July 30, 2014

A soft lightning bolt

Post-transplant day #232

One year ago today, I was hit by a soft lightning bolt.

I'd been on Columbia's transplant list for 9 months already and had slowly come to the realization that people with Lung Allocation Scores in their 30s or 40s had zero chance of getting transplanted here. There were simply too many patients and, of course, not enough organs. Add to that the story of my dear friend Emily Gorsky, who lay dying in the ICU at the time, on full life support and yet STILL waiting for lungs, and I was getting downright scared. 

But on July 30th, 2013, I had an appointment with Dr Emily DiMango, my CF physician at Columbia. She had first referred me for transplant and now had called me in on thin pretense for a checkup. What she really wanted was to tell me to start looking elsewhere. She suggested Barnes, Cleveland, and Duke. I knew of the programs at Barnes (where my friend Missy Sedam got transplanted) and Cleveland, but Duke had somehow eluded my radar.

Fear doesn't come easily to me, but I was on a foundering ship and I knew it. And now the person who had been the primary consigliere of my health for the last ten years was urging me to abandon ship, even though it meant me leaving her hospital. It was like getting hit by lighting, but softly. I didn't need a clearer sign. It was time to change ships, change berths, change captains.

To sum up the story, my mother and I would go to a nice dinner two nights later and go over the pros and cons of every option. We chose Duke and we have no regrets. In fact, I feel a little stupid it took as long as it did for me to consider Duke, knowing what I know now. I believe I was the first of the Columbia patients to be referred to Duke, though there may have been one or two before me. What is certain is that once Denise, Piper, and myself all arrived and the benefits started being realized and relayed back to Columbia, more and more referrals came into Duke from there, not just from Dr DiMango, but also from Dr Arcasoy, head of Columbia's transplant program, himself!

Today I am reminded of the power and grace and compassion good doctors embody. Dr. Emily DiMango is one of the best physicians I've ever had and I feel lucky to have ever known her.

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