AURORA - It is the one question Bruce and Donna Miles have heard time and time again: "How much can one family endure?"
Bruce has this answer: "For all of my years of ministry I've been at Rocky Mountain Bible Church in Frisco for 26 years, and I've always told my congregation, 'God is good. Circumstances may not always be pleasant, God never promised they would, but he is good and he's faithful.'"
Parents of four children, Bruce and Donna lost their oldest son in 1997, when he died in a car crash at age 21. A year later, Bruce had a total colectomy; a surgical procedure to remove the colon. A few years later, he was told he had an incurable liver disease that would eventually destroy his liver. Worse yet, Bruce and Donna learned one of their sons had the same liver disease.
By the end of 2010, Bruce was in the final stages of his disease. He was thin, weak and struggling to communicate. A liver transplant was his only hope, but the odds of finding a donor seemed slim.
Ashley and Matt Wilson were in a nearly hopeless situation too. Their 18-month-old son was on the list for a pediatric liver transplant. Michael had been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that was killing his liver, causing bleeding complications and stunting his growth. Michael's case was considered so serious he was at the top of the organ donor list.
In early 2011, Bruce and Michael's lives would collide. A 16-year-old boy in Kansas City had died and his family chose to donate his organs. Michael's parents got the call first. Within minutes, a call came to the Miles home.
Transplant teams at the Children's and the University of Colorado Hospitals in Aurora prepared to perform two transplants with one liver.
Dr. Michael Narkewicz heads up the Pediatric Liver Transplant Program. He explains this is a procedure frequently done in Colorado.
"Our preferred option in Colorado is to take a larger liver and take a smaller portion of that liver and give that to the child," Narkewicz said.
Dr. Michael Wachs of the University of Colorado is the surgeon who cared for Bruce Miles. He says the split liver transplant success rate is quite good, adding, "It's a huge team of people, the donor recovery team and the doctors and nurses at both hospitals and to coordinate all of that, it takes some time and obviously to do both surgeries takes time."
Within days of the transplant, Bruce remembers one of his friends telling him, "That baby (meaning Michael) saved your life."
Bruce and Donna felt a strong connection to Michael and his parents and asked for the opportunity to meet him. The meeting took place about three months after their transplants.
Both had made significant progress. Bruce was feeling strong, gaining weight and looking forward to returning to work. Michael was no longer yellow colored and weak. His hair had grown in thick and curly and he was finally walking on his own.
He walked straight into the arms of Bruce and Donna Miles. It was as if they had known each other for years. Within minutes, he was giving them hugs and kisses and looking them in the eyes. His mother, Ashley told them, "His energy level since transplant is through the roof." She says he is fearless.
Both families think about the donor family daily. They would love the opportunity to meet the parents of the teenager who gave them another chance at life. At age 59, Bruce knows Michael will have many more years. He says, "I'm really hoping and praying he'll have a good, long, full life. And, he will become the test case of the longevity of these liver transplants."
Looking at the changes in these two lives, Dr. Wachs comments, "This is why I became a transplant surgeon. It is very satisfying."
As Michael explores his world as a toddler, Bruce is ready to return to his congregation. It is fitting that his first sermon, post transplant, will be Easter Sunday.
Bruce says he believes God is still in the business of doing miracles and this is one of them.
"He definitely showed up, even through this tragedy he showed up in a big way, in terms of two lives," says Bruce.
If you would like to hear the Easter message from Pastor Miles, go to www.rmbc.org and click on sermons.