About Me

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Kingston, Massachusetts, United States

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25, 2011

I have started and stopped this next post several times.  In one sense it is extremely easy to write, but in another it is very difficult.  It’s about Tommy.  I want to introduce him to you in a way that shows that I am proud of him, and not just because he is stepping up to save my life, but more so to show you the type of person he is.  I have had a lot of difficulty thinking (and over thinking) how to thank him for the gift he is giving me…hopefully these words here will somehow convey that.
Tommy and I grew up on the South Shore of Massachusetts, with an older sister, Linda (she passed away in 1989 due to complications from Diabetes) and Mom and Dad.  Dad was one of the hardest working people I have ever known – he worked in masonry…at times we would ride into Boston (or through Boston on our way to a family vacation in Maine) and nothing made Dad prouder than pointing out to Tommy, Linda and I, all of the buildings in Boston that he helped to build.

Often times, when we were back at home, we would try to build our own things, or at least pretend to.  There was a small dirt pile off to the side of the house that we use to run our Tonka trucks through, and build buildings with Legos…in fact, I’m willing to bet that if we were to excavate that area today, we would probably find an old truck, some Legos and a bunch of Army men.

Tommy is younger than me by five years, though you may not know it by looking at the two of us…Tommy has also been very successful in his career – moving his way up in pharmaceutical sales from a sales rep to a regional sales manager…he has even been recognized nationally for his work in pharmaceutical sales.  In my own estimation Tommy has been extremely successful, though I am a little biased. 

In life, Tommy and I are both very driven individuals…however, I hate sales (I’m just not that good at it)…Tommy, on the other hand, has done very well.  I think we are probably both driven because of the way Mom and Dad brought us up – if you are going to do a job, do it right and if you expect to be paid for working a full day, then you better put in a full days worth of work.

Growing up I guess you could say that we pushed each other without realizing that we were doing so.  Whether it was down in Mom and Dad’s  basement, where we set up some old mattresses and would pretend we were in the WWF, or, and more often, you could find us out in the back yard playing baseball (or stickball) or soccer.  Tommy went on to be a decent baseball player, as well as a good football player in high school.

As we got older and have taken on more responsibilities, Tommy has never wavered.  In fact, he actually bought the house next to Mom and Dad.  And after Dad died, Tommy spent more time in the house with Mom and has really been the primary caretaker for Mom after her stroke and battle with lung cancer.  He has tirelessly worked with Mom in her rehabilitation and we are determined to help her walk again.

And through all of this, when I needed to ask Tommy if he would consider being tested to see if he could donate a kidney to me, he never hesitated.  When we, as a family, discussed how to go about asking people to get tested, Tommy simply said, “Let’s just see where my tests go and then we can think about asking other…there may be no need.”  In fact, there was no need as Tommy called me after several long weeks of waiting for his blood work to come back…he said that he was 5 out of 6 antigen match.

That will never be a phone call that I will ever forget.  It gave me hope…and a chance to live.

It is impossible for me to fully say how much Tommy means to me, as well as how much the gift he is giving to me means to me…I can simply say “Thank You”.

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011

My last two entries were about two extraordinary women, Mom and Christine.  As I think about it, I have been pretty fortunate with all of the extraordinary women that have been in my life – my sister, Linda, both of my grandmothers (both went by the nickname of Mommom), as well as countless aunts, cousins, friends and those from Christine’s family as well.  And as I get ready for my transplant I want to take a little time to talk about two other extraordinary women who have helped me during this entire kidney transplant journey.
The first person I would like to tell you about is Dr. Sarah Murphy.  Dr. Murphy is my Primary Care Physician.  I first me Dr. Murphy about twelve years ago when I went along with Christine to her first appointment with Dr. Murphy. 

Perhaps I had been spoiled by having such a great pediatrician (Dr. Martin Gaynor) growing up, that I judged all other doctors after him by his standards of practice as a doctor…and as you go through life and your insurance changes and you are forced to find a new doctor, you get a lot of practice trying to find the one you will ultimately be comfortable with.  So, on that day during Christine’s first appointment, I had a chance to meet Dr. Murphy, and I was struck mostly by her genuineness.  There wasn’t a feeling that we were being rushed, she actually wanted to know about us (even though we were just there for Christine).  I was hooked, and from that point on, Dr. Murphy was not only Christine’s new doctor, but mine as well.

Besides being genuine, Dr. Murphy is extremely caring and concerned for our well being.  She would think nothing of calling at eleven at night if my labs were a little off to check to see how I was feeling.  There was also a time when she had to hospitalize me for pneumonia, and she knew that I wasn’t really happy about it…but I remember waking up in the hospital the next morning,  just before five in the morning, and who was at the foot of my bed…Dr. Murphy.  Over the years, Dr. Murphy is someone that I have truly been able to count on.

The second extraordinary woman I would like to tell you about is Dr. Melanie Hoenig.  Now, if you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you may remember Dr. Hoenig from some of the earlier posts.  I was first referred to Dr. Hoenig back in 2004 by Dr. Alan Moses (who was then practicing at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston).  Dr. Moses just felt, due to my longevity with Diabetes, that it would be smart to bring a Nephrologist onto “my team” just to keep tabs on my kidneys as I get older living with Diabetes.

Much like Dr. Murphy, Dr. Hoenig is extremely genuine, thoughtful and caring.  As the years went by and my kidneys began to show subtle signs of decreasing in function, Dr. Hoenig would reassure me that we would work together to slow the regression of my kidneys…and as my creatinine levels continued to creep up, Dr. Hoenig broached the topic of transplantation.

