2-5-13: Rose Bowl, a Puppy, the Inauguration, Starting/Ending Jobs, a “transplant sister” and Katie Couric!!

Dear Friends,
Wow, 2013 is unfolding rapidly and it’s already February! Typical of twins, Ana and I have a tendency to bicker about this blog, barking orders like, “It’s your turn to write!” This incites the usual rebuttal, “No, it isn’t- it’s your turn!” Well, I come clean and say I haven’t written in a few months.

Well, it has been 4 months since Ana’s last blog post. I survived the busiest year of my life, and made a difficult decision to terminate my job early so I could breeatthheee. Now I started a new job- one day a week at a local hospice in bereavement care. I absolutely love my work, and feel like every step in my history has prepared me for this place. I decided it’s really too much for me at this point in my life to work five days a week, travel as much as I do, and keep up with my health. Fortunately, I’ve been so healthy despite little issues like a broken bone. I know I’m extremely lucky.

We survived another holiday season, mainly the melancholy brought on by reminders of those who were not with us. After a lovely stomach bug that sent me into the hospital on Christmas, I went to Los Angeles for New Year’s to dedicate a rose for my lung donor Xavier, and placed it on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. Ana also dedicated a rose for her two lung donors. My in-laws joined me on Jan. 1st, to see the Donate Life float at the Rose Parade and then celebrate Stanford’s victory at the Rose Bowl!! This was my second Stanford Rose Bowl, but my first victory, and boy, was it a beautiful sunny day in So. Cal. My mom indulged us all to a wonderful Japanese New Year meal, called osechiryori, which kicked off a great start to 2013.

One week into 2013, Ana and I have hit another milestone… our 41st birthday! We can’t believe we have come this far, together. The Forties are Fabulous! After never expecting to live this long, we welcome our wrinkles and aches and pains of aging. Unfortunately I spent my birthday in the hospital with the terrible Influenza A that is going around. Such is life with a transplant: constant vigilance, familiarity with the hospital as a second home, and hope for a fast recovery. Thankfully, with excellent medical care, I bounced back pretty quickly. And I kept away from Ana so she didn’t catch it either.

Like a yo-yo, Ana and I seem to take turns working. I finished up my fellowship in bereavement care at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and now only work one day a week at Sutter Hospice. Ana returned to work at LPCH, after a few months on medical leave. Now, I’m taking on more Power of Two work, relieving Ana, tag-teaming to plan the speaking gigs, make flight reservations, Powerpoint presentations, order books, etc.

Mid-January brought another huge adventure for me: going to Washington D.C., with my husband Andrew, to see the final Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Andrew was very involved in the finance committee, Tech for Obama and Lawyers for Obama; so he had special access to balls and receptions. We had a great time together, spending quality time really together after so much time apart. I am so proud of him, following his passion to support Democratic politics. To tie Dr. Martin Luther King’s holiday to this moment in history made it even more memorable. I was so moved by the diverse crowds- we met people from Texas, Arizona, Florida, all with common values of believing in social justice, equality for all, and Democratic potential. I felt so grateful for upcoming Obamacare, which will lift heavy burdens off of many! I also enjoyed getting dressed up, but my feet did not, so I suffered from prograf-prednisone-diabetic foot pain through most of the 5 hours in line and standing for the Inauguration, plus the balls. Fortunately, Andrew’s firm provided a lovely reception, and we looked down from the balcony to watch the Presidential motorcade and parade below. Overall, Inauguration weekend was a moment in history I feel so blessed to witness.

Now for our biggest news: Ana got a new puppy! One year after saying goodbye to my soulmate dog Rupie, On our way back from the Rose Bowl, on January 2nd, we stopped by the ARF (Animal Rescue of Fresno) and fell in love with a basset mix named Flower. If it were up to me, Ana and I would have brought four dogs home. The lonely, sad eyes of dogs in concrete cages made my heart sink, reminding me that there is never enough love to go around for our four-legged friends. But alas, our husbands restrained us as the voices of reason. Well, the one lucky Flower-turned-Timon was brought to Ana’s home, and has been showered with double love from her mommy and auntie, as well as our reluctant husbands.

