Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Moral Dilemna

My extended family is pretty dysfunctional
in the usual modern ways. I won't get into
the endless details, and I'm considered
dysfunctional by them, too, so maybe we're
more normal than abnormal.

My brother survived leukemia with a bone
marrow transplant 12 years ago, but, he
didn't overcome his alcoholism. I'm not
judging him, because I don't know what
it's like to have such a demon on your
back. I've never drank, except for an odd
social marguerita and beer, or good
champagne. By the time I feel a nice
buzz, I get wretchedly ill. Maybe it's the
Asian bloodline, but, I can't tolerate it.
My brother, however, became an alcoholic.
He's only recently admitted it, and I'm
proud of him for coming clean.

Here's the dilemna. He can't stop drinking
and his liver is shot. He's going to need
a liver transplant, which could be necessary
as soon as within the year.I'm going to have
to face the decision to part with some of

My liver is healthy as can be, not having
abused it with alcohol or drugs, but, I have
a genetic blood disease that mimicks
hemophelia when I'm injured. I lose my
clotting ability and have come close to
bleeding to death. Even something as
simple as being his bone marrow donor
almost cost me my life. I bled out of the
four holes they drilled in my pelvis. I
lost half my blood volume, lost my
blood pressure, went into hypovolemic
shock and went down in history as one
of the first donors who almost bought
the farm but saved their recipient.

OK, so I lived and it sounds melodramatic
to discuss it, but, it really is a serious
matter. I may not survive donating part
of my liver, since the liver is integral
in clotting to begin with. If my liver
undergoes a traumatic procedure, and
my inherent blood disease kicks in, I'll
be dead from blood loss. He'll be alive
and free to drink himself unconscious
until his new liver fails.

It all sounds hyper-dramatic doesn't it?
However, nothing in my family is ever

Christ reminded us of our obligation to
be selfless to the point to losing our own
lives. "He who saves his own life will lose
it...." No greater love than to give your
life to your brother.

I know all this, and I know that I may be
tested. However, what is expected of me
when my brother is actively destroying his
liver, knowing I already promised him to
give him part of mine if his failed. He almost
died last year from acute on chronic liver failure,
and I was prepared then to fly there to offer
my liver.

Since then, I've come to resent his drinking.
He has a right to live life his own way, and
he claims he can't stop drinking now. His
wife has breast cancer, and now the doctors
are thinking she has metastacized to her
lungs. They've been married since they were
20, and started dating when he was literally
11. She's his soul mate and he can't face life
without her. So he's fallen harder than ever
and the occasional beer is now replaced with
hard liquor to cope. He's now having more
seizures and his latest liver function tests
are grim.

I'm not ready to die yet. I realize it's not my
decision to count the days of my life and
ordain them, but, it's God's. What would
Jesus do?

Am I obliged to sacrifice my life under these
conditions? Even if I don't bleed to death right
there and then, I'm absolutely faced with
months of wretched recovery, pain, anemia,
depression and little support. My father can't
fly to help me, and I have no one who will
care for me in Texas. They'll expect me to
nurse them, even post-op. I'm a caregiver
by profession, and don't resent that a bit,
but, they don't treat me like I'm human.

When I lost half my blood volume with the
bone marrow transplant, they were mad at
me! They bad-mouthed me so badly that
the doctors treating him told me how much
that it offended them. His oncologist hugged
me when I returned to Texas and saw him during
my hospital rounds. He told me what cruel things
they said about me, like they were facing this
ordeal and I made things infinitely worse, instead
of grasping the concept that I literally saved
his life, and unknowingly risked mine by not
telling the transplant team that I had a blood
clotting problem. The oncologist said that they
would have never used me, and my brother
would have died. At least I was a hero in
his eyes, but, my family fails to see me in
any light other than black.

I'm really the blackest sheep in the family tree,
and this is a family tree that has mass murderers
in it. I am a Christian. I am different. Things
always result in me being blamed for events
that were as much their fault as mine, or much
more so. None of that is unusual in families,
but, now we're heading to a lethal place and
there is a decision to be made.

It's a no-brainer to friends I've discussed this
with, and even my dad said that he's patently
against my donating a liver lobe to a man who's
been told that alcohol consumption will require
his needing a liver transplant.

If he was on an ordinary transplant list, it wouldn't
be an issue. He wouldn't qualify for a new liver
if he drank. Why give someone a new liver when
they're going to drink it into failure?

I try not to be judgmental about the alcoholism,
and he's tried AA with no results. He's had a few
DUIs and was required to attend. Maybe now he's
getting closer to rock bottom, admitting to dad and
me that he's an alcoholic. In the past, he vehemently
denied it.

I feel so sorry for him, though, inspite of wanting to
wring his neck. He's my big brother, and no matter
what, he's the only brother I have. How could I
live a quality life after selfishly denying him my
liver? How could I face Jesus Christ when I failed
this test of faith? I'm the one who always chirps
about to live is Christ and to die is gain.

When faced with death, or pain, or sacrifice, it's
depressing that I cling selfishly to my own comfort
and safety zone. I pray that I am given more
strength to be the type of Christian who wouldn't
judge someone for drinking, or think of my own
life over someone else's life.

Yet, it bugs me that I may get really ill from this
procedure, or die, while he continues to knock
back hard alcohol. It's selfish of him and while
the addiction is something I can't compete with,
doesn't he know that his drinking is putting his
little sister's life in jeopardy? He refused to
believe I even had this clotting disorder, even
though multiple doctors confirmed it, and I've
been worked up at the best medical institutions,
even the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota!

What will become of us? I see other families
and wonder what troubles they possess that
aren't visible on the surface. You see people
out and about, and sometimes envy them, or
imagine that they have perfect lives. Behind
the brave faces and facades, there are an
infinite number of sad stories, addictions,
abuses and secrets.

I feel so small and selfish for not being
automatically possessed of charity, even
to the extent of losing my own life. I could
overcome that if he would just try to stop
drinking, or get some professional help.
He is indifferent to what it will do to his
sick wife and sick daughter, his elderly
father, and sister. All eyes will be on me
to do what is expected, what is always
expected of Jewish women in the family.

I remember my dad's family and grandparents
only slightly, since by the time I was 10 they
were all gone. The men ate first, though.
The women came second. My dad's ancestry
was Levi, and his grandfather was a rabbi.
While the American immigrants weren't
particularly religious, they kept the
traditions of the orthodox roots. These
traits are in our genes.

I hate that mentality, still persistent in Orthodox
and Islamic cultures, that women are chattel.
Yet, if I refuse, not only will I risk my own
faith by appearing to be hypocritical, but,
the rest of the family will hate my guts.
Yet, if the situation would be reversed,
and I was the drinking party, not one of
them would expect my lawyer brother to
sacrifice his important life for my scummy

I pray for the answers, but, mostly I pray
that my brother will stop killing his liver
by drinking. I pray that my sister-in-law
overcomes breast cancer and does not
have metastatic disease, even though the
doctors are telling them to expect the
worse. It sucks.

Father, in Jesus' Name, help me to make
the right decisions. Help me to be unselfish,
but, if it is futile to sacrifice my life for
someone who will continue to abuse
alcohol, then help to convince me it's
okay to say no, and that no one will judge

If people saw my family out and about they
would say how attractive we are. They may
envy us, without knowing what is behind the

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