A child-like faith.

Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”

“How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.” Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” (Daniel 10:12, 17-19)

Today marks one month post-operation! I walked 2.4 miles this morning to downtown Grapevine and back and my lungs are sitting in the 90% range. Praise God! Here is a look at my old lungs vs my new ones.

Old lungs

OLD

lungs

NEW

First things first: I would like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of my prayer warriors. The wild success of my transplant belongs to YOU as much as it does to me. I am healing extraordinarily well. All of the nurses at my weekly clinic visits are flabbergasted at how good I look for being one month post-operation. God is so good. If there is anything I want people to learn from watching my transplant journey, it is that consistent prayer can accomplish wonders, and to trust in God’s mercy. Having a child-like faith and trust in God’s mercy is not only essential to being at peace, but it is what the Gospel is all about. There’s a reason that “Be not afraid” and “Fear not” are two of Jesus’ most used phrases. God is all-good and has had a grand plan for every single person’s life since the beginning of time. He works ALL things for good and by ALL I mean everything from stubbing a toe to losing a loved one to having a double lung transplant. If we would but submit to his holy will in everything, good and bad, he will perform things in us and through us that we can’t even fathom (like having another human being’s lungs successfully transplanted into your chest!) As the Gospel for today says,

“At that time Jesus exclaimed, ‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”‘ (Matthew 11:25-27)

God has been preparing me for transplant ever since I wrote my first blog post. I had a feeling, a premonition if you will, that my lungs were not going to make it to my 25th birthday and I would need a transplant before then. It was not just a hunch, but something that I gathered from my time in adoration and Mass and reflective prayer. The year leading up to my transplant I also became close friends with many saints—Therese, Bernadette, John Paul II, Fulton Sheen—whom I still rely on for consolation and guidance.

Perhaps the most providential aspect to all of this was the date of my 2nd lung collapse. May 7th was the day that the “spontaneous” pneumothorax happened but I don’t know that it was random. The Lourdes trip that I was supposed to go on ended on May 6th, and it was unfortunate that I couldn’t go, but God had a better plan in mind–getting some NEW LUNGS. God was going to bring new life and healing, which I am sure was being prayed for fervently by everyone at Lourdes, but not before a great deal of suffering and pain. I had to undergo my own mini Passion in the form of 48 days in the hospital, countless pills and IV infusions, nine chest tubes, blood sugar pricks, bronchoscopies, catheters, stomach pain, nerve pain, joint pain, leg swelling, blood clots, and oh yeah, waking up with a 16 inch scar across my chest and feeling like I was hit by 2 semi trucks. He certainly works in mysterious but wonderful ways! So, other than the necessary pain, let me go over just how smoothly this entire transplant process has gone. It has been truly miraculous. You ready?

1. I was only on the transplant list for TEN DAYS. That is one of the shortest durations ever at UT Southwestern and is unheard of in transplant communities.

2. My surgeon was one of the best in the country. He is a devout Christian and his name is Dr. Michael Alton Wait (strangely similar to my name, Daniel Alton Pruit). He has performed or watched over 400 transplants and said, and I quote, “The lungs could not have been a more perfect match.”  They could easily last me a decade if I do my best to prevent rejection and infection.

3. I had no false alarms, meaning that I received the first pair of lungs that were offered. This is very uncommon. I met a guy at my weekly clinic the other day who had SEVENTEEN false alarms before finally getting the 18th pair of lungs that were offered.

4. I did not lose much blood during surgery. They didn’t have to give me a blood transfusion until the day after, which means the surgery was much less complicated than it could have been.

5. I was out of the ICU in 2 days and out of the hospital in 9. That’s insanely fast.

6. One month post-operation, I am already hovering in the 90-95% lung function range. Again, that’s supernaturally fast.

7. My other organs are holding up just fine. Sometimes with CF patients it is necessary to do a lung and liver transplant because of the insane toll that the antibiotics and other drugs take on one’s liver, but I have had no liver, kidney, or heart problems. Fingers crossed!

8. The fact that I am walking over 2 miles every morning is amazing as well. The doctors call me a rockstar for this and hey, who knows, soon I could be jogging over 2 miles!

9. Throughout it all, I was able to remain positive and hopefully give other people a richer perspective on life. If I can open people’s eyes to eternal realities and make them strive to love God and heavenly things more, then I will have been doing my job. And that all starts with making my sickness and weakness a prayer. I’m not capable of much physically, but what I can do is offer up my weakness as a prayer of sacrifice for others.

