Brad and Heidi Stokes—Love, Lupus and Liver Transplants

Heidi and Brad Stokes

Heidi and Brad Stokes

Heidi and Brad Stokes
are alive and well, and that in itself is a miracle given all they’ve been through. Heidi and Brad are friends of mine, and I interviewed Heidi about their epic journey from death’s door back to health and happiness. Here, in Heidi’s own words, interspersed with actual journal entries from their CaringBridge journal, is their incredible, inspiring story.

by Heidi Stokes

When I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with lupus and told I wouldn’t make it past twenty-one. At twenty-six, my husband, Brad, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a fatal and untreatable liver disease. Doctors said there was no hope for either of us.

Brad and I are now fifty-two years old, with a son, Christian, who has an auto-immune disease of his own, type 1 diabetes. People often can’t get past the illnesses to see how rich and beautiful our lives are. Not long ago, when we were all very sick and lying around in our PJs, Brad mentioned how comforting and wonderful it was just to be home with each other. Our bodies are completely dysfunctional but our family isn’t.

The three of us have defied death more times than I care to remember, but we’re still here, loving life and each other. There’s just something about staring into the maw of death that makes you appreciate the miracle of life. And when it comes to our health, we don’t just believe in miracles, we depend on them.

Brad had his first liver transplant at thirty-five, soon after transplantation for his condition had become viable. At forty-three, his blood work told us that the PSC was reasserting itself; but it’s a slow-progressing disease and we didn’t panic. Four years later, he had surgery for kidney cancer, but it wasn’t virulent and didn’t require chemo. Still, it was a painful, difficult surgery. He lost a lot of weight and muscle tone, and never got any of it back because his weakened liver couldn’t process food well enough to nourish him.

Brad’s decline picked up speed over the next three years, most of which he has no memory of. He was perpetually fatigued, couldn’t keep any food down, and exhibited signs of dementia because of excess ammonia in his brain. Worst of all was the merciless nonstop itching over his entire body. Brad told me that his fantasy was to get run over by a street sweeper; he didn’t want to cure the disease, he just wanted to be scratched! So Christian and I went to the mall and got him a little Lego street sweeper, which he kept on the table by the side of his bed.

As the months flew by, Brad grew weaker, and Christian and I felt powerless to help. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, Brad was beyond the reach of comfort. His only hope was a second liver transplant, but he had deteriorated so much—he was six feet tall and 116 pounds—that I doubted he had the strength to withstand another surgery, much less a demanding and painful recovery process.

By August of 2009, Brad was barely alive. I sensed it was the beginning of the end when he started hemorrhaging in the middle of the night, throwing up blood. PSC can smolder for years, but when it hits a tipping point you can be in big trouble very quickly. I helped Brad into the car and headed for Abbott Northwestern Hospital in downtown Minneapolis. But Brad being Brad, he refused to throw up in the bucket I had brought for him. Instead, I kept on having to pull over on the side of the road. There’s a fine line between preserving your dignity and “Get your butt in the car, we’re going!”

The efforts to control Brad’s internal bleeding have so far been unsuccessful. He has been given numerous units of blood in order to raise his hemoglobin and to all around make him feel better. The doctors are prepping him for surgery to finally stop the bleeding. This procedure is quite risky, but the doctors are confident.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/08/09

Surgery the next morning stopped the bleeding, but rerouting the blood away from Brad’s liver put his kidneys in duress, raised the ammonia levels in his blood, and caused him to spike a fever. All his doctors advised against transporting him to the Mayo Clinic ninety minutes away, but I insisted on it. Abbott wasn’t set up to do a liver transplant and I knew that was Brad’s only hope. Still, I was bracing myself for the worst because there are so few livers available and the decks are stacked against people with Brad’s disease getting one transplant, much less two.

Last night Brad was transported down to Mayo. We just met with a social worker and learned that he is actively at the top of the transplant list. This means that his condition is such that he will get the next available liver. His condition is stable enough for a transplant.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/10/09

The next day brought good news and bad news. Brad’s breathing tube was removed, his ammonia levels returned to normal, and his sedation was lessened. However, his improvement meant that he was no longer top dog on the transplant list.

