that matter. Twenty-six/twenty-seven is an age where I was/and am old enough to appreciate what a second chance is. It is also an age where I am young enough to really go ahead and start my life fresh and set-out to do things in my life that I might have not done in the past, due to fear of failure.  The goal is to achieve ultimate satisfaction, love, and happiness with myself and others.

My cousin Courtney and my aunt Caryn at Yale-New Haven visiting me in my 52 days at Yale.
My cousin Courtney and my aunt Caryn at Yale-New Haven visiting me during my 52 days at Yale.

Every birthday, you have the chance to make a wish when you blow out the candles, and there is one wish that I do have for this particular birthday. I will tell you that my wish does not involve money or things. It does not involve anything far-fetched or unattainable. But it does involve something so close here, so close to me personally; my family. While I would rather not go into family details I will leave you with the lyrics from U2’s epic ’90s song “One” in which my only wish, birthday or not, is that my family could embrace the lyrics of this song and once again be one single unity, one alliance, one family.

Just a small part of my family that came to visit me in the hospital last May.
Just a small part of my family that came to visit me in the hospital last May. Whether they are in any of these pictures or not, I love you all.

“And I can’t be holding on to what you got when all you got is hurt…
One love. One blood. One life.
You got to do what you should

One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers

One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One… life. One.”

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Learn. Live. Hope

April is Donate Life Awareness Month: What You May Not Know About My Transplant and Organ Donation

April is Donate Life Awareness Month!  Wear your blue and green!
April is Donate Life Awareness Month! Don’t forget to wear blue and green on April 19th!

April is Donate Life Awareness Month, where the entire month is nationally observed to honor everyday heroes who are/were organ, eye and tissue donors.  Before this year, I never knew Donate Life Awareness Month even existed, but obviously after having experienced a transplant first-hand, and a transplanted organ being one of the only reasons I am alive today, it is now a topic that is very near-and-dear to my heart.  I was twenty-six year old when I had my transplant.  Twenty-six.  If you told me the year before on my 25th birthday that in about a year and half I would be dying of acute liver failure and need a liver transplant, that would soon result in a deadly brain infection that would require two extremely dangerous brain surgeries, I would have probably laughed and said there was a greater chance of Nicki Minaj being elected President in the next election.  That just did not seem possible to happen.  To me?? Nahhhh…….

Ha.  Well it happened alright.  My life was normal, I seemed healthy, then the next thing you know I am jaundiced, blowing up like a balloon, and diagnosed with end-stage (IV) liver disease among a list of other things. Is this some sort of sick joke?  How could this be?  I was playing indoor soccer like two weeks? I’m not dying of liver failure, can’t be. After I smacked my face a few times and realized I wasn’t hearing some diagnosis from a scene on Grey’s Anatomy, I was like, “So where do we go from here, what can we do about it?” “Your only hope of survival is a liver transplant.”  Seriously? A transplant?  I asked how much time my liver had left, and I was told maybe a few months. (that was until my liver got nicked during one of my liver biopsies and then I got really, really sick, really fast).

I did some research and the average time a person waits for a liver is approximately one-year.  I did not have a year.  I was lucky if I had a couple of months.  I was admitted to Yale New-Haven on April 24th, 2012, and received my transplant nine days later on May 3rd, 2012, just one day after being on the transplant list.

Dream. Believe. Donate Life.
Dream. Believe. Donate Life.

When you hear the word “hero” it is often accompanied by the names of Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks and many more that we have read about or heard of through family/friend’s stories, the History channel, books, articles, or online.  When I think of who my hero is, I don’t have to sift through memories or recall someone I learned about in Advanced Placement U.S. History class that I learned over a decade ago.  I have part of an actual hero inside of my body!  That is wild, and strange, and just completely mind-blowing to me that the surgeons at Yale cut me wide-open and put another person’s vital organ into my body, hooked-it all up, and that it works better than “my own” liver that I was born with.  Crazy.

