Thursday, June 16, 2005

Survivor's Guilt

When it comes to my entire transplant experience, this is probably the most difficult issue that I have had to face. It's more debilitating than any of the physical problems that I have encountered thus far, and I'm not sure that it is something that will ever completely go away.

Let me explain.

When I went in for my operation, I really didn't have much time to think about the deeper issues of what was going on in the world around me. I had prayed for my donor family, but I was on such an adrenaline rush that my mind was not allowing me to think very deeply about anything. I had fleeting thoughts about not making it through the surgery, my family and friends, and the months of healing that were to come, but I never concentrated on anything. In the next few weeks, I began to have a few deeper thoughts, but because there was so much commotion going on around me (visitors, doctors appointments, pain, sickness, and attempts at sleep) that, again, I didn't have much time to really think about anything. It wasn't until I started driving 4 weeks post-transplant that I really gained enough independance to have enough time to myself to really think about what had happened. Not just the events that happened to me, but the events that led up to what happened to me....mainly this: someone had to die.

And that was not the manifestation of my thoughts, either. It encompassed a much larger view than that of one person's death, as if that wasn't enough. I will never forget the day that it all hit home with me.

I have a friend whom I met online. Turns out his sister attends Otter Creek. I have gotten to know them, at least the brother, pretty well. I consider him a great spiritual mentor, even if it is mostly through the web. I do see him occasionally "in real life." I had come to work and was checking my e-mail and the Christian message board where my friend and I met. That's where I saw it. The prayer request. His brother had died that morning, waiting on a liver transplant. I had known for quite a while that he was waiting on a transplant and was very sick. He was actually on the transplant list for much longer than I was, and he was much, much more in need of a liver than me. It knocked me down. I left work 10 minutes after I got there, complaining to my boss that I just wasn't feeling well. I cried all the way home. I climbed into bed and cried myself to sleep.

I don't know that I can effectively explain the emotions and thoughts that were so strong in my mind at that point. I kept thinking over and over again, "If I could have turned this liver down and given it to someone else, I would have." I know that the liver that I accepted would not have worked for my friends' brother, but it his death was more symbolic than anything. It reminded me that there are people out there who could have used this liver more than me that will die because they didn't get it. I wouldn't have died if I didn't get a transplant that day. I probably would still be just fine today if I hadn't gotten a transplant one year ago, but I know that eventually, I could have been that very, very sick person waiting on a liver.

Welcome to survivors guilt. Not only did one person have to die for me, there are no telling how many more did just because they didn't get this exact liver.

Now, the rational person does come out in me and tell me things. Things like:

This was God's plan, you can't explain that.
You don't know that anyone died waiting on a liver with those specific qualifications.
God knows what He's doing.
He has plans for you.

And sometimes I hear those things. Today, I probably hear those things more than I hear the negatives, but those negatives still ring loud and clear. My rational mind also screams out at me that something like 8,000 people die a day waiting on an organ transplant. I often wonder about how many of those people that the liver that I received could have gone to. Odds are it would have fit at least one of them.

I still really struggle with the guilt. Not as much as I did 6 months ago, but it still festers inside of me at times, and I know it bubbles out into my relationships with friends and especially with my husband. I get cranky, irritable, angry, and just plain ol' sad. I just want to sleep it off, but I know that isn't the answer. Sometimes I wish I could just stare God in the face and scream at Him until I get some answers, but the answers are very slow to come. I still have faith that eventually I will get some of the answers while I'm still on earth. The rest of them will have to wait until I'm home, when I can have a sit-down with the Big Guy and have Him lay it all out for me. Until then, I press on. I do my best to take care of myself and the gift that He has given me. I guess that's really all I can do.

8 Comments:

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I feel badly, because I haven't been checking your blog much lately. Sorry for being a poor friend.

Setbacks, ah, they're par for the course aren't they? I know the feeling. You think you have turned a corner and then BAM! You're struck down with some complicatoin that only affects .00001 percent of the population.

I am right there with you; nothing is ordinary or routine about my condition, and it seems that you are in the same boat. You and Rick never leave my prayers.

Peace,
Matt

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

All is forgiven. :o)

I appreciate your prayers.

 
At 5:04 AM, Blogger Tony Arnold said...

Amanda, just imagine you are getting a big hug from me right now.

Thank you for sharing such intimate feelings. I now know to pray for things other than taking your iron.

You remind me that the gift of life is never an easy road. Birth brings its pains and trauma as we grow and experience. Receiving grace brings the burdens and persecution of discipleship. And receiving a second chance on this earth creates its own set of physical and emotional struggles.

I am learning the gift of life cannot be given with ramifications, but how else could we appreciate the benefits if the only results were blissful.

Praying today for you,

Tony

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Amanda said...

Tony,

You and your family mean so much to me and Rick.

Thanks so much for faithfully praying for us. (And for the hug). :o)

 
At 6:10 AM, Blogger Jana said...

I understand about survivor's guilt. I've experienced it firsthand (too long of a story to write about at the moment). I've had big questions for God for about the last ten years. Don't know if I'll get many answers in this lifetime, but I'm grateful that He loves me despite all the questions, doubts and so on.

I love your blog. You are open and honest and real. You write well, too. You are ministering to me, sweet girl.

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amanda,

Just posting to let you know I do read your blog, I just don't post a response much of the time. Love you!

Linda H.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

Jana,

Thanks so much. It really means a lot to find out that someone out there knows what I'm going through.

Linda,

Hey! I'm so glad that you read my blog, and it's okay that you don't comment much. I'll forgive ya. Miss talking to you. Love you, too! :o)

 
At 5:23 AM, Blogger Serah Watson said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It's almost a year since my transplant and I have days when I just struggle knowing a young made died for me to be here. It's comforting to know I'm not the only person who feels this guilt. I feel I can't share it with anyone for fear I'll sound ungrateful or strange. This is one thing I feel doctors never warn you about the emotional struggle and it's not right. This is so much harder than physical pain or fatigue. I'm in counselling in hopes of getting through, I also plan on making a memorial for my donor to celebrate his life and his gift. I do all I can to support patients in my area as well as I feel like this way I'm giving them some comfort and hope that they will make it through their illness and maybe get a transplant too. It's my little way of helping I suppose as I can't just give them new kidneys as much as I'd love too.

Thank you again and I wish you all the best with your new life and remember never lose faith you will make it through

Take care
Xx Sarah xx

 

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