Today, Brad opened his eyes and saw Christian and me and it rocked our world and brought us hope. But it is also very difficult to see someone you love suffer so much. This afternoon we saw him again and his breathing was more labored. Christian said it was almost easier seeing him on the ventilator because you knew he wasn’t suffering. It’s hard, every step he takes in the right direction is more taxing and painful. A deep, difficult, staggering recovery is ahead of him if he is to get well—and he has to get a new liver SOON.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/11/09

In the midst of personal anguish, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. And yet, those are the times when angels are most likely to appear. I will never forget Anita, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern, who was as beautiful as she was kind. Brad was exceedingly miserable and there was little they could do for him. I took a short break and when I went back to his room, I peered around the curtain and saw Anita calmly standing by his side, comforting him and patting the back of his hand. Brad was out at the moment, but I was so struck by her compassion and care. Her touch was probably more healing than all the beeping, blinking machines he was hooked up to. Through the tension, anxiety, and fear of losing my partner, there were shining, precious moments like that that were balm oil to the soul.

It has been a hard night. Things turn quickly. Brad was having a horrible time catching his breath and the monitors were bonging. It was difficult to see. We held hands through all of this. They got a respiratory therapist in and were going to put a tube through his nose and down into his lungs/throat to suction out whatever is in there. I wonder why it so hard for some people to live; they have to fight, claw, and scavenge their way to life while others don’t even give breath or life a second thought. I think Brad’s ability to fight is fueled by his love for his family. I don’t think he would fight this hard just for himself. It’s too much.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/11/09

Brad Stokes in the ICU

Brad Stokes in the ICU

One by one, Brad’s organs started giving out. By Tuesday night, August 11, his liver was shot, his kidneys were shot, his brain was shot, and now his lungs were going. He couldn’t breathe; he was drowning because his lungs were filling up. He was conscious, but he had so much ammonia in his brain that it was doubtful he knew what was going on. I felt so helpless. I didn’t know whether I should stand at his side and urge him to keep fighting or tell him that he didn’t need to fight anymore. With my heart breaking, I looked at him and said, “Brad, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to fight. You can let go.” He just looked at me, unblinking. I took his hand and said, “Do you want to live? Do you want to live for Christian and me?” He shook his head up and down, vigorously, like a bucking bronco. I started to cry, but they were tears of happiness . . . and hope.

Wednesday night, Brad was sedated and resting comfortably, thanks to the ventilator, which was breathing for him. When four doctors walked in at 10 PM, my heart skipped a beat; I expected them to say, “We have a liver for you.” What I heard instead was, “I’m sorry, but Brad is no longer a viable candidate for a transplant.” I was stunned for a moment, like I had run into a brick wall that appeared out of nowhere. After all these years of hoping and praying for a miracle, I couldn’t process—or accept—that it was all over, that there was no hope left. I blurted out, “But if he gets a liver, I know he can make it.” I told them how Brad had come through the first transplant against all odds, that the years had fallen off him and he was better than ever. Somehow I found the words to say, “It was like a resurrection, like Lazarus. Brad can make it. He can be strong. He can contribute.” At that moment, a small woman with bright blue eyes stepped out from behind a taller doctor and said, “I know that can happen. That’s why I’m in this line of work.” I didn’t know who she was. I found out soon enough that her name was Dr. Julie Heimbach, and, like Brad, she was a fighter, too.

I stayed at Brad’s side for another hour, unwilling to believe that after watching him suffer so horribly for so long that he had finally reached a dead end. But no matter how much I resisted it, reality was starting to seep in. As I walked back to my hotel room, my mind was swimming with all the details that needed to be arranged for Brad’s funeral. Heartsick and exhausted, I fell into a deep but troubled sleep. And then, at 9 AM, the phone rang.

GOOD NEWS! GOOD NEWS! GOOD NEWS! Brad is getting a liver. It is from a high-risk donor, but two weeks ago this donor checked negative for all infectious diseases. It is possible he could have acquired something in the last two weeks. But from my point of view, we have no options, we will take it. The doctors are still very concerned about Brad making it through this because his lung function isn’t where it should be. But this is the day we have been waiting for. Pray this liver is free of life-threatening disease and Brad’s lungs will get stronger and clear. Please also pray for the family of this man.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/13/09

A half-hour past midnight, a crew of five people wheeled Brad down to the operating room after promising to take good care of him. There were lots of smiles from the ICU staff, which included Brad’s night nurse, Andrea. She had been with me when the four doctors told me that Brad would not be well enough to receive a liver. The last twenty-four hours were an emotional roller-coaster, taking me from the depths of despair to the heights of happiness. And now there we were, at the dawn of a new day, a new beginning, a new chapter I couldn’t wait to start writing.