Waiting for a donor organ can be a very stressful experience, since you have absolutely no idea when a matching donor will be available or if it will be available in time.  I met a gentleman several weeks ago who waited for 5 years, and experienced 14 false calls and trips to the hospital after being #1 on the transplant list before he actually had a successful match.  Can you imagine being told 14 times there was a potential transplant available for you, busting your ass to get to the hospital, to only be let down to know it wasn’t a match, and not knowing if/when a possible match would ever come in time!?  I was officially on the transplant waiting list on a Monday and received my transplant on that Wednesday, the same day that I made it to #1 on the list! That is practically unheard of!  Just another remarkable miracle that the angels were on my side, as you can see the median wait for each organ is listed below (http://organdonor.gov/about/transplantationprocess.html):

ORGAN MEDIAN NATIONAL
WAITING TIME
Hearts 113 days
Lungs 141 days
Livers 361 days
Kidneys 1,219 days
Pancreata 260 days
Intestine 159 days

Everything about a transplant is amazing and I want more than anything to be able to somehow express to my donor’s family how each and every night before I go to sleep I thank their son/daughter, boyfriend/girlfriend/ wife/husband, brother/sister, cousin, niece/nephew for my life.  I thank them because they have not just given me a vital organ necessary in order for me to live, but they have given me patience, strength, and courage.  They have taught me to appreciate all of the small things that I once easily overlooked.  They taught me that time is too precious and to become more adventurous and committed to try new things.  I have become more involved with the community, and I am actively trying to do little things that will hopefully one day add-up to bigger things and one day change people’s lives.  I was not just given a liver, I was given a purpose.

I have a part of this hero inside me, that saved my life, and I have no idea who it is.  That “unknowing” definitely creates this void within me that I do not know if I will ever be able to fill, but just like many other transplant recipients, I wanted to write a letter to my donor’s family. I never in my life imagined having to write something under these circumstances, but it was a very difficult and emotional experience for me.  After much struggle and tears I produced a very heartfelt, sincere, thank-you note that brought my family and even my social worker to tears upon reading it.  I cry just thinking about it, let-alone writing it, because it made me feel almost selfish, because I had life, and I was writing to a family I knew nothing about, carefully selecting my words to express my gratitude for their generous act of kindness.

It has been almost six-months since I have sent my letter to my donor’s family, but I have not heard anything back as of yet.  I do realize it has not even been quite a year since their loved one passed last May of 2012 and I am well-aware how emotionally tough that may be for their family considering how emotional it has been here on our end.  I am aware that I may never ever hear a response and will always be mystified by the name of my hero, but I would be lying if I said I did not hope to one-day know who they were.

Of course one of the first things I wanted to do when I was well enough and some time had passed was to contact my donor’s family to express my genuine gratitude for their loved one’s heroic act, but it is not that simple.  Being a donor is a confidential and all of their information is kept very private.  There is a regulated process in which you can contact the family of the donor via the New England Donor Bank (NEDB).  My social worker gave me the information to contact my donor’s family in which I wrote a letter and sent it to the NEDB.  They then read it to see if it is fit to send.  There is a very strict format as to not get too personal or give away too much of your information as to not give away your identity for confidentiality reasons.  I had to make some minor adjustments and resend to the NEDB.  Upon receiving an acceptable letter, the New England Donor Bank then lets my donor family know I have a written a letter.  The family then chooses whether to receive the letter or not.  If they do wish to receive the letter they than can choose whether to write back to me or not.  If they do choose to write back to me, they write a letter and send it to the New England Donor Bank.  The New England Donor Back then notifies me that a response letter has been written, which then I choose whether I would like to accept their letter or not.  If both parties do have interest in meeting one-day then I believe they can do-so through a governed process.  From what I have heard, it can be an awkward encounter since the act of donation may bring one party to feel grateful and indebted while the other may feel pained and anguished.

Whether the name and/or identity of my hero remains a mystery or not, they will forever be my greatest hero of all.  I know it is probably hard for many of you to fully-understand what having a transplant and all of the other complications (including my two brain surgeries that ensued), and how they have forever changed my perspective on life and who I wish I be.  All I really want is for just one thing I say sticks with you in a positive way, if not today, than somewhere down the road.