In the great wheel of fortune that is life, with its ups and downs, staying close to God in prayer is essential. In fact, we should make our entire lives one long prayer. A great song to remind me of that is a song that I have not stopped listening to since transplant: Shout to the Lord. This line in particular will be one that I strive to live and love by:

“Let every breath, all that I am

Never cease to worship You.”

That’s all! God Bless all of my prayer warriors, and praise God that I came through all of this happy and healthy!

LUNGS

The day has finally come: I am on the lung transplant list! On Monday we found out that because of my young age and other factors like blood type that I am the number one candidate on the list for this hospital. What a crazy month and a half this has been. In a few weeks I went from relatively sick to extremely sick, and in another few weeks (hopefully not months), I could have a total stranger’s lungs inside my chest, lungs that are perfectly pink and healthy. Lungs that the donor is using as I type this blog to talk, sing, yell, whisper, and laugh. It is a truly mind-blowing concept that my donor is currently going about his or her everyday life, unaware that his or her lungs could eventually extend my life by a decade or so. I could get a male or female’s lungs (which would be fodder for many jokes) and they will be young lungs because they typically only take lung donations from people under 40. If that isn’t a Christian concept, that the donor’s tragic death becomes a gift of life for me, then I don’t know what is. None of it makes sense without the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. It will be a high calling, and one that I’m prepared to answer, to honor this gift of life from my donor and be grateful for it with every single breath.

Lung transplant is NOT the cure all for my problems. Think of it as trading one disease for another while hitting a “reset” button on my lungs. After transplant I will be on a ton of immuno-suppressants, steroids, and antibiotics, as well as all of my other vitamins and supplements. For the first six months to a year post-transplant, I will have to wear a mask in public, be extremely germ and bacteria conscious, and will not be able to travel outside the Dallas area. As exciting and yet terrifying as all of this is, I am more spiritually and emotionally equipped than ever before to be able to handle this journey through transplant. This entire year has been a roller coaster of extreme sickness and then surprising bounce backs and so I am prepared for the ups and downs of transplant.

Spiritually speaking, I have a powerful army of prayer warriors that I and my family can feel is lifting us up in prayer every day, and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that. I have been getting Holy Communion almost every day and praying very often for the intercession of my best friend and confidant in heaven, St. Therese of Lisieux. For the last year and a half of her short life, as she battled tuberculosis, she went through a similar roller coaster of emotions and bad health. Lung transplants were not even remotely possible in her day, but I have full confidence that she will be with me every step of the way, urging me to never lose the ardent desire to become a saint which she herself had until the day she died. It was through her that I realized that God would not allow one of his children to have such a horrible, disgusting illness like cystic fibrosis unless he had an infinitely greater purpose for allowing it. Witnessing to God’s love in small, unnoticed ways, as the Little Flower herself says: “To live by love is to go through life sowing peace and joy in hearts”—that is my purpose. And if there’s anything we can learn from the life of St. Therese, it is that God will take our offerings of love, however small, and make them echo throughout all eternity.

St. Therese, pray for me!

Great news!

This has been a GREAT week!!

First of all, I’d like to thank all of my prayer warriors who I know are praying for me every single day. It is not something I take for granted, and I know that I owe many of the blessings and graces given to me to y’all’s intercession.

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” —Matthew 18:19

Secondly, my FEV1 was up to 33.5% on Friday! My doctor said I am definitely defying expectations. After my collapsed lung episode, he was worried that my lungs may be on the decline, and we were even discussing getting on the double lung transplant list.

Thirdly, I am highly likely to be chosen for the 2015 Lourdes pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is sponsored by the Order of Malta and would be from April 29—May 6, and not to mention is all expenses paid! My interview went very well, and they will let me know some time after the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11) if I am one of their chosen Malades (literally French for “sick people”).

Fourthly, the trial coordinator from Houston called and told me that I am a prime candidate to get on the new combination drug for cystic fibrosis patients with 2 copies of the Δ F508 mutation. This is an overview of the trial:

“Repairing the defective protein in people with the F508del mutation is a particularly challenging and intricate process. In this mutation, a series of problems prevents the protein from reaching the surface of the cell. Lumacaftor is designed to move the F508del CFTR protein to the cell surface where Ivacaftor can improve its function and help increase the normal flow of salt and fluids in and out of the cell. Participants who took the combination treatment showed significant and consistent improvement in lung function and in other important health measures, including weight gain, and a reduction in the rate of pulmonary exacerbations.”

