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Kingston, Massachusetts, United States

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 13, 2011 - Six Months And A Promise To Mom

Six months ago, I was looking out at the world sort of through a prism.  A prism, as you know, takes what we see and distorts the original image many images…many different images.  And depending on your view, you may not like what you see, but then again, what you are looking at could be a beautiful kaleidoscope.
Six months ago, I was awaiting a life changing kidney transplant.  My Diabetes had ravaged my body into near submission.  But as I had been taught by my sister, Linda, before me, Diabetes may be able to take a few good swings at me, but I was damned if I was going to let it kick the shit out of me.  My fight with Diabetes has been similar to that of the fictional heavy-weight prize fighter, Rocky Balboa, and his epic fights with Apollo Creed and others.

For those unfamiliar with Rocky (from the original Academy Award Best Picture winner in 1976),  he was a down on his luck fighter who got a shot at the big time in a fight with Apollo Creed.  The fight went the distance.  But we learned a lot from Rocky as a person, not just as a fighter.  However, his life outside the ring and his life inside the ring, in many ways, paralleled each other.  Rocky had heart and desire, and a will to win no matter how many times he was knocked down.

Later this month, I will mark my 28th year with Diabetes.  I have taken some pretty severe punches from it, the need for bypass heart surgery, eye surgery and neuropathy to name a few.  But this latest punch, kidney disease and the need for a kidney transplant, I took was probably the most emotional for me.

I knew if I did not get the transplant I was headed for dialysis…and I mean no disrespect to those that have been through dialysis, or are currently on it, but I was scared of it from what I had heard from other patients, and I knew, at least in what the statistics show, that getting a transplant before the need for dialysis tends to have a longer success rate for a transplanted kidney.

But it was emotional for me because Tommy was donating one of his kidneys to me.  I think I was more scared for him getting the surgery than I was for me.  Then there was Christine, who had supported me helped me get ready for the surgery.  But the most emotional part of it all for me was seeing what mom was going through as a mother seeing her two sons in surgery at the same time, one helping the other to live.

Six months ago, I remember seeing mom being wheeled into my room in her wheelchair (paralyzed on her right side from a stroke several years ago) by Jodi, Linda’s best friend and someone who has been like another sister to Tommy and I.

Fighting back tears, I said. “Hi Mom.”  And she simply said, “Hi Michael…you did it!  You both did it!  I am so proud of both of you!”

Fast forward to today…today I had my six month check-up with Dr. P.  We talked a lot about how I was feeling and how my labs have been over the course of the last six months.  But there was nothing clinical about our discussion.  Throughout the whole appointment, Dr. P. wore a smile from ear to ear because she was genuinely happy as to how I was doing.

Over the last six months, I have experienced many of the ups and downs of post transplant life…thankfully, mostly ups.  I had an appreciation for life before, but I have an even greater appreciation now.

Aside from the quality of life that I now have, one of the more positive things that has come from this whole experience, is the friendships that I have formed, particularly through this blog.  Your experiences, your words of encouragement have meant a lot to me.  I hold a very special place in my heart for all, but especially for one, who I now consider part of my family.  She has not had the experience of a transplant, and I hope to God that she never has to, but she has helped me with my Diabetes as I have with hers.

Just as I have had many great experiences over the last six months, like the prism I mentioned, there are many positive images, but there are some images that are not as positive.

Six months ago, I was ecstatic to see mom when she came into my room.  Today, I am ecstatic to see mom every day because I know there may not be many of these days left for her as she has been fighting off cancer.  Mom taught me how to have a fighting spirit.  She has accepted that she is in a fight that she cannot win, but she will not let the cancer know that.

Mom…it is my promise to you…that I will continue to fight.  I will take every punch thrown at me and if I am knocked down, I will get back up and continue to fight.  You fought for Linda and I with our Diabetes, and I will not let your fight be in vein.  I promise, I will fight as you taught me, whatever form that may take – be it with my own Diabetes, protecting my new kidney, my heart, my eyes, my nerves; be it through supporting others and educating others in Diabetes and kidney disease; be it through whatever means possible.