With our mayor, Mayor Boughton (Danbury, CT) at City Hall with the Donate Life flag which is raised for the month of April for Donate Life Awareness month (Left to Right: Mayor Boughton, my aunt Dana, me, my aunt Caryn, my grandmother Rose).
With our mayor, Mayor Boughton (Danbury, CT) at City Hall with the Donate Life flag which is raised for the month of April for Donate Life Awareness month (Left to Right: Mayor Boughton, my aunt Dana, me, my aunt Caryn, my grandmother Rose).

I have been a registered organ donor eight years before I got my transplant, just because my mentality has always been, “If I’m dead, what use do I have for my organs?”  It was a very thoughtless process for me.  Obviously, that is a personal choice of mine and I completely understand this decision might not be so easy for some people, and I respect other’s decisions in regards to organ donation, no matter what those decisions are.

What I do find very important is that you do make a decision either way, and act upon it.  Say you actually do want to be a donor, but just haven’t gotten around to it.  Just saying you want to be an organ donor and not taking the 3 minutes to register on-line frankly seems silly and lazy to me.  You might potential save the life of somebody and positively influence 50 or more other people just by putting down your Words with Friends or Instagram for 3 minutes and by going to http://www.donatelife.net and becoming registered, officially.

On the other-hand, some of you may choose to specifically not become an organ donor for whatever reason it may be.   One of the most common things I hear is that people believe they are not healthy enough or “too old” to be a donor.  Another myth I’ve heard is that people do not wish to have specific parts of their body donated including their corneas or skin, so they do not register to donate at all.  I have heard that many people do not want to donate organs because they they wish to have an open casket or be cremated.  Another myth I have found out is that people do not register to be donors because they fear that in a life-or-death situation, that emergency medical personnel will not perform the necessary medical procedures in order to save their life, rather so their body can be used for donation!  Finally, a myth that many may not be aware of is that you do not have to be dead to be a donor!  That’s right, you can be a living-donor for a single kidney, the lobe of one lung, a segment of the liver, a portion of the pancreas, a portion of the intestine, or a portion of the pancreas.

It is perfectly fine to choose to not be an organ donor, but please make those decisions based on the facts, not the myths.  While you may watch Dr. Oz every afternoon or have watched too many Holiday Inn Express commercials, you are not capable of diagnosing whether your organs are of satisfactory health level to be donated; only your doctors can.  Even if some organs cannot be donated, others may be perfectly legitimate to donate to save someone’s life. Remember, between the various organs and and tissues in the human body, one person can save over eight lives and effect the lives of 50 or more!

Secondly, you can throw the “I am too old to be a donor” notion right out of the window.  NO ONE is too old to be a registered donor.  The oldest organ donor, to date, was a 99-year old cornea donor, and the oldest organ donor was 93 years old!  Not only can you be ancient and still be a donor, but you can choose exactly which organs you wish to have or not have donated, it is not an all-or-nothing thing.  Remember, it is your body and your decision is completely up to you!  And yes, you can still have a normal funeral service with an open-casket and your body will not be “mutilated” as some myths falsely suggest.

If you are seriously ill, the number one priority of the medical team is to save your life!  The emergency doctors and nurses working to save your life are separate from doctors who perform organ transplants, and organ donation is only considered if brain death has been determined, so no, they are not going to let you die so your body can be donated.

Finally, and one of the most amazing things you may or may not know about organ donation, is that you do not have to be dead to be a donor!  As my time clock was winding down very rapidly last May, one of my best and most loyal friends, Jessica Fry, was about to get on a plane in South Carolina and fly up to Connecticut once she found out she was a potential match for my liver.  If that is not a bad ass friend, then I don’t know what is.  Luckily, just before I was about to make friends with the angels in the sky, one of the angels exchanged their life for mine.  It apparently wasn’t my time.

Now that I have provided you with some information about Donate Life and organ/tissue transplantation, hopefully you have a greater understanding about organ donation and being a donor, and I encourage you to take the 3 minutes to register online at www.donatelife.net right now.  I was extremely lucky, others are not as fortunate and die waiting for a transplant.  Talk to your friends and family and ask them if they are registered donors.  You have no idea what your someone else’s organs may do for you someday or how you might change someone’s life life my “hero” did.   “Don’t wait. Donate.”

