Chapter Five: Sisterly Love

I joined The United States Army as an 88M truck driver on February 21, 2006. I shipped out to training after school my junior year on May 18, 2006, to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo B 3-10 Co, (later transferred to E 2-10 Co because of an injury) where I remained until my MRD (Mandatory return date) of August 08, 2006, so I could go back to high school for my senior year. (I had to be legally emancipated by my mother in order to enlist, but she really wanted to send me to boot camp, so she didn’t exactly hesitate)

Training wasn’t so bad, to be honest. The physical exertion of it was manageable, but the true stress came from the mental and emotional reprogramming by the Drill Sergeants. In the beginning, I was pushed HARD because of my reason for enlistment.

See, when my sister was little, she’d been in four hypoglycemic (low sugar) comas before she was even 8 years old. In Alabama, as a kid, I used to go without a jacket so she could have 2, I would carry her backpack uphill for almost a mile from the bus stop to the house, I would sometimes even carry her on my back. On one occasion she even passed out at the bus stop and I had to find a neighbor to help me with her. They gave her a Mountain Dew to raise her glucose levels and helped us get home. Sometime after that, my sister decided she was otherwise okay and stopped taking her thyroid replacement hormones. At 11 yrs old, she had gall stones get loose and stuck in her bile duct. She had to have surgery to remove the stones and the gall bladder. After that, she was okay until she hit 16 years old – her junior year of high school, my freshman year.

It began in the summer right before school: she had endured a thyroid storm, and had to receive radioactive iodine therapy to deactivate her thyroids, after which she would be on replacement hormones for the rest of her life. During that time, my sister received an endoscopy (a tube/camera down the throat), which had a risk of blood clots. On the second day of school, she got off the bus and told me that her leg was hurting really badly. It was swollen and the veins were bulging. I offered to carry her, or her things, but she refused. Though she strongly disagreed, I went to a neighbor with a truck and asked him to drive us down the road to the house (thank goodness Florida was not made of huge hills and dirt roads!) When we got to the house, I went all over, gathering every pillow I could find and stuffed it under her leg, then waited on her hand and foot until Mom got home. When Mom was there, she thought that it was just a muscle cramp, and did not want to go to the hospital, so my sister decided to take a shower – standing up – to allow the circulation issue to resurface. Needless to say, when Mom saw the swelling, we instantly left for the ER.

My sister had a blood clot in the main artery of her left leg, beginning just above the knee, and ending just below the pelvic bone. (This is how we learned that our family had 2 genetic blood clotting disorders called Factor V Leiden and a Prothrombin Gene Mutation known as Factor II) She was in the ICU for 2 weeks, and was put into home-bound schooling for that year. (in case you didn’t know, “home school” is where the parent teaches the children; “home-bound” is where the teacher comes to the house to teach the student.) However, after she was discharged and sent home, she had to return to the hospital once every two weeks because they had given her a freaking staph infection while treating the blood clot (Gulf Coast Medical Center has got you covered!) And just when we thought it was finally over…

Her only kidney failed. She was born with only one kidney – the other “kidney” was just a ball of scar tissue. As a kid, it worked best at 65%. Now here she was, after going through all of this, now having to have an access for dialysis installed in her arm. But she was too fragile, too small. The veins blew. (Great, now she also has to deal with permanent collapsed tissue on her arm, way to go!) So the safest option for her became Peritoneal Dialysis – an access through the stomach which must be done every four hours. (they later on were able to change this so she could do it less often, and all throughout the night. I used to joke that she had to plug in and recharge like a cell phone, and frequently called her a Terminator)

So here she was, after all this time, in need of a kidney – but first she had to make it onto the transplant list. So what did I do?

I got legally emancipated by my mother at 17 years old and joined The United States Army, 88M Truck Driver, assigned to the 144th Transportation Co, 779th En Bn, Marianna, FL.

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