Both Mike and I worked at a hospital way back in the 70s. Then, transplants were rare and miraculous occurrences, only done at a few big medical centers. If a patient was diagnosed as needing a transplant, it was mentioned in grave, hushed tones. To us then, a transplant was somewhere out there in the realm of science fiction.
Years pass. Our reality comes closer to science fiction all the time. All the things that were so amazing just a short time ago are commonplace now.
When we found out that Mike needed to go on dialysis, we entered a whole new world of Medicare, paperwork, diets and medicine. Then there’s the nuts and bolts of home dialysis itself. Your whole attention is devoted to keeping up with the process and the constant cycle of home dialysis.
When you start working to be on the transplant list, getting all the preliminary tests out of the way, your mind is full of all the doctors you have to see, all the tests you’ll have to have, and still the dialysis goes on. Transplant workup, transplant workup. “Transplant” slowly becomes a word that you have to use almost every day.
After a year of dialysis, Mike got the call that he might have a kidney. We grabbed our bags and made the 200-mile drive from our Panhandle town to Lubbock in two and a half hours, still preoccupied with dialysis equipment (the call wasn’t a guarantee that the kidney was a match) or making sure we got everything, or that things at home would be OK. Then at the hospital, it’s more paperwork, blood work and waiting. The word comes that the kidney’s a match, the surgery is on, so then it’s get ready for the operation.
As Mike and I wait in the pre-op area, the surgeon comes down the hallway carrying a small cooler. He sees us there and comes in, holds up the cooler and tells us that the kidney is inside. He opens up the cooler and takes out a small container. It’s fogged over from the ice and the solution isn’t clear so you can’t really make out much, but there in that little jar, is the organ that will stop the dialysis, that will begin to clean out all the poisons from Mike’s body. Mike is too sleepy to know what’s happening. The doctor hands the jar to me and I hold it up and try to see. And then the wonder comes back, the realization that this rare and miraculous occurrence is happening right now, to Mike. I give back the jar.
Sometimes during the whole process, I knew I needed to step away from the kidney and look at the big picture and not get caught up in the minutia, but that’s hard to do. Instead of stepping away, all I needed was to hold it.
by Kathy Floyd
From Life with Mike, The Journal of North Texas, June 26, 2003