save mitchell

donate a kidney, a dollar, or a prayer for hope & healing

Hope floats.

This week has been quite a whirlwind. Mitchell came home on Tuesday, exactly one week after transplant surgery, which was wonderful! His blood pressure was coming down, which meant two of his six blood pressure medications could be discontinued. Things were looking up and we were doing the backstroke in a bath of good news.

I finally heard a sense of calmness in Mrs. Lyne’s voice over the phone on Thursday after spending the entire day in the transplant clinic, and she even admitted with an exacerbated tone, “I’ve been surviving on adrenaline. Now that we’re home, I’m crashing and incredibly tired.” You may remember that she had a terrible car accident a few months ago and has been suffering from pain in her arm and neck. Mrs. Lyne’s physical therapy came to a complete halt two weeks ago when Mitchell went into surgery mode — so between that stopping, plus sleeping on hospital sofas and now on her own couch next to her sick son…her body has taken a beating.

She went on to talk about the kitchen floors needing to be cleaned and I stopped her, “The floors can wait. Get some rest.” She reported that things seemed to be moving along in the right direction, besides creatinine levels being a bit high, to which they’d adjust his anti-rejection meds to help fix that. He wouldn’t need to report back to clinic until another four days on Monday.

We hung up the phone and not even a few hours went by before she rang again. The news wasn’t good. It turns out his blood pressure going down wasn’t necessarily a good thing, per se. You see, it could actually be a sign of the kidney being in distress. He’d need to return to clinic the very next day, Friday.

Friday comes and goes and the takeaway isn’t what we wanted to hear. His high levels of creatinine and low blood pressure…adds up to a biopsy appointment scheduled for Monday afternoon. Unless, in the meantime, the levels normalize.

That means he’ll be admitted back into the hospital for at least 24 hours while they keep an eye on him and the procedure’s wound, that nothing goes awry from sticking a needle in his recycled kidney.

I went by their home today to say hello & drop off a few goodies, including a check for $750 thanks to the third batch of SAVE MITCHELL t-shirts being sold. I also had a set of coffee table books made for him & Jessica as a keepsake; Facebook and blogs stock full of digital photos are lovely but there is something to be said for tangible memories.

When I arrived he was asleep on the recliner chair, faithfully wearing his SAVE MITCHELL t-shirt; evidently the blood pressure meds make you extremely tired. The Yankees were on TV, of course, his favorite baseball team. Beside him was a gigantic organizer of pills. I couldn’t exactly count how many were in each slot, but I eyeballed at least 15 or even 20.

He currently has SEVEN battle wounds that are healing — from his transplant surgery, dialysis cath removal, nephrectomy, central line in his neck, and on and on. I imagine his torso looks like he was attacked in a back alley from criminals. Without fail, Mitchell’s quirky sense of humor managed to make me laugh out loud and I almost fell off the couch. His Mom explained, “In the past, when we’ve been at the beach and people ask, ‘Wow what are those scars from?!?’ Mitchell tells them they’re from a shark attack.”

The poor guy has been through more than many of us will experience in our entire lifetime by the age of nineteen years old. All he wants to do is live. Just breathe, and live, and laugh. I wish that for him.

But for now, he’ll continue to fight for his life, defy odds, keep doctors, surgeons and nurses on their toes to figure out why and the heck his body rejects kidneys time and time again. And we’ll continue to rally around him and his unbreakable family.

Thank you so much for the continued support and for always believing. Right now it’s time to  swim, not sink. It’s time for a miracle. Let’s keep Mitchell and his family afloat by wrapping them up in a life vest of hope.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Post-op Day 3.


I was lucky enough to spend all-day Tuesday at the hospital to support Mitchell, his family, and his donor Jessica during their transplants. The experience was surreal; I wasn’t watching Grey’s Anatomy in a flat screen TV, life was being saved in real time. Even when I worked at Johns Hopkins and walked down the hospital halls daily, I didn’t get to see behind-the-scenes happenings or truly understand what it’s like to wait, and wait, and wait for updates as the surgery took place. It was hands down one of the most moving, profound and best days of my entire life.

