A Wife Like Kelly
Last week we gave an update on Team Medicine’s preliminary fundraising results at the 2014 DASH for Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness. This week, Team Penn Medicine’s top fundraiser, Stephen Orloff, shares with us some insight into the incredible support he received throughout his transplant journey.
The Power of a Strong Community of Support
Everyone who has been through the transplant process -whether a donor, a recipient, a medical professional, a caregiver, or a family member - knows that the journey is long, twisted, and filled with daily surprises of peril and triumph. In my own sojourn, I came to believe that it was only going to be my own inner strength and commitment that would guide me for what promised to be a soul tempering experience. But I was wrong. The foundation for my success in transplant was my dedicated, ferociously protective, and completely committed wife Kelly.
I received a double lung transplant on June 13, 2013. I was approved for listing in 2009 and finally listed officially in 2011. In the 5 years leading to transplant Kelly was everywhere and everything. Making appointments, maintaining oxygen and medications throughout the house as I was unable to move easily, keeping the household going, fielding friends and family inquiries constantly and setting up a system of rotating support - both at home and planned for in-hospital treatments to never allow me a moment of self pity.
She drove me to three (yes, there were three) false alarms while I was hunched over in the back seat praying that my oxygen tank would last for the trip, and then, after the crushing news that it was not to be....home again to wait. Sometimes when she thought I could not hear, I would listen to her sob quietly and pray for help and then quickly gather herself in front of me to order another task like medication or bathing. Then the call came.
Kelly was magnificent. Although I was unconscious for 5 days or so due to complications, Kelly slept in the waiting room the entire time. She had dozens of family members organized for shifts after finally being released from the ICU into the intermediate care unit. She kept socks on my feet as I asked her to not let me be cold (an artifact from my Army days) and gathered not a few hard looks from the ICU angels for it. The healing and rehab was long and difficult and the details of Kelly's sacrifice over nearly 7 years from diagnosis to transplant are so vast and all encompassing that they beguile description. But the results speak for themselves.
On April 13th, 2013, 10 months after transplant, "Stephen and Kelly Orloff" of "Team Penn Medicine" raised over 2000 dollars for the Gift of Life Donor Dash and ran the 5K race, finishing together.
One year ago at that time I couldn't butter a piece of bread but Kelly never gave up hope. Her persistence, courage, fortitude, and refusal to surrender inspired me then and inspires me still. And in case you are wondering, I came in at 45:44. I then turned around and went back to finish with my wife who was just a few yards behind as she had ORDERED me to run as fast as I could you to show her that it had been worth it -and I did.
That is what it is like to have a wife like Kelly.