Wedding vows are often recited and many times the true test of what a couple promises comes in the face of adversity, and how a couple works through those difficult times.
For Kirt and Becki Brooks, a Team Edwards couple, their trial of adversity came when Becki was diagnosed with end stage kidney disease.
“It was in 2007 when she was diagnosed with partial kidney failure and her kidney doctor tried to keep her off dialysis for as long as he could, but in 2009, the damage to her kidneys was too great, so she had to start going through dialysis treatment three times a week,” said Kirt, a retired master sergeant who currently works at Edwards as a supervisory police officer with the 412th Security Forces Squadron.
In the following years, Becki not only had to endure long days going through treatment but had to endure a Permacath, an external catheter that is inserted into the large central veins of the chest to avoid multiple catheter insertions.
“Although the machine acted as a kidney, the Permacath really restricts you, and the treatment was difficult because the procedure would not only drain the fluid in my body, but would really drain me physically,” said Becki, an administrative assistant at the 452nd Flight Test Squadron. “I would undergo treatment three hours a day, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I would get up at 3 a.m. to be in Palmdale at 4 a.m. in order to sit there for three hours and then head off to work. I primarily did this in order to save sick leave in case of an emergency.”
During her time undergoing initial dialysis treatment, Becki said that the support from other unit members was something that helped tremendously.
“Sometimes it was a challenge because she required many medical appointments in addition to the dialysis treatments,” added Kirt. “For the most part, our units were very supportive, and allowed me the leeway I needed to care for her. Sometimes, they even provided people to help take her to appointments when I was away on temporary duty assignments or deployments.”
Although things seemed daunting, it was in 2010 when Becki said she was informed by her dialysis unit that she was a good candidate for a kidney transplant, so they recommended that she go to Cedars-Sinai hospital for an initial consultation.
“Once I got the blessing from TRICARE. I had the chance to meet everyone that was going to be involved with prior to the procedure,” Becki said. “It was a whole day process, and they said if I could get a living donor that it would be optimal because if I were put on a transplant list, I could be on that list for years and I wouldn’t know when my name would get called.”
It was at this same initial consultation, where the doctor asked if they knew anyone who would like to donate a kidney and Kirt immediately asked that he wanted to be considered for it, according to Becki.
“When Becki found out she was a potential candidate to be a kidney recipient I immediately wanted to be a donor. The problem was I did not know much about the process at the time, and I knew we were both different blood types, so I thought that instantly took me out of the running,” said Kirt. “I later learned different blood types did not necessarily matter with this type of procedure. As soon as she completed all the tests, and was put on the national kidney transplant list, I immediately began the process to have myself tested to be a donor. There was no question or hesitation, she is my wife and I had to at least try.”
After undergoing a series of tests, starting in December 2010, Becki was evaluated during that year in order to see if she could withstand the anesthesia and can go through with the surgery. Although Kirt was active duty at the time, he had already made up his mind to donate and retire, which he eventually did Oct. 1, 2011, after 23 years of active duty service, according to Becki.
“Kirt had to go through a series of tests as well and it wasn’t until July 2011, when Kirt took terminal leave things really became the most difficult for me, because I couldn’t take any time off since I needed to give at least four months advance notice to a dialysis unit where we would be visiting,” said Becki.
After a rigorous testing cycle, Becki and Kirt were scheduled for surgery on April 10, 2012.
“The first time I got to my room after my procedure, there were two bottles of water waiting for me and I looked and the nurse and thought there was no way I could drink that. For five years, I was in a state where I could only sip water or eat ice chips, and my bladder had closed up so much that it wasn’t being used,” added Becki. “Now, I can’t get enough water and my bladder is normal size.”
After Kirt and Becki’s procedure, she was released from the hospital the following Saturday to begin her road to recovery and life with a new functioning kidney.
“Soon after that I only had to go in twice a month, then once every other week, and now I don’t have to be back to Cedars-Sinai hospital until October 23 because they say I’m doing very well,” Becki said.
Forward five years from the initial diagnosis, Becki said that both her and Kirt are looking forward to what the future holds.
“I can honestly say that I got my life back and Kirt and I are planning on going on vacation, but I also want to jump into a pool because I haven’t been able to do that due to the Permacath that was so close to my heart,” said Becki. “None of this would’ve been possible without Kirt. For him to do this for me was amazing.”
“As for how my wife got through the hard times, she got through it by staying positive. Without positivism, these treatments can be very hard on a person both mentally and physically. They have been known to push people to the point of wanting to discontinue treatments despite the consequences it will have on the body,” added Kirt “All I can say is if someone is going through this and has an opportunity to get tested to be a kidney recipient, take full advantage of it. Becki will tell you it was well worth it.”
Kirt and Becki have been married for 22 years.