Since I started this blog 8 months ago, got tested twice to be a kidney donor (once to Mitchell directly & once for a kidney swap situation), launched the Save Mitchell t-shirts fundraiser, fostered a relationship with Mitchell’s mother and have been left speechless by her living Sainthood status, raising thousands of dollars due to selfless community members opening their wallets, updating his Facebook fan page on a daily basis, and hearing about the up & down roller coaster ride of his health status…to say that Tuesday was a gigantic, collective sigh of relief is putting it lightly.

The goal of being physically present was to keep his parents occupied in the morning before the immediate and extended family arrived, to personally stay updated on the surgeries progress, and to keep the social media circle informed as the day unfolded. All three were accomplished and I left 9 hours later feeling more mentally/emotionally tired than if I had been sitting at my day job desk for the exact same amount of time.

As I feel asleep Monday night, during my morning drive into VCU Medical Center on Tuesday, and the evening drive home — I wept. The tears were made from 100% natural joy. Since the day I learned of Mitchell having his transplant surgery day set in stone, gratitude keeps oozing from my pores. Mitchell receiving a transplant, all because of Jessica being impossibly humble and selfless…it all feels magical. A divine intervention if I’ve ever seen one.

I returned to the hospital today to see our brave hero on an extended lunch break. He was in much better shape than when I left him Tuesday night {which was basically incoherent & not awake, squinting in pain every few seconds}. Today he was sitting in recliner chair with bright blue lips from a hospital popsicle. Mitchell is a quiet guy and has an aura about him that feels old and wise, but those Cookie Monster blue lips immediately reminded me that he’s still a teenager with a young heart and spirit.

When I first entered the room, a lady who handles all of his medications was telling him, “This is a test. You can have *ONE* cracker and then we’ll see how it goes.” He slowly savored his very first piece of solid food, a graham cracker, and 30 minutes later asked, “So what’s next?” He’s starving after not eating for 3 days, and finally has an appetite. Next he munched on pretzels while watching a movie and dozing off every so often during my two hour visit.

What I love about the Lyne family is how absolutely hilarious they are. At one point Mitchell’s monitor was making a beeping noise and his Dad got annoyed that it kept going off {the nurse attempted to fix the problem 3 times to no avail}. Mrs. Lyne turned to him and said, “Sorry if his life support is bothering you…” and we all broke out into a deep belly laugh. Those two are quite a pair and I can tell they’ve been married for a very long time between their banter and playful interactions. Raising five kids, three of whom have suffered from tremendous health issues over the last decade — they know that when life gets rough, you have to laugh for survival.

Mitchell has had a harder time post-op this 3rd transplant than the last one. So far he’s had a few blood transfusions, a bad reaction to pain meds that caused him to be severely itchy {can you imagine having your entire abdomen sliced open and to make matters worse, you are uncontrollably itchy??}, he has air trapped in his intestines/stomach which is causing horrible nausea and vomiting, and wasn’t allowed to move for the first few days.

Fortunately today he’s feeling a little better and took a brief stroll down the floor. And the BEST news of all… is his new kidney is doing beautifully!! The organ is functioning properly, working hard to keep Mitchell alive & kickin’, and producing urine like nobody’s business.

Balloons, baskets full of candy, and well wishes are everywhere. Meals are being prepared for the family to help them next week once discharged. The love is palpable.

Meanwhile, I also got to visit with Jessica for about 15 minutes down the hall, when she was preparing paperwork to be discharged in a few short hours. I’ve only known her for a brief time now, but could definitely tell a big difference in her demeanor. In our past texts, emails, and in-person convos, she was pretty positive and energetic — whereas today she was very subdued. However despite her physical appearance being dialed back, I can tell that her spirit is stronger than ever. Also I got to see her eat solid food {her second time, first being a few pieces of cornflakes last night} — her preferred food was peanut butter crackers, yum.

