The Testimony of David Provençal
I first discovered my medical problems when I went for a college entrance physical. The doctor called me and said that there was a problem with the results of my blood tests, which indicated that I had kidney disease.
Well, my first reaction was, "Oh my God this is terrible, they have obviously mixed up my test with someone else who is really sick!" But that was not the case. I went for further evaluation and found that there was a blockage in the urethra, which is one of the passageways from the bladder, which had been there since birth but was never detected. This blockage caused the urine to backup into the kidneys, damaging the kidneys, the ureters that lead from the bladder to the kidneys and the valves inside. I was sent to a hospital in Boston where I went through an extensive groundbreaking operation. The doctors removed the blockage, took out the right kidney, repaired the valves and re-implanted the ureters back into the kidney. After a two-week stay in the hospital, I was released with the news that the operation was unsuccessful and that I would eventually need to be on kidney dialysis. I was then sent to a nephrologist, which is a kidney doctor, who explained what dialysis was and how it worked. He also told me that there was no way of knowing when I would start on dialysis; it could be six months to a year or ten years. Not wanting this news to affect my present life, I continued school and graduated from college. In 1980, Sheila and I got married. The following year I got a great job with a company with offices worldwide and our future looked really bright.
Then, in 1982, I was told that the monthly blood tests being taken indicated that it was time for me to start dialysis. Now, dialysis in those days was extremely hard on the body, and I had to be on this machine three days a week for 6 hours each day. This procedure caused the electrolytes in my body to go out of balance, which left me weak and so sick that all I could do was lay down, holding the sides of the bed because the room was spinning so badly. Sheila and I decided to try home dialysis hoping that it would help if we had closer control over my treatments. It was a little better. I tried for three years to keep working through all of this but finally had to go on disability because I was missing too many days of work. During this time, the doctor told me I had developed a disorder called hyper-parathyroidism, which meant my parathyroid glands were over-active. These glands control the calcium and phosphorus balance in our bodies. He told me that this was a very common occurrence in dialysis patients and that he would be watching it very carefully. All that would be necessary if the levels got too high was a surgical procedure to remove the parathyroid glands and the implantation of a small piece beneath the surface of the skin.
In 1985, I decided it was time to inquire about kidney transplantation. The statistics were getting better with the discovery of new anti-rejection drugs making transplantation more viable. It would mean no more dialysis. After I had the necessary blood work and evaluation done, I was told I would be a good candidate and was put on the transplant list.
During the waiting period of finding a kidney that was a good match for me, my wife and I decided to start a catering business. One month later I was called for my transplant, after a 2-½ year wait. After the surgery I was just amazed that even in the recovery room, I noticed I was feeling better. Color regained in my face, and the gray discoloration was replaced with a healthy pink glow. It was a miracle! My life became normal again. The business was going great and we were both working on our goal of opening an Italian restaurant.
After a couple of wonderful years, I received the news that the last blood work I had, showed the kidney could be failing. I went through 3 months of testing and medication until the kidney stopped working completely. I re-started dialysis and things went from bad to worse. I began to have strange symptoms; small cuts on my fingers would not heal and my hands began to cramp. When we went to talk to the doctor, he told me I was getting too much dialysis. After being on dialysis for almost 9 years, I was quite familiar with those symptoms and told him this was different. Something seemed very wrong.
He insisted he was right, so my wife and I decided to go back to Boston to my transplant surgeon for a second opinion. By the time I saw the surgeon, my hand was cramping so badly, I could not hold a fork to eat and my legs, which had also started cramping, were so bad that I needed a wheelchair to get to his office. After his examination, the doctor asked if he could bring in his associate who was a vascular surgeon. He examined me as well and found that he couldn't feel any pulses throughout my body. He shook his head and said, "Unfortunately, we sometimes see this in diabetics, but this is a very severe case." I informed him, "but I'm not a diabetic." Well, this just seemed to baffle him. As both doctors were thinking about what could possibly be wrong, Sheila said, "Could this have anything to do with his over-active parathyroid?" They both looked at each other and said, "How do you know he has an over-active parathyroid?" She said, "Well because his nephrologist told him, he's had it for a long time." Both of the doctors had no idea of this and they immediately sent me for blood work to test my levels. The doctor's nurse called me the next day and said that I had to be admitted immediately because the parathyroid was literally pouring calcium into my body. Within days, I was rushed to surgery and the parathyroid glands were removed except for a small piece that was transplanted into my forearm. This would produce the small amount of calcium the body would need. Unfortunately, too little was done too late. The damage was done.
