This sweet young family needs help.
They desperately want more time together with their dad and husband, James. While he still somehow manages to continue to go to work every day to support his family, he is losing this battle. Even his quick wit and amazing sense of humor are beginning to fade. His liver disease has reached a critical level and he now needs a transplant. With only 15-20% liver function, his time is running out with his girls. After two exhausting reviews he is on a transplant list at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. This means he needs to relocate temporarily to Arizona to have any hope of getting help. The costs for this procedure are astronomical. While James is fortunate to have medical insurance it is not enough. James and Jodi are relocating to Phoenix in early April, in the hopes of getting this life saving transplant. Everything from rent, transportation, living expenses and out of pocket medical cost are not covered for the months they will be gone. In addition their two beautiful young daughters will need to remain behind in Washington. Josie and Katie need their parents back as soon as possible and healthy. So many people say, “What can I do to help?” Donating to this fund to help give this family more time with one another is one way to contribute. Please consider donating to this fund to give this family more time together.
August 17, 2018
Team Finley Update
We’ve been home for over four weeks now and we’ve been settling back into our regular lives. People often ask if it’s been a difficult transition or if it feels odd to be back or if we miss Scottsdale. The transition hasn’t been too difficult at all, James is working full time from home for the next few weeks and the girls and I love having him close. I frequently find one of the girls sitting near his workspace reading or playing quietly. I think they just like being close to him. The girls and I have been on a bit of a spring cleaning/decluttering spree. We also enjoyed a couple of weekends watching our nephews play little league allstars (and we seriously LOVE it!). It’s SO good to see Uncle James back in full form, able to enjoy our nephews and crack his 12 year old jokes. We miss the fantastic restaurants around Phoenix and all of our friends at the Mayo, especially the weekly support group. We just found out that not one but TWO of our fellow group members finally recieved their transplants. YAY! It’s crazy how much relief and joy we felt for them. It brought tears to both of our eyes.
James is doing really well both physically and mentally. His liver function is pretty much perfect and his endurance and strength improve daily. I notice the most improvement in his personality, he has regained his goofy, hilarious sense of humor. The other day the girls and I wanted him to just hang out with us as we cleaned out their closet, just for the comic relief. He didn’t disappoint. He has said he feels like all his senses are clearer, things look brighter, smell stronger, etc.
We talk almost daily about the amazing miracle that took place in Arizona and back home over the past few months. I’ve been thinking more about the donor’s family and what we will say to them in our letter. I’ll truly never forget sitting alone in the Mayo waiting room, hoping and praying that the organ would be viable, that James was healthy enough to receive it, and that the family would agree to donate. I remember thinking that there was another family sitting in another room in a hospital across the state or the country preparing to say goodbye. And making the decision to use his or her organs to save the lives of others. It’s a tricky thing to hope for, one shrouded in guilt and doubt of our worthiness. But I can honestly say I have never forgotten their gift or their undoubtedly devastating loss.
We talk often about some of the unforeseen “gifts” we’ve received due to James’s health and our situation these past few moths. Aside from the amazing help and support for Team Finley and the life-saving gift of life from the donor, we’ve also benefited from other less obvious bonuses. One is a new perspective on our lives. When our car unexpectedly breaks down we can look at that situation and see the seriousness of it, but take comfort in the knowledge that it’s not life or death. James and I look at each other and kind of jokingly say, “Hey, no one is going to die”. We also have a renewed joy and love for our family and friends and each other. It’s pretty great actually. Another gift has been to see and hear how James’s story has impacted others. Even more to hear how others have noticed and remarked about James’s strength and character. I’m going to share an email he received from a technician, Melissa, at the lab where he got his weekly paracentesis. We stopped by to see Melissa after a checkup, and we were disappointed when she wasn’t there.
The receptionist told me you stopped by today and asked for me, and I started to tear up because I knew that meant you got your new liver 🙂 Oh my God, FINALLY! I am SO happy for you!! You went through hell waiting for that thing. To this day you are still the only paracentesis patient I’ve ever had who was still working a job despite your disease. You never gave up even though I could tell you felt like crap. You worked so hard for your family and your future, and I’m so happy you get this second chance! I’m glad you get to be back home with your girls! Thank you for thinking of me. Rock on! 🙂
We were both touched, though he was more shocked than I was. I knew how hard he worked and how much he struggled just do basic things. I think it was pretty validating for him to hear that, and I’m just about the proudest wife alive.
Thank you all again. And again. Our cup runneth over.
July 17, 2018
WARNING: SUPER LONG POST!
A little trip down memory lane…
I was staring at Dr. Delich’s crocs when he told us. I swear he has a pair of those rubber croc sandals to match every pair of his corduroy pants. It’s kinda funny those little details you remember when really big moments happen.