We discussed how her post-op experience has been, and despite it not being pretty {including side effects from pain meds, a severe allergic reaction to Benadryl which also caused severe itching that left marks on her back, a bloody nose, nausea causing her not to eat for all 3 days in the hospital, and an increased heart rate episode}, overall her mental attitude is phenomenal. She barely even took pain medication since the operation; frankly, I think that’s insane. I’ve heard accounts of donors comparing their pain levels *higher* than giving natural birth. But Jessica? Nah. She said, “I’m not a wussy.” No, no she is not. She’s a soldier.

In fact, I watched her peer out the 9th floor transplant unit window, and smiled when she said, “If I was not on drugs right now, I wouldn’t be looking out the window. I don’t like being up high.”

Here are some more photos from today. Thanks for everyone’s continued support and encouragement.

Much love,

Mary Beth

Mitchell’s armor

Jessica’s armor

Mitchell’s life support {loved ones not pictured}

Virginia Commonwealth University Men’s Baseball Team 

Posted above Mitchell’s bed 

Jessica’s virtually untouched tray of lunch, “I tried the roll. Eh, not so much.”

Mitchell’s Mom wearing her Save Mitchell dot com shirt along with a kidney necklace pendant.

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Transplant Day!

The big day is finally here!! Mitchell’s transplant surgery is underway, and our hero Jessica is finishing up having her kidney removed. TWO lives are being saved today.

Love wins.

Mitchell shining bright before surgery.

Jessica is ready to get the show on the road!

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Pre-transplant dinner.

Five days before T-Day (transplant day), Mitchell Lyne met his kidney donor, Jessica. The Lyne family, more than a dozen people deep, showed up to meet this living angel. Jessica’s husband came too, who is a silent hero in the situation…supporting his wife when many partners might not be able to handle or accept such a courageous and selfless act.

I sat next to Mrs. Lyne at dinner and could see the look of shock in her eyes ~ not quite wrapping her head around how a stranger came forward to save her young son’s life. But what was even stronger behind Mrs. Lyne’s glasses was a reflection of hope, she’s never lost hope.

Mitchell’s Grandpa said he’s been praying for a healthy kidney. ‘It was God’s plan,’ he explained.”

Here are a few photos from the family-style dinner.

Much love,

Mary Beth

Mitchell and his 3rd kidney donor, Jessica.

Mr. & Mrs. Lyne, Mitchell and Jessica.

Mitchell’s sister and 1st kidney donor Stacey, and Mitchell.

Mitchell’s #1 Fans!

Savemitchell.com Founder Mary Beth, Jessica, and Mitchell.

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A gift.

This blog was birthed on February 13, 2012, on the cusp of my two failed attempts to donate one of my kidneys to Mitchell. God put it on my heart to help this young man, that much I knew for sure…and if a kidney wasn’t coming out of my torso, then I would be used in another way.

Savemitchell.com came to life to tell his story, share updates, as well as establish a Facebook page for supporters to follow along on his journey. We’ve raised thousands of dollars, created Save Mitchell dot com t-shirts (over 100 sold and counting), and even had folks make homemade dinners for the family. We chronicled Mitchell’s triumphs outside of the operating room including getting to meet his favorite college basketball team (VCU Rams), watched him graduate high school, and attend Prom.

We’ve also learned about the not-so-glamorous, behind-the-scenes look at life on dialysis. As his Mother candidly said in the recent past, “he’s the sickest he’s ever been.” That statement says a lot considering the guy has been dealing with kidney failure and survived two transplants in the last 11 years. Needless to say, his loved ones and supporters have been clinging onto hope. That someway, somehow, someone would step forward to give the gift of life and be a suitable match.

Enter Jessica.

She emailed the Save Mitchell Facebook page on May 17, asking about his status since the blog had a lapse in updates. My response was:

For a while he was doing well, then him and his Mom went to NC about two weeks ago to visit family, and suffered a complication thru dialysis — he was in a lot of pain. Things seem to be doing better now. No updates on donors. The hospital is working on a ‘domino’ transplant that could involved 8 donors/recipients so the testing and matching process feels like it’s taking forever. Thanks again for reaching out & the support!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, we learned that someone named Jessica was being tested. In organ donation, the hospital coordinator keeps details confidential to protect everyone involved, including HIPAA laws (patient privacy), so his family & I were grasping for any and all information which was loosely shared. The stories and status changed every few days — one moment we’re talking about people in Missouri and Pennsylvania participating in a domino swap, the next moment we’re focused on fixing his dialysis machine, and the next moment we’re anxiously awaiting any update whatsoever from the transplant unit.

