October 25, 2013

What being pro-life really means.

Rehab Day 14, end of week 4.

It's kinda awesome flying solo as a pulmonary rehab graduate.  The therapists trust you to keep pushing and improving.  I knew today would be a hard workout; I was looking at a full weights workout with increased loads and reps in most exercises, 20 hard minutes on the bike with slightly elevated resistance, and 30 minutes at the fastest walk I can sustain.  Fortunately, all the right songs kept coming up on the iPod: Eye of the Tiger, Garth Brook's Standing Outside The Fire, BEP's Pump It.  Motivators like that.

You know what else is highly motivating?  Talking to other patients, especially post-tx patients who are just blowing me away with the progress of their improvement, such as April Elaine Campbell, whom I finally chatted with after these many weeks of just noting each other's presence.  Really, finding time to actually chat is hard.  We just happened to be shadowing each other during our weights workout. Nice girl, just got transplanted Aug 21, and has this beautiful, glorious, healthy glow about her.

I arrived somewhat early today and sat with another pre-tx patient awaiting the appointed time at which we graduates may begin our ritual exertions.  So he and I observed the post-transplant floor class in progress with perhaps a dozen patients and the stunning import of it washed over me.  "Do you realize," I asked him, "what a multiplicity of miracles is represented right here in front of us?  Thirty years ago, not one of those people could have been saved.  None of us in this room could have been saved!  And yet here we all are.  And that pool of oxygen-hose-free humanity before us represents solid proof that you and I...are not completely fucked."  He chuckled at that.  He doesn't have a lot of breath for chit-chat, but he let me know he thinks of this every day.

How is this possible?  70 years of progress (with major milestones being established in the 80s by Dr. Joel Cooper) backed by hundreds, thousands of men and women of scientific bent creating drugs, testing procedures, tracking patients, and slowly building up the necessary techniques to take the living tissues and organs from one dead person and use them to keep another person alive.  Not merely alive, but vibrantly alive, magnified, restored and improved.  Through economic turmoil, wars, natural disasters, religious strife, and even doubt from within their own ranks, these physicians, nurses, research scientists, and surgeons have plugged away at the problems of transplant - as all such legions do against the various forms of death that come from within our own bodies.  It is conceptually overwhelming to visualize the scale of support, both present and historical, that has given us this scene of 12 grunting, sweating patients, sporting 12 new incision scars and breathing with 12 sets of donated lungs.  Each, individually, an inspirational example of surviving against the odds, but also in aggregate, another data set that moves the entire world of transplant forward.

Today, I am reminded that while the rest of the world rages and burns, the scientific community acts on behalf of life, always seeking better and more and a higher quality. Amen.

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