Mom, six months from now at my one year anniversary of my new lease on life, I know you may not be with us physically, but your spirit will be in our hearts.  Thank you for everything you have ever done for me.  Thank you for walking with me this far into my life.  Please know that you have been an indomitable inspiration.  You have given me the tools to continue, and I hope I make you proud the rest of the way.  Mom, I promise to continue fighting for me, as well as others.

Mom……Thank You and I Love You !!!

If you, or someone you know is interested in learning more about Diabetes or organ donation, please contact: www.diabetes.org, www.joslin.org,  www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 24, 2011 - Thanksgiving

Giving thanks is something that many of us take for granted until we are slapped in the face with a real life changing event.  If things are going well, we sometimes forget to stop for a moment and think about how we got to this great place.

So today, Thanksgiving, I would just like to tell you about a few things that I am thankful for, and I invite all of you to share, if you wish, what you are thankful for as well…

I am thankful for:

·         A second chance at life because of Tommy.  On June 7th of this year, Tommy gave me that second chance when he donated his kidney to me.  As I have said many times here, all I can do is say thank you for the amazing selfless gift he gave me.

·         My family.  They have been there every step of the way with me.

  • My wife, Christine.  For all of the love and support she has given me through all of the ups and downs of this year.
·         My friends. I have met or been introduced to so many wonderful people around the country to around the world.  I am very fortunate to have you all in my life.

·         Mom.  I am thankful to have today to spend with her.  She may not be with us much longer, but none of that matters today.  Today will be a day to try and make her as happy as possible.

·         Everyone who reads this blog.  Thank you for taking such an active interest !

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving !!!  May your day be filled with family and friends who are special to you.  Giving thanks may only take but a mere few moments, but it lasts much, much longer than that, perhaps a lifetime !

If you, or someone you know is interested in learning more about Diabetes or organ donation, please contact: www.diabetes.org, www.joslin.org,  www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011 - World Diabetes Day

Today, November 14th, is World Diabetes Day.

I consider myself to be a fairly well informed Diabetic.  I try to stay abreast of all things Diabetes.  I want to know how others are treating their Diabetes and living with it every day; I want to know if there are new advances to get excited about – unfortunately most of those advances are in the equipment that we use, such as glucose meters or insulin pumps; and I want to know anything and everything else I can learn about Diabetes, meaning, I want to be a sponge and soak it all up.

But in the interest of full disclosure, this Diabetic, living with the disease now for nearly 28 years, I have to admit I was unaware of World Diabetes Day, let alone that November 14th is set aside to play host to this day.  For a long time, I have been acutely aware that November is National Diabetes Month in the United States, but for one reason or another, World Diabetes Day escaped me.  So, as I am just learning about it, I think it is a good exercise for all of us to become more aware of this day and what it means, if you don’t mind me indulging a bit.

According to the International Diabetes Federation website, World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated every year on November 14. The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and its member associations. It engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness. World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes now poses. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2007 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/225. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight. This year sees the second of a five-year campaign that will address the growing need for diabetes education and prevention programmes.”

So why November 14th specifically, you ask (as I did).  Well it is for a very good reason, in fact.  As it turns out, November 14th marks what would have been the birthday of Frederick Banting, who along with Charles Best were the discoverers of insulin in 1922.

The slogan at the top of the International Diabetes Federation website is: “Act On Diabetes.  Now.”  This is a very important statement.  It applies to all of us, Diabetics and Non-Diabetics.  It is a call to action for Diabetics to realize what type of control they are in with the disease and improve that control, even if your own Diabetes management is going well, because, unfortunately, Diabetes is a Merry-Go-Round that we cannot get off.  And for Non-Diabetics, this is an opportunity to become more informed and more educated about Diabetes – about risk factors, about complications, and how to support family and friends living with Diabetes.

For me, today is a day to honor and pay respect to those that I know and don’t know who wake up every morning and go to bed every night hoping and praying for a day when there is a cure for Diabetes.  It is also a day for me to honor and respect those that have had the opportunity of a pancreas transplant and are living without the thought of needing to take shots or take a bolus in their pump to cover a meal with insulin.  And today is a day to honor and memorize those who lived everyday with Diabetes and are no longer here with us.

