By Linda Ley
My Valentine Miracle—a Kidney!
Editor’s Note: Linda Allen Ley, former WJTV anchor, is a familiar face to many even though she gave up her television career several years ago. She had not been married to her husband, Dr. Philip Ley, very long when a hereditary kidney disease rocked her world and put her on dialysis. Below is her story in her own words.
Through this journey of kidney failure, I’ve worked hard to wake up each day with a positive attitude and a heart full of gratitude. Humor has often been my saving grace. The day before my transplant, I met with my UMC Transplant surgeon and jokingly told him to keep the incision “small and low.” I showed him my faded tan line and said: ”Use that as a guideline and stay below the line so I can one day wear a bikini again.” It was a way to find humor in a frightening, life-changing event. I was sure he thought I was crazy, but much to my surprise he took that request seriously, and lo and behold, my incision is small and goes just a tad above that faded bikini tan line.
On My Disease
I was born with Polycystic Kidney Disease. It’s an unfortunate family tradition. My mother and my sister both also have PKD, which strangles the kidneys over time. In April, my 84-year-old mother celebrated 18 years of new life with a kidney she received from a donor in Little Rock. My sister Angie will celebrate 9 years with her kidney later this summer. She received hers from an anonymous living donor. If you don’t believe it’s always on God’s time, consider this—each of us received a kidney exactly 9 years apart.
On Dialysis And The Transplant
I was on home dialysis for almost four years before receiving my transplant. I was on organ waiting lists in Jackson, Birmingham, and New Orleans. The wait was long and sometimes difficult but I worked hard to live my life to its fullest and not let my disease define me. Phillip and I continued to travel and even traveled out of the country. We were in Puerto Rico and left just two days before Hurricane Maria hit. God was surely watching us. Had I been stuck there, I might have died without dialysis supplies.
The hardest part of the transplant was the first 9 days. During that time I was taking about 40 pills a day. It was often a struggle to get them all down. The meds basically poison your body to kill off anything that can affect or kill the new kidney. It took my body almost two months to adjust and we are still tinkering with the right dosages. Despite the often-ugly side effects, I’m grateful for these drugs which are keeping my new kidney healthy and which are keeping me alive.
What This Disease Taught Me About Marriage
I am fortunate to have a loving, loyal, faithful, and full-of-faith husband. Although I was in great health when I met him, I knew it was inevitable that one day my kidneys would fail. From the very beginning, he’s always said, “We’ll deal with it when we come to it.” I’ve apologized many times for dragging him through this and his response is always, “I knew what I signed up for. I love you.”
During the first two weeks after my transplant, Phillip continued to see his patients while also caring for me at home. He was cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, doing laundry, feeding and caring for the dogs and our crazy Sphinx cat Scarlett No-haira, of whom he is not fond! I didn’t think I could love this man any more than I already did, but each day my heart overflows with even more love and gratitude for this incredible individual that God blessed me with. He is my best friend, partner, love of my life, and caregiver. As his patients know, he truly is one of a kind, full of compassion and kindness. He has been by my side through all of this without hesitation. I don’t know what I’d do without his love and devotion.
Belief in the Power of Prayer and Miracles
The final road to my Valentine’s Day transplant started a week earlier with a Facebook post my husband wrote, pleading for help. He could see dialysis was taking its toll and he was growing concerned. Immediately we started hearing from friends and strangers offering their well wishes and prayers. Some shared the post and it went viral, reaching tens of thousands of people across the world. Some even offered to be tested to see if they were a match. Just a week later I got “the call” that they had a kidney for me.
Phillip and I are deeply touched by the wonderful show of love and support we’ve received. It gives us renewed hope about the goodness of mankind and the incredible power of prayer. It’s brought both of us closer to God and to the tremendous power of prayer. They were heard above. It’s been almost three months since my transplant and I’m doing extremely well.
It’s often hard to know what God has in store for us. Difficult times can have us questioning our fate, but we must learn to accept that it is all in “God’s time.” No matter how hard we try to manipulate the outcome, we must trust that God will open the doors at the right time.
Don’t Ever Lose Hope
It’s easy to give up on hope if your life is going down a rocky road. But without hope, we lose the light that keeps us going and alive. I now wake up each morning and go to bed each night thanking God for this wonderful new life I’ve been given. One day I hope to tell my donor’s family what an incredible gift their young son gave me, in his death. I am so grateful to celebrate and LIVE another day.
Linda made a very sweet and humorous presentation to Dr. Jim Wynn who performed the transplant surgery. trying to appear calm in the tense moment before her surgery, she joked about a “bikini cut.” He actually accommodated that request and 17 days later she attended the Kidney Foundation gala and presented her doctor with a “bikini award.” a light moment after a few years of many very heavy ones!