A little over a year ago, two people close to my heart were being prepped for surgery. I made my way west to be a part of the Davidson cheer squad. Did you hear us cheering? God certainly heard us praying.
My brother-in-law, Gary (my sister Ginger's husband), has polycystic kidney disease and needed to have both kidneys removed. Gary has been off work for two and half years, and his health continued to decline. Gary's father faced the very same disease. Ginger and Gary have triplet 9-year-old boys.
After waiting for what seemed like eternity for a donor, the wonderful news came that my sister, Cathy, would be a match. She underwent a five-hour surgery to donate a kidney to save Gary's life. To receive her kidney, Gary faced an extensive surgery.
Some people might be nervous or a tad scared going into surgery, but not Cathy. Not only did she volunteer to see if she could be a match, she was determined she would be the match. "I just had to do what I could do to help out Ginger and Gary," she modestly stated. The kidney surgery was Gary's first surgery and Cathy's twelfth.
Cathy is amazingly strong and overwhelming generous. After being discharged, Cathy went home to heal quietly and then got back to her routine of chauffeuring kids to sporting events and volunteering her time in the classroom. Most people never knew that Cathy underwent surgery and was an organ donor. While Gary isn't back to working, he is feeling much better.
This surgery was a gift of life, but it was also a gift of showing how amazingly strong a human being can be. That trip was the first time in more than a decade that us Davidson girls gathered, not to focus on our late parents’ failing health, but to come together, and lean on each other — as sisters.
Growing up on a family dairy farm, you form a strong bond — or at least us Davidson girls did. The bond was rooted somewhere in-between training springing heifers to use the parlor, bedding calf hutches in the winter, or chasing cows when they got out after midnight. Despite arguing during the teenage years, we stuck together and have each other's backs because, well, that's what siblings do. My sister Cathy is proof of it.
And sometimes, you don't realize how strong that bond is until you are faced with adversity. Our sisterhood has been a true testament of this, after losing our only brother, both our parents, and our childhood farm.
And, as I struggle during the depressing dairy chapter we face, I find myself thinking back to my childhood and to my sisters and the strength they showcase.
They remind me of my own inner strength that was planted by our late parents. Through tough times of growing up on our family farm, we all learned so many things. Most importantly, we learned how to put family first and to have faith that better days are ahead.
Think of your own family's strength and character and lean on them. It might be dark times in dairy, but the light will come on, just you wait!
Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.