Last week as we followed the Rich Cade family on “The Liver Journey,”
Heidi Cade admitted that “it was getting scary,” but their faith held firm.
Rich’s health started changing and they had more frequent appointments and tests. They had begun calculating his MELD Score (Model end of Liver Disease), It needed to be a 15 for him to be listed on the liver transplant list and at this point, his MELD was a 12. His kidneys were shutting down and the Cades family’s “Liver Journey” continued, still paved with their unshakable faith.
“God was so Good”
Rich had missed his son’s graduation from the police academy, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“But God was so good,” Heidi said, “that Rich was discharged from the hospital the day before Madeline turned 16.”
Rich returned to the hospital two days after enjoying watching Madeline celebrate her 16th birthday and seeing her get her driver’s license.
Another Call & Another Heartbreak
On Jan. 29, Rich called Heidi at work to say that he was high on the list for a transplant and was being moved to the intensive care unit.. “They had never gotten this far before,” Heidi said. “Our pastor, Rod Caswell, was there praying for us in this very intense rime, only to have the transplant surgeon say, ‘This liver isn’t for you.’”
But Still Faithful
”Heartbroken for the ninth time,” Heidi said, “we believed each time that God allowed us to get a little closer, experiencing the amazing ICU nurses, only to prepare us for the final and last call. You can’t imagine what it meant to the family to see nurses crying for our family, as we reassured them, ‘In God’s perfect timing, not ours.’”
Rich was moved back out to the liver floor, still very sick, but preparing in a few days to come home. On Feb. 5, he called Heidi to say he was being discharged, and she sent their friend, Russ Stewart, to get him.
And the 10th Call!
When Russ arrived at the hospital, Rich had been put on a magnesium drip, and papers were being drawn up. He called Heidi to tell her he was secondary, and Heidi’s reply was, “Keep packing – you’ve been secondary a lot.”
Thirty minutes later, he had been moved to primary and Russ had to get on the phone to verify it to Heidi.
This was their 10th call, but they still believed in God’s perfect timing.
Heidi got their daughter, Madeline, taken care of, grabbed her bag and took off for St. Louis University Hospital. The transplant was scheduled the next morning.
Heidi said, “Weariness set in some days, doubt tried to creep in, but our family, friends and community were there, praying for us.”
So on Feb. 6, they came in and took Rich to the operating holding room at 8 a.m. For two hours, they ran tests and biopsies were being done on the donated kidney. At 10:30 a.m., they prepared to take Rich to the operating room, still not knowing if they would proceed as they awaited the biopsies.
Heidi shared her thoughts. “How do you say in a moment all you want to say with what could possibly be a final goodbye. I told him to promise he would fight every step of the way and come back to us. I told him, ‘Madeline needs her dad at her graduation and to walk her down the aisle and hold her babies someday.”
Rich promised, Pastor Caswell prayed, all said their goodbyes.
Their Faithfulness Rewarded
Two hours later, they called and said the transplant had started.
“The important call was the one at 7 p.m., the caller saying, “The new liver is in and everything started flowing immediately.
When it was finished, Rich was moved to ICU, where Heidi could see him, but was not allowed to talk or touch him because he would try to wake up.
Happy Birthday, Rich!
On Feb. 7th, Rich’s 51st birthday, he woke up to tell his wife that he loved her and that he kept his promise.
The next days were full, with med changes, blood work, ultrasounds, monitoring, etc., but mainly it was praises for God’s miracle. In 24 hours, he was in a chair; in 36 hours, he was walking with a walker; and in 48 hours, up walking unassisted.
Rich came home, with a police escort from his son, Dustin. The past 16 weeks have been full of appointments, labs, tests, med changes, etc.
The Cades are thankful of friends, family and the community for the continuing encouragement and prayers.