Today, I honor, respect, and in some cases, memorialize:

Linda Burke – My sister, who passed away, at the age of 24 in 1989, due to complications from Diabetes.  A part of Linda is with me every day helping me with my Diabetes.  She was and still is, a great teacher.

Norman Burris – The father of a very good friend, who lived with Diabetes for many years, before passing away.  He was a great source of inspiration for his family and friends, especially to his daughter.

Elizabeth Fallows – A high school classmate of mine who passed away several years ago, who was a Diabetic from a very young age.

Eric Harrington – A neighbor when I was growing up, who lives with Diabetes today.

Cora Rodych – A Diabetic living in Canada who has received a kidney and pancreas transplant, and has been doing well with her Diabetes since receiving her new pancreas.

Christine Burke – My wife, living with Type 2 Diabetes since November 1998.

Reyna Almond – A very good friend, living with, and succeeding at managing her Diabetes well.

All the Patients at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and all of the patients at similar clinics across the country and across the world – We are all in this together !

And I would be remiss, if I did not thank all of the many doctors and nurses, as well as our family members, who have helped us all learn to deal with and help manage our Diabetes…Thank You !!!

If you, or someone you know is interested in learning more about Diabetes or organ donation, please contact: www.diabetes.org, www.joslin.org,  www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21, 2011

Tomorrow, October 22, 2011, marks an important day around the country.  No, it’s not a national holiday, but with as much success each year since its inception in 1992, perhaps it could be someday, you never know.
What is this special day, you ask?

It is Make A Difference Day!  A national day of giving back.  A day where everyone has a chance to step up for their communities.  Perhaps you and a group of friends get together to help clean up a park so kids can play safely; or putting together an event where you help the homeless, perhaps in a soup kitchen…the ideas are endless.

But I have an idea that many may not have thought about but I would like you to consider, talk about with your family and friends about, and then take action.  It is a personal decision, but once you make that decision, it is so easy to accomplish, and what you get out of it is almost too difficult to put into words.

The simple act of kindness that I would like you to consider on Make A Difference Day is becoming an organ donor.

This is not a day to throw a whole lot of numbers at you, but suffice it to say, there are many, many people around the country and around the world in need of a life saving act of kindness.  You may even know people in your communities, in your cities and towns, where you work, where you take your yoga or Pilates or Spinning class, or they may even be your next door neighbor, all of whom may need a kidney, a pancreas, a liver, or a heart.

As you know, I was the recipient of a donated kidney earlier this year, from my brother, Tommy.  I was one of the lucky ones.  Had Tommy not been a match, who knows where I would be today – probably joining many of the thousands on dialysis, waiting and hoping for the phone to ring.

And that wait, for those that do not have a ready, willing and able donor, can be excruciatingly long – not months, years.  And from what I am told, there are similar wait times for people needing other the other organs mentioned, as well.

Perhaps you have had a family member or dear friend receive an organ from a complete stranger in order to keep them alive, so you could celebrate more birthdays and holidays with them.  Well, if that is the case, and you haven’t done anything about it…this is your chance to step up, man up, woman up, and pay it forward.

If you want to make a positive change in your life AND in the life of someone else, then stop putting it off until tomorrow, because tomorrow sometimes never comes for some people.  Make a difference in someone’s life…make a difference in your life – become an organ donor !!!  

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.

Friday, September 30, 2011

September 30, 2011

26 Million !

26 Million…this is how many people just in the United States have Kidney Disease…26 Million!

I have to admit, before actually being diagnosed with Kidney Disease, which as you know was brought on by my Diabetes, I knew very little about the disease as a whole…or, and perhaps more importantly, how many variations of the disease there is.  Some of those variations I have already touched on in earlier posts.

I want to tell you about another form of the disease, a form that has not received a whole lot of attention at all.  In fact, I am willing to bet that there are a good number of people who have Kidney Disease in general, and those who read this blog specifically, that may not even know this form of kidney disease even exists.  I also want to tell you about a special event being held in a couple of weeks with regard to this disease.