I was in the hospital for almost the entire eight months that followed. The fingers on my right hand started to turn blue as the tissue began to die from lack of circulation. The pain that I was in was incomprehensible. All the soft tissue in my fingers began to die, except for the nerve endings. I would sit up in bed 24 hours a day rocking and holding my hand. The rocking sensation seemed to give me some psychological comfort. The doctors thought that the best idea was to allow the fingers to auto-amputate, this means letting them continue to decay until they would fall off on their own. I think you can imagine what this would do to you psychologically. A time soon came when the hand needed to be wrapped in order to stifle the smell of the decaying tissue. One day I accidentally hit my hand on the bed tray and it felt as if the fingers had disintegrated.
After unwrapping the bandage to check to see if they were still there, I told the doctors that I wanted to have them surgically amputated so I didn't have to go through this psychological torment. Over the next few months, I went through 5 operations on my hand, as finger after finger began to turn black and die until finally, they had to remove all the knuckles of three fingers and part of my palm. During this time I was on heavy doses of morphine for the pain, but it only served to give me bleeding ulcers rather than stop the pain. As the hand began to heal, I was sent home for a short time. Right before Christmas of 1991, my left leg started to turn blue, swell and become painful. I was then transported to a hospital that was nearby the dialysis center in which I was going to while home. That hospital had never seen anything like my case before, so they wanted to try to treat me, even though they did not have the expertise needed in this case. I stayed there for almost a month before they finally gave up, and transported me back to my doctors in Boston.
All this time, Sheila had been going back and forth the fifty miles to our home so she could run our business. She would do the catering jobs in the morning, drive to the hospital to see me in the afternoon, sleep there by my side on a chair or cot if they had one, and go back to work in the morning. Everyday, for the eight months that I was in the hospital, she brought me a card to cheer me up. I had two walls filled from top to bottom with cards. The nurses would bring other patients in to see them. By the time I got to my doctors in Boston, my leg had swollen to 2 ½ times its normal size and was completely marbled black and blue. It looked like it was ready to split open. My doctor wanted to amputate it immediately; but nobody knew if I had eaten anything, so he couldn't operate until the next day. On New Years Day, 1992, I had my left leg amputated. When Sheila, came in to see me after the operation, I was in such a great mood that she went to ask the nurse if anybody had told me what I had just been through. The nurse didn't know, so she came into my room to see how I was doing and to ask me if I realized what the operation had done. I said. "Yes, they cut off my leg, but the pain is gone!"
The next day, I was transported to a "rehabilitation hospital" that had terminally ill elderly patients who were waiting to pass on. I could not stand being in that environment! The doctors there told Sheila that my case was very rare, but in those cases similar to mine, the problem had continued until it reached the a main organ, like the heart or the brain, and calcified the organ causing death. She should prepare herself now, because I would not leave the hospital. She refused to give up her hope. So with my right hand wrapped up in a ball to allow the skin graft to heal, my leg cut off below the knee and a pair of crutches, we left that hospital and I was transported home.
Within the next couple of weeks, we noticed that my right foot started to turn blue. So, we immediately went back to Boston to see if the doctors could help. The doctor looked at the foot and told us that the hospital protocol was to amputate the leg below the knee to stop the spreading of the necrosis. We sat on my hospital bed crying together; even the doctor had tears in his eyes. Then Sheila looked up at him and said, "If I was your daughter, and asked you if anything could be done to deviate from the hospital protocol, what would you say?" He looked at her and said, "I would break protocol." So she said, "Would you break protocol for us?" Tearfully, he said he would.
He decided he would take only a small portion of the foot; just enough to be sure the rest of the tissue on the foot was healthy. The next day he amputated half of my right foot. That day we were sitting together on the hospital bed, both pretty depressed and I asked her, "You know, I feel like they are going to just keep cutting away parts of my body until there is nothing left to me and I don't think I can live like that. Do you think I'm going to die?" She said, "I don't know if you are going to die David." That's all she could say, and clicked on the television to try to change our mindset. When the TV came on "The Hour of Power" was playing, in the middle of his message, Dr. Schuller stopped and said, "I feel that I need to pray for someone right now". He said, "someone out there is going through something that is bigger than any human being can handle and they need to give it up to God. Only God can handle this." Then he asked us to pray along with him and to release this huge problem into the Lord's hands. We knew he was talking to us. After we prayed with him, I felt a tingling sensation come over my body and an incredible sense of peace. I told Sheila that I wasn't going to die and I wasn't going to have any more amputations.