Well today was the day we’ve all been waiting for — this is finally happening in six short days. Mitchell has a donor, and it’s all thanks to sweet, selfless, super hero Jessica. She is donating to a stranger (known as “altruistic”) in need of a kidney in Richmond, VA — and her husband will donate their kidney to Mitchell. Although just like when I tested, Jessica wasn’t a match for Mitchell, the beautiful thing is she’s now saving TWO lives.

The odds of this entire situation happening are slim on multiple levels. For one, given Mitchell’s complicated history and multiple surgeries, has unfortunately made it very difficult to find strong matches; it’s not as simple as having the same blood type — the process is much more involved including antibodies, tissue matching, etc. Additionally, to have the swap take place in the exact same city is amazing. Dealing with dozens of people in a large kidney swap could have delayed the surgery for months, not to mention more room for error. Finally, Jessica is a nursing student and starts school soon — so her timeline to undergo the surgery and build in time to recover is tight. But, by the grace of God, the stars aligned.

Sure many hiccups could take place, causing the surgery to not happen , or complications from the transplant…but we’re not going to focus on that. No-no, we’re not even going to put an ounce of energy into What If? Because life doesn’t work that way — we are only guaranteed today, so let’s put our love and support into a perfect outcome for every single person involved. Let’s let go & let God. Let’s be brave and believe.

I asked Jessica if she’d write a guest blog post to share her perspective, what this experience means to her, and why she was inspired to get involved. She happily obliged and titled it: A Gift. Her story brought me to tears for more reasons than I could ever explain… I’m so grateful for everyone’s support, and lift up Mitchell, his family, Jessica, and her family ~ that Tuesday, August 7 is The Day that Love wins, Faith perseveres, Hope prevails, and we’re no longer here to Save Mitchell ~ rather, Mitchell is saved.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Saving grace.

Mrs. Lyne: Mitchell is the sickest he’s ever been.

Mary Beth: Wait, you mean, even dating back 11 years…to when he was 8-years-old and needed his first kidney transplant?

Mrs. Lyne: Yes.

That dialogue practically took my breath away.

But, but…how could this be? We just saw him posing in a tuxedo, looking super sharp, for his senior prom. And then standing next to his Grand Daddy on high school graduation, smiling bright. How could he be that sick?

When his potassium and hemoglobin levels dropped last week, the poor fella had to have two blood transfusions. Blood work results came back today, and while the potassium is up a bit, he has not been able to eat *any* food. So hopefully prednisone will do the trick, help the organ inflamation go down, and ultimately help him hold solid food down.

Today was a whirlwind. As his Mother recounted the details to me, I was out of breath just listening to the story. In short, Mitchell’s team of doctors changed their mind a few times. One moment the plan would be to stay put, take the meds, and watch what happens. Another moment, he was ordered to go to the hospital “within the hour” for a possible surgery, and the next…they’re told a living kidney donor has come forward.

A sweet, selfless soul has stepped up to the plate to donate their kidney; this person doesn’t even know Mitchell but is a friend of a friend of a friend. This person doesn’t match Mitchell, so has offered to donate their kidney to a stranger on the waiting list {this is known as an altruistic donation}. By doing so, Mitchell is automatically bumped up to the #1 spot on the kidney waiting list.

This is HUGE. Really, really big news. But he won’t be completely out of the woods yet. You see, because of his complex situation, it will take a very unique kidney to be compatible with his system. Regardless though…putting him at the tippy top could literally be a life saver. A saving grace.

Another insight that put things into perspective was when Mrs. Lyne said the doctor said they’ll let him have a cadaver kidney from a deceased donor. Originally this wasn’t permitted because of Mitchell’s sensitive case {living organs last longer than cadaver organs — and the more transplants you have, the harder it is to make them successful}, but evidently because he is not doing well, the medical team’s point of view is, “we’ll do whatever we need to do to save his life.”