There are many other myths, that you probably don’t know, but I will leave that up to you to research. Below are some statistically information about organ donation and transplantation that you may find interesting, which you can find on this website: http://www.organdonor.gov/about/organdonationprocess.html#process6

“A computer program matches donor organs with recipients based on certain characteristics.  These include blood type, tissue type, height, and weight. The length of time the patient has been waiting, the severity of the patient’s illness, and the distance between the donor’s and the recipient’s hospitals also figure into who is the best match for a specific organ.”

  • 117, 741 people are waiting for a transplant in the US (The largest football stadium in the U.S. holds almost 110,000 people)
  • 18 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
  • In 2010, 62% of living donors were women. The statistic is reversed for deceased donation.
  • In 2010, 67% of all deceased donors were White, 16% were Black, 13% Hispanic and 2.3% Asian.
  • As of December 2011, the national waiting list was made up of 45% White, 29% Black, 18% Hispanic, and 7% Asian.
  • Currently, more than 100 million people or 42.7 percent of individuals age 18 and older have registered to be organ, eye and tissue donors in the U.S.
  • The nation’s top percentage of donor include Alaska and Montana both with 79% and the lowest being New York at 13.3%.  Other states include Connecticut 39%, Florida 34%, South Carolina 27%, North Carolina 53%.

donate life logo

Data from: U.S. Department of Health & Human Servicetp://www.organdonor.gov/about/data.html and Donate Life http://donatelife.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/DLA-Report-Card-2012-350781.pdf)

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

 

Learn. Live. Hope, Musical MOtivation, Uncategorized

Livin’ on a Prayer

In the hospital after my second brain surgery in (June 2012) vs. (January 2013) living it up--visiting familyat the beach in St. Augustine, FL
In the hospital at Yale after my second brain surgery in (June 2012) vs. (January 2013) livin’ it up–visiting family at the beach in St. Augustine, FL

Well, I haven’t posted a blog in awhile, but in one way that is a good thing for me.  It is good because I have been very busy this past month, and the way things are looking, I am going to be pretty busy for a while it seems. I am the kind of person I have do something all of the time; keep moving, keep going.  If there is nothing for me to do, I find something to occupy my time.  When I am home alone, with no mode of transportation, I discover and create ways to keep myself busy.  I put effort into making each moment productive, in a way that can help me better myself physically and/or mentally.

Recently, I have been a huge fan of the work-outs provided on “On Demand” and I will do 2-5 of those workouts throughout the day (depending on how short/long they are).  Killer Core is one of my favorites right now.  I tried out one of the cardio dances, and let’s just say I will probably not be letting anyone see how ridiculous I must look doing that one!  I’ve also been building a website for my aunt’s new organization that we are in the midst of establishing (I can’t divulge much about that now but stayed tuned!). My aunt is very excited about the organization and her big plans, and I am very excited to be her right-hand (wo)man and utilize my writing and computer skills.  We both foresee very big things coming, and I am anxious to see how things pan-out.

The holidays are always a busy time for everyone, but through the holidays and shortly after I had several friends come to visit me, I went on a day-trip to Massachusetts for my cousin’s cheerleading competition, and then I spent two weeks in Florida visiting some of my family.  Just like that, January came, and now it is just about gone.  It was a great month, but I also have so much to look forward to and keep me busy in the next few months.  A productive Mo is a happy Mo.

Four of my really good friends, (whom I’ve met in college at Furman), all currently live within a rather short distance of Boston (just a few hours from me), so we are having a re-union this weekend in Boston, which I am also very excited for!  Besides my family, there is not one thing I love more in the world than my friends.  Those whom I consider my closest friends, I will have their back no matter what, and I hope they would do the same for me.  One of the best characteristics I consider of myself and my fellow Italian family is loyalty.  So if I deem you to be in the “MO-fia” as I call it, you’ll always be in good hands; but if you’re not, better start saying your prayers ; )

Speaking of prayers, the following week after traveling to Boston, I have  Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift concerts to look forward to.  I can’t wait to be Livin’ on a Prayer at Bon Jovi, TSwiftski is one of favorites.  We have a CD my aunt plays in the car, and when Livin’ on a Prayer comes on we crank the music up and we sing that song as loud (and it’s horrible) as we can.  My aunt has told me that when she hears it she thinks of me, and Yale, and how I was “livin’ on a prayer”.

