Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting a transplant call

The way it went, I came home from a very calm afternoon, visiting with Marian in her back yard and then helping spread the money around by getting my car washed and vacuumed - it's still only $13! Then wandering the gardens applauding the first rhododendron blossom, watering the chives, which are in a pot to keep them in hand, and so on. Tom had been working in the garage while I was gone and we both went in at the same time. Going down the hall he said, "There's a phone message. No, two messages.

The first one was from Amy at OSU Transplant. My heart rate accelerated as I wrote down the number. The second message was from Karen, another friend. I wrote down her number, though I already have it in my cellphone, thinking, God, Amy's message came in over an hour ago. You only have two hours to reply to a transplant call. Then they go on to the next person. But surely they would have called me on my cellphone. Wait, I'd left my purse in Marian's house, and wouldn't have heard it. And Tom didn't have his cell in the garage. I ran into my study and put on the headset I use to talk on Skype, where I can hear clearly. Figured out how to put in Amy's number.
Hello, Amy?
No, this is Karen.
Oh, Karen could I please talk . . . Wait, is this Karen?
Yes, Jeanne?
I had inadvertently mixed up the phone numbers and called Karen.

I hastily explained that I'd had a call from transplant, and I should get off and return it right now, and then call her back. I don't know if she understood, but she acted like she did.

Now, you don't want to hear the rest, and I don't want to write it. I tried four times to get through to Amy on the number she had given me. Keyed it in wrong, and etc. and so forth, as they used to say. The more I did this, the worse I got. Finally I breathed in, closed my eyes, and said, Maybe I have her number on my cellphone. I galloped down the hall to get it. And connected at last.

And of course, it was not about getting a kidney - I've only been on the list a little over two years. The average wait is three years, but some people wait six, and some people die. It was just about scheduling an annual followup with a surgeon. They want to make sure you can still "qualify" for a transplant - i.e. look like a good bet to survive this major surgery and take your anti-rejection meds. They will ask again if I have a living donor, as if I could have one and not let them know.
Strange. I am just finishing Footprints in the Snow, the autobiography of Chan master Sheng Yen, and learned that he died of kidney failure at age 80. It's said that he turned down the opportunity for a transplant, saying it should go to someone younger. Well, yes. He was 80, while I am only 67. And he was enlightened, so advanced that he was ready to cast off this mortal shell. Here is his beautiful death poem:

Busy with nothing, growing old.
Within emptiness, weeping, laughing.
Intrinsically, there is no “I.”
Life and death, thus cast aside.


  1. Oye, it still would have been nice to get the call for a transplant. Hang in there!

  2. sometimes the waiting seems to be the BIG thing, when actually its the surgery itself. i remember one time, a doctor asked me, are you even ready for this surgery? i guess he saw my face going white as he explained the procedure to me. and i said no. and he said, lets not do it then.

    my point is, are you ready?