The form of Kidney Disease I am talking about is called Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN).  According to emedicine.medscape.com: Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) is an uncommon cause of chronic nephritis that occurs primarily in children and young adults. This entity refers to a pattern of glomerular injury based on characteristic histopathologic findings, including: (1) proliferation of mesangial and endothelial cells and expansion of the mesangial matrix, (2) thickening of the peripheral capillary walls by subendothelial immune deposits and/or intramembranous dense deposits, and (3) mesangial interposition into the capillary wall, giving rise to a double-contour or tram-track appearance on light microscopy.  If you are aware of MPGN, you may also know that there are three separate types of MPGN, Type I, Type II and Type III.

You may have also seen MPGN Type II referred to as Dense Deposit Disease, or DDD.  WebMD explains Dense Deposit Disease (DDD) as a rare kidney disease that stops the kidneys from correctly filtering waste from the blood. The name is descriptive of the electron-dense changes that transform the middle layer (lamina densa) of the glomerular basement membrane (GBM) in a segmental, discontinuous or diffuse pattern. The glomeruli are the filtering units of the kidney. Blood flows through very small capillaries in each glomerulus where it is filtered through the GBM to form urine. When DDD is present, deposits in the GBM lead to disruption of kidney function. Because damage to glomeruli is progressive, about half of all persons with DDD experience kidney failure after living with their disease for 10 years. The development of kidney failure means that dialysis or transplantation must be started.

I am singling out MPGN Type II for a very special and personal reason.  You have seen me mention before that I have a great relationship with all of my cousins, to the point that they feel more like brothers and sisters rather than cousins.  If I could have been the only one in our family (immediate and extended) to ever have been affected by Kidney Disease, that would have made me very happy because that would mean that no one else in the family would ever have to live a day worrying about kidney failure, dialysis, or even transplantation.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.  My cousin Tommy, and his wife, Rose, have two beautiful children – Brenna, who just began her freshman year at college, and Tommy Jr. (The names Tommy, Jimmy and Michael are very common in our family…it is pretty funny sometimes to see someone (especially my mom or Aunt Mary) call out any or all of those names at a family gathering and have what seems like twenty people turn around and respond).

Tommy Jr. is 15 this year, and a sophomore in high school.  But about four years ago in 2007, Tommy was diagnosed with MPGN Type II/DDD.  Tommy loves school and got involved in SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) and Junior AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians) last year. His interest and talent in art continues to grow and he will continue with art classes at school.  Baseball is still his favorite, playing as much as he can throughout the year. He played for the Freshman High School team this past year in addition to 3 other teams.  It was a very busy spring and summer, his travel team winning the coveted Pennsylvania State Championship 14U Title.  After a few weeks off, he is ready to start Fall Ball this weekend.

Looking at Tommy, much like many others who have Kidney Disease, you would never know that he and his family deal with this disease every single day.  There is the constant regimen of medications and diet.  There are no days off.  But what you see in Tommy, is not so much of a person that is sick, but of young kid trying to enjoy every day with his family, friends, teammates and classmates.  Much of Tommy’s life is like every other 15 year old but there are many things so different because of the disease. While he is one of the lucky ones so far, there are many battling much worse symptoms. His daily medication has many side effects…still most troubling to him is growth deceleration.  He continues a sodium restricted diet and though he is used to it by now, the daily reminder of being different is always there.
This is Tommy with the logo he made for his walk.

One of the sad truths to this rare form of Kidney Disease is that approximately half of all children with DDD/MPGN II will go into kidney failure between 8-10 years after diagnosis. These children will require dialysis or transplantation in order to stay alive.

Two of the things I remember vividly as I was being rolled into the operating room for my transplant…one was of my brother, Tommy (see I told you there were a lot of Tommy’s in our family) going through surgery to help save my life; and the other was of Tommy Jr., just wishing that there would be a cure for his form of Kidney Disease, so he wouldn’t have to experience full kidney failure, dialysis or even the possibility of needing a transplant.

Which brings me to another sad truth of MPGN II/DDD, is that funding for research for DDD  is extremely limited.  So, Tommy, with the help of his family, aunts, uncles and grandparents, started to raise money for DDD.  This year he will be participating in Tommy Kane’s 4th Annual Walk/Run Benefit for Kidneeds, which will be held on October 15th – just a couple of weeks away.

