Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks.  It is a good and appropriate thing that our country has a holiday to remind us and re-focus us on the necessity of telling Almighty God thank you; yet it is also sad to me that we need the reminding!  Once we start counting our blessings, can we ever stop?  I know, REALLY KNOW, that it is easier to count crosses or worries, but it is actually FUN to count your blessings!  I try to teach the kids to play along with me.  Yes, your ankle hurts from spraining it, but aren’t we so blessed that you can walk?  Think how hard it would be to be in a wheel-chair.  The marvelous blessings that are our senses can keep us giving thanks for hours.  Hearing a child laughing, singing, even fighting!  I am even grateful they have each other to fight with!  That means they will have each other to talk to, grow old with, hug and yes, even give a life-altering kidney to!

Last week marked the one year anniversary of my transplant.  I was told that I would continue to improve for a whole year after the transplant, and boy were they right!  Just this last November things have dramatically changed for me.  Two weeks before my parents were coming up for Thanksgiving, I decided to move nearly every piece of furniture on the first floor.  The Family Room had taken on a decidedly dark feel as it had three brown couches, and two old red chairs that were in desperate need of replacing or recovering.  I had repeatedly gone by our local salvation army looking for chairs but when Bridget offered to purchase the fabric for recovering, I agreed to try my hand at slip-covering.  A dear friend called while I was crawling around the floor with my fabric and needles.  She said, “Erin you are better!”  I agreed saying, “Yes I am feeling better.” She said, “No! You ARE better!”  It was a moment of grace for me to see clearly that I am better.  Through the miracle of science, the generosity of Nick and the grace of God, I am better.  I feel much like I did 10 years ago.

I am not at all sure that it is theologically sound to say this, but I believe God blesses us the more we recognize his blessings and say thank you.  Try it.  Thank Him for the green light you go through when you are running late, and thank Him for the red light that no doubt saved you from the speeding ticket or accident that you missed by stopping 🙂  Really!  It works!

I am going to be thanking Him for all of you in my life and especially for the prayers you have offered for me and my family…. you can thank Him too, because they were all answered in a marvelous fashion!  Much love, Erin

P.S.  There is a lady named Miriam who is suffering terribly and needs all of our prayers please!

 

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FOCUS Missionary

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The summer has been flying by here in Nokesville.  This next school year will bring many changes to our family.  Mary Kate has just returned home from Ave Maria University where she had 5 weeks of training for FOCUS.  Fellowship of Catholic University Students is an organization that is on 100 University campuses around the United States.  It is a very impressive organization that basically sends recent grads to colleges to encourage students to either continue to practice their faith, or introduce students to Christ.  They organize bible studies, one on one mentorships, retreats, and leading students on international mission trips to name a few of their activities.  They are told to be radically available to the students.

As most of you know this is not at all what Mary Kate thought she would be doing at this moment…. but as we all have learned, God rarely follows the plans we give Him;  and our happiness will only be found when we follow His Plans.  She will be taking her Boards for Nursing this summer so she will have her nursing to return to after her time with FOCUS.

She has been assigned to University of Connecticut and is looking forward to seeing how God wants to use her at this school of 25,000!!  The hardest part of this work will be finding enough people who want to support her work as she has to fund-raise all of her salary.  I used to hear FOCUS missionaries speak at our parish, but I didn’t realize quite how dependent they are on people supporting them monthly.  Steve and I are incredible motivated to pray for her successful fund-raising!!! 🙂

You can see how she explains her calling here http://www.focusonline.org/goto/marykatevanderwoude

So that is what is up in our oldest’s life.  More VW news to follow soon.  Much love to you all.  Erin

“Some people give by going on the mission, other people go by giving, but without both there is no mission.”  St. Therese

 

My Quarterly Post

Mary Kate and her proud dad!

Mary Kate and her proud dad!

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Happy Grads!

Happy Grads!

I know that most bloggers post daily.  Some even post weekly.  I however am creating the quarterly blog posts.  That way if I ever post more often, which we will all agree is not very likely, it will be a cause for surprise and not guilt!  I know that my audience is primarily my aunts, and even a few of Steve’s aunts.  I think they will just be happy to know how I am doing and to hear what the kids are up to.

This month is our one year anniversary of going to Lourdes.  I still can remember our trip as if it was yesterday.  I think that is because so many graces were given during that trip and we rarely forget those big moments of grace.  I know that two of the malades that were part of our team of 6 sick people have passed away this year.  I have been praying for them and their families more lately.  It is hard to know some are suffering so when I just keep getting better and better.