Besides the concerts, I will be doing some travelling, and during which I will get to spend a couple of visits back in Greenville, SC (where I was living when I got ill).  While many of my close friends are dispersed around the country, some of my closet friends still reside in Greenville, so I am thrilled to be able to go and see them.  These won’t be your normal visits;  we’re talking one of my best friend’s bachellorette parties in Charleston, and her wedding in Greenville, SC this spring with a group of us who haven’t all been together in the same place, at the same time, since probably college….I am already anticipating stomach pain from laughing so hard.  I can’t wait to be singing karaoke, and fist pumping, and “livin’ on a prayer” with some of my best friends.  Those are some of the best times I’ve had.

When I get excited about things that are going to happen, I often times begin reflecting on the good ole’ times, and can’t wait to have new good times.  One of our favorite karaoke songs, and probably one of the most popular of all-time is of course, Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer.  Arguably, you could say I was; “livin’ on a prayer,” this past year.  I often times find myself thinking a lot, about all sort of things.  Why am I alive? Why are they dead?  What if I did this instead of that?  How can I make this gluten-free recipe delicious? How many days until Justin Timberlake’s new CD comes out?  How is the Cowboy’s defense going to be next year?  Why did so-and-so say that to me?  How am I going to afford health insurance when my Cobra expires?–there is no telling what is going through my head at any given moment.  Things that I question, I try to research and educate myself and by making myself some-what more knowledgeable on the subject.  I usually just end-up attaining a lot of useless facts, and being left with a ton of unanswered questions.

For instance, how did I get a life-saving liver transplant on the very last day I needed one when just one day later I would be dead?  How did I survive not one-but TWO brain surgeries for invasive aspergillosis which has a 80-90% mortality rate?  How could my body endured three MAJOR surgeries with-in a five week span?  How was I able to run the mile in 10:39 last month when I couldn’t even walk in May?  The strangest part is, every negative thing thrown in my way this past spring/summer, not only did I come out alive, but I came out swinging!  I know I strive to work hard to be the best that I can be in everything I do, but that certainly has it’s limitations.  Just like I have my “MO-fia,” there is someone, something, somewhere that has my back.  I am very grateful for what must be some-sort of divine intervention, which I like to think of as my guardian angels, and I don’t think I have just one.

I can’t explain the answer to these questions I asked above with a mathematical equation, or a scientific law.  I also can’t explain it with a religion necessarily either. What I choose to explain it with is a lot of love and a frame-of-mind; a mind-set that is unwilling to compromise, unwilling to lose. I consider myself a believer-I believe in my family, I believe in my friends, I believe in my guardian angels looking over me, and most importantly I believe in myself.  I work hard at my goals, because I believe I can achieve them. I am here now, alive and making great strides, and for that, everyday, I give thanks for everyone’s belief in me, my amazing medical team, my mental and physical strength, my family and friend’s love and support all combined into one big positive force that propelled me to push with all of my might through the numerous, death-defying obstacles in my way.  I have gotten knocked down many times, but when I have gotten up, I only stood taller and stronger.  I lost my pulse four different times, and I am still here, doing better than ever.  I don’t believe there is anything or anybody out there that can knock me down, and keep me down, and whether that is true or not, it doesn’t matter because it is what I believe.  Someone can try, but good-luck with that, you will have the “MO-fia” after you, and I’ll be too busy “livin’ on a prayer”.  : D

“We’ve got to hold on, ready or not.
You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got.
Wooaaa, we’re halfway there. Wooaaa livin’ on a prayer.
Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear. Livin’ on a prayer.”

Learn. Live. Hope, Uncategorized

New Year, New Health, New Beginning.

