March 17, 2014

Miracles keep happening.

Post-transplant day 97, rehab #47.

I go to rehab or the hospital and am taken care of by people who have lived in this world for so long that the shock is no longer there - news of transplant or news of death has become a routine and brief moment of joy or upset for the cadre of caregivers we know as doctors, nurses, and therapists. It's an aspect of the job that can't be helped. Rarely can they afford to make the kind of personal connections we patients make among ourselves.

But being here so long has similarly numbed me (a little) to the reality that continues to unfold around me. Day in and day out I associate with people whose lives are on the line, or who recently faced their own life-and-death trial. It is BIZARRE that news of a friend getting transplanted should have become routine. It is HATEFUL that news of friends or friends-of-friends passing from complications of transplant or from cystic fibrosis has also become routine.

But I forgot, though, that today's a holiday and first-order friends of mine tend to get transplanted on holidays. Today began with news from Andrea Hughes Maechtle that she'd gotten a third call! And I've been hanging on FB all day to see if she'd post an update, or not - which would have its own meaning. I knocked around rehab and found out that TWO people got called this morning, but don't know who the second person is. I spoke on the phone to Dr Hartwig's secretary, concerning a scheduling matter, and she said she'd have to confirm with him later, that he was currently in surgery and there was a second patient waiting for surgery, too. It was not too great a stretch to assume that one of my two friends was currently getting her lungs!

Now I just saw on Andrea's wall that "It's a go!" which means that she is just now being wheeled into her own surgery. I am THRILLED for Andrea! She waited more than nine months on the list here, as she was a hard to match case. I wish her all the best luck and hope she'll bring the same determination and stick-to-it-iveness to recovery that she brought to rehab.

But I'm left wondering who the other person was who got called and, it seems, was transplanted earlier today? Looking around and taking stock of who was missing from rehab, which was quite a lot of people, there are several possibilities, but dare I hope it was Heather James?? It would be so poetic: her birthday is tomorrow.  [Edit: it was not Heather James.  And later that night, Ellie Levy got her call and was transplanted the next morning on Heather's birthday!]

Today I am reminded of what it really feels like to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment. That although miracles happen every day here at Duke, they are nevertheless miracles. Each and every transplant is a stunning occurrence involving a confluence of skills, planning, preparation, and sheer luck that amounts to winning the lottery. I thank the Duke transplant team for saving our lives; and I deeply, lovingly thank the two anonymous donors who selflessly gave their organs so that life can continue in at least two more people today.

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