What a wonderful month May has been for our family! Mary Kate graduated from Nursing School and will take her boards in July. Tim and Bridget both graduated with honors from Christendom this last weekend as did their cousin Madeleine Murphy.  Madeleine is my brother, Nick’s oldest and his whole gang were up to spend the weekend with us.  Many of the graduates’ parents were at school when Steve and I were and it was quite a fun weekend catching up with long lost friends.

I am so looking forward to summer.  I am feeling better daily.  I want to exercise daily and get my house organized and play with the kids and have them home for the summer…… It will just be great!

Thank you again for all your prayers I realize more and more how much I have been blessed by them!

Much love,  Erin

Just call me “Lazarus”

Because I want very much to be Jesus’ dear friend, and yes I have risen from the “not quite dead, but feel really horrible” state I have been in for some time!

I AM SORRY!! I never thought I would be any good at this blog thing!  So for the long awaited update,

* I am doing much better.  My surgery was two months ago.  All staples, drains, etc.. are long removed and I can move around freely, shower, cook, you get the idea!  That is only in the house, however, as I am still not allowed out in crowds for another month!

* We are still working to get my medications all worked out.  One of the immunosuppressants levels was much too low for many weeks and they kept raising dosages and then the levels were three times too high!  So we are currently working to lower the levels and then keep them balanced.  My blood pressure medications were really a mess for quite awhile, with me feeling faint and nauseous while standing, but that too is in the process of being worked out.  The Dr. even thinks it may be that i will get off all blood pressure medications for good!  Yea for Nick’s kidney!!!

*My medications list was originally 5 pages and is now down to 3.  They only list 5 meds or so per page but this is a great improvement for someone like me who doesn’t like to even take tylenol for headaches!

*My mom came back to help me for the second time in one month.  There really isn’t anything better than your mom when you are sick and overwhelmed!  She arrived about the time a flu bug arrived in our house so she stayed at Monica’s for a few days.  She then caught the bug herself and so was able to come over.  On top of laundry, dinners, (actually all meals), she got Jack into a great routine for his homeschooling and was able to give both Steve and I some advice on how best to help him improve academically.  Nothing like an experienced educator who also is a loving grandmother to motivate the little imp.  I think I have mentioned before how darn-nab cute our Jack is.  We make jokes with each other, “don’t look at his dimples, be strong, he has to do his work!!”

*I was having a very hard time being short tempered.  I have long been treated for post-partum depression that went on long after pregnancies…. For me, my depression is manifested in irrational short-temperedness.  For example, the kids are playing, Loudly, but it is loud happy noise, and I want to scream like a crazy person.  It suddenly came to me, that since the surgery I had been taking my depression medication with my evening kidney routine meds.  When I started taking them two hours apart, I immediately felt better!  So glad the Holy Spirit decided to point that out to me!  Every day for the last week I have woken up feeling better than the day before!

*I signed up for a home-schooling mom’s retreat many months ago, when I realized it would be held at the end of my 3 months quarantine.  I am counting down to the end of this month!  I am going so stir crazy!  It will be wonderful to be out and about again.  I haven’t been to a grocery store since September I think!  Who knew how much I could miss Wal-Mart?! I used to call going to Wal-Mart a near occasion of sin…… Now I want to go hang out there for a week!!  The  ladies that work in the lab where I have to go get my blood work done twice a week, know that it is my big outing and always greet me and talk to me…. a little sad, I know.

That is certainly long enough.  Thank you so very much for your prayers!  I hope this wasn’t a “poor is me” post!  I am truly blessed and am grateful to be feeling better every day.   Much love,

Erin

Who have I become?!!!!

I don’t know if many of you know that I am not at all a “quick let’s go to the doctor” person.  I use essential oils, homeopathic remedies, go to many different types of alternative doctors, etc..  The number one worry that I have struggled with this last year was not concern of the actual kidney transplant, it was the life time of a multitude of medications, many of which are INTENTIONALLY SUPPRESSING MY IMMUNE SYSTEM!  That has been my biggest “Trust in God” issue.

Now, I mostly have conquered those fears.  Several months ago I had a great grace to realize that even being able to have a transplant was a great miracle.  It amazes me that God knew that all along and yet still let Steve and I go to Lourdes…but I am getting off topic.