2012 was a pretty rough year for me, to say the least, and it can be briefly noted as this: Sudden acute liver failure. Sixteen days admitted at Greenville Memorial (South Carolina). Unexpectedly, moving back home with my extended family in Connecticut.  Fifty-two days admitted at Yale Medical.  A last-minute liver transplant. Seizures. Lost pulse. Two risky, very crucial, life-saving brain surgeries within 3 weeks of a liver transplant. Loss of right peripheral vision in both my right and left eye. Restriction from operating a motor vehicle indefinitely. Disabled on social security and medicaid….There’s pretty much no other way to sum it other than being the most crazy, effed up year of my life.

Although I feel like I have for the most part fully recovered, and I try to be as “normal” as you and anybody else, I still have some work ahead of me. I have been making a very swift recovery physically which you may or may not have tracked via Facebook, but I have had many set-backs mentally which you may be unaware of.

I have not been easily able to grasp all of the sudden and drastic changes that comes with a transplant and how by having a transplant, my life has been forever changed. I am still fighting a daily battle trying to come to terms with what happened and how another person’s life was taken away from them, and their organ is the only thing keeping me alive.  I have a life, and they do not.  Their family suffers and grieves, and mine is happy and celebratory.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem right.  I am still having a very difficult time coming to terms with everything that has happened as it happened so suddenly and so drastically. Those who were not there to actually see what I went through, to experience my pain, to endure my struggle, to personally encounter my fight, then why should I expect you to understand at all?

Like I already said, it is very difficult for me, I do not expect it to be easy for you. We live in a greedy world, and sometimes I feel that living inside me, my donated liver, was the greatest act of selflessness that a person can do. It has touched my heart and my root of being so deeply, that I will forever and ever, feel indebted to fulfill this life with great meaning in respect and honor to my donor and his/her family and friends.

With time, and patience, mark my words, I plan on being fully recovered within one-year from now, as I insist on doing everything necessary in-order to do so. I will put 125% of my mind, my body, and my soul in order to get there. With that being said, anything or anybody that will not be a positive and motivating addition to my efforts to succeed in my personal journey to live a long, happy, and healthy life, will most likely no longer be a part of my life. I have long been willing to put others before me, and in return I have been compensated with appreciation and sincere acts of generosity by many, but also mental scars by others. That unfortunately is life, and now it is time to move forward and create a positive and appreciated path before me.  On the upside I have learned many valuable lessons from my recent experiences and relationships with friends and family, and for this new year and this new life, I have very high expectations to turn my very fortunate “new beginning” into something meaningful and commendable.

I plan on still being generous and kind, and without-a-doubt the biggest goofball you may come to know, finding great humor in the silliest of things. On the other hand, I now lack the strength and desire to haul along other’s senseless and heavy-burdens with me, and it is my goal to no longer allot any of my time to such obstructions. These next few years are my years to triumph. I would love for all of my closest friends and family to be along-side me in support of my journey to thrive as an admirable person and not only make a difference in my life, and possibly even yours in the years ahead. Relationships should help you, not hurt you, so in order to do that you need to surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be.  Your friends and family should consist of people you are proud to know, whom you admire, and show equal love and respect back to you.  I do realize this will not be the case for all, as some people come-and-go, which will be a challenge I will have to face as well.  I would love nothing more than to see you standing not behind me, but right next me in my journey to conquer 2013 and the following years after.

“Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.” ~Harvey MacKay

These are two short videos of some pictures of my medical experience and shortly after discharge at Yale Medical in New Haven, Connecticut. (Late April-June 2012).

Learn. Live. Hope, Musical MOtivation, Uncategorized

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)

“Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul”

My thoughts and prayers go out to the 26 victims, their families, and our grieving neighbors nearby in Newtown, CT. Teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary risked their own lives to protect their students from an act of pure evil. Even with their heroism, twenty young and completely innocent children had their very short, and unfulfilled lives swept away from them forever without any warning. May their souls live in a better place than this cruel and selfish world.

That 14th day of December was a horrific and heartbreaking day and shall forever serve to remind every single one of us that life is not guaranteed for anyone of any age. Let the ones you love know you love them, for nothing is a certainty, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. To my family and my dearest friends, I love you with all of my heart, each and every day, and myself included, sometimes need to step back for a moment and really appreciate all of the beautiful and loving people in my life.

“Love life and life will love you back. Love people and they will love you back.” ~Arthur Rubinstein