A few days later, I was ready to leave the hospital. The doctor wanted to talk with us before release. He told me that he was surprised I was even able to leave the hospital; but I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I could never wear a prosthesis due to my circulatory problem. I also would not be able to receive another kidney transplant because of the condition of the blood vessels in my body. He said he thought it would be better if we moved to a warmer climate because he felt I would not make it though another winter.
We went home and within three months, had sold our business and all our furniture. I had gone to a prosthetist to have a temporary prosthesis made. I figured I had nothing to loose, if the prosthesis caused me to loose more of my leg, I was already in a wheelchair, and it didn't matter if I had a part of the leg or not.
We then drove three thousand miles from Rhode Island to California, I did all the driving and it felt good to be back in control of something. At the end of 1993, I decided I would inquire to see if I would be a candidate for another transplant. I went to Cedar Sinai Medical Center, told the doctors the concerns of the doctors in Boston and had all the necessary tests for a work up. They felt I would be a candidate, so once again I was added to the transplant list. Sheila, knowing how long I had waited for the first one, decided she would have the testing done to see if she could be my donor. But on January 26, 1994, just 2 ½ weeks after I was on the list, I was called for a transplant. This past January has made six years since I have had this transplant and it is still doing great. I feel fantastic!
I have come to believe that when God has a plan for your life, you are virtually indestructible until that plan comes to pass. I used to say to God, "I know I have done a lot things in my life that I'm not proud of, but what did I do to deserve all of this?" Finally, one day I got His answer, "I can use you more the way you are, then the way you were." You see tears are like rain, without them, nothing grows. We all love those mountain top experiences, but it's in the valley that we grow. When we are on the mountaintop we look down on our own accomplishments but when we're in the valley the only place to look, is up, into the face of God. I needed to grow before He could show me the vision of what He had planned for my life.
One day as Sheila and I were walking through the mall, she went into a shoe store and I continued to walk around. I saw coming towards me a little boy, about eight years old. He was in a wheelchair being pushed by his mother and had only one leg. I became so emotional; I had to go into a restroom to get out of the crowd. Then I heard very clearly, in my head; "You need to start a foundation to provide prosthetics for children who can't afford them." At that moment I was thinking, "It's a big mall He must be talking to someone else and I just overheard." But when a thought like that is from God, you just can't get rid of it. No matter how I tried to forget about it, I kept being reminded that this is what I had to do.
So, I finally gave in. Sheila and I have started a non-profit foundation called New Beginnings Prosthetic Ministries.
This is going to be a facility unlike any that currently exists. It will be a center that provides for the restoration of the whole person, body, mind and spirit; we will have an in-house prosthetist, a rehabilitation center, and counseling center for the patient as well as the family. We formed a prayer team that had been praying for us to be united with the first child that we were to help. I am happy to say that we have that child! Within a month, Patty Anglin was on the Hour of Power and shared her mission of adopting special needs children; the last child that she talked about was a 1½-year-old baby boy, born without functioning arms or legs. We knew immediately that this was a message meant for us, and contacted Patty. Her son Zachary is our first child as well as our "Champion" for the foundation. He is filled with joy and love!
Our future goals also includes a camp where children will be able to swim, bike, play sports and go horseback riding without worrying about being ridiculed by other children for being different.
It says in Proverbs, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." When I thought about this I realized not only people, but dreams also perish. There are children out there whose dreams are dying. Simple dreams of riding a bicycle, of running around with their friends, playing sports; their dreams are dying because no one has a vision to help them.
Their parents' dreams are dying as well, because they can't help their children without the insurance's help or the personal funds to pay for a prosthesis. For this reason, we started New Beginnings. We want to reach out to these children and tell them, "God has heard your cry and He wants to make you whole again."
I pray that my testimony will touch you in a way that encourages you to take a stand. If it has inspired you, I ask that you stand up for those who can't, and lend a helping hand for those who don't have one that functions. If you know someone who is in need of our help, or someone who would like to donate time or funds to help in our endeavor, please let us know. You can also reach us through e-mail at email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you!
I would like to end with a special verse:
"…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14
Thank you, and may God grant you a New Beginning in your life!
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