About four days ago I caught some sort of bug.  I have a terrible cough.  I start coughing and I can’t stop,  I had moved up to sleep in our bed last week as I am not that uncomfortable from the surgery any longer, however with this cough I am back to trying to sleep in a more upright position in order to not cough.  Anyway, I am not trying to complain, just set up my story…  I do not have a fever, and Hopkins watched all sorts of things in bi-weekly blood work so I do not have a terrible infection, just an annoying cough.  Two days ago, I broke down and asked Steve to go get some Robitussin for me (with permission from Hopkins),  NO I did not have any of that ” artificial stuff that tries to suppress how your body is fighting the bug” in my house.  You get the idea.  I just wanted to sleep…

Fast forward to today when I learned that there was a prescription strength cough suppressant available.  I quickly called Hopkins, they had me call my primary care physician, and then I waited quite impatiently for him to call me back to tell me if I could take it with the cocktail of prescriptions I am already taking!  Suddenly I was thinking, “I’m already taking every medicine known to man, what is one more??!!”  Steve was grateful that I was willing to take something else, but he doesn’t know this new wife he is living with!  I only took my first dose an hour ago, but I am hopeful to sleep tonight.

My brother Nick sent a text earlier this week.  I thought I’d share:

I want a guarantee that you will keep me up to date if your good signs turn to less good, (Labs,BP, fatigue).  Not that I plan on slacking on prayers- just like to know!  Also, hairy chest, gas, and bald spot are good signs not bad!

Maybe the cough won’t seem so bad if those start showing up!  🙂

Much love, Erin

Our family “friend”

The Christmas before my parents were married, my dad gave my mom a beautiful alabaster carving of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It always hung in a special place in every home we lived in. (We moved a great deal and it always had it’s special box it was packed in to keep her safe)  Because of this I have always felt a unique connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Later, when Steve and I found an incredible OBGYN to deliver our last 7 children, I took great comfort from the fact that his practice was named for Tepyac, the hill on which Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared.  We had several of our own little and not so little miracles with some of our deliveries and it was always a source of peace to me that She was watching out for me.  The emergency delivery of the twins at 31 weeks, was decided on Dec. 12th, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  They were actually born the next morning, but again I knew my Friend was with me.

Yesterday, I had my first follow-up at Hopkins since my surgery.  All of the drains were able to be removed, and the Dr. was amazed by my recovery so far.  They will keep doing local tests twice a week, but I don’t have to go back to Hopkins for 3-4 weeks!  How good Our Lady is to me!

Our oldest daughter, Mary Kate, quit her job at least three months ago in order to help me.  She has taken over schooling Jack, keeping the house running, driving me to dialysis, etc, etc…  I’m guessing her bank account must be very low, although she has never complained.  Yesterday was her final for her HUGE nursing exam.  Knowing that the exam was on Our Lady’s feast day, I tried hard to be confident that She would help Mary Kate, but it was a terrible stress.  Mary Kate woke up very sick yesterday, and so nervous about the exam.  Last year’s nursing class had 30 students fail out of the program after this exam.  She came home not confident, but hopeful and then late last night we learned she had passed.  I KNOW, I shouldn’t have doubted…. but Oh’ what a relief it was!

I am going to strive to better remember the words Our Lady said to Juan Diego, ” Do not let anything disturb you. Do you not know that I am your Mother?”

Thank you so much for your continued prayers,   Much love,   Erin

We are so grateful!

I wish I could better express the amazement and love I experienced when I checked my email a couple of days after the surgery and found over 300 offerings of prayers and encouragement! As most of you know, I am the most computer illiterate blogger on the planet!  I often forget to check my email and although I have a face book page, it is really just so my kids can share some photos with me. The only way I know to check for photos is because my daughter who set up the page for me, made it email me when I am tagged.  Hence, the 300 emails!  Thank you so much for all of the prayers and words sent to Nick and I.  As the days have passed since our surgeries there have been many real examples of prayers answered!

I am home.  It is hard to believe.  Everyday I feel better than the day before.  The doctors would regularly come in and tell me I was doing fantastically.  I knew they didn’t know the definition of “fantastic”.  I have learned however, that although I have come home taking a tremendous amount of medications, I would be taking many more and higher doses were Nick and I not perfect matches.  Being a perfect match is no doubt the reason I was able to go home after only 5 days.  I haven’t ventured upstairs yet.  I am happily oozing in the living room.  Several of the littles have colds, so they are just waving and talking to me from afar. 🙂  The medication schedule is very intense and so I have learned to set the alarm on my phone to help me keep it all straight. I do realize this should not be note worthy…. but for me, it is!

Hopkins is like a well-oiled machine.  I did not meet a single person who was not encouraging, thoughtful and kind.  It was remarkable.  I sure hope I will soon have some energy so that I will be able to write thankyou notes to so many of you for all of the meals, and prayers and gifts. I will not be able to go anywhere with crowds for the next three months.  I did get them to say I could go to Christmas Mass, if I pick a less-attended Mass, and wear a mask.  That is it for now.  I am fading fast!

