This I Believe

Joseph - Rochester, New York
Entered on July 18, 2007

A Life-Defining Experience

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.”

Dag Hammarskjold

When my oldest grandchild, Ricky, was diagnosed as color-blind, I didn’t know that was a minor problem compared to future challenges. A few years later, he glided around a Little League baseball path running full throttle like I did as kid. All seemed well with the world.

At 12, I dreamed of playing professional baseball. At 12, Ricky dreamed of playing for the Boston Red Sox.

But shortly after becoming 12, Ricky’s dream baseball shattered. Ricky started visiting the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for treatment for primary sclerosing cholangitis, an incurable liver disease. He needed a new liver. We prayed for Ricky.

In seventh grade he spent two hours a day in school and he was tutored by grandma. One day, he said to me with tears in his eyes, “I am so glad that grandma is tutoring me and not a stranger.”

Ricky is always upbeat and compassionate. He has many of the same traits as his parents. They are caring, loving, and positive people. Because of Ricky’s winning personality, he has many friends. Both students and staff have gone out of their way to support him through cheerful conversations, donations to his liver foundation, flower sales, and buttons that bear his trademark smile.

Waiting for the transplant was a challenge for Ricky’s parents, siblings, relatives, and friends. Everyone hoped for the best. We knew the road ahead would be bumpy before and after the transplant. All who loved Ricky learned to treasure the present. I wanted Ricky to live a full life wherein he could make a difference.

After being on the liver transplant list for 435 official days and 200+ unofficial days, Ricky had his operation. As he was wheeled into surgery, his sister burst into tears. He whispered to her, “Don’t worry about me. I am going to fall asleep now.” And he did.

The operation was supposed to last 4-6 hours. After nine hours, he was moved to Intensive Care. In the weeks ahead Ricky dealt with many health problems from kidney failure to being diabetic. Each stride forward was a blessing. First we enjoyed seeing him move without trailing plastic tubes and electrical wires! Eventually he went home from the hospital. After he became healthier, he spent longer days at school, and he was promoted. Now he is a 10th grader.

I believe that he wants to give back to society. With every breath that he takes he knows the true meaning of the gift of life. He knows that the first important step is filling out a donor card. For Ricky, the realization of how precious life is came on the operating table. He will never forget his miracle. He put this bumper sticker on my car: “Don’t take organs to heaven…heaven knows we need them here on earth!”

Ricky will make a difference with his life.