“Don’t Count The Days, Make the Days Count.” This is a quote by the late, great Mohammad Ali. There were a lot of amazing quotes by him, all dragged out this weekend when it was learned that he had passed away. One of my favorites, though, was the “Don’t count the days” quote.
As you know by now if you’ve followed this blog, I’ve got a chronically ill kid, who has gone through various stages of wellness. When we were waiting for a kidney transplant, we decided to move closer to the hospital. Wendy was on five different blood pressure medications and a medication for her heart. Besides that she had medications to help her kidney function, and of course, she was a diabetic. So, in a nutshell, she took fourteen different medications in a day, by different routes (patches, oral medication and injections), in different combinations, about every two hours, around the clock.
She was four years old.
You can imagine my shock, dismay, and utter fear when she decided that she wanted to play soccer.
We didn’t know if we could do it. Could we manage the medical part and keep her safe while letting her play soccer? Was it even possible? Could we emotionally handle it, knowing that her body was already going through a ton of modifications just to keep living like a normal kid?
It would be so much easier for everyone if she didn’t want to do it. But she wanted to play, she wanted to play BADLY, and we wanted to make it happen for her.
We spoke to her doctors and their answer was: If she wants to, let her do it. Her body will tell her when she’s had enough.
So we did, with some guidelines in place. She could play sports that weren’t a ton of contact…..so ice hockey, or football, or even gymnastics were out. Of course we had her insulin and sugar at the ready. We also had a glucagon with us, which is an injection in case she passed out. We had snacks. We packed up her medications and gave them to her at her normal times. We filled out the waiver with all of her medical history. We agreed that one of us would always be at every practice, every game, every time.
We held our breath, and we let her go. And, the child has NEVER looked back. Here she is, three months from a kidney transplant, playing soccer:
She got her kidney transplant. The next year,we found out that she was fast. In fact, she won first place for her age group for the mile run the first time she ran:
Which eventually led to the swim coach asking her if she wanted to swim competitively, and guess what? She did. Guess what else? She was good at that too. Here she is with her continuous glucose monitor on her arm at the suburban championship, where she placed first for the backstroke:
Oh, and did I mention that my kidney transplant recipient, diabetic child decided that she wanted to do triathlons? Yep. She won those too:
The point was, and still is, that these things terrify me. Truly. But Michael and I have never put limits on what she can do. If she wants to do it, if she wants to try it, we are there as a team to support her. And she has shown us, over and over, that she is a tough competitor who has this inner drive to succeed.
And we are there, every practice, every game, every time.
It’s a huge amount of support. Wendy isn’t a drop and go kid, I can’t run errands or go to the supermarket while she is playing. I have to be there. And when she goes down, when there’s a problem, I totally want to rush on that field and take care of her. But I take a breath and I let the coach handle it, and if the coach calls for one of us, we go over. We do not keep Wendy like a china doll, because that’s never what she wanted to be. She is making the days count. We are making them count with her.
And I have to say, that Wendy has set a good example for our younger daughter, who also plays soccer and races in triathlons, who also is tough as nails and who wants to be just like her big sister.
I’ve been reflecting on this because this week we will be traveling with Wendy to the American Transplant games in Cleveland, Ohio. This is our first venture into the national scene of competition for Wendy. It’s like the Olympics for transplant patients. I want her to do well, but I’m also just so grateful to be going, to be a part of it, because it’s what Wendy wants to do. She is a competitor, she is a fighter. She always has been. And we will be there to support her. I imagine that I will have a lot of reflections from the American Transplant games. This is just the first.
Don’t count the days, make the days count.
Photo at the top: My girls after a kid’s triathlon, enjoying some ice cream.