Timon the Terrible is certainly a handful. She escaped my yard twice, tore up my screen door, tore up plastic bags and cardboard boxes in the garage, and left a steaming pipe of poop in my car, after tearing up the armrest. Oy vey! I watch the dog when Ana is working, thoroughly confusing her about which twin is her mommy! Yet, it sure is easier to co-mother a puppy!

Timon is another reminder that all good things come from Fresno. Nine years ago on Feb 4, 2004, my donor Xavier was declared brain-dead, near Fresno. My heart weighs heavy at this time, thinking of him and his family. I imagine they still miss him terribly, and their grief remains painful. Nearly a decade after his death, his story remains fully alive. Every time I play my bagpipes, say his name, share my book or film with his photograph, a part of him lives on.

I firmly believe Xavier is connected to my life and the happenings in it. Last week, on Facebook, a woman wrote me saying she saw my name in the list of Donate Life Rose Parade rose dedications, and she also dedicated a rose in honor of her donor, Xavier. She received a pancreas and kidney at UCSF Hospital on February 6, 2004. She read an article online about me, my donor, and her date of transplant matched mine! My “transplant sister”, Kathie T., and I met yesterday for lunch and talked for 3 hours. We drank in each other’s stories. We compared scars and our respective medical dramas. Kathie seemed oddly familiar. She was wearing red, my favorite color. She giggled often, just like I did. She spoke with energy and enthusiasm. She was a caregiver for her ill family member, like I was. She had a devoted husband, who saved her life on several occasions, just like mine did for me. Kathie is from Minnesota, as is my husband. Like my life with CF, Kathie endured decades of poor health with diabetes and kidney failure. I shared my photographs and letters from Xavier’s family. Her family has a brother with the same name as Xavier’s older brother. Kathie likes to help the homeless, and Xavier also did the same. These may be minor coincidences, but I believe there is a divine alignment between donor and recipient. I was called for my transplant on Feb. 5, at 5pm, while Kathie was called at 10pm that night. Both of us were in surgery for 9 hours. Both of us woke up with a grateful yet heavy heart for our donor’s family and their saying ‘yes’ to organ donation. Added to the mystery, is that back in 2006, Ana and I heard from our donor families one week apart. Now, we have each met one of our fellow recipients… the pancreas/kidney recipient! Twins certainly do follow a synchronistic path!

And now, last Thursday, Ana and I were invited to be on the Katie Couric Show. The episode is entitled, “Multiple Madness.” We had a hectic few days cancelling appointments, getting our hair and nails done, and running around Stanford Shopping Center with low blood sugars looking for ‘that perfect outfit.’ Today we arrived in New York City, and tomorrow we will be interviewed with Katie at 10am, and the show will air around 3pm nationwide (they say 2.5 million viewers). We don’t know why we are so lucky and have so many opportunities. Our extraordinary life just gets more extraordinary! We heard about the tragic loss of a CF friend last week, Joey, (just 18 months post-transplant), which breaks our hearts, knowing that transplant outcomes are sometimes a cast of the dice. What is certain is that each day is precious and there are no guarantees.

Thank you for your ongoing support and interest in our lives. We have so many thrilling experiences, but knowing and loving you is more important than anything.

Take care, stay away from sick people, and hope you avoid the Flu.

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2 Comments to “2-5-13: Rose Bowl, a Puppy, the Inauguration, Starting/Ending Jobs, a “transplant sister” and Katie Couric!!”

  1. Donne Davis says:

    I’m so touched by the synchronicity of your meeting Xavier’s other donor recipient. What an amazing story. I watched the Rose Parade and cheered when the Donate Life float pulled around the corner onto Colorado Blvd.
    Keep up the amazing work you’re doing.
    Your shopping trip to the mall paid off. You both looked radiant :)

  2. Hamza Hassan says:

    Hello Ms. Isabel,

    I hope you are doing well. I am not sure whether or not you are the one who wrote the wonderful story “Twins stay Twins,” from the ‘Twins and More’ book of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series. The story, however, touched my heart and soothed my soul in a very positive way. Please let me know if you are the same Isabel Stenzel Byrnes who wrote the story.

    Best regards,
    Hamza Hassan
    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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