Tag Archives: Heroes

Weekly High-Five Report: Liver Day, a tribute to a hero

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Whitney and John all smiles after the transplant

Four years ago yesterday my husband received a liver transplant. Thanks to the generous donation by his living donor, Whitney Meriwether, who gave up nearly half of his liver, John is now alive and thriving. While many friends and family stood in the queue to help save John’s life, each one of us was rejected for various reasons. I was a good match but diabetes prevented me from donating. Whitney was rejected twice, but he kept trying. Most people would give up. Most people would tell themselves they tried, patting themselves on the back for the effort. Not Whitney. He figured that with a few dietary changes he could save John’s life. In a living donor transplant the right lobe from the donor is transplanted into the patient and in just one month regrows to full size in both people. It reminds me a little bit of the scene from Woody Allen’s Sleeper, like a nose that will grow back into a person. It’s strange but amazing. And now my husband has a very important piece of Whitney inside him. I’m just glad that Whitney never gave up. The day before the surgery his mom told me that Whitney doesn’t like to be told “No”. Thank God for that. Four years ago today John and Whitney walked out of Intensive Care (well, Whitney walked, John rode on the gurney). This weekend John and I reminded ourselves of our good fortune. He’s alive. He’s cancer-free. He’s still a father, a husband, a friend. If you’ve ever wondered what a hero who has learned firsthand the regenerative powers of the liver does next, check out Meriwether Distillery, a craft distillery making spirits in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. Now here’s a man who knows how to use his liver. Thank you Whitney. High-five brother.

Weekly High-Five Report: The Push to The South Pole

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On January 17, 2012, two adaptive athletes, John Davis and Grant Korgan, both paralyzed from the waist down, will attempt to reach the South Pole under their own power. Davis and Korgan, along with Doug Stoup and Tal Fletcher, will push themselves 100 miles across Antarctica, planning their arrival to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Robert Scott’s expedition to the South Pole. According to The Push to the South Pole website, the goal of the expedition is to demonstrate,

The capacity of the human spirit to overcome life-altering injuries.  And, perhaps more importantly, the team hopes to inspire people in all walks of life to help others achieve the seemingly insurmountable, to push their own everyday limits, and to live up to their ultimate potential.

Check out this video highlighting the trip and the goals of the expedition. These athletes are beyond inspiring. They are amazing.

The Push – A South Pole Adventure from p2sp on Vimeo.

They even have a countdown to “High-five at the South Pole.” Only 84 days left. Bravo guys. Bravo.

Tragedy, Triumph and a Lesson in Public Discourse

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Over the weekend, two boaters died in the glacier-fed Tustumena Lake near Kenai when winds picked up and swamped their 18-foot boat. What started out as a calm evening, quickly turned into a nightmare. The father, Ashley Udulhoven, his two teenage daughters and their two friends set out along the 25 mile lake for a public use cabin at the north end of the lake. Partway into the trip, the winds rose, creating waves as high as 9 feet. All six passengers were wearing life jackets and were thrown into the 40 degree lake. One of the girls struggled with her ill-fitting life jacket, and Ashley tried to save her by using a rescue stroke as they all headed for shore, two miles away. But the effort was too much, and soon the father and the girl slipped away.

The other three girls, aged 12, 13 and 15 continued on, swimming to shore, then scrambling over the rugged terrain without shoes to another cabin, where the girls started a fire and waited for rescue. Miranda Udulhoven, the eldest of the surviving girls, urged on the others, acting with a responsibility and resolve hard to imagine.

This story was covered in the Anchorage Daily News, and the comments there are supportive and complimentary. Reading the comments on the same story over at CNN.com simply made me sad. A few commenters, not all, blame the father for the tragedy without understanding the circumstances.

This is far too easy to do.

Public discourse too often mirrors the polarizing left-wing vs. right-wing formula meant to sell commercial spots and increase ratings rather than promote discussion. In fact, it seems that public discourse itself has become taboo. Too often, we shy away from it in fear of vitriol and unsupported rhetoric. When the norm for open discussion is simply spewing out one’s own beliefs without stopping to listen to the other side, it’s no wonder debate has become such an ugly word.

A few months ago I wrote about the tragic avalanche accident that killed Kip Garre and Allison Kreutzen. One reader claimed that I used their deaths as a lesson for others, admonishing me for my article. In my response to him I explained that while I hated to see yet another avalanche fatality, in my experience slides are predictably relentless, I was not trying to assign blame. Instead I was trying to engage in some discourse about our chosen risks. Is it okay to die doing what we love? I’m just not sure. Regardless, the death of these two is tragic and awful and there’s no other way to look at it. I, too, engage in the very same risks, and I’m questioning myself as much as the ski culture at large.

In the case of Ashley and the four teen girls, they set out innocently and prepared. He tried heroically to save the struggling girl. Ashley could have left her and saved himself. Instead he strove to the end. The other girls, with strength and resolve barely seen in most adults let alone teenagers, stuck together and survived.

It’s the kind of story only ever seen on Disney movies or old after-school specials. It fills my heart with sadness and also a surge of pride for those brave girls that survived.

Go and read the comments at cnn.com and come back here and add to this discussion. What is the proper way to engage in public discourse? Can we talk about tragedy without getting nasty? Is there any value in it at all? What about in politics or news? If we don’t like the kinds of polarizing debates going on elsewhere, should we all change the way we have discussions? Can we simply start to listen?