There she was again–just like every morning after my treatment. Each time I went through this, her eyes told me that she understood what I was feeling, and I could tell that she was sad. But, most of all, she stayed with me as I removed my needles, serviced my equipment, and oh so slowly walked downstairs. By the time we reached the bottom of the stairs, we were talking, and she knew that I felt OK again.
When really hard times hit us in life, a friend can be the only thing standing between us and insanity. I was diagnosed with kidney disease in June 1998 and met Maggie in October of that year. I believe that God brings relationships into our lives when we need them the most.My disease not only hit me fast, it hit me hard. Going from no symptoms to a 40-pound weight gain in less than a month, from lifting weights every day to barely being able to walk, also in less than a month, was quite traumatic. I went from running a successful business to having no business at all in less than six months.
Maggie listened to me cry and scream and have all the reactions of a person in shock. She did so with patience and understanding and with that “I’m here for you” look always on her face. As our friendship grew, I realized how much I needed her to be with me–to listen to me and just give me that last kiss and that understanding hug at the end of each day.
As my disease progressed, our bond grew stronger. And even though my illness worsened and my body began to show rather dramatic changes, all of which were negative, Maggie never let on that she knew.
Friends can sense when we need them, and they know that just being around us can really help the healing process. Maggie was such a friend. We’d have breakfast together and then attempt a short walk. Lunch was not much as exhaustion would begin to set in around 12:30 or 1:00 o’clock, so we’d just sit together and talk. She often made more sense of what I was saying than even I did, but it was conversation nevertheless.
I had 10 surgeries over the course of four years, and she was with me each time. She’d soothe my pain when I got home from each surgery and talk to me, in her own way, about my healing. I could look into her eyes and know that everything would be fine. With her by my side each day, I decided early on that I was going to beat this kidney disease and get back to a normal life. Even when one of my doctors told me he’d never had a patient as sick as I was live for more than two years, I told Maggie that you can’t believe everything you hear, and naturally she agreed. We were a team by then, and we knew that we’d win this one.
After 4.5 years of some of the worst times I’ve ever experienced in my life, I convinced the transplant team that I could handle a transplant. During the course of my illness I had contracted liver disease as well, so convincing the doctors was no easy task. My entire family, including Maggie, cussed and discussed the possible outcomes, and, then, we agreed to go for it.
On November 11, 2003, I received a life-saving kidney from my loving wife. I’ve never looked back and am doing wonderful today. Maggie and I still talk about those bad times, but we feel and show our happiness more often now.
My life is getting back on track again. Although we’ll be paying bills for a long, long time to come, I can now earn the income to pay them.
It’s been a long and difficult journey. My family and friends have all shared in my survival and healing: my wonderful wife, my daughters and sons-in-law, my three grandsons (all of whom were born during the course of my illness), and, of course, Maggie–my beautiful and loving friend, my companion through good times and bad, my confidant and partner, my soft and cuddly buddy.
We’ll always be special to each other. After all, we’ve been through a lot together. Friends–and dogs–are like that.
About the Author
Jim Dineen lives in West Chester, OH. He is the Second Place Winner in the iKidney.com Fourth Annual Essay Contest entitled, “That Special Someone.” The contest was made possible by support from Watson Pharma.
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