Five years ago, I stood in a hospital room crowded with doctors and nurses on the third floor of UCLA as Sharon’s bone marrow flowed dark red through the IV tubing into her brother’s nineteen-month-old body. I watched with wonder and relief, with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat – my little boy, Ryan, would be freed from sickle cell disease. The healing would take time, I knew, but it was coming. Like a tiny seed planted in the ground, tender but also filled with possibility.
A New Birthday
A happy birthday sign written in the nurse’s handwriting was taped on a grey bucket at Ryan’s bedside. Phrases like ‘born again’ and ‘second birth,’ that I was only accustomed to hearing in a church setting with a spiritual meaning, were being tossed around by the medical team about my little boy.
A Perfect Match
Months earlier, from 10,000 miles away in Kenya, we had learned that Sharon was a 10/10 match for Ryan and Geoffrey.Sharon’s blood, as our hematologist described, was our boys’ ‘golden ticket,’ and we were highly recommended to move forward with transplant. Amid all the pain and suffering our kids were experiencing daily due to sickle cell as well as the poor prognosis in Kenya, the chance for them to be cured felt like gospel-good news. Good and easy, though, are not always synonymous. And, come to find out, the ferocity of labor is required for ‘rebirth’ too.
On November 30, 2017, Sharon was wheeled into an operating room, and she willingly gave her blood to help save her brothers. She returned from surgery puffy and sore with a teddy bear in pink scrubs beside her, ready to eat vanilla ice cream.
The cells within Sharon’s blood, little by little, over the next weeks, would inherently find their way to make themselves at home in Ryan. Of course, it wasn’t automatic. I understood, at least in part, the complexity of the treatment and the risk of rejection and all sorts of other horrible side effects from the transplant.
Coming Back from Death’s Door
What I didn’t fully appreciate was how close to death we’d get that December or how dark and long and utterly terrifying the waiting of that Advent season would become. I didn’t know that love through the kindness and generosity of an unexpected community would hold my family together. I didn’t know that the lens through which I’d see the world was already being reshaped, but all of it was there on that day as Sharon’s blood flowed into Ryan.
I look back over these past five years with awe and wonder at how any of this happened at all; thankful, I’m so very thankful, for Ryan’s life. For Sharon’s sacrifice. For stubborn hope. For goodness and mercy that have been following me all the days of my life. For a group of friends and family who have lovingly walked alongside us every step of the way.
What a journey it was and continues to be…