I’m tired but very excited. My sister Kristi is here with me. I had many gracious offers of people being willing to come and sit with me, but Kristi and I are fine. We just got warm blankets and I brought my pillow from home. The lounge for once is quiet and we have it all to ourselves. No doubt we will play games like charades and Twister, eat Hershey bars and popcorn, and run up and down the halls until the nurses yell at us or one of us throws up. :)
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/14/09

I got a call from the O.R. at 2:15 AM telling me that cutting into Brad was difficult because he’s so tough. I could have told them that—he’s a hard-nosed, tough-skinned guy! It was slow going because of all Brad’s scar tissue, but I didn’t mind one bit. Miracles are worth losing sleep over.

I have set up camp here in the lounge. Andrea has brought me more warm blankets (heaven). I have my pillow from home that I spritzed with Brad’s cologne. I have my Diet Coke, Raisinettes, animal crackers, and peppermint gum, the four basic food groups for stressful situations. I don’t mind sleeping here. It feels like Christmas. I have butterflies and that sense of anticipation and hope that you felt as a kid at Christmas. Just think, I could get a healthy husband in the morning—that’s even better than a pony! I am cherishing this moment of hope. I know the journey ahead of us is going to be a difficult one, but right now, it’s Christmas. I am overwhelmed, and my heart is pierced with gratitude. The ache of love is a good ache. I know it could be fleeting, Brad could take another turn, but now, right now, this second, in this worn-out lounge, life doesn’t get much better than this.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/14/09

I never dreamed that Christmas could come in August! The good news was that Brad’s surgery was successful. The great news was that his new liver was strong and healthy. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) requires a label of high-risk for donors who were IV drug users or who had multiple sexual partners. But Brad’s donor had lived in prison since 1994 and was not exposed to things like hard drugs and high-fat foods. The irony? Brad was so sick he could only get a high-risk liver, and the high-risk liver he got turned out to be perfect!

I still have to pinch myself knowing Brad has a liver—but I am sobered by the fact that Brad is in critical condition and has a Mount Everest-type climb to make to be well enough to wander the isles of Home Depot again. Rejection is on the mind of everyone right now. So far, so good. The last liver transplant, he did not have a single episode of rejection. Let’s hope that happens this time, too.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/14/09

When I walked into Brad’s room just thirty-six hours after surgery, he smiled and held out his hand. Big wet, joyful tears flowed down my cheeks. I couldn’t have written a better storybook ending to a long, stressful, and sleep-deprived week. My husband was rebooted, better than ever, and the last three years fell away as if they had never been.

One more thing . . . Brad should be well enough to hear your well wishes and words tomorrow from his CaringBridge guestbook. I can’t wait to share them with him. He has lived through a horrendous week. But now, note by note, word by word, he will hear from you. How much he is loved. How much you care. That his life matters to you. That we need him to stay in this world with us. Few people get the chance to receive this kind of knowledge. Ahhh, silver linings.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/15/09

Two days after major surgery, Brad was sitting in a chair and downing a milkshake. His transformation was remarkable! How a body can be a breath away from death and then roar back to life is hard to fathom. And I had a front-row seat to an honest-to-God miracle. As Brad was being moved to a private room, I walked through the ICU one last time, a poignant reminder that not everyone was as fortunate as Brad. I was also fully cognizant of the fact that Brad is alive because a fifty-two-year-old man died. I pray blessings and comfort on Brad’s donor’s family.

Brad says he has no pain. He has a button that he can push that dispenses Fentanyl, a pain medication. (I want a button like that!) He’s a bit foggy, and his voice is gravelly from his days on the ventilator. He is weak and talking requires effort. He finally got his Diet Coke and we toasted “to life” with our white Styrofoam glasses. Brad continues to be diligent with his lung exercises. (He knows if he doesn’t he will incur my wrath.) We made a short call to his Mom on the speakerphone today. It was an emotional moment for all of us.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/16/09

Six days later, Brad 3.0 was ready for beta testing! The Mayo was preparing to move him to the Gift of Life Transplant House, which is a beautiful 1911 Georgian colonial house on the Mayo campus that’s a home away from home for transplant patients and their caregivers. As a parting gift, a nurse gave Brad a maroon, liver-shaped pillow. Pretty snazzy! What some people won’t do for a souvenir.

