“Minutes later, after Koen and Modler leave and in the few moments of quiet – before the start of detailed preparations for the early morning surgery – I stand at the window of the 10th floor of my ward, looking out towards Signal Hill, trying to get my head around what just happened.
“I stand there as if in a trance, intermittently looking at my cellphone as messages from Belinda, the kids, and other family members come flooding through, acknowledging my big but curt announcement. They have many questions, few of which I can really answer. I don’t know what to do with myself, let alone their questions.
“Strangely, I’m not emotional. Calm has prevailed through most of the journey – despite its crazily breathless nature – to this point. Emotion will come later, I’m sure. (And will stay, always on the cusp of overwhelming me, at any turn, happily so.)
“But there is one immediate awareness in my soul and reflected in the exchanges between my family and I: thankfulness to my donor and his or her family. I am very aware that as we are confounded by this miracle opportunity, another family is wracked in grief, trying to come to terms with the void in their communal life, missing someone at the table for a meal. I consider that, perhaps as this year started, there would have been anticipation of what could be achieved. Now that life has been cut short. Sacrifice for another lies at the heart of our faith and, dare I say it, at the heart of our humanity, of every faith and even if we do not have a faith. As a family, we are acutely aware of a life sacrificed for me to live. And we are humbled and honoured by this sacrifice.
“The speed with which the rest of the day proceeds is almost unmanageable, with preparatory blood tests and requests to the blood bank for a sufficient quantity of my blood type to be available in the theatre. Drips are prepared. Medication is discussed and diarised for the overnight shift.
“Busy-ness envelopes my bed, but there is a communal broad smile on the faces of the nurses, they can’t be more happy that my situation is progressing. The busy-ness in many ways is a blessing in disguise, not least allowing me to avoid too much unhelpful thinking.
“It is surreal and I am gobsmacked, but it is all systems go.
“I wake up long before 4am and am ready for the pathology staffer who collects my blood. She has never been my best friend, I always thought. Usually doing the night shift, so responsible for waking me up in the wee hours of the day to take blood, having to prod me in the dark, sometimes struggling to find a channel on my arm. Of course, I was always irritable – I’m really not a wake-me-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind of person, even though I knew she was doing a job that was critical to my wellbeing. Today she is different, still clinical but gentler in the way she draws the blood. She smiles in the half-light and there is a warm touch as she wishes me well today.
“I sit on the bed, watching the daylight slowly but inexorably take over the night sky, before suddenly flooding into every area of the visible landscape. This is it, this is the day. I never thought I would get to this. How is it possible that such a hopeless, terminal and dark situation has turned into this bright shaft of life?
“My family arrives shortly afterwards. There is a strange-ness about this time, it’s all uncharted territory. But I am calmer today than at many times before and even afterwards. Pre-medication seems to have settled a permanent smile on my face, keeps me talking incessantly, releases a deluge of optimism as I greet fellow patients and wave to nursing staff in the corridors. Some flutters of uncertainty, yes, but a blessed assurance that I am a recipient of benevolence. As it turns out, the optimism and the blessed assurance are well-founded.”
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