It’s become my favourite thing to do on a Friday afternoon – walk the streets of the city where I was Re-born.
You get an amazing perspective on this physical place, of the elements that came and continue to come together to define it, and of the successive generations of humans who have made sense of their world here.
Especially on a winter’s day in a Cape that is sublimely mid-summery warm and dry.
I love these terraced, urban spaces, multi-layered in every conceivable way – human structures clinging to an inspired, eternal slope running into the sea.
Tarred and concreted squares, scents that run deep or ever-so-slight on the nose, this season’s colours on every vista, sounds impossibly replicated elsewhere.
Humanity in all its complex glory – going about its day – some rushing to a next appointment; others seeking sustenance in what has become for them a barren landscape; enjoying a few hours of warmth before another cold winter’s night; waiting for an economic opportunity; a few doing the tourist meander, enjoying the weather they were not expecting; meeting friends; joining the love of their life at a sidewalk cafe.
Unsurprisingly, I gravitate to the corner of Longmarket and Bree.
Here I stood before. Watching the world from tens of meters above in a ward in the former Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital.
Life was so very different then; actually, life was coming to an end.
Well, I suppose it’s always coming to an end, isn’t it? We’re always moving towards death, however alive we may be now in this moment.
But the prospect of dying was intensely real then – my heart had already failed and other organs were becoming increasingly compromised. Dobutamine (a medication for heart failure) was wonderful, but it would only help up to a point and certainly was not a substitute for a properly functioning heart. And there were tough side effects.
I had been identified as a suitable candidate for a transplant. But medical aid bureaucracy had not yet been negotiated. And even if that hurdle was successfully overcome, nobody could miraculously conjure up a donor Heart.
So, I watched the passing parade on the streets below, from my vantage points in various wards of the seventh or eighth floor (I forget exactly which), walking from one facade of the building to another, sometimes dragging along the dobutamine drip, at other times mercifully free of intravenous meds AND the shortness of breathe and tiredness – a burst of energy and air, despite the more rarified spaces of the upper floors of the parking garage-cum-hospital which became CBMH.
Then, the miracle did happen. I became No. 216. The last heart transplanted at the old CBMH.
Today, understandably, I love being on the ground, interacting in this way, up close and personal, engaged, not looking from a distance, cut-off; not wondering if I’ll ever get to experience life, real life with all its imperfections and nuances, gross injustices even.
So many – loved ones especially – haven’t made it to this second life, this opportunity to do it all over. I’ve met some amazing new people who should have been here, many others are unknown, my donor the most important among those.
Right now, I’m just grateful, soaking all of this up, enjoying this walk through the city.
Tomorrow, I’ll think again about the many ways I must use this second life to bless others, in this city and beyond.
* Click the Subscribe button to get regular alerts about blog updates.