Today, I stood at the window again. It was blustery outside, chilly even this side of the pane. I’d thought that the wonderfully soaking rain of the preceding 48 hours across the Eastern Cape would have brought a calm to the atmosphere. But it wasn’t to be. I should know, growing up on the coast – these spring winds don’t give up easily.
A year ago I stood at the window of the 10th floor of my ward in the old CBMH overlooking parts of Cape Town towards Signal Hill, trying to get my head around what just happened. Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Willie Koen and anaesthetist Dr Heinz Modler had just visited me to say that a donor heart had become available for me. Koen hastened to add that less than 72 hours ago, just before the start of the weekend, my medical aid had agreed that I could go onto the active waiting list for a heart transplant. The co-ordinating team still needed to alert me to this by the time he was advised on Monday morning that a donor heart had become available overnight.
And all indications were the donor heart was a match for me. The operation would be performed at 7am on Tuesday morning. I would regain consciousness on Thursday morning.
(For more on what led to my heart transplant see https://wordpix.co.za/post-video/)
After Koen and Modler left and in the few moments of quiet – before the start of detailed preparations for the early morning surgery – I stood at the window as if in a trance.
Strangely, I wasn’t emotional. Calm had prevailed through most of the journey – despite its crazily breathless nature – to that point. Emotion would come later. (And would stay, always on the cusp of overwhelming me, at any turn, happily so.) In retrospect, I realise that the speed with which events moved that day was a blessing in disguise, as it avoided too much unhelpful thinking.
I really didn’t know what to think. I had to get a note out to my family. It was curt. I knew they would have many questions. I wasn’t quite bewildered but I certainly couldn’t focus on anything else but the few staccato medical facts, simply set out by Dr Koen, and the salient message which flowed from those facts:
All systems go.
It was surreal and I was gobsmacked.
The recovery, one day at a time, has been uneventful, even if it has been extraordinary. H2 and I have taken to each other unimaginably well. I’m pretty used to the regime of medications, including the immunosuppressants. Physical strength grows every day. How awesome it is to be able to eat without getting nauseous, and not have to keep my intake of all liquids at less than one litre per 24-hour cycle.
The biggest challenge remains living in ways that honour my donor and using this second chance to add value to our world.
Today I celebrate again. My family celebrates. You have walked this path with us and share in this celebration. Thank you. We are blessed.
And another family pauses to mourn afresh – one year after they lost their loved one. Peace be with them.