Many of you have asked for some additional information on how this journey started for my father, so I thought I would try to fill in some of the missing details concerning the road that has led to where he is today.
Approximately four and a half years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). He had been feeling week and sick with pneumonia-like symptoms for some time, but the diagnosis came as devastating news. IPF is a terminal illness with no cure (except for lung transplant), and at the time it was not even known if transplant would even be an option. It is an autoimmune type disease in which the body thinks there is an infection in the lungs and attacks a problem that is not there. In doing so, healthy lung tissue is converted to scar tissue and rendered useless. My father was told to expect about a year or two before becoming completely debilitated, and death would follow shortly thereafter. Feelings of “it's not fair” permeated everything for a time.... My father was always extremely active, loved the outdoors, never smoked a day in his life, made all of the right, healthy choices that we all know we should make. However, this was a case where none of that mattered. At the time, he had just turned 60 years old.
The initial diagnosis was a shock, but my father has never been one to sit around and give up. He tackled the disease with courage and a positive attitude . He began an intensive physical therapy program—a program that would become a full time job for him over the next four years. He also entered a clinical trial for a new drug (a type of gamma interferon) which was showing some promise in slowing, and in some cases halting, the progression of IPF. My dad believed that even if the trial didn't work, he was at least contributing to the search for a cure.... that there would be some meaning and purpose in the challenge he was facing. Unfortunately, after a few years in the study it was found that the drug was doing more harm than help in many of the trial participants. However, my father stayed positive and was glad he had at least tried something. Through exercise, “Life is Good” type thinking, and faith, he had already beaten the prognosis of his early demise by more than two years. He was certainly not ready to give up the fight. Despite the challenges, he continued to stay active--camping, canoeing with his grandchildren, even a two week trip to the deep backwoods of Maine and Canada.... all with his oxygen tanks in tow.
Transplant was originally an option my father discounted completely. When he was first diagnosed with IPF he was saddened, but he felt he had lived a good, full life. The physical challenges, pain, life-long medications, and myriad of possible complications were just not something he felt was worth pursing. Over time however, he started to see transplant as yet another opportunity for him to keep contributing. When he finally decided to apply to the transplant program at Duke, he told me that he felt he was being led in that direction.... that he wasn't doing this for himself, but he was thinking of the possible good for others that could come from it. His thoughts were for his family (especially his grandchildren), and he also knew he would be contributing to the overall study and advancement of transplant. My father is an engineer, and ever since his early career with NASA and IBM he has appreciated science, innovation, and the journey of discovery that we all make through life. He taught me that everything, be it good or bad, is an opportunity for learning. Of course, he also taught me “if you want to make God laugh... tell him your plans” :-) You never know for sure..... eventually, you just trust.
And so, on October 3 last year he took the biggest leap of faith in his life.....
The rest of the story is chronicled in the journal entries found here. There have been numerous challenges for my dad since the transplant, but there have also been wonderful times together as a family. We had a perfect Christmas and Easter together, and he was even able to make several trips to Florida, Virginia, and Alabama to visit with friends and family. Despite the many struggles, I know my father has no regrets. Regardless of the risks, he knew he had to try.... or he (and his family) would have always wondered if he could have done more. My father will forever be my role model for facing challenge, working hard, and ultimately letting go--trusting to faith.... whatever God's ultimate plan for us may be. Thanks dad!
We are still traveling uncharted waters as a family, and your support and prayers will forever be appreciated.
Life is ALWAYS Good!
(Even when it feels like it could be better)