Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Legacy of Love

Today is a day that has been set aside to celebrate the life of one of my heroes and biggest inspirations, Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the reasons I have such an immense love and respect for Martin Luther King, Jr. is because of his moral philosophy; his ideas of how humans should act and how to live a good life. I see him as a philosopher as much as he was a social activist. His moral philosophy was to live according to love, and to always help others. I would like to share a quote of his which reflects this philosophy, he stated: “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?" The King advocated for his philosophy both through his words as well as his actions. His message was to always help others, to treat one another with love and compassion, and to stand up for social justice. The King stated these words: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”.  


We live in a time when people are standing up for social justice, and are raising the issues and bringing to light the oppressive systems and the oppression of our society. It is remarkable. And while there is controversy around being “too politically correct,” we must remember the very reason why this movement is happening: to stand up for one another. While there is controversy around the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we cannot let ourselves get caught up in things such as the name of the movement.  We are in this movement, together, to stand up for those who have been made voiceless by the systems of oppression in our society. At the core of the movement is love—it is to listen, understand, and stand up and act when the freedom, the liberty, and the voices of human beings are threatened. That is standing up for social justice; that is love. When we let ourselves get caught up in the controversy, we stray away from love. While it is important to listen to all voices, the point of the movement is not to give a voice, but to provide the opportunity for the oppressed voices to be heard. It is to give the floor to those who have been made voiceless, and to listen to their experiences, and to support them. We must remember the words and the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., to look at one another with love, and to stand up for social justice.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Piranha Effect

I recently had my 18th birthday party with friends and family. It was a great time, with laughing and celebrating the moments of my 18 years of life. I was once again reminded of the amazing family I have.

During dinner, my mother made a toast. She brought up a point that has been on my mind since the party. She noted that every single person sitting in the room had some how helped us get through the tough times in life. And it stuck in my mind: every person had done something during our journey that helped us to get through it. Whether it was donating a kidney, lending a helping hand, or simply writing a thoughtful note, everyone had some how helped us. It made me realize the immense power we have to help one another.

It sounds so simple, and it is, but it also such a big deal. We have an incredible opportunity as humans to help one another. The idea that one person can make someone's day brighter or pick up a friend from a dark time is amazing to me.

As I am writing I am remembering a funny story from when I was in the 7th grade. One of my favorite teachers, Mr. Bowen, who was my 7th grade science teacher, always thought highly of my family for our strength. That was the year I was in kidney failure, and my transplant was that summer. He was going to retire the next year, and was slowly clearing out all of the stuff in his room. 

He called me out of class one day to come to his room so he could give something to me. I wasn't sure what he was going to say, and so I was curious as I walked through the door. He had a gift bag with tissue paper in it, and showed me a statue of a piranha that had been in his room for years. He told me that it reminded him of my family--he said that by itself, it's just a fish, but in a group they are strong and work together well. I was touched to have received such a meaningful gift from one of my favorite teachers.

The idea of a group of piranhas being powerful and strong reminds me of the simple idea of helping. One person lending some help is nice, but a group of human beings helping one another creates something amazing, something worth living for, something that could be seen in that room at my birthday party.

We are taught to help each other from the time we are in kindergarten, and it is a habit that we must remember. An act of kindness every day from all of us can make an incredible difference in the world. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Happy (late) Father's Day!

When life gets busy, things get shoved to the side, and you must tell yourself that it's better to be late than never. Well, father's day was quite a while ago, but it was my last week of school and I had finals, and I didn't have any time to write the kind of blog post my father deserves. I've had some time now, and here it is.

I would like to tell you about a time after my kidney transplant. It was about a week or so after my transplant, and the Disney channel  shows were on repeat, and Webkinz online games were getting boring. My dad said that he was going to read to me City of Thieves, and, quite frankly, I wasn't thrilled. In fact, I put it off for a couple days, finding reasons why he shouldn't read it just yet. I have never been much of reader, which drives the bookworms in my family crazy. Anyway, he eventually read it to me, and I loved it. The story, the fact that I could imagine a world while laying in my hospital bed, and how my dad and I could escape to another land while we were stuck in the hospital. While all of my parents have provided loving support during tough times, my father has been an incredible artistic influence in my life. The book that he read to me is just a symbol of all of the incredible gifts and talents he's given to me.

