October 10, 2021

As I mentioned in last weekend's bulletin, during the month of October the Catholic Church in the USA directs our attention to a special focus on Respect for Life. There are many facets of Respect for life: Care for the unborn, those suffering from poverty, the elderly, ending all forms of abuse, stopping violence, care for the earth and many other areas that call us to respect life and God's creation. Today I want to call your attention to something in which each of us might be able to respect life and help others to live, that is donating our organs to help someone who is in need of a transplant.

As some of you know I am the oldest of four children. I have two brothers and a sister. My brother Rick & his wife Sue live in Harbor Springs, MI. They both were teachers many years and are retired. My sister Mary and her husband, Grant live in Petoskey, MI. My sister is a nurse and Grant was a financial officer with a major company. They both are retired also. My youngest brother Jeff and his wife, Anne, live outside Atlanta, GA. Jeff and Anne are both working.

My brother, Rick writes articles for various magazines concentrating on articles about fishing, hunting and various related topics. Last year he told me that he was having difficulties breathing and after many doctor visits was eventually diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). He told me that there is no cure for the disease and the only option is for a lung transplant. This spring my brother had a double lung transplant and is doing very well at this time. He wrote about his experience in being the recipient of a donor's lung in the June 2021 magazine issue of the Mackinaw Journal.

Michigan has a Donor Registry program for those who wish to donate their organs upon their death. Here in Illinois we also have a Donor Registry program. Organ/tissue donors save lives, restore sight and improve the quality of life for recipients across Illinois every day. The Illinois Secretary of State's office maintains Illinois' official registry of those who wish to donate organs/tissue upon their death.

I encourage you to sign up to be a donor when you renew or obtain your driver's license or ID card. You can find out more about being a donor by contacting the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, Life Goes On Organ Tissue Donor Program, at 501 S. Second St., Rm. 45, Springfield, IL 62756-9000, calling their Phone - 800-210-2106 or sending an e-mail to [email protected]

I asked my brother Rick if I could print his story in our church bulletin so that others can read of the miracle of life he has received and to encourage all of us during this month of Respect Life to consider being a donor and perhaps sometime in the future our generous gift might result in life for someone who is suffering from a serious illness. I know a couple of our Franciscan Friars who have benefitted from an organ donation and some friends who were blessed with the gift of life because of an organ donor.

The following is the article my brother wrote for the June 2021 issue of The Mackinaw Journal. Due to the length of his article the second part of the article will be in next weekend's (October 17) bulletin.

Fr. Michael

#232 by Rick Fowler

I know, I know! You were expecting another fishing article from me in this issue. However, recent events have prompted a different approach for this month’s column in The Mackinac Journal.  It is centered around the number 232. What is so important about this particular three- digit set? For many nothing at all, for others it is significant especially if they are fans of Numerology. To them, this set represents relationships, spirituality, teamwork and wisdom. Ironically these four points of emphasis eventually evolve in my life during April 2021.

However, to me #232 also signifies A New Beginning, A New Grasp of What’s Important and the realization that there are so many people who can be counted on as friends. This can be a bit overwhelming. One event and a myriad of emotions can come gushing out. At least they did for me. I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) nearly three years ago. Essentially my lungs were filling up with scar tissue as a result of the disease which was making it difficult to breathe. Complicating matters was the fact that there is no known cure.

In November of 2020, I was the referred by my doctor at the University of Michigan (U of M) to visit the pulmonary staff at Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan if I indeed needed a future transplant, they could do it while U of M had an age cut-off at 65. After a few months of breathing tests, lab work and X-rays to see if my oxygens numbers were decreasing doctors at Spectrum Health encouraged me to set up a time to meet with the transplant team for an initial evaluation which took place on Monday March 22.

We (my wife Sue and myself) were introduced to almost the entire team that day from nurses to surgeons to a social worker, finance director, plus Occupation and Physical Therapists. After explaining the procedure and asking for any questions, one of the doctors looked at me and said, “It will seem overwhelming at times. However, think like this, it’s not because you are afraid of dying that you are going to have this transplant, it’s because you want to live.”  This initial meeting was followed by a battery of tests the next day to determine if all other body parts and functions were working properly to undergo such an invasive surgery.

By Wednesday, March 24, we were back home and awaited a phone call to confirm if I was an eligible candidate. Later that afternoon the word came from the transplant coordinator who said, “Today you are officially placed on the transplant list.” There was also this caveat, “Remember, it could be weeks or maybe six months or longer before a pair of lungs could be a perfect match.” My thinking then was that’s ok. It will give me time to prepare mentally and emotionally for this significant life change.

Then on Monday March 29 at 8:15 in the morning I was returning from an errand and as I pulled into the driveway, I received another phone call from Spectrum. Oh Oh! Was I now out the program? Was there now a problem with any of my tests? However, I was greeted with this message. “Good Morning Rick. Guess what? We have a pair of lungs for you.” WAAA! Already? It’s only been five days!

I was in shock, or maybe stunned is a better word as I went inside to tell my wife. Everything was happening so fast. We knew we had to get moving so we packed hastily and set off to Grand Rapids. My tires were beating a hypnotic cadence on the roads to Grand Rapids. I tried to conceive how this indeed could be happening so quickly. Both of us were involved in our thoughts until we were suddenly at the hospital entrance.

I was quickly wheeled up to Pre-Op prepped and began the long wait to see if indeed this pair of lungs would be a viable match. We were also informed that only two people were allowed in my room due to COVID restrictions which meant only my wife and visiting daughter were allowed in. My son and daughter-in-law had just moved to the area in February 2021 would have to wait until the restrictions were lifted to visit.

(The second part of this article will be in the October 17, 2021 bulletin.)