So when needing a kidney transplant became more and more evident, Dr. Hoenig saw that the subject made me uncomfortable and nervous, and I remember her turning to me and saying, “Don’t worry, I will be with you all the way through it.”  In a way, it wasn’t just the words she said, but how she looked in my eyes and said them that told me that this was going to be ok (though, I’m still nervous as hell about the whole thing!).

So, here’s to Dr. Murphy and Dr. Hoenig…thank you for all you have done, along with Tommy donating his kidney to me to me to save my life, you two have also played a big role in saving my life!

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org

Thursday, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011

I would be remiss not to tell you about Christine, my wife, whom I met back in 1999.

I guess you could say that we met by accident.  It was just after Christmas when I went online and was looking for some Diabetes websites.  I stumbled upon this one site where it was a typical support site where people could post questions and get answers to just about anything.

Christine had posted a question about how to deal with her new diagnosis of Diabetes.  I saw the question and posted a response.  That led to more questions a newly diagnosed Diabetic would ask, and a conversation, of sorts, began to emerge.  That led to an exchange of emails for a couple of weeks, and before too long we were talking on the phone for what seemed like hours. 

At this time, Christine was living in the Washington D.C. area (originally from Long Island, NY).  I invited her to come up for a weekend and she accepted.  When she arrived she had three big bags, and as I was introducing her to mom and dad, dad looked at her quizzically and asked her, with his wry sense of humor, “how long are you staying, a month?”  You see, dad was a minimalist, so he did not quite understand the need for three big suitcases for a trip that would last for a day and a half.

Needless to say, that was the first of what would be many trips here, and soon she was looking at the possibility of moving here.  She fell in love with the quaint sea side town that Duxbury is, and the charm of the South Shore…and of course she fell in love with me and my charm as well!

As it turns out, the chance encounter on that Diabetes website was the start of what has become a beautiful relationship.  And as the years have gone by, I couldn’t imagine anything better – except more maybe a better health record.

But, in essence, I couldn’t imagine facing all of the complications I have had with my Diabetes, especially the heart disease, the kidney disease and the eye issues without Christine by my side.

Facing a heart bypass operation is scary in of itself, but now having to face not only the possibility of a kidney transplant, the definite probability of it.  I am very thankful for the support my family has shown me (how much more supportive could Tommy be than to be willing to donate one of his kidneys to me, I cannot find the words to show how grateful I am to him for this gift).  But words also cannot express how what Christine means to me as we go through this kidney journey.

I often kid her that she never signed up for any of this.  And without missing a beat, she will always turn around and say, I love you, and we will all (your family, my family and us) get through this together.

Christine and Bella
Thank you for being by my side Sunshine…I love you!

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org

Friday, May 6, 2011

May 6, 2011

This Sunday is Mother’s Day here in the U.S., so I thought it would be fitting to talk a little bit about my Mom, Bridget Theresa Burke.
I can honestly say that I have probably given my mom way too much to worry about ever since she brought me into this world.  Right from the very beginning, she (and Dad) had me at the doctors and making countless trips to the hospital due to a very bad case of childhood Asthma.

There were so many times, probably too many to count, where mom was by my side trying to get me through an Asthma attack – steaming up the bathroom trying to get the steam to help open my lungs, or sitting with me out on the front porch step waiting for the ambulance to take us to the hospital when the instances were a little more severe.  Then there were the times, as a little kid, when I would have to stay in the hospital for several days because my Asthma was so bad, and mom was right there the entire time.

As if the asthma wasn’t bad enough, then came my diagnosis of Diabetes, and mom never skipped a beat.  I was scared, and she knew it.  We had already been living with the disease as a family since Linda was already diagnosed with it…but now, now there were two of us, two of her own, that would have to live with this insidious disease.  But mom never flinched.  She was always right there talking to the doctors and nurses, helping us.

When I needed a kidney transplant, one of the first people I wanted to confide in was mom.  For one reason, I thought mom would make this all better, take it all away…but this time mom’s super powers were no match for what I was facing.  But rather than seeing fear in her eyes when I told her that I needed a kidney transplant, I saw determination – determination that everything was going to be ok, that things would work out.

By this point in her life, mom had seen it all with Linda, Tommy, Dad and I…and she had even been through rough stuff of her own – survivor of two strokes, and survivor of three bouts with cancer.  She is sort of a modern-day Rocky – fighting real hard nosed battles, but in the end she somehow comes out on top.

I shouldn’t say somehow, because I have an idea of how.  She has a tremendous deep rooted faith.  A faith that began as a young girl in County Mayo, Ireland, and has grown stronger with each passing day ever since.

It wasn’t always for medical reasons that mom was always by our side growing up, she was there for all of life’s other ups and downs along the way…of course whenever we needed a dollar to run after the ice cream truck, she was there…whenever we had to eat all of our veggies before being able to go back outside to play, she was there, and whenever we had a baseball or soccer game, she was there.

So, here’s to you mom, thank you for being by my side during this difficult journey of needing a kidney transplant…happy Mother’s Day to you, and happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there!  I love you Mom!

If you, or someone you know is interested in organ donation, please contact: www.neod.org; www.organdonor.gov; www.unos.org; www.donatelife.net; www.organtransplants.org; or  www.thewaitinglist.org