People have asked if they aren’t angry about the 10 years of uncertainty, the 10 calls, having their lives put on hold. Heidi’s response – “We would have learned nothing if our journey ended with the first call or the eight others. Remember, God’s timing is perfec – He knew the perfect liver for Rich. “
“By the way,” she added, Rich’s MELD was a 33 at the transplant and the staff have told told us that he was at death’s door and he shouldn’t have lived through Christmas!
“Rich’s old liver had cancer, so for the next two years, there will be there will be MRI’s every three months, and med changes continually to protect Rich and the transplant liver,” Heidi said.
So the Cades say, “Don’t ever forget that God is able, that miracles still happen and that we must remain faithful, even when we’re weary, exhausted and overwhelmed. This is when our reliance on God and the true test of faith begins.”
… and Madeline, the Silent, Faithful Supporter
Madeline (also known as Mac or Maddy Mac) began that 10-year journey with her parents and traveled with them in spirit, prayers and support, without complaint, every step of the way, since she was 6 years old.
She can be described as being strong and beautiful, both inside and out, as well as smart and passionate, She will light up a room upon entering: witty, funny, selfless, full of love and, above all, she loves God with all her heart. At a very young age, she too, sacrificed and put her life on hold in some instances, as did her parent. This she always did with her infectious smile.
She says it is because of her mother’s faith that she is who she is, but her mother, Heidi, says that is Madeline’s inspiration that made the last 10 years like an adventure, not a disease. As Madeline was only 6 years old when her dad became ill, she actually has more memories of him being sick than well, which her mother said, is about to change.
Although Madeline could not be with her parents on the many trips and hospitalizations, she did her part by praying.
She never made her parents feel guilty for the “journey” they were on. There were even times when Heidi would have to go to the school to tell Madeline about a “potential liver.” At those times, Madeline would be picked up by “Aunt Cindy” or Aunt Julie” to stay overnight.
The past year was particularly difficult for her, but Madeline’s character traits and attitude remained the same. Doing her part to help her family, she never missed a day of school and she continues to keep a 4.0 grade-point average, broke school records in track the three previous years and stayed active in her youth, volunteering at Head Start for family events.
Watching Madeline succeed is what made Rich get up every day and have purpose. Madeline said her parents taught her more by the witness of great faith than by being angry about the circumstances.
As with all teenage girls, there came an interest in boys; for her it was not boys, but just one boy – Brayden Caswell. Madeline said, “You can’t imagine how it felt to have times of being normal, such as family gatherings, movies, dinner out and movie nights, yet having someone so important to me to grieve the many failed liver calls, right alongside me. “
She said, “When I was sad, he felt that same pain. When I needed to get through those times, he would make me laugh or give me a hug, we would shed tears or just sit in silence. I spent most of my weekends getting ‘kidnapped’ by them (Caswell family) so Mom could be with Dad.
“They went out of their way to make me feel like a part of their family.”
The day of Rich’s liver transplant, Kari and Brayden picked Madeline up from school. Pastor Caswell was at the hospital with her parents.
It was important that Brayden had time to pray with Madeline before going to school, and after the transplant, he wanted to be with Madeline when she saw her dad for the first time in ICU. Madesline said she couldn’t imagine going thru this with anyone else as her supporter, her prayer partner.
It is great that Madeline can now make plans for the future.
“I want my dad at be at my graduations from high school and college, to walk me down the aisle at my wedding and to cry like a baby as he gives ‘his girl’ away, and there for so many more special moments.
“My dad is the bravest person I know and although I know my strength comes from God, my dad’s strength is amazing to be a witness to,” she said.
The Celebration of the Cade Liver Journey
When she approached about holding a benefit for the family, Heidi responded with, “This is to be, first and foremost, a celebration of God’s Miracle for our community that never left us in our 10-year journey, and that journey continues.”
… is Sunday at the Mother of Dolors Parish Center. Food will be served from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (donations accepted). At 2 p.m., you can hear Rich’s testimony and recognition of the SLU staff in attendance. There will also be an auction, games and a pie in the face contest.