Friends share special bond through gift of life
Do you believe in miracles? Merriam-Webster defines a miracle as an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. Yes, I am talking about water into wine and Lazarus walking out of the tomb type miracles.
According to a 1999 CBS poll, nearly half of the public thinks that most of the events called miracles are explainable by science or modern medicine. That was more than 10 years ago. In an ever more cynical and self-absorbed society, that statistic has probably increased to three quarters of the public. And, let’s be honest, modern medicine and science have made the impossible, well…, possible. But every great once in a while, if you are in the right place at the right time, and you are one of the chosen who gets to witness, undeniable and unexplainable miracles do still happen.
Don’t believe it? Meet Lisa Jones and Audrey Ewing.
Lisa lives in Farmerville. She is married to her soul-mate, Kevin, and they have a seven-year-old daughter, Eva Grace. She has known since she was a young girl that Poly-cystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a hereditary condition, ran in her family. Her father died from the disease, her aunt died from the disease, and she watched as her cousin and her brother suffered with the debilitating and life-stealing disease. PKD is an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop in the kidneys. These cysts are noncancerous sacs containing water-like fluid and they can grow very large. Most people with this disease, if left untreated, will experience complete kidney failure before age 60. In addition to irreparable kidney damage, symptoms include: high blood pressure, intracranial aneurysms, severe abdomen and back pain, extreme fatigue and blood in the urine. There is no cure for this disease. The only treatments when kidneys can no longer function are dialysis and kidney transplant. Jones was diagnosed with the disease when she was a senior in high school, shortly after her father was finally diagnosed with PKD.
She knew that at some point in her life, she would enter the battle against this disease. At 30 years of age, those symptoms started to make manifest. She developed high blood pressure and knew that her battle had begun. Even in the midst of this battle, she wanted to live as full a life as possible. She met Kevin and they were married on Valentine’s Day of 2008. Lisa and Kevin, like most married couples, wanted to have children. However, this did not happen so easily for them. After several fertility treatments, they realized that maybe having a baby was not in the cards for them. After all, Lisa had some pretty major health issues and any child they had would have a very high chance of inheriting her kidney disease. Lisa and Kevin started the adoption process and shortly thereafter found out that they were pregnant. Lisa’s pregnancy was considered high risk because of her kidney condition and her age and she was told to expect an early delivery. However, after a completely healthy and normal pregnancy, Eva Grace arrived March 1, 2012. A very special day for Lisa as that had been her father’s birthday. Life was going well for Lisa, Kevin, and Eva Grace.
Audrey Pardue Ewing also lives in Farmer-ville. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Clint since 2011. Audrey and Clint have three children. Their daughter Lemley is 7, Helen is 4, and John is 2. Audrey teaches math at D’arbonne Woods Charter School and enjoys a very active and full life. A teaching job, a husband, three kids…, life for Audrey is nonstop and busy, busy, busy, including taking her daughter, Lemley to dance. This is where our real life miracle begins.
Lisa and Audrey met when their daughters ended up in the same dance class. This might seem irrelevant and unimportant to most, but it was the beginning of a miraculous plan that you will see was orchestrated by God from before these two tiny dancers were born. You see, Lisa is 17 years older than Audrey. The likelihood of these two precious souls having daughters the same age is extremely unlikely. But God knew. Lisa’s fertility issues led to her having a daughter a bit later in life than is ideal, but here they were. While waiting for their daughters during dance, Lisa and Audrey became friends. As a matter of fact several ladies, five to be exact became friends during this time, and began to refer to themselves as The Tribe. The Tribe became very close. They shared their ups and downs, their highs and lows and supported each other through some pretty difficult times.
A busy wife and mother is going to be tired. However, Lisa noticed that she felt more and more tired and had less energy to enjoy her daughter’s activities, her own duties as a wife and mother, and her visits with The Tribe. She knew in her heart that her kidney disease was progressing. She was extremely anemic and she was having to take iron supplements and injections. Her kidney function was declining at an alarming rate and she knew she didn’t have much time before she would have to start dialysis. But God knew.
One night when The Tribe was gathered together Lisa threw out a question that would change two of their lives forever, “Anybody have O+ blood? I’m going to need a kidney.” Without question, without hesitation, Audrey piped up, “I do!” And with those two words, their journey began.
When Audrey went home and told Clint that she was going to test and see if she was a match for Lisa, he was agreeable. After all, he knew that there was only a 10 percent chance the two friends would get a positive cross match. But God knew.
In the Fall of 2018 Audrey traveled to UAMS Health in Little Rock, AR, to begin the process. She found out that she was indeed a match for Lisa. However, they knew that there were many hurdles to jump and many tests left to be done so they knew not to get their hopes up too much. Lisa had to go and have a port put in for the looming dialysis. But God knew.
