Cindy’s Story of Faith and Hope

Written by, Glenn Oliver

Cindy was diagnosed with lupus in 1983 at the age of sixteen. She had many flare-ups during her high school years, which meant she spent a lot of time in the hospital recovering. At age twenty she met me (Glenn) and eleven months later we were married. I knew of Cindy’s medical condition before we were married and knew I could handle it. My mother had severe MS (multiple sclerosis) while I was growing up. My siblings and I did most of the cooking and cleaning, so I grew up quickly and understood about health problems.

Six months after marriage Cindy had a grand mal seizure and the lupus had shut down her kidneys. She was on dialysis for eight months.The kidney doctors were very negative about the kidneys ever working again on their own. Our faith helped us feel positive and Cindy’s rheumatologist, Dr. Daniel Clegg, told us when the lupus shuts down the kidneys many times the kidneys will start functioning again. We felt strongly this would happen. After seven long months we saw signs through Cindy’s improved blood work that the kidneys were returning, but the kidney doctors told us this meant nothing. They told us to get used to dialysis because she was going to be on it for a long time. About a month later Cindy was off dialysis. Even then the doctors warned she’d be right back on it. We understood they didn’t see this happen too often so it was hard for them to realize Cindy was an exception to the rule.  We knew she was coming off dialysis for good.

Oliver FamilyWe also learned that when the lupus shuts down the kidneys the lupus goes dormant. During this time we talked about having children. Because pregnancy would be hard on Cindy’s kidneys and they would have a good chance of failing again, we decided to adopt. We have been blessed with three beautiful children. Zach is seventeen, Kade is fifteen and Olivia is nine years old now.

After sixteen years of the kidneys working at partial function, the doctors determined Cindy needed a kidney transplant.The blood work indicated the kidney function was deteriorating and the medicine to help the kidney function may hurt her health. Cindy’s brother Troy volunteered to donate his kidney and was a match. April 25, 2006, Cindy had the transplant and the operation was a success. Both Cindy’s and Troy’s kidneys are doing great after eight years. We are so grateful for Troy’s willingness to give his kidney to Cindy.

On September 3, 2006, about four months after the kidney transplant, Cindy became very ill. She was having headaches for a few days and started to be confused so we took her to Emergency. The doctors thought that Cindy had Meningitis, but the test came back negative. They tested for West Nile Virus and it came back negative. She couldn’t recognize certain things, so they admitted her into the hospital. She had a fever they couldn’t reduce. Cindy had another seizure and went into a coma. They began giving Cindy antibiotics first, but since she wasn’t improving they gave her high doses of steroids. The doctors weren’t sure she was going to make it. After a priesthood blessing by Cindy’s Bishop, she took a turn for the better.

Cindy woke up from her coma after a week of steroids. She communicated with her eyebrows. She could lift them when we asked her yes and no questions. A month later they tested her again for West Nile Virus, and this time it came back positive. The doctors realized the immune suppressant drugs prescribed for her kidney were masking the prior test result, a learning experience for the doctors.

During the time Cindy was in ICU, I was still trying to work. It became very difficult so I decided to take a leave of absence for a few months while we determined what was going to happen to Cindy. Her family and I were constantly with her at the hospital. We also had 3 children at home that needed care. Olivia was only 1 ½ years old. The family split up the time and made sure everything and everyone was taken care of. We made a schedule of who was at the hospital and who was taking care of the children. Cindy’s sister, Michelle, helped a lot, as well as my sister, Colleen, and several friends helped as well. We truly appreciated our family during this time of need.

We thought at the beginning Cindy would take only a few weeks to get better. But when she woke up from the coma and the tubes were finally taken out, we realized she couldn’t speak or walk.  The West Nile Virus went to her brain and affected all of her motor skills.  She had to relearn to speak, walk, write and eat. Cindy was in the University of Utah Hospital for two months and went to Physical Therapy Rehab there for another few weeks. She couldn’t do the rehab they wanted because she was too weak. She was then transferred to South Davis Community Hospital, where she got strong enough to begin her therapy. Cindy met Louise Jarvis, her PT (physical therapist), who was a life saver. She also had Jen Bangs for OT (occupational therapy) and they became good friends. Jen moved out of state, but they still stay in touch through Facebook.

Cindy was at South Davis Community Hospital for six weeks making her total hospital stay over four months. She continued her therapy as an outpatient until Louise retired, and now Louise comes to our home to help Cindy. We feel very blessed to have wonderful therapist who have helped Cindy progress.

When Cindy came home from the hospital she was in a wheelchair, couldn’t walk or talk well and we helped her with her meals. We noticed friends that were not used to medical problems stayed away. This was hard on Cindy because she lost a few of her good friends.

Louise is still working with Cindy to this day, after eight years of therapy. Cindy’s speech, writing, eating and all the things you do daily have slowly come back. She went from a wheelchair to a walker and then to a cane. Now she can walk without a cane around the house, but has a problem with her balance. She uses the walls and railing to steady herself. She does fall once in a while, but she gets up and brushes it off.  When we go out she holds on to me. She is amazing. Even the doctors are impressed with her abilities. The kidney has been working great through all of this and we feel the transplant saved her life.

This has been a life changing experience for both of us. I quit my job and work at home so that I can be with Cindy and the children now. Cindy cannot drive and needs help with things that have to do with balance—like trying to carry things as she walks. She still has hope she will walk one day completely on her own. She can do most everything else.

I love Cindy so much. I would never leave her. My father stayed with my mother when she was ill. He was a great example of sticking through hard times. I have seen men leave their spouses because of their health problems. I know that some men could not handle everything we have gone through which is sad. Those men missed out on something that needs to be learned in life. It’s not all about yourself—it’s about serving others. Cindy has gone through a lot in her lifetime. She is strong even though sometimes she feels she is not. She is a fighter and that is why she has done so well with all that has happened to her. I feel blessed I am healthy enough to be a helpmate for Cindy in all we need to do as a family. Life is good now.

Thank you Glenn for sharing your story. What a great example you are to me! I appreciate how positive and strong you and Cindy are.