After extended deliberation concerning who would be the last interviewee on his long-running PBS show, Bill Moyer’s Journal, Mr. Moyers invited author Barry Lopez to be that last guest. Theirs was a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation about life, storytelling, the metaphor of nature in human culture, and wisdom gained over many years of traveling and observing the world.
In explaining what he meant by the term, “leaning toward the light,” which he had used in a writing many years ago, Mr. Lopez spoke of “faith.” But this faith, he noted, is not the faith that makes people nervous these days because of its common association with a particular kind, e.g., Christian, Islamic, etc. He is sustained, he says, by his faith in other human beings.
Mr. Lopez recounted that he has been in a variety of dangerous situations – such as diving below the ice in Antarctica – where his faith in his colleagues kept him going. He asked Bill Moyers to reflect upon times when such bad things happen that it seemed he might not recover from them . . . and how other people helped to bring him back with a phone call, a letter, any small something serving to remind him of that connection to others who can help.
I thought I understood what he meant, particularly, as this time of year approaches. Such an example is the American Statesman’s “Season of Caring” series that matches those with needs to those who can and want to help. I appreciate the human connection of being involved in adopting needy families so that they have Christmas dinners, warm coats, and presents for the children.
But my faith in my fellow travelers was ratcheted up incalculably when I heard of a single donation made by a friend to her friends in need. Or maybe it just seemed more real, since I know all the individuals involved.
Catherine Moore is the wife of John Moore, former Deputy Comptroller, who was one of my co-workers in the early and mid 80s. John married Catherine Harris Moore over 26 years ago, knowing that she was afflicted with hereditary Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). As John says, “ She would not agree to marry me until I understood it is a serious ailment that could lead to her own sickness and death. PKD is not curable and can only be dealt with by transplant of a new kidney.” Her mother died at an early age of complications from PKD.
But John’s love was not dampened, the two were married, and shortly thereafter, became the proud parents of Phoebe Moore. For years they were also blessed with Catherine’s asymptomatic check-ups. That came to an end about six years ago when the disease began reducing the function of her kidneys, slowly at first and, then, more rapidly. She began suffering multiple effects of end stage renal failure.
It took a full year of screening and testing, but Catherine was finally accepted in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) kidney transplant program. The UTSW transplant regime requires a living donor who has a personal relationship with the recipient, i.e., family, friends, neighbors, church members. Because John is diabetic, they would not even consider his kidney and Phoebe, in double genetic jeopardy because of John’s diabetes and Catherine’s PKD, could not donate hers.
But enter Cindy Morphew. Cindy was another one of our co-workers at the Comptroller’s Office and, through the years, kept up a close friendship with the Moores. She was the first to hear that Catherine was accepted in the organ transplant program, and the first to submit a donor application.
As the first potential donor, Cindy was tested, and unbelievably, her blood matched Catherine’s in every crucial way! Surgery was scheduled for September, pending additional tests.
It seemed too good to be true, and ultimately, it appeared that it was. Tests had identified a medical condition that posed a future risk to Cindy’s health; she was rejected as a donor, and the surgery canceled. The donor coordinator at UTSW, Sandra Hooker, who John describes as a “remarkably dedicated woman,” began contacting other prospective donors
All summer and fall of this year, Catherine grew weaker. Phoebe came home from her graduate studies in England and the family circled its wagons, preparing for the worst.
But, Cindy did not take her rejection notice, go home to dwell on her failure to qualify, and worry about her friend. She sought a second opinion from the Mayo Clinic, and doctors at Mayo saw no reason she should be rejected as Catherine’s donor. Great news!
But, the transplant surgeons at UTSW met, reconsidered, and rejected her a second time.
Did I mention that Cindy was persistent? She made an appointment with another UTSW specialist to discuss this future health risk that disqualified her and asked how she could eliminate it. It was determined that the way to deal with the risk would be for Cindy to commit to a certain course of treatment. Armed with that commitment and a recommendation from the specialist, she requested a face-to-face meeting with the transplant surgeons, after which, Cindy was accepted at last, and literally, not a moment too soon.
I have recently heard that both women are out of what appears to have been two successful surgeries. We can only hope that the more good news is in store for Catherine, John, and Phoebe, as Catherine adapts to the new kidney.
As I reflect on Cindy’s gift of life to the Moore family, I am also called to remember the dedicated people who played a role in making this happen, from nurses to surgeons, coordinators to laboratory technicians, etc. With newfound clarity, I understand what Barry Lopez meant about being fortified by faith in each other as a people, as friends, as professionals, as human beings involved in this journey called LIFE. When speaking about faith, the simple truth is that it does not matter whether you find meaning in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or atheism – what matters is that we are ALL needed to reach out a hand and root for each other . . . we are the home team . . . our name is Humanity.
[If you want to send well wishes, donate to PKD research, see a picture of Cindy and Catherine, or simply read what John actually posted (although I’ve borrowed heavily from it), go to: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/catherinemoore ]