Much love,  Erin

She’s Coming Home Today!

Well I just wanted to let everyone in on the exciting news- Mom has been having such a remarkable recovery that the doctors are letting her come home today!!! Her creatinine numbers are now the same as a normal person, and she is feeling a little bit better each day.  The nurse practitioner and doctors who visited her a couple days after her surgery said that usually they come in to see how the patient is doing and tell them what to expect, but they said with Mom they didn’t have much to say except she is doing fantastic.  Dad took us four older girls to go visit her yesterday and it was just great to see her! We all got chat and try not to make her laugh too hard:) She is tired and in pain, but considering she just had major surgery, I think she is doing awesome.  They are still monitoring her blood pressure and heart rate, since both have been a little high, but they must not be too worried since they are sending her home:)

I should also note that my Uncle Nick was discharged on Thursday and completely shocked my Dad when he came to morning Mass at Holy Trinity on Friday! He is still in a good bit of pain but he is also getting better with each day. If you would continue your prayers for his full recovery, along with Mom’s, we would greatly appreciate it!

It’s funny the way this whole experience has effected our family— we almost never miss a night of the family rosary, we have Purell bottles all over the house, us girls are all losing Words with Friends against Mom, and we frequently just keep talking about how many people have been praying for Mom, Uncle Nick, and our whole family.  Your prayers have been very powerful and really touched us all.  We truly appreciate it and please know that all of you have been in our prayers as well!

God bless,

MK

Update on Mom’s Surgery

Hello Everyone,

This is Mary Kate. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Erin’s oldest daughter. Mom had me promise that I would keep all of you updated on her surgery and post-op here on her blog. So here it goes 🙂  Mom and Uncle Nick had to be at John Hopkins ready for prep very early this morning.  My Uncle Nick went into surgery at about 7:30am and Mom went in around 8:30, although her surgery didn’t start until about 10am.  Each of their procedures lasted anywhere from 5-6 hrs, so needless to say it was a long day for everyone. But when everything was finally finished, the doctors told Dad that they thought everything had gone well.  When they had attached the new kidney it turned pink, indicating that it had started to work.  It also started producing urine which is also a positive sign. One of the nurses said Mom was doing well enough that she didn’t have to go to ICU, and instead went into a recovery room and then was transferred to the transplant floor, where Nick was already.       They are both in a considerable amount of pain but hopefully the painkillers will take care of that pretty soon.  My Dad and grandparents and a couple aunts and uncles were able to talk to Mom and Uncle Nick, and even though they were both exhausted and a little drugged, they both were able to chat for a few seconds. Dad said he noticed right away that Mom’s skin already had a rosier complexion then before the surgery:) So for now they are both being monitored. They especially want to make sure that Mom doesn’t get any sort of infection in the next couple days.

That is all for now. I will continue to keep all of you updated as the week progresses. And please continue to keep Mom and Nick in your prayers. We would really love it for this to be a safe and speedy recovery! Lastly, THANK YOU so much for all the prayers you have said on behalf of our family! We are so appreciative and clearly the prayers are working in a powerful way! 🙂

God bless all of you,

Mary Kate

The day is nearly here

I have worked pretty hard to put the best face on the surgery that I could for our children.  I have tried to stress the great blessing it will be to have my brother’s kidney and that I won’t have to go to dialysis, etc….   I have apparently done a pretty good job, as my three youngest are counting down till the surgery, as if we were going to Disney World!  “Mommy, only seven more days till your surgery!!”  “Mommy, I can hardly wait, only four more days!”  “Nick, don’t kiss mommy, you might make her sick and she couldn’t have her surgery.”  I am glad they aren’t worried about me, but the constant count down is certainly raising my own anxieties!  Even if I didn’t want to think about the surgery, I have no choice! 🙂

I sure hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.  We  had a great deal of my family here for the day.  We had 33 for dinner, and then 10 more joined us for desert.  We had several more pies than were needed, but that is better than not enough!  It is just so great to watch all of the cousins play with each other, and the older cousins talk and tease each other. My brother, Matt, and my brother-in-law were both teasing me about the surgery.  Eventually one of my nieces came to my defense, and told them,”No more kidney jokes!”

Steve and I will leave for Baltimore right after dialysis tomorrow afternoon.  Because we have to be at the hospital at 5am, we decided to stay over tomorrow night.  Thank you for all of the masses and prayers offered for Nick and I.  I know the prayers will be answered in the best way possible.

Much love, Erin