The trial should start at the end of February!

Fifthly, my niece Christiana Patricia Rain Edwards turned 5 on Thursday! She is growing up so fast!

Christiana

Three Patron Saints

If you read my blog you will have noticed this, but over the past year I have developed special friendships with three saints: St. John Paul II, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen (who will eventually be a canonized saint, no doubt). It was a rough year health-wise, but spiritually I am in a much better place, mainly because of these three amazing teachers of the spiritual life. They have become the patron saints of my life in ways too meaningful to put into words. Whenever I look up at the night sky and see Orion’s belt, I think of them looking down from heaven.

Three Patron Saints

Here are three quotes, one from each, that I particularly like:

“Illness especially, may be a blessed forerunner of the individual’s conversion. Not only does it prevent him from realizing his desires; it even reduces his capacity for sin, his opportunities for vice. In that enforced detachment from evil, which is a Mercy of God, he has time to search himself, to appraise his life, to interpret it in terms of larger reality. He considers God, and, at that moment, there is a sense of duality, a confronting of personality with Divinity, a comparison of the facts of his life with the ideal from which he fell. The soul is forced to look inside itself, to inquire whether there is more peace in this suffering than in sinning. Once a sick man, in his passivity, begins to ask, “What is the purpose of my life? Why am I here?” the crisis has already begun. Conversion becomes possible the very moment a man ceases to blame God or life and begins to blame himself; by doing so, he becomes able to distinguish between his sinful barnacles and the ship of his soul. A crack has appeared in the armor of his egotism; now the sunlight of God’s grace can pour in. But until that happens, catastrophes can teach us nothing but despair.” —Ven. Fulton Sheen

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” —St. Thérèse

“A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering. This feeling not only consumes the person interiorly but seems to make him a burden to others. The person feels condemned to receive help and assistance from others and at the same time seems useless to himself. The discovery of the salvific meaning of suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling. Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person “completes what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service.” —St. John Paul II

Bitter or better

This great video by Chris Stefanick hit me like a ton of bricks. I have to admit that recently I have not been a pleasant person to be around. I could definitely use some prayers right now. I am struggling with bitterness, anger, jealousy, and feeling like I was abandoned by friends.

As Stefanick says, “Even if you don’t believe in God, the Cross says one thing really clearly: life is really difficult sometimes. But as a Christian I can never look at my God and say ‘You don’t know what this is like to deal with pain, to deal with suffering, to watch your body fall to pieces in front of you, to have people who are supposed to be there for you all take off.’ Because he does.”

True compassion

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25)

Last week’s Gospel is a lesson in true compassion. Compassion means “to suffer with” — it’s not just a feeling, it’s also an act of courage and humility. Feeling bad for someone is pity, not compassion. I want to thank everyone who took time out of your busy schedules and went out of your comfort zones to come visit me in the hospital. You are all brave souls and I have a special place in my heart for all of you who took Jesus’ words seriously and acted on them.

It’s no wonder that John, Mary, and a few others were the only friends of Jesus that stuck with him throughout his Passion. No one wants to be wrenched out of their comfort zone, watching helplessly as someone they love is slowly and cruelly tortured. I’m sure his other disciples, like Peter for example, were extremely concerned and were praying for him fervently. There’s nothing wrong with that, but then again, they denied themselves the grace and privilege of being present at quite literally the single greatest moment in history, when Jesus said, “It is finished” and eternal salvation was won for all of mankind. Every single Catholic Mass is a re-presentation of that moment. All grace flows from that moment. And yet, only a handful of his disciples had the faith and courage to be there. As only the great Fulton Sheen could put it,

“We must kneel there at the foot of that Pulpit of Love and confess that when we stabbed His Heart it was our own we slew. But, oh, it is such a difficult thing to climb up the hill of Calvary. It is such a humiliating thing to be seen at the foot of the Cross. It is such a painful thing to be with one in pain and to be seen with one condemned by the world. It is such a hard thing to kneel at the foot of the Cross and admit that one is wrong. It is hard — but it is harder to hang there!” —Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Divine Romance

The power of the Rosary

rosary

“When you say your Rosary, the angels rejoice, the Blessed Trinity delights in it, my Son finds joy in it too, and I myself am happier than you can possibly guess. After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there is nothing in the Church that I love as much as the Rosary.” —Our Lady to Blessed Alan de la Roche

“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5:4).” —Saint Louis de Montfort

“Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.”—St. Padre Pio

Life, love, and grace

Just to update everyone on my condition: I’m feeling amazing lungs-wise and I’m not in any pain, but I will probably be here until Thursday or Friday. The doctor has had me on continuous suction through a chest tube since last Thursday afternoon, so I haven’t left my hospital room since then. What the chest tube suction does is it keeps my lung close to my chest wall which allows the hole in my lung to heal.

