a quintessential, so-cal morning. blue skies, traffic jams and latte-clasping wannabes.
SCENE 1: a bleary-eyed couple enter the cedars-sinai transplant clinic (steven spielberg centre), dragging their sorry asses. the husband, a sexy 38 year-old hunk of a canuck, resembling a kinder and gentler jason statham, signs in at the clinic window. the wife, a 42 year old, impossibly young looking danvian, face etched deep in a "shades of gray" complexion, follows suit and signs in as well.
SCENE 2: a minimum wage technician with maximum enthusiasm straps a blood pressure cuff on the wife.
MINIMUM WAGE TECHIE:
"have you ever been to cedars-sinai before?"
[wild rolling of wife's eyes.]
"uh, yeah. i've been coming here for 15 years."
the wife is weighed, bp'd, temped, and provides an updated list of her medications. she waits in the lobby while the husband undergoes the identical protocol.
SCENE 3: the pair are escorted by their perky, nebraskan, transplant-co-ordinator, alexandra, for a 2 on 1 private, one hour briefing. high tech, powerpoint presentation included!
"as the recipient, henriette, your incision and immunosuppression prevents you from having your dog on your bed for one month, you cannot go swimming for 6 months and you cannot eat sushi
for one year. in addition, you are banned for life from picking up dog poop."
[actually, that last part kinda rocks.]
"as the donor, kevin, you must cut out beans and all carbonated beverages on wednesday the 6th. on thursday the 7th, you must drink 2 bottles of magnesium citrate and then begin to fast. make sure you are near a toilet all day. you will need to be."
[excellent! poop humor!]
"you will both check into the hospital at 5:15 am. your surgery is scheduled for 8 am, but we are a trauma centre, so you may be delayed. you will both receive an IV line, antibiotics, and then anesthesia is started. while under, catheters will be inserted to monitor urine output. compression devices are placed on your legs to prevent clots."
[note loving, panicked glance between husband and wife.]
"this is major surgery. you will both be in pain. you will stay in recovery until your vitals are stable, there is no active bleeding, anesthesia is reversed, you are fully conscious and your IV pain management has taken effect."
[where's my xanax? no. really.]
"kevin you will be transfered to one of our "elizabeth taylor" suites. you will be in 8SW. we like to pamper our donors! henriette, you will be in 6NW. you cannot have any fresh flowers, no children under 12, and anyone will a cold/flu must not visit. anyone that wants to send flowers, can send them to kevin's room."
[who needs flowers when you have a gyrating hospital bed? (sigh).]
"kevin, you should be up and walking that night and discharged within 48 hours, as long as your condition is stable. henriette, you will be monitored for rejection (and for one year after), before you can be discharged. we want the kidney to pee on the table immediately after attachment to your ureter."
[stunned silence. clasping of hands.]
"henriette, you will have an additional outpatient surgery 3 weeks after the transplant. a stent is placed into your ureter to assist with urine flow to the kidney. it has to be removed with local anesthetic. take antibiotics before the dentist, note an increased risk of skin and lip cancer and you cannot exercise/have sexual relations for one month. and, of course, constantly wash your hands, sanitize, and do not have
contact with anyone who is sick."
[yeah, i got it honey. this ain't my first rodeo.]
"unfortunately, we have to leave your permacath in for 2 weeks after the transplant, in case the kidney doesn't start working and you need to go on dialysis."
[aannndd, we're done. next.]
SCENE 4: husband and wife peel off individually into tiny, sterile offices. meetings with their social workers, financial consultant, nephrologist and surgeons are banged out.
ENTER: dr. dafoe. the wife's surgeon. early 50's, and brother to movie star willem dafoe. he is a trim, pleasing-looking fellow, sporting geek-chic glasses.
[file this under "only in l.a.".]
"the kidney will be placed here in your abdomen, on the right side, just above your groin; next to your first transplant. complications include rejection, infection, delayed kidney function and high blood pressure. sometimes when we go in, there are two arteries connecting to the ureter and that can cause problems. if you get a cold or infection before the 8th, we will have to postpone the surgery."
[dude, this is about as intense as your brother's performance in "the english patient".]
SCENE 5: husband and wife enter blood lab and sit in adjoining cubicles. tubes drawn: 7 for her. 14 for him. urine containers are distributed. the husband fills 18; the wife dribbles into 1.
SCENE 6: husband and wife get matching EKGs.
[way sexier than embossed hand towels or cruise wear.]
SCENE 7: husband and wife hit up the "mark taper" imaging centre. wife drools at sight of the gratis coffee station.
"can i make you a tea, sweetheart?"
wife downs the steaming, creamy baby tea, satisfactorily scalding her insides with the comforting tonic.
wife pops off chest x-ray faster than you can say chest x-ray.
SCENE 8: wife and husband brave the chaotic lunch rush at the "ray charles" cafeteria. scarfing her soon-to-be-restricted sushi rolls, the wife bows head and confides:
"you know what's great?"
"we still have dialysis."
SCENE 9: inside the dialysis ward, spent wife collapses into her chair. permacath flinches with infected pain. uberhubby soothes with more tea.
as wife succumbs to a fitful, welcomed slumber, husband makes a well deserved beeline to the beverly center, but not before snapping a photo of his sleeping beauty.
SCENE 10: with tight chests, spinning heads and brimming hearts the couple arrive home to their cabin in the sky. and to a gift.
color in a world of gray...
beauty staked in a land conquered by illness...
and hope floating in their soup of anxiety...
["sun, sun, sun, here it comes..."]