Christian and I can’t get over how smooth Brad’s face is and how calm his body appears to be. His body seems to know what rest is again. He hasn’t been able to rest for three years. He was so miserable with the constant, ferocious itching over every square inch of his body. He also had restless legs, muscles spasms, and chronic nausea. He told me he has slept the last couple of nights for the first time in three years. The whites of his eyes are no longer yellow. His Prednisone cheeks give an illusion of being a bit heavier—which is good. Brad should be able to put on some weight because the nutrition from his food will finally be absorbed. Also, if he needs a pain pill, it actually works because his body is able to break it down and distribute it!
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/22/09

In the days ahead, the wave of good news continued to crest. Brad’s second liver biopsy showed no signs of rejection. Plus, Brad didn’t have the creepy hallucinations that he had after his first transplant; I had been scared that he’d have to live through that again. Things did get a little bumpy, however, when Brad’s white count shot up and stayed there, which signaled an infection. Infection can be dangerous for anyone after surgery but when you are immunosuppressed, dangerous can turn into code blue in a big, big hurry.

The day Brad was set to leave the hospital, he looked at me while he was lying in bed and said, “I love my life. Isn’t that crazy?” Nope, not one bit. With three chronic illnesses in the family, crisis mode has become pretty familiar territory; we never know what the next day will bring, which makes life more precious and thrilling. Besides, we Stokeses love a good challenge! And the best thing about rising above a challenge is celebrating all the accomplishments and milestones along the way. Woo hoo!

Hello World!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Brad here)

I’m going to try to keep this first entry fairly brief. Those of you looking for a technical update on my progress will need to wait till later today (it’s currently 3 AM Monday), but please know that I’m doing well and will write much more later. First things first.

Bless all of you! Those of you who know me, know that I’m not a “bless you” kind of guy, but I am deeply moved and humbled by your words, thoughts and prayers. I feel your love and concern . . . no words . . .

Here’s what I’m calling on you for at the moment. PLEASE PRAY FOR HEIDI. She is not feeling well, and quite frankly, I’m worried about her. (She’s gonna kill me for this!) As a lupus patient, it is beyond absurd and ridiculous that she is running around caring for me, managing our family business, helping Christian get off to college, and, oh, by the way, did anyone mention that I left our kitchen half gutted in a remodel? Her life force is so powerful, but her body is not. If you’re not a “prayer” (no judging here), send some of whatever you sent me to her. She is the love of my life and I’m aware of too many lupus patients who have died when they hit their 50s to feel secure about her health right now. Sorry if that’s too scary or frank for anyone, but it’s true and I call ’em as I see ’em. (Some things about me will never change, I guess). Now I will admit that I am on boatloads of Prednisone which makes you more emotional. (Oh great—now we have a Brad that cries!)
Brad’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/30/09

GASP! BRAD! I just saw that you made a post! Yeah! I love you and I am staying in bed today. I promise! The same people who have been praying for you are now praying for me—I’m in great hands. Brad, you be good, too, and do not overdo! If laughter is the best medicine, I’m in good hands there, too. Christian and his quips have kept me laughing even when I’m so tired I can barely form cohesive sentences—funny, the body can always give more when it comes to laughter. My lips are smiling and so is my heart.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/31/09

On September 5, just twenty-two days after his transplant, Brad made his triumphant return home. Christian and I had covered the house and yard with tons of balloons and “Welcome Home” and “Happy New Liver” signs. The bittersweet part was that the backs of those signs read “Goodbye and Good Luck” to Christian, who moved into his freshman college dorm room the same day. It was a happy day of celebration, of comings and goings and new beginnings.

Brad is home! I had a huge lump in my throat as I saw him get out of the car and start to walk up the sidewalk with his cane. When I hugged him I could feel a little bit more meat on his bones. His voice is strong, and he is Brad again. He was only a fraction of Brad for so long. Even though Brad is weak, the Brad I know is back. I have missed him.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 9/07/09

Brad and I were both stunned at how much easier the second transplant turned out to be. He had much less pain this time and his appetite came back quickly. Before the transplant, eating was a chore for him; he pretty much had to choke down his food and was sick to his stomach all the time. But he quickly got back to enjoying food again—and complimenting me on my cooking—even though the first meal I made for him was scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon. Simple pleasures are the best.

