Thursday, June 23, 2011
Brother to donate portion of his liver
By SUE WATSON
Thirty-year-old Jonathan Nichols of Byhalia is to be married to Megan Tate of Higdon Road Saturday at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Potts Camp. On July 18, the groom is scheduled to have surgery to donate a portion of his liver to his brother, Jeffrey, who needs a new liver.
Jeffrey, 23, has been in trouble with leukemia and now with liver damage due to chemotherapy treatments to knock out his T-cell leukemia. Surgery for both men will take place at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Jonathan and his father, Jerry, work with Northwest Mississippi Community College, where Jonathan has worked as a computer technician since age 22. He keeps the computers and telephone systems operating at his alma mater.
The Nichols live in Byhalia and are members of the First Baptist Church, where Jonathan also operates the sound system.
Jeffrey will receive between 50 to 60 percent of Jonathan’s liver – an organ which has a tremendous capacity to regenerate itself in a healthy body.
Currently, Jeffrey can’t walk very far without getting short of breath because of his damaged liver, according to his mother Betsy Nichols. He enjoys computers and has his own website, she said.
Jeffrey was first diagnosed with agranulocytosis at age 13 at St. Francis Hospital after unusual red spots appeared on his skin. The spots did not cause pain, but his parents took him to a local doctor, then later to St. Francis. The next stop was St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where Jeffrey was diagnosed with LGL T-cell leukemia, his mother said. The disease is a rare form of leukemia.
His leukemia is believed to be stable (in remission) for the present time, she said.
In early tests, Jeffrey’s neutrophil count was very low.
“He was hospitalized tons and tons of times because he had infections,” Betsy Nichols said. “He had two surgeries - his spleen was removed and his gall bladder was taken out.”
Because Jeffrey’s condition has stabilized, the liver transplant is possible, she said. Jeffrey was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 14. His brother was in the first or second year of college when he was diagnosed. Jeffrey finished high school as a home schooler and took a couple of college courses but couldn’t continue, his mother said.
There are positives to the long road that took the Nichols to St. Jude many times, then to Florida and Pennsylvania several times for treatments for Jeffrey’s leukemia.
“One positive is that Jeffrey and I have spent tons and tons of time together. We are really close,” said his mother. “Of course, we depend on God for all of this. It may not be what we want, but we know God knows best and I can totally trust God.”
Another positive is the outpouring of support for the Nichols over the years the family has been back and forth and in and out of hospitals.
All services at St. Jude Hospital were free – a big positive. And a number of the churches in the beginning raised money for the Nichols’ hospital trips.
Betsy Nichols said a lot of the hospital experience is just spending hours and hours waiting.
“One thing it has taught us is you just take each day as it comes,” she said. “You don’t know what’s around the next minute. We enjoy the moment and are appreciative of anything happy.”
Betsy Nichols’ father and mother, Preston and Nellie Rikard of Olive Branch, were a great help on the road in the early years of Jeffrey’s hospitalizations. They went with their daughter and grandson to Pennsylvania and back and forth to St. Jude every time for years, Nichols said.
Unfortunately, Preston Rikard can no longer travel due to Alzheimer’s and Nellie Rikard has to stay home to take care of him. Jeffrey's grandfather does not remember his grandson Jeffrey, said Betsy.
“I wanted to say how much I appreciated their help,” she said. “They would both be up here with us now, if they could.”
Young Jeffrey is a real good sport and has a great sense of humor to help carry his share of the burden really well, his mother said.
“He always makes me laugh,” she said.
Prayers for Jeffrey and the Nichols family from people and friends for 10 years have helped the Nichols in their journey with cancer.
“So many people have prayed for Jeffrey and our family almost 10 years, and we are very grateful for their prayers,” said Betsy. “Their prayers have blessed us and helped us through many a bad time.
“I admire Jonathan and appreciate his willingness, especially since he will be newly married and I am impressed with Megan who is so understanding and on board also.
“We’ve learned what is important – love, family, friends, and most of all Jesus. Make sure He’s Savior and Lord, then you will have peace in the midst of storms.”
The prospective liver donor, Jonathan, has already begun the process to become a transplant donor. He’s also very happy about his upcoming marriage.
He met his future wife when she sang at a concert at First Baptist Church in Byhalia.
“I do more of the technical side and she likes the actual music side better,” he said. “We have big visions for our life together, but right now with surgery, we are taking it one day at a time.”
His new wife will travel with him to the Mayo Clinic.
Megan Tate added her thoughts about her upcoming marriage and new family.
“It is an amazing story from the get-go, even how God has brought us together,” she said. “I was blown away by them. What he’s doing in Minnesota is experimental – never done on a patient before.
“The uniqueness of it is Jeff has a rare type of leukemia. They have never done a liver transplant on a patient with this type of leukemia. Jonathan’s liver will grow back. It’s amazing how God has sustained his family.”
She believes her marriage to Jonathan is a natural fit.
“I did a revival one year ago, March 7, in Byhalia,” Tate said. “I got a call to go and sing at the revival. I didn’t take a sound system. In October, I learned Jonathan was running the sound.”
For Jonathan it was love at first glance, she said, although he took time to let their relationship develop.
“So, on October 7, I invited him to come to one of my concerts in Olive Branch at Longview Heights Baptist Church,” she said. “He came and then he came to a few more of my concerts. The rest is ancient history.”
If all goes well, Jeff with be his brother’s best man at his wedding.
“We are very excited,” Tate said. “It’s almost like we’re cut from the same mold. His father is one of the deans at Northwest. The whole thing is unbelievable. I call him my angel. I was bedridden for a while and would talk to him (Jonathan) on the computer at night. I started calling him my angel.
Megan Tate lost her eyesight shortly after her premature birth due to exposure to an oxygen-rich environment. She lives with her grandmother and grandfather, Linda and Larry Tate, on Higdon Road. She completed high school on-line and is taking college courses on-line. Tate is building a ministry in Southern gospel music and has made several CDs. She has also toured various churches and participated in community events as a way to spread her message of God’s love.
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