Transplant anniversary brings faith lessons
Three years ago this summer, a fateful accident claimed one life and gave life to another.
For Triad Baptist members Melody and Jesse Dyson, the call they received June 2, 2013, meant a life-saving kidney that got their son, Lincoln, off dialysis.
While the drugs he takes regularly to keep his body from rejecting the organ bring their own long-term risks — and an unrelated disease he has can make the common cold lead to more serious bronchitis and narrowed airways — Melody says Lincoln is now living a fairly normal life and is your typical 4-year-old boy.
“He loves to climb, swim, ride his bike, build things, play with Transformers, and take things apart to find out how they work,” she says, marveling at God’s way and goodness.
These days seem far removed from such dark times as the seesaw of emotions and experiences Melody and Jesse experienced long before Lincoln was born and when even his birth seemed unlikely.
“After we attempted an in-utero intervention in Chapel Hill to try to salvage some of Lincoln’s kidney function, we were told from all appearances, it was too late,” Melody remembers. “As I began to try to process the thought of a life with an infant on dialysis, I received a bigger blow when a local doctor told me that he did not believe that Lincoln would survive birth.
“In two weeks’ time we had gone from the belief that our child had a condition that appeared to be resolving, to the news that our child had kidney failure and nothing could be done, to the knowledge that there's a procedure that can be done in the womb to try to reduce the damage, to the follow-up that showed that procedure had failed, to the news that our child would not survive birth,” Melody says. “I hit rock bottom.”
At the time, well-meaning people told Melody and Jesse to remember God was in control, which certainly was not news to them. What they didn’t know was what God was doing and would choose to do with Lincoln’s life at that moment — an experience at the heart of one of the biggest faith lessons they learned through his medical ordeal: How to trust in God’s goodness even when life is not.
“Sitting on the couch in my living room then, I heard that still, small voice ask, ‘Do you trust me?’ ” Melody remembers. “My equally quiet answer was, ‘No.’ I was not on the brink of turning my back on my faith. I was just saying in that moment that I only wanted God’s will if it matched up with mine. God knew my heart; He knew that I loved Him. And, He knew that I, like every parent, was not ready to give up my son.
“It’s so difficult to see while you’re in a dark valley like that,” Melody adds. “One has to rely on the memory of truth when what little can be seen makes no earthly sense. What I know in those times must be separated from what I feel. What do I know? I know that God has proven himself faithful during a terribly difficult time in our lives. I know that He is big enough to handle my questions and my lack of faith at times. I know that He loves all of us more than we can even fathom. I know that this life is only the beginning, and an eternal home without pain, sadness, or disease awaits us. These truths and many more will carry us through the next trial.”
She says it’s a trial-tested faith in God and His way that will get the family through if Lincoln’s life took another unexpected turn.
“For me to dwell daily on the ‘what ifs’ would be for me to take God out of the equation,” Melody says. “He has been so good to us and so loving and merciful. If by this time next year one of the things that could happen did happen, will He still be good? Yes. Will my faith in Him be strong? I hope so. I know that is the point of James 1:3 which says, ‘…The testing of your faith produces steadfastness.’ ”
One last lesson Melody says Lincoln’s medical ordeal taught her is to draw as close to God as possible during the good times before life’s storm winds blow.
“It’s that kind of faith (trusting in what you cannot see) that I need to be cultivating in the good times,” she says. “I believe that the fear of what might be ripped from me kept me from fully receiving the supernatural strength that was available, even when I asked for it.
“So much was being asked of our family that we often just focused on doing everything required without mistake, rather than resting and trusting Him to work through us. Now I can look back and say that we did survive what He asked of us, but never apart from our faith.”
As busy and normal as Lincoln’s life is now, he still gets life-maintaining medicines twice a day and regular Nephrology Clinic visits and blood draws at least monthly. End-stage renal disease is currently not curable, with dialysis or a transplant the treatment options, and transplanted kidneys on average only last 12-15 years.
“The way he is now, we can almost forgot his condition ourselves but then one day a lab value is off or some other test is not quite right and fears may rise up,” Melody says. “The God who has sustained us from the beginning does so on those days as well. Lincoln’s life truly remains in God’s hands as it has always been.”