It was January 2018, just 6 short months ago, when we sat in Dr. Delich’s small exam room on the 7th floor of the Doctors Building in Sacred Heart. They told us that James’s blood type and portal hypertension would make his time spent waiting on the Swedish list longer than originally anticipated.
I remember looking at Amy, the transplant coordinator, and I saw an unknown emotion cross her face. Sorrow or helplessness or was it conspiratorial hope? She glanced at Dr. Delich and said hurriedly, “You could always go to the Mayo clinic in Arizona.” Delich, in his cutesy, nutty professor way nodded and said in his casual way, “Oh yeah! You could always do that.”
He started looking something up on his computer and Amy glanced at him quickly before telling us about a patient who had a similar story to James and had gone down to the Mayo and received a replacement liver in just a few weeks. We were shocked. Our hope with Swedish was 18+ months, and every day seemed to get more and more difficult for James.
Somehow over the next few weeks, we got in touch with the Mayo and they told us that our best chances would be to relocate. Even now to say the word,”relocate” makes me a little nauseous. I thought James was kidding when he brought the idea to me. Relocate? Ha! Yeah, right. How the hell would we do that? I agreed to go to Arizona for the week long evaluation process, but I was not entertaining the idea of moving down to Phoenix.
The evaluation was intense, but we were both impressed by their program and staff. The team seemed eager to list James and assured us that his case would be a simple one for them. They also explained in detail how they were able to perform so many more transplants than other regions. Their surgeons are like artists who are extremely well trained and experienced in matching the perfect donor to the perfect recipient. It is this experience and skill that allow them to take organs other more hesitant regions pass over. We were at the end of the evaluation process when our social worker, Raeann, reiterated that our best hope was to relocate. She dropped another completely unexpected bomb: we could not have Josie and Katie with us. They wanted James’s primary caregiver (me) to be only in charge of him.
In my mind, the whole thing was off the table. I distinctly remember thinking: “Well, we tried, but no way. Nope.” I thought we’d go back home to Spokane and put our faith in good ol’ Swedish.
James had a different opinion. I honestly cannot think of one time in our relationship where he asked me for something. He has always been the one to give, to whatever make happen for me. This time he asked. He said to me, “I feel like this is my best chance to live.” I literally felt sick at the thought of leaving our babies, our home, our families, our dog…and for how long? So many questions rattled around in my overwhelmed head. I vented these fears and concerns to a few very dear friends and one friend (“friend” is not even a close to being an adequate word) stepped up in a way I had not imagined. She and her husband offered to take the girls for us. When I mentioned their offer to James I saw him look hopeful for the first time in months. On our last day in Phoenix after the evaluation, we drove around in the warm desert, surrounded by cacti and palm trees and I was overcome by a panicked anxiety. I knew, I just *knew* that we would be back here and that we would not have our girls with us.
My heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest at the thought of leaving them. I remember looking out the rental car window, tears streaming down my face, and thinking “I’ve got to get my shit together before I hyperventilate and scare everyone.” We flew home later that evening and the plans started to formulate. Who would take care of the girls, who would take Lou, who would watch our house, where would we live, what would we drive, etc.
Every time a new stumbling block came around we had AMAZING people on our team helping us, offering support, showing up in unbelievable ways. And those people just kept showing up, again and again. And James and I learned together we could do really hard things, one thing at a time. Who would’ve guessed we would meet so many phenomenal people along the way. Remember the patient I mentioned who made the Mayo journey just a few weeks before us? The one from Spokane who essentially inspired us to come down here? We met him in our weekly support group and became friends with him and his wife. I believe they will be lifelong friends and Monte’s friendship to James throughout this process has been absolutely lifesaving.
Tomorrow we leave for home. We will finish packing up today and fly home. We are excited and in awe of the miracles and all the things and people who had to come together to make this journey possible. We are humbled and speechless by the love and support we’ve received. Never underestimate the power of a simple phone call or text or even Facebook comment. We are grateful. We are blessed.
We’ll see you soon.
“Just do The Next Right Thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way Home.”
~Glennon Doyle Melton
Photo Galleries (7)
July 11, 2018
Wow, you look great James! Keep up the excellent work. I'm so looking forward to getting to see you and Jodi on Friday
July 11, 2018
Wahoooooo!!!!!!! GREAT picture of you Fin! So glad to hear you are getting released! You look great and what an amazing journey! Thanks for sharing all the details :):)
July 11, 2018
Following your story on Dorry's page and wishing all the strength, love and support needed for a full recovery.
July 11, 2018
To James and his family. To Dorry and her support. We are sending our positive thoughts and prayers. (I am Scott's cousin.)