Tommy would like to raise as much as he possibly can for his disease, and this year he has set a goal of $8,000.  Unfortunately, Tommy has a ways to go in order to reach his goal.  So, I would like to ask all of you to consider helping Tommy reach his goal.  I realize things are tight for everyone, but even if everyone contributed a just $5, $10, or even $20 (a week’s worth of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, or any other coffee shop), that would go a long way in helping Tommy reach his goal.

Tax deductible donations can be made online at: http://www.active.com/donate/TommyKane2011 (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Visa Debit, and MasterCard Debit all accepted), or you may mail your donation to Karen Williams, 45 Inverness Road, Holbrook, NY 11741. Make checks payable to: Kidneeds, Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. 

If you are also within an hour or two drive of the Philadelphia/Bensalem area and would like to participate in this event registration begins at 9am for the 5K Run/Walk (3.1 mile), which will start at 9:30 am, followed by a 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk starting at 10:00 am.  Tommy’s walk will be held at Neshaminy State Park, Pavilion #1.  The park address is 3401 State Road, Bensalem, PA 19020, which is located at the intersection of State Road & Dunks Ferry Road.  It is easily reached from the PA 132 (Street Road) Exit off I-95.

Please do me a favor…please pass along the link to this blog or the Facebook page to everyone in your address books/contact lists.  I would like to call attention to Kidney Disease in general, and MPGN II/DDD specifically.  I would love to see Tommy reach his goal, that would be a tremendous accomplishment, and he would be doing his part to reduce that number of 26 million affected by Kidney Disease!  On behalf of Tommy and his family, I want to thank you for helping him raise these funds and reach his goal.  If you would like additional information about DDD, please visit: http://www.medicine.uiowa.edu/kidneeds/index.htm

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011

Well it finally happened.  I knew it was just a matter of time.  But like most, I guess, I was hopefully trying to put it off as long as possibly could, and now realizing I wish I could have put it off for good.  It was inevitable, especially since my immune system is pretty much shut down now so the anti-rejection meds can do what they are suppose to do, and that is protect my new kidney.

What happened was, I got my first cold since having the transplant back in June.  No big deal, right?  Or so I thought.  Now, I know we have all had colds.  Most of the time colds are harmless, they just make us miserable for a couple of days, three, maybe four days, tops.  Then we feel better…no sniffles, no headache, no more achy feelings, no more itchy, scratchy feelings in our eyes or throat…it’s all gone, almost as if it were never there in the first place.  Only that didn’t happen in this case.

Nope, that didn’t happen at all.  I did everything I was suppose to do…I called the transplant center at the beginning of the cold to see what over the counter medications I was able to take that wouldn’t mess with my anti-rejection meds.  Then the cold lingered and lingered and lingered.  Then at about day four, I called the transplant center again and said that I was feeling better, overall, but I just can’t shake this nagging cough.  I then suggested a chest x-ray because of my history over the last five to ten years.  I said that I am probably just overreacting since this is my first cold or respiratory event since the transplant.  Betsy, the transplant coordinator, said it is better to be safe than sorry.  She then asked if I could get the x-ray done with my primary, Dr. M., that way I wouldn’t have to come all the way into Boston for what would be a very quick appointment.

I called Dr. M. and she put the order in for a chest x-ray…the x-ray was done, and sure enough, what was once just a simple cold had turned into a small spot of pneumonia on my right lung.  The Radiology findings report read as follows:

“There is mild accentuation of interstitial markings as compared with prior chest x-ray of 5/11/2011.  May represent mild fluid retention.  There is some question of some focal increased density in right third anterior interspace.  It raises the question of super imposed infiltrates.  No other interval change since prior 5/11/2011.”

I contacted the transplant team and told them of these findings and said that Dr. M. suggested a shot of Rociphin and follow that up with an oral antibiotic.  The transplant team ok’ed the shot of Rociphin and said that they would consult with Dr. P., as to how to proceed beyond that.

