Spoiler alert—This chapter is full of…
Head’s up—It seems like this is a litany of…
Oh, just keep on reading. The first part is pretty boring with a bunch of diagnoses, but if you get to the By the Way portion at the end, you will read about some of the “stuff of life” at the Weldy home.
By the beginning of 1999 Roger began to have other health issues. He was lethargic and tired all the time. And he was cold. And he was jittery. And he lost weight. After researching things on his own, and studying his own family history, he asked our primary care doctor for a referral to an endocrinologist.
After bloodwork, we met with a specialist in Springfield at SIU, and he said, “Mr. Weldy. This was an easy diagnosis. You have Grave’s disease. It was easy because you have three times the amount of immunoglobulin. To be exact, you have 354% more. That means that there is some sort of autoimmune issue going on, and with your other blood test results and symptoms, it’s a no brainer.”*
He listened to his heart and noticed a slight murmur, probably because his heart was beating so hard. There was a little edema in his lower extremities. And his fingernails were pitted.
Then he gave us the options.
- Do nothing—Things could resolve in 1-3 months.
- Radioactive Iodine—That destroys the thyroid by radiation. The dose is calculated to work for 3 months. Most only need one treatment. One in three people need more. Pros—no continued treatment. Cons—might have to take a tablet daily for hypothyroidism.
- Medicine—This would take 16-18 months to work. You must have blood work all the time. There are side effects on the liver.
- Surgery—Nine out of ten are glad it is gone. It’s a quick surgery with a fast recovery.
We opted for the radioactive iodine, and his thyroid was “zapped,” as Roger described it.
During this time Roger’s doctor from Carle in Urbana, IL had moved to Michigan, so he found a local GI doctor in Decatur.
And you know what happened next? Sure you do. When you meet a new doctor, you have to give a complete description of your health history. And you have to have tests. He had another colonoscopy. The diagnosis? In October 2001 we heard again that it was Chronic Ulcerative Colitis. And there was another liver biopsy. The diagnosis? Moderate to marked acute and chronic inflammation. It was also then that he found he was genetically intolerant to Imuran.
In January of 2002 Roger had inguinal hernia repair. Before the surgery he had typical symptoms—pain in the groin, the need to push back the intestines frequently—so he contacted a recommended surgeon to do the operation. After the surgery, the doctor told me that he observed an enlarged portal vein.
In July of 2002, Roger had an MRI. The diagnosis—Enlarged spleen, possible liver cirrhosis.
The GI doctor wanted to do another liver biopsy in August of 2002, and found hypersplenism. The liver was smaller than normal, and the large portal vein indicated possible cirrhosis and portal hypertension.
Official results of the biopsy: Slow drainage of the bile duct, abnormality in the liver, elevated pressures in liver, and normal bilirubin levels.
Unfortunately, by July 2003 Roger needed more hernia surgery. He needed it to repair the original surgery.
And then he needed hernia surgery AGAIN in December 2003. More repair of the first surgery.**
Our local GI doctor requested another colonoscopy and an upper GI in July of 2004
- Much fibrosis in the liver
- Colon was consistent with chronic Ulcerative Colitis, but it was stable.
- The vessels were very large in the esophagus.
The liver needed more examination–another biopsy, and the doc preferred not to do it in Decatur. He wanted to send him elsewhere to get a 2nd opinion. There were signs of varicose veins in the throat that would indicate a fibrosis problem. Roger needed to be in the system for a possible transplant, if necessary.
A liver transplant. Pandora’s box was open and the need for a transplant had escaped. And no matter how hard we tried, it couldn’t be put back in.
*You will see the following comment many times: I wish I had connected the dots. Almost every issue he had was connected to his sick liver. His body was attacking itself. There is no explanation why, but it was for sure happening. Slowly and surely.
**He needed more hernia surgery in 2005. We had a different surgeon, and he never had problems with it again!
By the way
Life happens. While Roger battled health issues, he continued his work at Salem Baptist Church with diligence. I can honestly say I never heard him complain. He and I coped with his maladies, and we really didn’t have time to sit and have pity parties. Our four children, now entering their adult years made life even more exciting.
A woman in a grocery store once said to me, “When children are little, they are always underfoot and need constant care. When they grow older, they are heavy in your heart and need constant prayer.” Sometimes our hearts were heavy, sometimes joyful.
Roger was always finding birds outside. He probably could have had a TV show called The Bird Whisperer. I found so many pictures of birds he would bring inside to show my mom. Here are three of them.
There were four high school graduations and four college graduations. There were even three advanced degrees—two Masters and one Ph.D. We had two weddings, Chad to Stephanie in 1997, and Scott to Jessica in 2001. The first of eight grandchildren was born in 1999. Chad and Stephanie had Lauren in December. After Lance’s Ph.D. ceremony in Texas, we found that Scott and Jess would have their first baby in March of 2005. Our family was growing, and we were happy.
We had deaths, too. My brother Paul died in May of 2000 and my mother followed in August of the same year. My mother, Roger and I had traveled to Oklahoma in February to see Paul, and I’m so glad we did. She at least got to see her son before he passed on to glory.
I was in the middle of registration at school when I went home to take my mom to a doctor’s appointment. Roger came with me, and while we were in the driveway, my mother sneezed three times, slumped over, and was gone. It was a difficult loss since she had lived with us for six years. There were several other aunts and uncles who passed away in 2000, which made the year a hard one.
And then we got another dreaded call. I’ll never forget Roger’s sister Elaine’s voice in 2001. Roger’s dad had died suddenly in a farming accident. He was out one beautiful November morning, mowing around the woods, and the tractor tipped over on him, killing him instantly.
Through happiness and sadness, triumphs and disappointments, family played such a key role in our lives. We would bond even more a decade later as Roger came so near death while waiting for a liver.