So please keep Mitchell in your thoughts and prayers. Send him your love and support. And as always, consider donating through a dollar, getting tested to be a kidney donor, delivering dinner to the family, or purchasing a SAVE MITCHELL t-shirt. Tomorrow is never guaranteed for any of us, so live today to the fullest.

Much love,

Mary Beth

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Third time is a charm.

The last few months have had lots of highs and an equal amount of lows.

For starters, I finally got to meet Mitchell in person! Well technically I met him when he was 8-years-old, but a lot has changed in 11 years. His parents and I chit chatted away at a diner, while Mitchell stayed quiet for the most part. When he did chime in though, boy was I laughing. The guy has a great sense of humor, and his smile was even brighter in person.

I was blown away when it was time to eat, and a baggy of pills came out. These meds are just another piece of the puzzle that keeps him breathing, and keeps us hoping that a selfless kidney donor will step up to the plate and save his life. The trooper takes dozens and dozens of pills every single day; they put my vitamin intake to shame. By the time I snapped this shot, he had already swallowed a mouthful.

Mitchell recently went to his senior Prom! Although initially apprehensive, friends and students encouraged him to attend. Men’s Warehouse was nice enough to donate his sharp-looking tux. Of course Mitchell picked Tarheel Blue as a nod to his favorite North Carolina basketball team. They had a fun night and his Mom was patiently waiting for a call to come pick him up, assuming he wouldn’t feel very well or make it out too late. She was wrong! Mitchell experienced an unusual second wind and hung out with fellow graduates all night long.

Around this time, Mitchell and his Mom made a road trip to visit his Grandparents down south. The trip was monumental because it would be the first time they’d be managing his dialysis treatments remotely / away from home. Everything was going well until the very end. Because of complications, they had to stay over a few extra days until they stabilized him, then headed home.

For several weeks Mitchell’s Mom was getting frustrated because the dialysis machine wasn’t working properly. It seemed as though too much fluid was being removed from him, which caused nausea and an upset stomach / unable to hold food down. Thankfully they were eventually able to have a new machine replaced by the clinic…and things appeared to be getting better.

Then, on a perfectly routine day, while Mrs. Lyne was going about her daily errands — her car was hit — hard. It wasn’t pretty. She suffered several injuries and has been in physical therapy ever since. Most folks could take medication to help alleviate the pain , but not her.

“I need to be available for Mitchell in the middle of the night to check on dialysis treatments, so I can’t afford to be knocked out on pain pills.”

And that, my friends, is why we call her an Angel on earth. She always puts others first, even at her own expense.

As with most car insurance claims, of course this experience wasn’t a pleasant one. It took over a week to get the paperwork processed and car value assessment. The rental car was only approved for a short amount of time, and finding a replacement for their truck wasn’t looking promising. You see, this particular SUV was perfect for transporting Mitchell to and from doctor’s appointments, dialysis clinic visits, and filling prescriptions.

“It rides so smooth. So even if Mitchell wasn’t feeling well, the car ride wouldn’t make him more uncomfortable.”

Mrs. Lyne was really disappointed for this loss, not to mention it’s extremely important in her business — landscaping. This was a double-whammy.

Being out of work due to her injuries means she isn’t making money to support her family, and summertime is the one season she is normally guaranteed work. Losing the transportation vehicle to bring Mitchell in for doctor’s check-ups AND unable to use her trusted vehicle for landscaping supplies was a grim reality.

But by the grace of God, a kind-hearted man learned about the Lyne’s circumstances and cut them a break. They now have another SUV and are grateful to be back up and running.

 

Last week, Mitchell graduated from high school. What an awesome, awesome day. He worked diligently with a tutor and earned every piece of that 11×18 diploma. Although home schooled for the better part of the last few years, his classmates have cheered him on from the sidelines, even posting banners and posters around school with encouraging words of support. Here he is standing next to a very proud Grandfather.

Now, exactly 8 days later, he is laying in a hospital bed. Welcome to the world of a young man fighting for his life, and waking up every morning not knowing what to expect.