Dr. M’s office was open late on this particular day (Thursday), so I didn’t have to wait until the next day to get this course of treatment started.  After I checked in at the desk, I was then called to go into an exam room.  The nurse followed me in, and with her she had the syringe filled with the medication and an alcohol swap.  So as the nurse was verifying my name, date of birth, etc., I begin to roll up my sleeve so I could get the shot in my arm.  She then turns to me and says, “Oh, no…DROP ‘EM !”

Inside I’m saying to myself, “OH SHIT!”  Now, I have never had a problem getting a shot or giving myself a shot, after all I have given myself  somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 injections of insulin before I went on the pump.  But if there is one thing that I hate, it’s getting a shot in the ass…and this particular shot hurt like hell !!!  It still hurt two days later.  You know the type of shot I am talking about…it’s not shirt and thin like most normal shots.  No, no, ney, ney…this one is like the size and length of a javelin, and it feels like a javelin jabbed into your ass.

Needless to say, the following day, the transplant team also suggested putting me on a ten day course of Levaquin.  And that is where I am right now.  I will have a follow-up chest x-ray later this week to see if the pneumonia is resolving, which I hope it is.

I guess the lesson that I have learned here, is that in post-transplant life, everything that was once simple, such as a cold, may not be so simple, which I am now more than sure that most post-transplant patients are well aware of.

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18, 2011

I was re-reading the post from last week where I talked about Dad, and a few more memories crept to the front of my mind. 

Particularly, when we would take a ride into Boston from the South Shore.  Dad, would sometimes take us with him if he had to check out a job that he was going to be doing for someone the next week, to determine what he would need for materials and man power.  I vividly remember during those rides he would say to us: “Look up there, I did that one”, as he would point to the John Hancock Building referring to the fact that he helped build that building.  And this would go on as we drove around and about the city…Dad’s mark, or stamp, if you will, was everywhere – he literally helped to build the city of Boston, and he was damn proud of it!

Dad was also very involved in his church, Holy Family Church in Duxbury.  If there were three things that Dad was very proud of, that set his legacy in place, sort of his own version of the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Dad would always say Holy Ghost as opposed to Holy Spirit), was his Family, the end result of the work he did, and his Faith.

Dad had a lot of faith, and was very involved in the church, from Parish Council to being an usher at the 10:00am Sunday morning mass, to being a part of the Building Committee when it came time to build a new and bigger church for the community.  In fact, it was with the new church that the three arms of his Trinity came together one day in a sort of Perfect Storm for him, and I wish I could find the picture of it to show you.  One day when the new church was nearing completion and getting ready to open, Dad, with Tommy helping him (Family), laid the cornerstone (the result of the work he had done) on the new church (a symbol of his Faith).

But one day long ago, it was brought to Dad’s attention, that there were senior citizens in town who wanted to attend church, but did not have a means of getting there.  As soon as Dad heard this, he began to show up at the Senior housing complex every Sunday morning before the 10:00 am mass and squeeze as many seniors into his car (sometimes truck – that was a sight to see!) and off to church he would go, and then he would return his “girlfriends” (as he use to refer to them as) home afterwards.  At first, it was one senior, then two, before long it was four, sometimes five, seniors he would bring to mass every week.

This selfless act continued for several years.  Suddenly, there were days when there were too many “girlfriends” to fit into his car.  At which point he began to ask for help, and others from the parish stepped up to help these seniors.

These two nuggets from Dad’s glory days got me to thinking about what one person can do.  What can one person accomplish when they are part of a larger group with a common goal.  Obviously Dad did not build the City of Boston by himself, he was one of many.  He did start the effort to bring his “girlfriends” to mass every week, and built it up so that there was a small team of drivers.

What can one person do?

Well, one person can do many things.  And when it comes to Diabetes, if that one person is me or you, there is so much that we can do, such as educate, advocate, and provide support and friendship.  Let’s take a look.


With me, for the longest time, when it came to my Diabetes, I just wanted to hide in a shell and not give anyone a chance to ask me questions about my Diabetes.  I had some distorted belief that if I did not talk about it, somehow no one would ask about it, or ask those questions like, “Why are you going to the bathroom a lot?”, or “How did you catch your Diabetes?”, or “Why do you do that finger stick thing so much?” or “Are you allowed to eat that?” or “Can you do your Diabetes thing (or stuff) somewhere else?” or “My grandma had Diabetes, and she ate cake all the time, why don’t you?” or “Will you die if you eat this candy?” or “My mom knew someone who died once from ‘beetes’, how long do you have to live?” or, well I could keep going but you get the point…and I’m sure you could probably add to this list as well.