The process from this point was grueling and at times extremely frustrating and intensely emotional. Audrey had to undergo an MRI, EKG, too many vials of blood to count, a psych test, mammogram, and several 24-hour urine tests. Each time leaving her three children, her husband, and her work behind.
Lisa, too, was undergoing tests upon tests to make sure that her body was in the best possible condition to receive the donor kidney. The ladies finished all testing in May of 2019 and were eagerly awaiting news of a surgery date. Unfortunately, Lisa had to undergo a hysterectomy and she had an abnormal mammogram so this put the whole surgery schedule on hold. Time was passing and Lisa had little of it to spare. The week before Thanksgiving Lisa found out her kidneys were only functioning at eight percent. This test result threw every participant: Lisa, Audrey, healthcare professionals, and families into overdrive. They had no time to waste.
Audrey was sent to UAMS where she was put in front of a board of hospital directors to determine if she and Lisa would be approved for the surgery. She went home and they waited. And waited. And waited. They just did not know what the outcome would be. But God knew.
On Thanksgiving Day, Audrey was blessed with an email stating that they had been approved for transplant surgery. The email told Audrey to report to the hospital on December 3, for a CT scan, another urine test, and 15 more vials of blood. This resulted in a call on December 9, saying they were good to go and the surgery was scheduled for December 17.
Lisa and Audrey and their families were making preparations for Christmas, and now they were all mentally and emotionally preparing themselves for surgeries that would affect them all for the rest of their lives. Both Lisa and Audrey had been through more physical and mental testing than most people could withstand, but all was done and all they had to do was wait for the 17th. However, a couple of last minute roadblocks jumped in their path. Audrey received a call that her creatinine levels had been miscalculated and she had to undergo yet ANOTHER 24-hour urine test. Lisa and her family came home on the evening of December 13 to find that their dogs had destroyed every single present under their Christmas tree. These roadblocks may have made some people second guess their decisions; may have made them doubt if this was the right thing to do or not. Not these two ladies. The emotion and tears in Lisa’s voice were very real as she said, “Audrey is my hero. She never wavered…, never hesitated. She is selfless.”
On December 17, 2019, Audrey was rolled back to surgery at 9:15 a.m. Doctors removed her left kidney and her surgery was complete and she was in recovery by 1:15 p.m. Lisa’s transplant surgery began at 9:15 a.m. Doctors left both of her existing kidneys in place, added Audrey’s kidney, and she was done with surgery at 3 p.m. When Audrey opened her eyes in recovery she heard the most beautiful words she’s ever heard, “your kidney started working for Lisa immediately.” That famous kidney has now been named, Audisa (for Audrey and Lisa of course), and is performing its job beautifully. Surgery is a difficult thing. No matter the difficulty or the projected outcome, surgery is scary. Neither Audrey nor Lisa knew what the final outcome would be. But God knew.
Recovery has been much easier than either Lisa or Audrey expected. Audrey was discharged the very next day and was back at work three weeks later. She has been tired but her energy level is slowly getting back to normal. Audrey, when asked if knowing all the testing, the mental anguish, the not knowing, would she do it again? Without hesitation she said, “Oh, yes! My biggest fear is that it wouldn’t work. The moment my mom told me it was working was amazing. This has been a very humbling experience. There were many moments of difficulty and self-check. It was a full year of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows but so very worth it.”
Lisa was discharged from the hospital on December 20, with a perfectly functioning kidney. She had to make trips back to UAMS twice a week for lab work and to make sure her anti-rejection drugs were working correctly. She has graduated to only having to report once a week now. When I asked Lisa if she was worried or nervous about her future health, she said, “the worst is over. I have a bright future thanks to Audrey.” Lisa is slowly working on getting her body used to activity. She is walking up to 18 minutes twice a day and doing light tasks around the house. She then says, laughing, but you can also hear her holding back tears, “I will go to the bathroom to pee and I think, Audrey’s kidney is doing this for me.”
Miracle. Such a small unassuming word for something so amazing. But then…, that is how God works. He does everything in his own time. We do not understand God’s ways. We do not understand God’s timing. We simply do not know. But God knows.
Lisa’s birthday is coming up at the end of January. Kevin asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her reply was, “I already have my gift. I have been given the most amazing thing a person can be given thanks to Audrey. Life is all I need.”
So when we all are experiencing those troubles, those stresses, those problems that life will inevitably throw at us, we should all remember, life is truly a gift and if we take the time to treasure it and look around us, we might just witness a real life miracle.