I am grateful for all of your prayers and because of them my spirits are still high. Basically now it’s a waiting game—we are waiting for the hole in my lung to seal up, which takes time and is completely out of my control. (I don’t know exactly what Purgatory will be like, but this can’t be much different!)

So how exactly did my lung collapse? Well after many x-rays and a CT scan my doctors determined that I coughed so hard that I popped something called a bleb on my right lung. A bleb is a blister on the outside of the lung that is filled with air. They are common in people with chronic lung disease. When the bleb popped, a large pocket of air leaked from my lung and rushed into the thin space between my lung wall and chest wall. My lung could not withstand the pressure put on it by this giant air bubble and so part of it collapsed and could not re-inflate.

The scary thing is that having one pneumothorax means that I am prone to having another, especially given the amount of blebs I have. The average person may have one or two blebs, but I have them all over both lungs. Practically speaking, all of this means that I am one step closer to needing a double lung transplant.

Having spent 21 days in the hospital and only having left my room about 10 times in that span, I have had a LOT of time to think. If these thoughts seem a little “off the wall” it’s because my main company for the past three weeks has been the four walls of my room.

My first blog post was 11 months ago today. It was about how if God could make graphite and diamonds out of the same exact element, carbon, then surely he could turn my cystic fibrosis into something good and beautiful as well.

I thought about that concept a bit more and so here are the fruits of my labor.

Not only are a dull black rock and a brilliant rare gem both made of carbon, but also, it is a basic fact of biology that all life is carbon-based. It would be impossible for life on earth to exist without carbon. Carbon is the main component of sugars, proteins, fats, DNA, muscle tissue—pretty much everything in your body that keeps you alive. Because it has four valence electrons, it is the most versatile and adaptable element, and so carbon-based molecules are the best suited to sustain our complex life here on earth.

It seems God has embedded at the molecular level and in the very substance of what makes up life in the universe an analogy for us all: carbon is to biological life as love is to spiritual life.

We don’t see carbon “working” in our everyday lives, but it is essential to our bodily life.

We don’t see all of the many hidden sacrifices that our family and friends make every day out of love for us, but these sacrifices are vital to our spiritual growth. They show us a glimpse of the eternal love that God has for us.

Diamonds are made only by applying intense pressure and heat over a long period of time, and love can only be proven through intense and prolonged sacrifice.

The ultimate example of sacrifice is the Cross of Jesus Christ. It’s no coincidence then that when the carbon in pure graphite becomes pure diamond, it goes from having a weak and layered hexagonal ring structure to an interconnected, three-dimensional lattice, as shown below.

IMG_0507.JPG

This locking together of the carbon atoms could be seen as the locking together of the two beams of the Cross on which Jesus hung—the reconciling of God and mankind. The coming together of joy and sorrow, life and death, grace and sin. Through his bodily death he became the source of all spiritual life, all grace, and all love. Through his Cross, Jesus changed pain and sacrifice permanently, and made them into something beautiful.

Accepting the Cross was both his greatest sorrow and his greatest joy. Archbishop Fulton Sheen points out in his many lectures on suffering that when Christ says, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” on the Cross, he is speaking in the past tense, as if his suffering is already behind him (and the original Hebrew is in the past tense). He knew that he would rise on the third day and ascend into heaven.

He didn’t take away pain, but gave it an eternal purpose. All he asks is that we entrust all of our pain, fear, doubt, and misery to him.

As St. Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

I could complain about basically being strapped to a wall for three weeks, and about my increased chances of having another lung collapse. Well, Christ was nailed to his Cross for three hours and he most likely died by a slow and grueling suffocation. So yeah, he knows exactly what I am going through.

Cystic fibrosis, collapsed lungs, and double lung transplants are scary, but they are no match for the community that I have around me that is built on Christ’s love. I am able to maintain such high spirits because I know on a deep level that I am loved by God, family, and friends. I have a veritable army of prayer warriors on my side, including the communion of saints.

I can turn the graphite I’ve been given into diamonds because I know that as a great Polish saint once said, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.” -Saint John Paul II