When I think of my childhood, there is an image of a warm living room and the sweet sound of guitar in the background. Even though he might not say it, my dad is an excellent guitar player, as well as a pianist, and pretty much anything else you can name. That's a gift that he has given to me--the ability to play almost any instrument by ear. I remember sitting at the piano with him when I was little, and he would play something, and say, "Okay, now play." I am so thankful for the times he kept me there at the piano even if I was complaining that I'd rather be doing something else, or during the times I would just say that I could never learn it because it seemed so hard. Today, I can play almost anything by ear, and that's because of the incredible patience he had, as well as all of the times that we would spend singing and harmonizing, or trying to figure out a new song on the piano when I could have been watching TV or playing video games.  I was taught at a young that anything could be made better by a guitar. I've seen my father bring together a group of people simply with a guitar. I've seen my father bring smiles and bring our family closer together during the years of sitting around a fire singing, and simply just being together doing something we all love. Music is such an amazing thing--you can be brought back in time, and simply a man with a song in his heart and a guitar to play to the world can bring joy to the hearts and minds of his listeners.

My dad is such an amazing person for many reasons, but if I must name one, it's because of the amazing joy and value he's brought to my life, as well as the lives of those who are around him while he creates something magical with a guitar and a voice. The appreciation my sister and I have for singers and songwriters, the messages they portray in their music, and the ability to bring life to singers who have passed on, to honor them, and bring their values, emotions, discoveries, and talent to our lives. To bring smiles even in tough times, and to experience those movie-like scenes around a campfire, when you just know that life is so incredibly precious and the people around you share your love for life and music. I must thank my father for the opportunity to see through the eyes of an artist, to hear through the ears of a pianist, and love life the way artists like John Denver did.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spinal Fusion Surgery: Pain helps us grow

Hello everyone! I have written so much about my kidney transplant, I thought it was time for some variety. (Ah, the perks of being having had multiple surgeries!) I would like to tell you about my back surgery. It has been so long since my spinal surgery; I was a little kid back then, and I only can remember certain things from it. I can't believe this July, July 10th, will be the seven year anniversary! Let's start from the beginning.

The first thing I remember from the scoliosis-era in my life is going to Lucile Packard a lot to visit Dr. Rinsky, who was the chief orthopedic surgeon. I hadn't been to Stanford before, so it was a whole new place for me. I was only ten, so I don't think I realized how severe my back situation was. We would go to the doctor's office and they'd take X-rays, and then talk about them afterwards with big scientific words that I didn't understand. At some point I must have grasped the concept of surgery, and on July 10th, the whole family and I drove over to Lucile Packard where I would have spinal fusion surgery.

It was a classic hospital stay. I was scheduled for 10 o'clock in the morning and the surgery ended up being at 8 o'clock that evening. I remember being so hungry, so my step mom came up with the idea that I should make signs saying that I was fasting to save the polar bears and to stop global warming. I was always interested in animals, and I knew that they were endangered, so to pass the time I sat in the hallway and showed passing doctors and nurses my signs and drawings of polar bears, and my campaign to save them. I didn't understand why I would not be eating to save their lives, but I went along with it. I kept a scrapbook of the surgery, and below is a picture of one of the signs I made.

There's another thing I must tell you about the surgery. The preparation was indeed a drag because of the timing, but that's not what made it an upsetting experience. My back surgery was the first one I'd had after my heart surgery, which was seven years before, and I didn't know then what I know now about how my body responds to anesthetic--I tend to have an adverse reaction to them. Before I went in for the operation, the anesthesiologist decided to give me a calming medicine, versed, to calm me down before taking a more potent anesthetic. Needless to say, it did not calm me down. I started to become hysterical, extremely anxious, worried, and crying. My whole family was there with me, and they were all doing the best that they could to calm me down, but something very scary emotionally was happening, and no one, it seemed, could calm me down. That is, until a nurse named Joshua came over and put his hand on my head and completely calmed me down. He looked me right in the eyes and told me his name, and that he would be there the whole time and that there was nothing to worry about. I remember him to this day, what he looked like, how gentle he was, and how even when I woke up from surgery I talked about him. Even though I was only ten years old, I knew then that he was my angel. And I still know, to this day, that he was my angel sent to calm me down even when my own mother couldn't.  I made this picture when I was able to sit up in my hospital bed.

While I am writing this, so many memories are flooding into my mind. It's amazing all of the little details we forget about that make us who we are today. It was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said, "What does not destroy me makes me stronger," and those are words that I live by. After my back surgery, the pain was so unbearable that I actually can't remember it anymore. I remember being miserable, but I cannot remember the physical pain. In the moment, I thought I was stuck like that forever, but now it's been seven years, and I can do anything I want with my life, pain-free. It didn't kill me, and now I'm stronger, physically and emotionally, because of it.

As humans we have the amazing opportunity to turn pain and misery into an inspiration to drive us to do great things. So, I challenge you to think about the pain in your life and how that has helped you to grow and has shaped who you are today.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kidney and Liver Transplant Party!

