She never knew that years later she really would be his missing puzzle piece when she was able to give him one of her kidneys.
Our journey together started almost 25 years ago when Johnny was going to be deployed to the Persian Gulf and I was training, October 1990 for Army Reserves. We met before he was deployed and he told me that I was his missing puzzle piece. I just thought it was a line he was giving me because we were both teenagers. He told me that he was going to marry me one day and that he wanted me to write him while he was deployed to Saudi Arabia. So we sent each other letters while he was in Desert Storm and when he returned, he moved to Virginia with a duffle bag and a truck that was all he owned. He was from Ohio but moved all the way to Virginia for me! We married in November 1992 and had our first child, Sarah in December 1994 and fast forward to August 2002 we had our second child, Jason. About a week after Jason was born, Johnny found out that he had a kidney disease. He had carried around uranium depleted ammunition as a soldier in Desert Storm which was traced back to how he would end up with kidney failure. His doctor explained that he was in end stage renal disease and would soon need dialysis or transplant therapy. In August 2006 he was diagnosed with nasal cancer and had to have radiation treatments and several surgeries which stressed his body so much it shut his kidneys down requiring immediate dialysis. The bad news was that this made him ineligible to be on a kidney transplant list. The cancer was also linked to Johnny’s service in the military. Dialysis and cancer treatment were going on simultaneously and it was a struggle. Not only was it hard for him to go through, but as a family member we felt helpless because all we could do was pray and keep our faith. One of the most powerful times during all of this was at the Santa clara monastery we went to a healing mass. The priest prayed over Johnny and he fell back three times. I went up holding my son, then 2, and the priest prayed over us. I felt a feeling that I have never felt before it was a warm electric feeling and at the same time it was a feeling as though everything was going to be all right. Shortly after our visit to the monastery, at his next appointment the doctor gave him a PET scan and declared that he did not see any more cancer and that was the first day of his remission. The struggle for Johnny to do hemodialysis would leave him exhausted and sick, so he decided to do peritoneal dialysis at home. Dialysis, for Johnny was his way of putting on the struggle and living for his family. He was not really living just surviving for our benefit. He also never believed that he would get a kidney transplant. It left him ineligible to be on a transplant list because he had to be cancer free for five years and sometimes it can take that long to get an organ. Into his third year of dialysis, his health was deteriorating and had more negative lab values and the outlook was starting to look grim. The doctor explained that dialysis was becoming less effective as a therapy. We had learned through our kidney support group that Ohio State might be an option that would do a transplant for us, even with Johnny’s health background. In 2009, his doctor said that he needed a kidney transplant or he was going to die. He had been on peritoneal dialysis for several years but now he needed a transplant. I had prayed that God would make me a match. We knew that we were the same blood type because as I said earlier we were in the Army and your blood type is on your dog tags. I went for testing and Thanks be to God! We were a match. The nurse called to tell me, and I remember calling Johnny crying and telling him that I REALLY WAS HIS MISSING PUZZLE PIECE!!! We have seen how God performs miracles during our 22 year marriage. Not only were we praying that I would be a match, but our church, St. Paul’s Catholic Church in North Canton was praying, our family was praying, our friends were praying and our friends the nuns at Santa Clara monastery were all praying. I remember listening to the fish in some of our darkest hours and driving to work or to the hospital and crying out to Jesus to help us. Out of all of this, we want people to know that our faith is the most important thing that we have and sometimes it is all we have to hold onto. We have felt Jesus presence and want others to know how powerful of help he is and that he is there for us, we have been a witness of this! If you or someone you know is having kidney dialysis or transplant and needs prayer or just information from somebody that has walked in your shoes, feel free to contact us. I also would like to personally promote being a live kidney donor! God Bless!
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