14,410 feet above sea level, Washington State’s Mount Rainier has some of the highest peaks and largest glaciers in the United States. Less than half of those who attempt to summit Mount Rainier make it to the top. James McGuffey and Kaleb McGuffey will take on this challenge in June, raising money for The American Liver Foundation with every step of their climb. In honor of wife and mother Carleen, this father and son team have made overcoming mountains in life a physical reality all while bringing peak awareness to liver health and awareness.
All of us here at Heroes Like Us feel inspired by the McGuffey family’s story and dedication to do what it takes to bring awareness to liver disease, even if it means taking on nature’s highest hurdles.
James McGuffey wrote a touching letter to the world and open heartedly let us into his family’s personal peaks they must climb everyday.
My name is James McGuffey. I am a 41 year old father of six wonderful children and loving husband to my wife, Carleen. We currently live in a small, beautiful community north of Colorado Springs, CO called Monument. We moved here three years ago to expand our business.This area begs you to be outdoors, my sons and I have enjoyed climbing mountains and exploring beautiful Colorado. We absolutely love it here.
During the first few months of being in Colorado, we were delighted to learn that we would be expecting our sixth child, a boy. We would now have five boys and one girl. Imagine our excitement! That excitement turned to worry once my wife had some test results come back indicating that she had contracted Hepatitis C. My wife had been living with this disease for over 22 years. There is about a 3-5% chance that a mom can pass this disease to her children through pregnancy or childbirth fortunately none of our 6 children have Hep-C.
Carleen continued on with the pregnancy and on November 29, 2011 our son and sixth child, Kyle was born. Eight weeks after Kyle’s birth, Carleen’s doctor recommended that she have a liver biopsy. It was supposed to be a short outpatient procedure and we were curious to see the results after her having had Hepatitis C for so many years. Also, we would soon need to discuss treatment methods and things we could do to put this all behind us. So, we scheduled the procedure.
The biopsy, normally a simple outpatient deal, turned into a nightmare. Carleen was in pain from the moment the doctor had finished. She was sent to the ER, then home, and finally back to the ER before it was discovered that the doctor had hit an artery, while performing the biopsy. My wife was slowly bleeding to death.
A surgeon was called to discuss our options with us but, the news was grim. We were informed that surgery to correct the issue would likely result in death. Of course, we were devastated. The doctors told us that they would do angioplasty to try and stop it. Carleen ended up spending several weeks in ICU before being released, only to discover within days that she was still bleeding internally. This was only the beginning. Her lung had collapsed, constant fevers, low blood counts and every breath was painful. To top it all off, she had a baby that had to be weaned that she couldn’t care for and was on oxygen 100% of the time for 4 months after her biopsy.
Because of the Hepatitis C, and the botched biopsy, the last few years have been filled with countless hospital trips and doctor visits. These events have been traumatizing to my wife and she has suffered tremendously. Each time we left the hospital, we had no way of knowing if the bleeding had stopped for sure. Also, Carleen’s condition and frequent medical needs severely hindered her ability to care for and bond with our newborn son. Out of sheer necessity, and love for my family, I had to step up and be Mr. Mom. This experience has been filled with pain, fear, and uncertainty for my family and I.
Carleen has yet to have treatment due to all the complications that have occurred. However, with the new drugs and treatments coming out in the next few years we are looking forward to getting her healed!
As a part of raising money and awareness for the American Liver Foundation my son Kaleb and I are climbing Mt. Rainier in June. It is not an easy climb but, it will be worth all of the effort if we can help someone be aware that they might have this disease and the importance of getting tested. There is a lot of media exposure around other diseases, which is needed but, not enough for liver disease and it’s time for that to change. Help us get to the top of Mt. Rainier by donating on the American Liver Foundations secure fundraising page.
The McGuffey family will be Guests of Honor at the American Liver Foundation’s Flavors of Denver happening on May 15th at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. We hope you join us for a night of inspiring stories, amazing food and drinks and a cause worth climbing mountains for.