There are a series of odd, pithy emails somewhere on here from the morning of March 24. I was a little late getting into work... okay, I was a lot late. I had been out the evening before checking out the site for Revels' fundraising breakfast, hadn't eaten dinner till 9 or so, and... well, just needed a little extra time in the morning.
I think I was aiming for a 9:30 arrival (I would make it up later in the day) so was blowdrying my hair when the phone rang... I shut the dryer off just soon enough to hear the "new message" notification on the cell. Unknown number. The message said "Hi, Shirley, this is ____ from the UW Transplant program, and we have a liver for you. I will leave a message at your work phone, too, but it's very important that you call me back within the hour."
It occured to me this morning that the message is still on my work phone.
I breathed. It's pretty common occurance that tx patients will receive more than one call during their wait-list time. They'll be admitted to the hospital, and some test or other -- either for the patient or for the donor -- will make surgery a no-go. For instance, if the patient has either a hint of an infection or virus, if chest x-rays aren't clear, if there's any open wound... they will be sent home. So half of me thought "this could be a dry run... no guarantees."
So I called the UW back. She said "are you ready?" And I said "yes. This will stink for the people at work, but yes, I am ready." I was to check in to the hospital by 11:30 for tests and work-up. I thought about driving myself. Fortunately Marcie talked me out of that, and headed out immediately to drive me to Seattle. I packed a bag, thinking I would be home later Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest (i.e., I packed jeans and a t-shirt and thankfully my toothbrush), tried to send some emails, and let work know that I'd either be in Wednesday or not for quite awhile. Love that predictability!!!
One of my Facebook posts was that I had thought my biggest decision of the day would be whether or not I could get away with wearing jeans to work. In a sense, that was still the biggest decision of the day... because there really wasn't a decision involved in going up to the UW. A friend asked me about it later, and I realized that this decision, as with most truly important decisions, wasn't made in a day. Rather it was made in fits and starts over the space of 7 years of doctor visits, intimate conversations, fights with myself (and with others), pointed and poignant questions from people close to me, and insightful questions from complete strangers.
Throughout the day on Tuesday I pretty much sat. Had a lot of blood drawn, had an IV inserted, had x-rays, talked to a lot of staff. I met the surgeon on call, whom I had never met before, and he did a brief physical (wanted to check out incision possibilities), and of course I couldn't eat, since it wasn't entirely clear when I would be going to surgery. I knew that there were two donors that day -- I had a 'neighbor' during workup who I still see in Clinic, who went into surgery Tuesday evening. I was scheduled, then, for Wednesday morning.
(There's an explanation for the scheduling and the delay, but that's another topic entirely.)
My surgeon was called in about 8 in the evening. He introduced himself as "the substitute" which made me smile; I was also happy because I have met him twice before, and there's something nice about recognizing a face.
One of the other things about the tx process is that -- frequently -- the surgeon/tx team will give the patient some details about the donor, and the graft (the term for the organ to be transplanted) and whether there are any risks involved. Some staff give patients more information than others. I asked the surgeon about it at this time, with something like "I understand that generally there's a discussion of the donor, the condition of the graft, and whether or not it's something I want to choose to agree to."
I got a solid look. "There are no concerns. The donor was significantly younger than you, and healthy. If there was anything to discuss, we would." In essence, I heard "this is the best you will ever get in all possible situations so there is no discussion." Then he said "try to get some rest, and keep your spirits up. I will see you around 5 in the morning."