Manila nurse given a second chance at life

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Judy James McCain of Manila has been given a second chance at life. One would never know how very sick she was less than a year ago before she underwent a liver transplant.

Judy McCain, Manila

First in her adult life Judy chose to be a wife and mother. She has been married to David McCain for 37 years. They have two grown daughters, Kima and Pam. When her youngest daughter started to kindergarten, Judy started to nursing school. She chose a career as a caregiver. She always loved being a nurse and caring for seniors in the nursing home. She worked at the Manila Nursing Center for years until her health forced her to quit in September 2011.

She was sick but didn't realize what was going on.

"I was dizzy and confused," she remembers. "Dr. Parten has been my doctor ever since he opened. He is more than my doctor, he is my friend. When my lab work showed my ammonia levels way too high, I was sent for an ultra sound. The ultra sound showed my liver was out of sorts and in May 2012 I was told I would need a liver transplant."

She never gave the thought of organ transplant much time in her busy life, but it hit home and she made her first trip to the Methodist Hospital transplant center in Memphis on May 22, 2012. She spent the month of June undergoing tests.

"You have to meet the criteria for an organ transplant and when I did, I met the surgeon," she said. "He asked me if I wanted a liver. I told him I didn't think I did at first but I had been so sick and didn't die, I knew God had a plan. I told him my grandson would be graduating from high school in two years and I wanted to be on the front row and get a rose. The doctor takes all of the tests results and his data and a board makes the decision on who goes on the transplant list. I was placed on the donor list on July 6."

Judy has four grandchildren, three grandsons and one granddaughter.

"Grandchildren give us something to live for," Judy said.

She was advised to lose weight before the transplant surgery but as sick as she was, she did not have trouble taking off the pounds. She was told she had to be available, day or night, get to the center within one hour or the liver would go to the next person on the list.

"During my visits to the transplant center I met so many people," she said. "In May I met a family from California. She had been on the donor list for five years. She came to Memphis and within a week she got the call."

Judy was having a difficult time and getting physically worse when she finally received the call on Nov. 19, 2012.

"I knew the first of November if I didn't get a transplant soon, I would not live much longer," she said. "I accepted it and even planned my funeral. My kids just would not accept it. I was fortunate. I had people praying for me all over the United States. When the call came, it was a long night. They called at 5 a.m. told me to be there at 8 a.m. and they would be ready for surgery at 11 a.m. It was a little later but I did go into surgery at 3 p.m. My body accepted the liver from the first. I had one problem when my medicine was cut back."

She is down to needing lab work done once a month. She started at once a week, went to every other week and now once a month.

"I can't thank Dr. Parten and his staff enough for their support," Judy said. "They let me come and go through the back door to get my lab work done and then go. Transplant recipients have to be very careful about infections. I had no idea until I was there just how many people are in need of an organ. I was one of three people who received livers within 24 hours."

Judy encourages anyone considering being an organ donor to let their family know their wishes. She also encourages people on the transplant list not to give up and stay strong.

"We never know how many people's lives we will touch as we go through our days," she said. "I thank the Lord every day for another day."

As she waits on her first year anniversary with a new liver she hopes to eventually find out where her liver came from. She wants to thank the family who has given her the chance to see her grandchildren grow up.

"I was fortunate to have good insurance but I want people to know there are programs for the uninsured," Judy said. "They can get sponsors and have fundraisers. The money raised goes to the individual's treatment. Again, don't give up because you do not have insurance. There is funding help out there."

Judy has a poem she keeps in her Bible and she wants to share it.

"To My Family: How I want my organs to be donated after my death"

By Mary Hyatt

My Living Will:

When my life on earth is over, please

Give my eyes to anyone who wants to see the beauty of the world, and the smiles of those they love.

Give my heart to a loving grandparent so that person may live longer to see their children grow in body and spirit.

Give my liver to someone who has abused alcohol or drugs and now wants another chance at life.

Give my kidneys to a depressed person who has been tied to a machine so they may be freed.

Give my bones to help someone walk again.

Give my wrinkled skin to cover a victim of burns.

If there is anything left that can be used, please give it with my blessings. Cremate what's left, and when you do:

Burn with me the hurtful words I ever spoke.

Burn all the wrongs that I have ever done.

Burn my weaknesses and all my faults so you won't remember them.

Just remember my love for you, and the guidance I gave you.

Look for my face in the clouds.

Hear my voice in the song of the birds, and if you feel a butterfly's wing on your face, that will be my touch.

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