My birthday crept up on me without my knowledge. I was engaged in a flurry of activities from trying to get my businesses up and running again and activities I couldn’t do whilst I was recovering from my surgery. So it hit me when we celebrated my son’s birthday in July. It’s usually about then I start thinking what I would do for my birthday but this year was different.
I focused on reaching a goal I had set up for myself. At my last hospital appointment, my doctor had informed me that my stats were good but my cholesterol was not. He advised a healthier diet and more exercise so I concentrated on achieving that so I didn’t go on more meds. Those on post transplant meds do understand what I mean LOL. It is a concoction of different medicines you take both morning and evening. Imagine adding more to that. The day my daughter saw me downing the tablets, some as big as the top of my little finger, she was shocked.
Anyway, back to my story. I’m always digressing. So the day before my birthday, Thursday, I woke up about 3am, usual time as I don’t sleep (I think I’ve got undiagnosed insomnia). As I tossed and turned on my bed, I refused to think about my birthday because I would start to bawl my eyes out and wake my long suffering husband (poor guy). I opened my iPad, put on my headphones and got lost in the storyline of BBC’s Versailles series until I dropped off again. Usually, I find my iPad on the floor, my headphones on my pillow and my glasses askew on my face LOL.
When I opened my eyes again, my husband had woken up and I’m sure he must have known I hadn’t slept so didn’t want to disturb me. He had quietly gone about his business and only came to kiss me goodbye as he was leaving for work. This was when it hit me, IT’S A DAY TO MY BIRTHDAY!!! I laid there for a moment and thought about where I was last year, on this date. It was a Tuesday, I was on dialysis a day early so I could have my birthday off. A prayer leapt to my lips and I went into a full blown prayer session like I used to do in my younger days. Then Kenoly’s song “Mourning into Dancing” started playing in my head.
SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS
As I praised His Holy name, thanking Him for my life, thoughts of my donor family especially their mother, came to mind. My prayers switched over to pray for them, by this time I was openly weeping (I’m setting myself off again); I remembered my wonderful family, my parents, my 4 sisters, my 3 brothers, who have been there for me, from my first step till now. They never gave up hope.
My friends both in the UK and my country, Nigeria and above all my immediate family in the UK, my 2 awesome children and my husband who has remained with me these 10 years when he could have walked away. When you have such support, you don’t give up, YOU FIGHT!!
I looked at myself in the mirror, my eyes were swollen and blood red from my crying, praying session. There were no tears left to cry. I still had to go to the office because I decided that the office was closed on my birthday. So I splashed my face with water, got ready and went to work. All day Thursday, I had a prayer at the back of my mind, thanking God that I saw this birthday. Survival was up in the air, there was no certainty but for me, I had seen it.
It finally came round and I was cried out. I was at peace because for me, a lot had happened on the run up to my birthday. My son released his music video because he was confident and happy his mum was here to stay. I didn’t care that it was impromptu but I could see the talent there. As his biggest fan, he doesn’t take me seriously so I’ve put in a link . Tell me what you think.
In the evening, my hubbly bleu took us all out to a restaurant of my choice at Trafford Centre in Manchester. Again, this is where I quietly thank my donor family because I could eat whatever I wanted. However, my tongue was now used to eating bland food without salt so it was a bit too rich for me. I still ate the food because I had been a pretty good girl so I could indulge a bit. How my children laughed when they saw my stomach LOL. It was huge and round. I knew I was going to work it off though. The pièce de résistance of the evening was my birthday present, the phone I had been coveting for a long time. For me, my day was complete. You should have seen the huge smile on my face. By some fluke, the store closed for me because I was the only customer in the shop. I felt like a celebrity.
My initial thoughts was to relax and watch some drama series back to back throughout the day. I had no thoughts of doing anything for my birthday weekend, which is normally what I would do. However, my older sister in the US had called me on my birthday and said, “Even if it’s small, H (yeah, that’s my pet name my elder sisters call me and it makes me feel special), you need to do a thanksgiving to God for your life”. Now, I could never resist or disobey my older sister,(that’s another story I might tell some day) so I said okay. It did make sense though. I can’t weep and praise His Name on Thursday and not round it up with a Thanksgiving on Sunday. Anyone who grew up in any country in Africa knows this. Our celebrations are legendary.