But there was a point, maybe about fifteen years ago, when I was at work…I remember this vividly… the main office of the company that I was working for at the time was a converted house, so I was sitting in the kitchen getting something to eat, and it was about two in the afternoon, when the secretary, Helen, came back to ask me a question.  Helen said, “Would you mind talking to a gentleman that comes to the office nearly every day about Diabetes, since you have had it a long time and it seems like you know what you are doing?”  For a second, all I was focused on was that backhanded compliment.  Then I snapped out of it and said, “Sure.”  How could I possibly say no the secretary (nowadays referred to as Office Manager), after all she was the one who was the glue that held the company together – all secretaries/office managers are like that, they are the ones that really keep all companies afloat and running smoothly…forget the presidents, CEO’s and managers, it is most definitely the secretaries.

So, I am thinking Helen is going to bring some salesman who calls on the company to sell office products or something like that.  No, what I see come around the corner was a man dressed in brown shorts and brown collared work shirt – it was, Jim, the UPS® guy !!!  Of course it was, who else comes to the office nearly every day?!

Jim walks in and I invite him to take a seat, which he replies, “Thank you.”  I said to him, “So, Helen tells me you have some questions about Diabetes.”  Jim seemed a little nervous, and said, “I don’t want to take much of your time, but yes, I have a few.”  “Great”, I said, “Fire away, I’ll answer what I can for you.”  And it was at that instant, that, at least when it came to Diabetes (I was still tremendously shy for almost every other part of my life), that it seemed as if I had stepped from the shadows and realized that it was ok to talk about my Diabetes. 

Since that day, I understand and appreciate that if someone is asking a question about my Diabetes or Heart Disease or Kidney Disease, that it must mean that they are curious for a reason and that I should, to the best of my ability, share them an answer based on my experience. 

It’s not that I am obligated to share my experiences now, it’s that I want to.  It’s ok to want to keep your Diabetes experiences to yourself, but for me it has been a freeing feeling.  To know that I am able to help someone is a great feeling.  People ask questions for reasons we may never know – they could feel like they are showing symptoms of Diabetes, Heart Disease, Kidney Disease, Neuropathy, you name it; or they may have a family member with one or more of these disease and want to know what that family member is going through…it is something we may never know.

Nowadays, and nearly every day, you can’t turn on the TV or radio, or open the newspaper or get an email in your inbox, that doesn’t have something with Heart Disease or Cancer.  The American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association does a fantastic job of getting in our faces about signs, symptoms, personal stories, etc.  In fact, I have called a particular business more than several times and if I am ever put on hold, there is a reminder in the recorded message for women to schedule their annual mammograms…its brilliant, because you are a captive audience.  But I dare you to look, let’s say over the next week or so, and notice how often you hear or see commercials or adds for something related to cancer or heart disease – this would include calls for support, like walk-a-thons, runs, etc.

Diabetes, in my estimation, does an ok job educating the general public about the disease and the diseases the spring from it, like heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage (particularly in the feet), but it can always do better.  And for it to do a better job of educating, we may need to take it upon ourselves to make others aware.


I feel that one way Diabetes can be moved more to the forefront is if we all do something to advocate for the disease.  I know there is a small segment of the Diabetic population that regularly advocates for Diabetes research and funding.

There may be a general feeling among most of the Diabetic population that says, ‘yes, I am going to do my part, I am going to write letters, I am going do this, or do that…”  What happens?  Life happens.  The kids start screaming, or you need to get dinner ready, or you have to drive Bobby or Susie to soccer practice; or there is a big project at work that is taking up a huge chunk of your time, and you are barely getting any sleep, let alone spending time with your family.

