Amber's Journey

Life-Changing Event Catalyst for The Trouble with Scotland Amber didn’t see it coming. Neither did her mom or dad, or family and friends. It was one of those things where you think…this could never happen to me.
Amber’s mother, Charla, is my best friend. We’ve been close for thirty-one years, sharing all the major events and happy moments in our lives. I remember clearly the day Amber was born. I remember Amber skipping down the aisle as the three-year-old flower girl at my wedding, and then her fidgeting at the altar until her dad came and ushered her away. I remembered Amber as a pre-teen when she made a quilt in her home-ec class and wanted to show it to me because I am a quilter, too. But when Amber turned twenty-three, she wasn’t prepared for what was coming. And the news this time wasn’t happy. It was life-changing.
In November 2014, Amber, a seemingly healthy young adult, suddenly felt overtired and not herself. A checkup and blood tests showed Amber’s kidneys were not functioning correctly. The doctor diagnosed Amber with Stage Four Chronic Kidney Disease. There was no explanation as to how this had happened, no illness to blame it on, no defining moment. It just happened. And there was only one way to fix the problem—a kidney transplant. But Amber is young and her doctor was hopeful the transplant could be put off for the next two to five years before actually taking that next step of giving her a new kidney.
Amber and her parents digested the report before sharing it with everyone else by way of an email. My first thought was that I had read the email wrong. Amber was a perfectly healthy young woman. I read the note again. And again. The truth so unfathomable that I couldn’t process it. That night I didn’t sleep, but lay awake wondering and worrying what her mother must be going through. Actually, it was more than that. I was feeling as if Amber was my own child. And at the same time, I was trying to put myself in Amber’s place and feel what she was going through. What would it be like to find out that my future had been irrevocably changed like Amber’s?
The next day, I spent time researching Chronic Kidney Disease and didn’t like what I saw. Chronic Kidney Disease can happen to anyone at any time. Diabetes and high blood pressure increase the risk of getting it. But one of the things that shocked me is that an additional risk factor is kidney stones. My husband refers to me as the reigning queen of kidney stones. Since I was twenty-six, I have suffered with non-stop stones. All those years when the doctors told me to drink plenty of water and watch my salt intake, I was never given a clear-cut reason as to why. No one said that Chronic Kidney Disease could happen to me, that I might be a candidate for a kidney transplant one day. That was when I began to write.
Since I was young, whenever a life-changing event would happen, I would put pen to paper trying to make sense of whatever I was dealing with—my mother’s death when I was fifteen, my father’s death on my twentieth birthday, or my brother’s sudden death when he was forty-five. I also wrote about the chaos of moving, going through a divorce, and the trials of being a single mother. On paper, even the most complex challenges looked manageable. As an engineer, I was taught to analyze problems in their smallest form. Writing has been my way of breaking down life into bite-size pieces so I can digest it. Ultimately, these essays I’ve written about life have led to full-blown manuscripts. As an example, my brother’s death turned into my debut novel To Scotland with Love. It isn’t the story of what happened to him, but writing about my feelings of death produced that book.
Thus, while trying to deal with Amber’s news and the possibility of her impending kidney transplant, I wrote The Trouble with Scotland. This story is not about Amber, it is simply my way of dealing with the cards that she has been dealt. I explored the emotions a young woman might go through if put in a similar situation.
For me, The Trouble with Scotland took the sting out of Amber’s kidney problems and helped me to get a prospective. I also became confident that Amber and her family were going to be fine. It helped that along the way I encountered several people who had either had a transplant or had donated a kidney. They were all doing well.
When I finished writing the book, we received more news about Amber. The two to five year projection of putting off the transplant had been too optimistic. Amber’s kidney function had deteriorated rapidly and she needed an immediate transplant. Good news came when the family learned that both her father and her brother were cleared to be donors. As her brother is a dad of three young children, Amber’s father, David, gave Amber one of his kidneys in December 2015.
Father and daughter came through the surgeries like champions, with Amber going home from the hospital only six days after her transplant. Both are feeling well and are back at work. And my friend Charla? She’s finally breathing easier. Feeling grateful. So am I. Grateful for modern medicine. Grateful for knowing such an amazing family. And grateful I have writing to see me through.

1 comment:

  1. Tears and tingles from your story. So much I can identify with, the journeys that bring us to where we are. We are also dealing with CKD in our family, my uncle. I, too, am grateful that I have always had an outlet, my sewing room.