In Africa, each family or person tries to outdo the other. It is an unspoken pact, whether it’s during harvest, children’s or adults’ and the bazaar afterwards. You can find everything you require to cook a pot of soup complete with the side dish. From chickens, goats, sheep to huge cows (live), all manner of farm produce, up to cars depending on what your profession is. I remember a particular harvest when someone donated a coffin LOL, in church. At the bazaar, where all the things are auctioned off, nobody would buy that coffin (I’m hooting with laughter here). It was the only item left that wasn’t bought even if the price was greatly reduced. They gave it as a gift to the priest. Africans and their superstitions! The thought was, you buy the coffin, you have to use it. You can’t store it in the house either. I’ve got tears running down my face with laughing.
So there I was wondering what presents to buy for my thanksgiving service. The last time I had one, I did it in the African way but low key. No livestock though. My fellow parishioners still haven’t recovered from the African community that descended on the church that day. This was well after my 2010 multiple organ failure. Then, we had a different parish priest who wanted to give me a chance to do my thanksgiving my way.
We have a new priest and so I wasn’t sure what to do so I called one of the parishioners who gave me some idea about what to get which wasn’t too bad. However, finding those things meant driving round town with my trusted companion, my teenage son. We did get all the recommended thanksgiving presents which represented a new life, toast to health, celebrating my life and gratitude to our priest. By the time we finished, we were both exhausted. Thank goodness we weren’t going anywhere else. I spoke to a few of the African families in the church and invited them to join us for the thanksgiving procession.
Sunday couldn’t come fast enough. Bright and early, I was up and ready to go to church. Both my children were on the altar so usually they were the only ones there. They would have to lead the procession so we would all still be going up together. I gathered a few more Africans in the church to join us. I was so anxious, I almost forgot the communion host and wine. My son had to tell me that we would need to rejig the arrangements so my husband and I were carrying the hosts. It was a good service and I was content.
How I managed to hold the tears back, I don’t know. I know I can be very emotional but unless you’ve walked in our shoes as kidney disease patients, you could never know what it feels like. It’s only my fellow kidney disease and transplant patients who would understand what I’m saying. I have heard stories of people’s distress when they lose their transplant. I’m reading a book right now called “This Big Smile of Mine” about the loss of a transplant, the story is so riveting, I don’t want to finish reading it. If you want to get a copy, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to order a copy. Read this book to see another person’s perspective. Our stories are different but the same pains and hopes.
After the service, we had to go to a barbecue at a friends and again, all the people I loved to be around were there. It was exhausting but I was happy. To make it all worthwhile too, I even made contact with someone to speak to a Christian church’s black community. I was also asked to be a godmother, for the first time since I came to the UK. Not too bad for a weekend of frantic activities hey?
MOTIVATIONAL LAST WORDS
As I said in my IGTV video, to those out there who are still waiting to get the “call”, please don’t give up hope. I know I was all over the place and never thought with my 97% antibodies, I would ever get a transplant. Guess what, when it happens, all those obstacles do not matter anymore. Like in my case, the transplant went in even with my 97% antibodies and it has not been a problem. I’m almost 5 month’s post transplant and still doing well.
We’re not praying for anyone to die because it will be endless pain and sorrow for the family of the deceased. There are other ways to get a transplant; altruistically from a stranger or a member of your family. Your miracle is on its way.
Keeping the fire burning!
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Hilaria popularly known as Hilary is a kidney disease survivor and a transplant warrior. She first started writing to help deal with the pain and suffering of her journey but it quickly became a path to creating an awareness of BME organ donation. She is very passionate about her campaign as she felt that if people knew and could identify with her suffering, it will help people to change their minds and become organ donors.