I get all of that.  I even include myself in that category of those that say they are going to do something, but never end up getting around to it.  We have to do better, myself included.  I don’t want to ever have to depend on insulin again, unless it is being made by my own body.  Before I went on the pump, I estimated that to that point, I had given myself something in the neighborhood of 20,000 insulin injections over the years – and I know there are others out there that have been living with the disease for much longer that could double, triple or even quadruple my number. 

There is something wrong with that…That is not right.  We need to stand up and fight for ourselves, and fight for all of the Michael’s, Linda’s, Christine’s Reyna’s, Mary’s, Jim’s, Cora’s, Dina’s, or _________ (insert your name and names of others you know).  We need to fight so that we get to see a cure in our lifetime.  Just think of the ripple effect a cure for Diabetes would have throughout the world – FEWER people with a risk of heart disease, FEWER people requiring dialysis or kidney transplant (or both), FEWER people losing their eyesight, and FEWER people losing toes or limbs due to severe nerve damage.

Support and Friendship

When I first started this blog, I was talking about my upcoming kidney transplant, there were two people who shared with me their experiences of what they had been through or were going through – Cora from Canada and Dina in Kuwait.  I got other words of encouragement along the way as well, but it was Cora and Dina who seemed to help put me at ease a little (as much as possible), and that is something that I appreciate so much more than I have ever been able to tell them.

Several months ago, I was contacted by a wonderful, but scared, woman from Kansas, whose name is Reyna.  Reyna has had Diabetes for a short time, but has already had to deal with nasty complications that many of us have gone through (or hope to put off for as long as possible).  Reyna was scared, and I got that, I understood…and since that day back in July, we have been working together to help her regain control of her Diabetes, which she is doing a great job of and that I am very proud of her for.

And that, in a nutshell, has what this blog has become, people helping people, whether they are next door, several states away, or half way around the world.  As I am sure most of you are aware, you can’t deal with Diabetes/Heart Disease/Kidney Disease/Blindness/Nerve Damage alone – we have to help each other…and when you do you never know what support you can provide and what incredible friendships you can forge!!!

Where Do We Go From Here?

Dad was one part of his family…but he could not make it work without Mom.  Dad worked many facets of the construction business…but he was most proud of the end result of a job.  He was one man who wore many hats (or construction helmets) over his career, but he could not do it without everyone else who worked those jobs as well.  Dad was one part of a building committee and parish council of his church and impromptu transportation coordinator for his “girlfriends”…but he couldn’t have accomplished what he did without other members of the church.

I started out with the basis of what one person can do, and Dad did a lot that a son, a family and a community could be very proud of.  And like Dad, we have our own sort of Trinity, and like they use to say on the old TV show (and the more recent movies) ‘Mission Impossible’…”If you choose to accept it !”

What To Do…

·         Educate – Talk about your Diabetes, and the fact that you have needed, or could need, a kidney transplant because of it, or have needed bypass heart surgery because of it, or you have lost vision in your eyes because of it, or you have lost feeling in your feet because of it (and subsequently could need or have needed amputation because of it).  Let others in on your experience…soon they may turn those dumb questions into smart, well thought out and compassionate questions.  You could also let them know about this blog.  In fact, I dare you to forward it to everyone in your address books (and all of those contacts to do the same) and they can all follow us on the Facebook page by “Liking” Life On The T List, or following it on blogger.com from this link: http://michaelburketransplant.blogspot.com

·         Advocate – Again, this is an area I personally have to work on myself.  We can contact our local Diabetes chapters and ask what we can do to help them with their efforts.  We can also get on the phone or e-mail and contact our local, state and federal representatives and senators and tell them they need to step up to the plate for funding for Diabetes research for a cure.  To get you started, here is a link to the Federal Congress: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/congdir.tt .

·         Support And Provide Friendship – This is as simple as it sounds.  There is someone out there just like you that is feeling the same things you are feeling, experiencing the same or similar things you are thinking…when they enter your life, help each other out !

By ourselves, we can be quite powerful…but when we play our own version of the old telephone game – you tell one person, they tell someone, they tell someone, and so on and so on, we become an extraordinary powerhouse and we can accomplish extraordinary things !!!

That, my friends, is what one person can do…we are all capable of it !!!

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.donatelifenewengland.org, www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org, or, by all means, speak to your own physician, or feel free to send me an email.