“Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start”
Saturday morning, I picked my dad up at 7:00 AM to head into the city for the Race to Donate Life 5k. This 5k was a big — no, HUGE — deal for my dad. As I’ve written about before, two years ago my dad was diagnosed with a mysterious and fatal lung disease. Basically, his lungs were scarring over and making it harder for him to breathe. They have no idea what caused it — he never smoked or worked in an environment that could cause lung disease. The doctors said the disease was progressing rapidly and his only chance for survival was a quick lung transplant. His condition was so dire that he went straight to the top of the transplant list, and after being listed, he received a new lung only two weeks later!
I thought my dad would get his new lung and everything would be peachy again, like it had all been a bad dream. But recovery from the transplant was anything but easy. It seemed like it was two steps forward and one step back. He had so many complications, including fluid buildup in his chest which had to be surgically drained. He spent weeks in the hospital as doctors tried to figure out why he kept getting this fluid buildup, and eventually they scratched their heads and let him go home. He lost his appetite and got dangerously thin. But the one complication that was most troubling was nerve damage in his legs, probably caused by losing so much weight so rapidly. A year after having his lung transplant, my dad could barely walk. He walked so slow, very unsteady, and his feet didn’t flex right which impacted his stride. He says now that he would sit on the balcony of his condo and look down at people walking and running in the park, and be amazed at how easy they made it look.
Chelsey wrote this week about her Dream Jar, a jar where she and her husband save their spare change in hopes it will someday add up to enough for a vacation. Chelsey writes:
Everyone has their own Dream Jar. A goal, a change, a dream that seems so far off it doesn’t even seem worth it to work towards it.
For my dad, it was being able to walk — really walk — again. It seemed so out of reach, almost impossible to imagine. But he worked at it, and step by step, inch by inch, he went from using a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, to walking unassisted.
A year and a half ago, it would have been too much for him to even imagine walking 3.1 miles. But on Saturday we did just that. We walked the Race to Donate Life 5k, which benefits the Washington Regional Transplant Community’s awareness programs for organ, eye and tissue donation. My dad said he figured we’d come in last. He wanted to take it very slow, because he wanted to finish. We’d gone on two practice walks and done two miles in about an hour, so at that pace, we were looking at about 01:30 to finish the 5k. And the way the route was set up, the last mile was a gradual incline, so we didn’t want to use all of my dad’s energy up too early.
He was right. We came in last. In the end, it took us 01:25. But we finished. Eighteen months ago, my dad couldn’t walk on his own. On Saturday, he walked a 5k. What’s next?