From the archives …
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So, Tuesday, I was back in a DMV office. This was a different one, as I wanted to transfer my Florida Driver’s license to Tennessee. That actual task took less than ten minutes (including registering to vote). But I had to wait a little over two and a half hours to accomplish it. Yesterday, we had more cable problems. After waiting for an hour for the tekkie on the phone to tell me he had no idea why we were having problems, they told me that they could send someone out to look at things. I said great, and the window I was given that the cable guy could be here was between noon and 7PM – this was at 11:45 AM. So, I waited and the very nice young man who took maybe five minutes to fix the problem arrived at 6:30. Today, Sandra is expecting some important documents, the delivery of which will require a signature. The window that FedEx gave us for delivery is between 8AM and 5PM. Yep, I’m waiting.
Ever wondered how much time we spend waiting? Yahoo reports that upwards of 34% of our lives is spent wating for something. I’ve read that on average, we spend 2 weeks of our lives waiting at red lights. Just think about the time you wait for food, at the gas pump, for news, for getting to the rest room at a major sporting event. Waiting is a part of life.
I’ve been asked what it was like with a different kind of waiting – on the transplant list. I was hugely fortunate – I only had to wait about six weeks. There are those who are currently on the transplant lists who have been waiting not for days, weeks, month, but years. Here are some of this things I experienced. I think for many, multiply my experiences by much longer times, and maybe we can get a sense of what they might be experiencing.
When I was first listed, I was just plain sick. I was in the hospital. I felt lousy. The transplant team had to do various tests and exams to be sure that I could be a transplant candidate. Each time I was taken for a test, their were a lot of nerves involved – these were tests that there was no room for failure. So the pre-list time was probably the most nerve wracking. The last test that I had to have done was a colonoscopy. Richard has posted Dave Barry’s experience with those. In spite of my mantra “Ya Gotta Laugh”, there was nothing about this that I could find funny. The prep stuff that came in a literal jug had to be imbibed prior to the test – the goal is to clean that part of your plumbing out. Well, I didn’t tolerate it very well. On top of that, we were having difficulties getting the physicians who performed this test to do it – scheduling problems, their illness, a “sudden vacation”, etc. All in all, I think I had to do the prep drink four times. The third, I was ready to “go” in the morning, when I was told of this “sudden vacation”. Not sure why, but that was my patience buster. With a torrent of tears, language not particularly appropriate for a preacher, and a demand to see the Risk Manager I had as much as an emotional release as the physical one that the procedure prep accomplished. But finally the next day the test was done, and I was listed, and told that I was immediately number 1 on that list.
I think that I experienced a sense of relief for the first time in many weeks. There was some hope. The doctors wanted me to stay in the hospital until a donor was found. Sandra was all for that – she didn’t want to experience another one of my times of “confusion”. They said it shouldn’t be long. I was stable enough to be moved out of the ICU, to a regular floor. And as I began to feel a bit better, I was able to get up and wander some. I didn’t notice the fall risk warning signs on my door as much as the nurses did, but we found some common ground. But then I started getting very bored. And when one of my main doctors told me that he was taking his family to Washington for spring break and would be gone for a week so nothing would happen over that time period, I pouted and begged enough for the team and Sandra to let me wait at home.
No one knew that I would have another 4 weeks to wait. It was so good to be home, though. Our dogs kept me company during the day. I didn’t have to worry about Sandra working and then driving to see me, only to leave in a couple of hours. We had time to eat, sleep, laugh, watch TV, argue – you know, the normal things – together.
But that’s when the full catalogue of feelings crept in and out of my mostly clear head. I found myself scared – scared that they wouldn’t find a donor in time, scared that they would. There were days that I felt poorly enough that I said to Sandra things like “I hope a donor is found soon – I’m not sure how much more of this I can or want to take.” We both slept with our cell phones next to the landline phones at our bedside knowing that one or both could ring at any minute. That is to say that sleep was not very sound. We got tired. Me being sick. Sandra having to get up and go to work. Nights were very long.
The worse thing that I found to deal with were all the times that people when visiting or on the phone would say, “We’re praying they find a liver for you soon”. Of course, that’s what I wanted. But the guilt. As we sat around waiting for the phone to ring, as we all prayed that call would come, we were waiting and praying for someone other than me to die. I found myself watching the news about terrible traffic accidents or other tragedies that could potentially turn into organ donation opportunities. You know how hard it is to write, even now, a sentence talking about a tragedy being an opportunity for me? There were lots of my waiting time filled with what used to be philosophical, theological and ethical debates coming to real life not in front of me, but inside of me. That was the toughest part of waiting – the emotional roller coaster that always began and ended in the same place. And that place was knowing the importance of one day at a time. A place of being OK with not being in control. That place, for me anyway, had to be a place of faith. The rainbow picture was one I took on a pretty bad day that I believe was painted to give me hope.
That’s what it was like, in the proverbial nutshell, for me waiting for my transplant. Name a feeling, it was a part of it. But I don’t get frustrated when I have to wait at the DMV or the cable guy anymore. What’s my rush, anyway? Right this minute there are people waiting for things a lot more important than getting their TV fixed. And, hey, the FedEx guy just arrived!
Ironically, this post has been on the plan for today for a few days. This morning when I checked my FaceBook, I found a friend request from someone at the hospital where I did a lot of waiting and where the waiting was rewarded by a new life. Anne posted this short video from my lifesavers at LifeLink. Keep in mind, it’s specific to Florida – put the national numbers in. It’s quite relevant and puts things in perspective. Something to think about while you wait! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMRds0PVuOg&sns=fb.