This Saturday I spent the day with two of my favorite people: my mom and my aunt Theresa, who donated her kidney to me four years ago. We attended a party for liver and kidney transplant donors and recipients, to honor the donors and explore the different organizations all about organ donation. It was very cool to know that we were all gathered because of one thing: the gift of life.

In my day-to-day life, I know about my kidney transplant, and sometimes I tell people about it, but every once in a while, it really hits me: I am walking around with my aunt's kidney. This happened at the gathering when I could see that some of the people we talked to were really moved by our story. The fact that I had two failing kidneys and Theresa donated her own kidney to me is unfathomable.

It was great to be able to be there and honor my donor. We went out to dinner afterward, and we were reminiscing about the moments leading up to the surgery. From the time we found out, to the time we had the surgery, to the time after.

The night before the surgery, Theresa came over to the Children's side of the hospital to say hi and goodbye before the surgery. We had come so far; Theresa had had months of tests, I had had months of tests, and we still had a long road to go, but we were still there, still alive, still silly. Theresa was there for me in every way she could be. The surgeon met us there too, and we all had a moment as human beings about to go into a life changing surgery, with a caring and extraordinary surgeon to take care of us.

Next thing we knew, we woke up from surgery. I remember not being able to believe it was over. I must have asked my sister a thousand times before finally believing that the surgery was over. And the first thing that Theresa said when she woke up was: how's my niece?

I still can't believe her heroism. I sill can't believe everything she risked for me. I stillcan't believe that I'm walking around with her kidney. And here we are, about four years later, still here, still alive, still silly, and closer than ever.

I never thought I would be able to drive a car. I never thought I would be able to do anything that a normal teenager does because of my condition. I was really sick, and I didn't realize it. I can do anything I want with my life because of my aunt. If she hadn't given me a kidney, I might still be on dialysis, not being able to go to school, not being able to spend my summer days at the beach, not even being able to go to my junior prom. But because of my aunt, I can live a normal life. Thank you, Theresa, for my life.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Imagine you're a mother. You have two young daughters, one's five and the other is two. You have just found out the that youngest one has a rare genetic condition that is, in most cases, fatal, and a few days after her third birthday she was going to need open heart surgery. This happened to my mother, the strongest woman in the world. How she cared for two little girls while dealing with heart surgery and not knowing what the future looked like is incredible. But what's more incredible is how she dealt with two more major surgeries to come throughout the years, her other daughter having medical problems as well, as well as everything else that goes along with being a mother. But the most incredible part is that she kept her faith throughout all of it and kept hope alive even in the darkest of hospital rooms.

I would like to thank my mother for everything she has done. I love you so much and thank you for everything you do for me. Without you, I could not have gone through all of the major surgeries, as well as just the day-to-day things I do. You have been a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, and you've been my advocate through everything. I don't know how you have stayed so strong even to this day, but you have and you are an angel. Thank you. 

I would also like to thank my stepmother, who has been there for me as well as my mom, for two of three of the surgeries. Thank you for all of your support, care, and understanding through everything. It's incredible to me that I have three amazing, loving, supportive parents. I love you!

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to love the things we dread

Hello everyone! I have not written in a long time, I've had so much school work lately. Infact, my endless amount of school work is what inspired me to write this post right now. I was sitting there with so much to do that I dreaded the feeling of dreading my next classes tomorrow. Not that I don't like learning--I love it--I just don't particularly love going to class after class everyday. But then I thought, that is just ridiculous. I have access to an education right at my fingertips. Sure, I could criticize the school system all I want, but that's not going to change the fact that I have to go. In fact, the only thing I have control over is my reaction and attitude toward my responsibilities.

While I was dreading everything, I thought of something. As it often does, my vivid memories of hospital life crept into my mind, staring, almost glaring at me, saying are you kidding? And it's almost like the memories slapped me, reminding me that any child in the hospital right now dying of cancer or any other illness would rather be in school than dying in a cold hospital room. And I had to ask myself, would I rather be having a math test or a kidney function test?

It's so easy as humans to fall into a routine. Negativity is all around us, tempting us to whine about the little things. We should be thankful about the things we dread most. So, sure I could critize everything, but why would I? Instead of thinking every morning that I don't want to go to class, I will begin to think about this amazing opportunity at education, the opportunity to find out what I want to do, the fact that six adults showed up today for me. To teach me and perhaps even inspire me. That's pretty incredible.

So, I challenge you to really think about both sides of your daily responsibilities. Think about even the littlest of things: taking out the trash, making dinner, driving, being able to open the door. It's hard to remember all of those little things, even a little bit annoying to try to be grateful for everything, but I know we can all do it. We need to honor those that can't do all of those things.