cds, and blackberries, kindles and sexting.
they will never know the poignant crackle of a needle as those first notes float forth from your favorite artist's new release. never experience sprawling on your back, on your bedroom floor; soaking in every detail of a new album cover.
now cell phones replace lighters held aloft during the most profound moments of a concert. those tiny flames flickered in unison; a celebration of the universal power of music.
behold the nerd in me, but how can a computer screen ever compare to holding a novel in your hands? the weight. the tradition. the history.
and love letters. i have several, lying dormant in a manila envelope. and when they are occasionally pulled out, i experience them. i feel his emotions through the pressed pen's ink. ache at the yellowing paper; painfully underlying the velocity of memories. and drift away at the vague scent of romance wafting up-a little bit less, every time...
how can an email ever compare?
yup. i know. i sound like an old fogey.
["you know, i used to walk 5 miles to school and 5 miles back every day. usually in a blizzard".]
and yet, i am the last person who would ever take the industrial revolution, in it's latest or any capacity, out back and kick it's ass.
i know i am here because of it.
i have this strange fascination with jean harlow.
if you break it down, i suppose it is not altogether surprising.
she was a stunning, talented, extremely funny, magnetic actress who died of renal failure in 1937. at age 26.
there was no dialysis. there was no transplantation. they thought she had the flu up until the day she died.
the industrial revolution and its subsequent advancements has stripped us of much. and yet. and yet...
behold it's gifts.
jean harlow could not cleanse her blood.
jean harlow could not pop her pills.
and jean harlow could not accept another kidney and breathe the majesty of life once more.
but i can.
on november 19th, there was much i already knew.
phase 1: a line up of 7 other potential recipients. all waiting to register for evaluation. it could have been early morning sluggishness; but i suspect the energy in the room was fueled by tension and fear.
a gentle hand on my back.
"go and sit down, sweetheart".
and so i sat. and shook. and watched, as uberhubby waited in line.
sign here. wristband there. vitals complete.
phase 2: enter conference room A for a powerpoint presentation a la al gore.
yup, it's all "an inconvenient truth".
so much was familiar; but all of it unwelcome.
when you have had a prior transplant, you fall into a high risk group. you have most likely developed antibodies that could attack your second transplant. fortunately, cedars-sinai has a program (IV drugs) that assist the body in taming these existing antibodies, thereby allowing for the potential success of a second transplant.
but it all depends on the donor and recipient's compatibility.
phase 3: the one-on-one interviews.
nephrologist, fellow, social worker, financial consultant, nutritionist, transplant coordinator and...
who, by default, is required to fall into the "only in l.a." category.
my surgeon will most likely be willem defoe's ("the english patient", "the last temptation of christ") brother, donald defoe.
as long as he can cut me an organ, i don't give a shit.
phase 4: a jigsaw puzzle of the most surreal.
i have a few more tests to complete. copies of my recent mammogram and pap smear. a psychological letter of clearance. ("no, dude, it was not a suicide attempt"). and a stress test.
once these pieces have been put in place, we can move onto stage 5.
phase 5: working up any potential donors.
they allow the work up of up to 4 donors at a time.
but tell me, despite the copious offers, how does someone ask someone else for a kidney?
[this should be a scene in a terry gilliam film. suggestions are welcome at the door...]
"hi, how are you doing? so...do you still want to give me a kidney?"
makes me want to puke.
all the jigsaw pieces have been thrown down on the table, and it's how quickly i fit them all together that is the key to the game. but, to my mind, it's no game at all.
for underneath it all lies the death of the american dream.
for those who are young and rich and healthy, a red carpet of opportunity spreads out before you.
but to be sick and financially challenged, you quickly find yourself in the gutter; mere, painful inches from that plush red carpet.
it's a business here. and they really don't give a shit.
there is money to be made off the sick. and when that vaporizes along with your dreams, you are dumped, and left for dead.
[canadian death panels? ha. don't make me laugh.]
how can one get well, when they are consumed by financial strain?
and how can one continue to play, when you realize the pieces of the puzzle add up to an entirely different picture than you imagined?
and so i wonder. what is better? the ignorance that jean harlow lived? not knowing what lay ahead? or the dreams that are placed on hold because of what you do know.
and then i realize, what i do know trumps any starring role, any red carpet premier and any veneer of glamour that may cloud my judgement.
doctors may suffer from a god complex occasionally, but that doesn't mean we have to nurture it.
[do not feed the animals...]
we have come so far with scientific advancement.
but in the remains of the day, there is no text, no email and no surgery that can replace the simplicity of the heart.
at one point during that power point presentation, the transplant coordinator spoke of a potential 5-8 year wait for a cadaver. she then spoke of the additional wait that high risk patients, like myself, must endure.
k turned to me, with glassy eyes, and whispered, "are you ok?"
equally glassy-eyed, i whispered back, "yeah".
for i was.
jean harlow never had a shot.
but i do.