Earlier this week, his hemoglobin and potassium numbers were decreasing — which left him feeling very ill. Then yesterday tests were run and the numbers continued to go down, so he was immediately admitted and told he’d need a blood transfusion. While this is a necessary procedure to keep our courageous fighter alive, unfortunately it also means he’ll have a tougher time getting a living kidney donor. The transfusion lasted until 3am, and 5 short hours later, this morning was scheduled to see Gastroenterology specialists and determine if he has internal bleeding.

It seems fitting that I’m scheduled to donate blood this Tuesday. I try to go regularly, and not let time lapse between the minimum amount of time I’m allowed to give, approximately every 50 days. When I’m laying in that chair, I’ll think of Mitchell and hope that others are out there doing the same — saving a life by such a simple act.

Another way to help is to purchase a SAVE MITCHELL t-shirt. For each one sold, $15 is donated to help off-set his medical expenses. Click here to learn more about how buying and wearing a shirt will help you raise awareness for Mitchell and his journey of keeping hope alive.

Please continue to keep Mitchell, his Mother, Father, and siblings in your thoughts and prayers. The road doesn’t get any easier, and life has a way of keeping us on our tippy toes. While most high school graduates are enjoying their summer, and anticipating the milestone of college around the corner, Mitchell is strictly focused on his health. He’s decided to forgo pursuing college until a shiny new organ is in his abdomen. When the day comes, it will be his third donated kidney.

As they say — third time is a charm!

Much love,

Mary Beth

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The Graduate.

Mitchell graduated from high school!!! We’re so proud of him. Here he is on the big day alongside his Grandfather.

Image

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Savemitchell.com shirts sold!

We’ve sold not one but TWO batches of SaveMitchell.com t-shirts. Each one costs $25 ~ $15 goes directly to helping keep our brave hero alive. What a great idea ~ you donate to dialysis supplies that helps Mitchell wake up each morning as he waits for a kidney donor, and you also get a fashionable, comfortable t-shirt.

How it works: Our fund must sell 50 shirts in 50 days for the fundraiser to be completed. Once we hit # 50, credit cards are charged, shirts are printed, then shipped to those who purchased. The clock resets and the whole process starts over.

To date, due to this initiative, we’ve donated $1,500! Let’s keep it going, and keep hope alive.

Get your own t-shirt by clicking here, or gift one to a person you love in honor of Mitchell.

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Fundraiser for Mitchell

An awesome company, Bonfire Funds, has partnered with SaveMitchell.com to launch a fundraiser.

It’s super simple.

People purchase a t-shirt for $25; $15 goes directly to the SaveMitchell.com fund which helps offset his medical expenses. But here’s the catch…we must sell 50 shirts within 50 days. If we don’t reach that goal, then nothing happens. But if & when we do reach our goal, then everyone who placed an order will have a t-shirt shipped to them, credit card will be charged, and a total of $750.00 will be donated to Mitchell Lyne to help keep him alive!

Sure, insurance and Medicaid pay for some of the healthcare costs (while dishing out headaches)…but certainly not all of it.

And then there are the everyday costs that add up over time.

An example is the amount of paper towels & trash bags that are used up due to his dialysis treatments & cleanings. Mitchell’s Mom goes through an entire roll of PT daily, which in turn fills up an entire bag of trash. If you do the math, that is $7.49 for a 6-pack of Bounty paper towels & $5.00 for a 30-pack of trash bags, or over $35 per month.

And let’s not forget the cost of gas these days…to & from doctor’s appointments, dialysis clinic check-ins, trips to the grocery store and pharmacy to fill prescriptions. The expenses are hard for anyone to keep up with, let alone a family who has dedicated every minute of every day to keep their son alive.

So please consider paying it forward and purchase a t-shirt. And let’s be very clear…this isn’t any ol’ shirt that festivals hand out as freebees. The “Cotton Ringspun Fashion Fit Tee” is high-quality material, fits like a glove, and is super comfy. You do have the option to purchase a standard (boring) “Cotton Basic Tee” but it’s the same price so why not get the best bang for your buck donation!?

Click here & Visit the site now, time is running out.

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