I still can’t get over having Brad back—he talks, we have conversations! The other day he had a file folder in his hand and he gave me a whack when I walked by. Brad’s playful???!!! It’s been a while. When I am sitting on the chair and he’s on the sofa, he changes direction to look at me when we talk. Gasp! (How many husbands do that!) He has gratitude in his eyes much of the time. The last couple of years it hasn’t been that way. I wasn’t even sure if Brad was behind those eyes. His eyes were dark with suffering; they were simply not capable of giving or receiving new information.
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 9/24/09

We have a weird family ritual. If one of us is sleeping longer than we think they should, or if they went to bed really sick or with really high or low blood sugars, we get up in the middle of night to do a “dead check.” In the middle of October, after some medical setbacks, Brad asked me do a “dead check.” I checked him around 3:30 AM. The results were conclusive: NOT DEAD! In our family, this is a reasonable ritual. And even though Brad has been so ill, he returns the favor. If I’ve gone upstairs to take a nap and have stayed up there longer than normal, Brad will appear in the doorway and say, “Dead check.” It’s a labor of love—he had to tread up all those stairs to check on me—and it makes me smile. Our “dead check” is really a life check and a reminder that our loved one is with us for another day.

I can run! Today was street sweeping day and guess who forgot to move his cars? I hear the trucks, jump out of bed, and see the ticket guy putting tickets on my car, and a tow truck on the next block! I ran (yes, ran) barefoot out to the cars in my jeans and T-shirt. I didn’t beat the tickets, but DID beat the tow truck! I then came inside and slept for another four hours! I’m still a bit achy—but I CAN RUN!
Brad’s CaringBridge journal entry, 11/17/09

In the months after his transplant, as soon as Brad would get one nagging medical issue tamed, another would flare up. But in the grand scheme of things, they were just bumps in the road. In our house, being vertical qualifies as being well! We celebrated the one-year anniversary of Brad’s transplant with prayers and gratitude.

For Brad—The Pleasure of Ordinary Days
In awe, and grateful that you are here with me now, right across from me, reading today’s paper, barefoot, legs crossed, so normal, so natural, your face smooth, your cheeks pink, the white of your eyes pristinely white, no writhing, no jaundice, no pain, no angst, just taking in the pleasure of an ordinary day. This is grace. This is a gift. This is a miracle. 

A year ago it was not ordinary. Nothing felt ordinary, for you, for me, for Christian. For several years, we felt your crippling discomfort and longed for relief for you. Your poor body dwindled down to barely nothing, your spirit dimmed, but you held on when all the counts were against you. We were called twice to your bedside for goodbyes. Now, here you are, Brad 3.0, sitting across from me. It’s so hard to comprehend. I am grateful and humbled by your fight and all the people that came together to bring you back to life. A gift of life from a stranger, a family reaching out selflessly while in the depths of despair. The numerous doctors and ICU nurses that kept on top of your vast complications. I remember the ambulance drivers in their royal blue jumpsuits coming in—looking so official, taking over like a SWAT team. It all happened so fast; the one in charge stopped and looked me in the eye and promised they would take good care of you. I believed him and hope soared for a moment. We surely are among the most blessed people on this earth. I love you, Brad 3.0, and I bask in the glow of this ordinary day. Oh, and by the way, Brad, don’t forget to load the dishwasher! :)
Heidi’s CaringBridge journal entry, 8/17/10

For the final word, it gives me great joy to yield the keyboard to Brad Stokes—my best friend, my husband, and the love of my life.

Just got back from three days at Mayo—my one-year evaluation. Mostly good news. Some liver transplant patients end up getting kidney transplants. I’m not there, but I can see the danger signs. We may reduce my anti-rejection drugs in six months, but obviously that carries the risk of liver rejection. It’s a delicate balance, but I’m not worried. I’ve been extremely fortunate that medical science has always been just slightly ahead of my need for it. When I was originally diagnosed with liver disease in the 80s, it was a fatal disease. Then liver transplantation ramped up and in 1994 I was (temporarily) cured. In 2000, when my disease came back, they hadn’t done second transplants for my disease. In 2009, I get a second transplant. Our whole family seems to be right on the edge of medical advancement. If Heidi and I had been born ten years earlier, neither of us would be here.

