Humans of Agriculture- Debbie’s Story.
“Two years ago, my life changed forever. Two years ago, my son started to get sick and we had no idea the roller coaster we would be on. Two years ago, my identical twin sons were planning their high school graduation party, when one of my boys started itching on his legs and having trouble sleeping.
We are ranchers, and all five of our kids are part-owners in our ranch and very involved in day to day operations. So we figured Tyler had gotten into something he was allergic to and the itching would resolve. But it didn’t…it got worse over the next few months. We saw the family doctor over and over to be prescribed creams and steroids to clear up the spots and scabs that had appeared on his legs, while the itching became unbearable. In July, I noticed his eyes were a bit yellow, and knowing that meant liver involvement, I called the doctor and he immediately referred us to KU Medical Center in Kansas City—a 2-hour drive from our ranch in central Kansas. He was diagnosed with liver failure due to an autoimmune disease we had never heard of—Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). His case had matured quickly and his liver was already so diseased he needed a transplant.
He was rushed to be listed on the transplant list and he was immediately at the top of the list. The story is long and painful to retell, but you can read about the journey on my blog.
We spent two weeks watching Tyler inch closer to death. On August 22, he was admitted to the hospital for tube feeding, since he couldn’t digest any regular food. He lost 35 pounds in 3 weeks. We waited for “The Call” knowing that someone would have to die to provide him with a healthy liver. It is a strange thing to know that while I prayed for someone to want to give my son a second chance at life, another family would be grieving the loss of their loved one.
According to the doctors, he was literally hours from death, but he got “The Call” on August 27 and finally received a new liver on August 28. I think of the donor and their family often and pray for them daily. I can’t imagine what it is like to make the decision to donate your loved one’s organs and save up to eight lives, while mourning the loss of that special person. Today my son is a healthy and happy college student—but he has a more than a typical respect for his health. He takes a lot of immunosuppression pills morning and night, and will for the rest of his life. But this liver seems to like him and is working beautifully! We hope one day to meet the family of our Super Hero, the person who chose to donate their organs. Until then, I just hope Tyler can feel like a normal person and live the life he originally wanted as a cattle rancher in Kansas, without worrying about his liver.”
Two years ago seems like a long time. Two years ago we were totally uninformed about liver disease and transplant. Two years ago I began advocating for people to sign up to be an organ donor. Go to OrganDonor.gov to make your wishes known and not leave that decision to your family, if the unthinkable should ever happen to you.”
Debbie is the woman behind your food. Think of her when you buy beef at the grocery store. Follow her blog HERE.
To read more Humans of Agriculture stories, click HERE.
Thank you to the Kansas Farm Bureau for sending me a copy of Kansas Farmer, an incredible book of photography by Scott Stebner and stories featuring farmers and ranchers from across Kansas. If you love farmers and photography, I highly suggest you check out this book. You can learn more and order your own copy HERE. Proceeds from book sales fund scholarships for students pursuing degrees in agriculture.