Which leads me to possibly the most dramatic part of my Mayo visit—seeing my surgeon, Dr. Julie Heimbach. Most of Mayo’s liver transplants are done by two surgeons: Dr. Rosen (my first transplant surgeon) and Dr. Heimbach. That’s hundreds of surgeries per year, yet they both know me and my situation intimately and can recall every detail of my surgeries. Coming to Mayo—despite its size—is like coming to “Cheers.” I asked Dr. Heimbach, “Would I have gotten a liver if this “high-risk” liver hadn’t come along?” She said “Probably not.”


My condition was so bad that they simply couldn’t roll the dice on me with a “good” liver. Donated organs are too precious to waste on someone who statistically shows virtually no chance of survival. I hugged and thanked Dr. Heimbach for taking a chance on me. As she was heading out the door, she said, “I fought for you and I won!” She turned her back and put her fist in the air. I was stunned. Up until then, I wasn’t sure why I was off the list, then suddenly got a liver. A person had to be in prison, die of a massive cerebral hemorrhage, get designated as a high-risk donor, THEN I could get it.

My next appointment was an ultrasound. The tech started talking about my transplant and mentioned spontaneously that Dr. Heimbach is known for taking risky cases. Huh? I thought. Interesting comment, given I didn’t bring the subject up and I just saw her twenty minutes ago. So that kind of made sense out of Dr. Heimbach’s parting “I fought for you” comment. Later, I asked my physician’s assistant why a surgeon would seek out tough cases that could negatively skew their success statistics. She said simply, “Dr. Heimbach has a big heart.” Later, my hepatologist commented, “Many institutions don’t take high-risk organs.” So did Mayo make an exception in accepting this organ? Did they seek a high-risk liver for me knowing that the organ transplantation criteria wouldn’t allow them to give me a “good’ liver? Every transplant case goes before a board of doctors (academic and practicing), surgeons, and other professionals for objective review. All I can guess is that I was a controversial case, but some of them fought for me.

This has all been spinning in my head the last few days, but even though there are still unanswered questions (that I will probably never know the answers to), another realization has emerged—the battle Heidi fought for me on the sidelines. Heidi is the one who guided my care from the beginning of this ordeal. She insisted on the best doctor (no residents) to perform the shunt procedure at Abbott. After that, she pressed to have me transported to Mayo—something Abbott had never done and advised against due to my precarious health. Then when the team of doctors came in my room to tell her I was no longer a candidate for a liver, she launched into a last-ditch plea for them to not give up on me. We don’t know what ultimately tipped the scales in my favor. I know that people fought for me. There were medical professionals trying to make this work, there were people all over praying for me, there was Heidi fighting in body and spirit for me, and there was a family in agony over the loss of their loved one who gave to me. How do I process that? I am grateful and humbled beyond words. God has blessed me beyond anything I deserve.

Brad’s CaringBridge journal entry, 9/18/10

Christian, Heidi and Brad Stokes

Christian, Heidi and Brad Stokes

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caringbridge-logoCaringBridge is a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers free personalized websites to people who are facing a serious medical condition or hospitalization. The CaringBridge site functions like a blog, allowing a patient’s family member or friend to post updates on the patient’s condition, enabling family and friends to stay updated while freeing the family from the burden of making and receiving numerous phone calls. Family and friends can also leave messages in a guestbook.

Click here to see all my posts featuring people who’ve used CaringBridge to communicate during health crises.


Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?

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Sixty Seconds was one of three finalists in the General Interest/How-To category at the 12th annual Visionary Awards presented by COVR (Coalition of Visionary Resources) in Denver on June 27, 2009.

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4 Responses to “Brad and Heidi Stokes—Love, Lupus and Liver Transplants”

  1. Alice Hill Says:

    Fabulous reading! Thanks for doing the hard work!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you liked the story, Alice. But it was Brad and Heidi who did all the hard work!

  3. Scott Linscott Says:

    Wow. What a story! I can identify with much of what Brad went through but thankfully my road was not as difficult as his. I received my new liver on 5/7/12 and now I am thriving and loving life again. My son gave me half of his liver and saved my life. Stories like this give people on the waiting list hope. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’ve got quite the story yourself, Scott. You gave life to your son and he returned the favor by giving life to you. I’m so glad to hear you are doing so well!

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