Waiting for a new heart involves a bit of gallows humor. You just cant help it, but the fact is, someone younger than me will die, and will generously donate a heart which will become mine. You might read this and just think it’s interesting. Waiting for a heart which will keep me alive brings this theoretical paradox to reality. When I received the first call for a heart, I was in my car, and felt excitement, and relief. I would live! Then I chastised myself; someone had died that day, someone younger than me. I said a prayer of gratitude for him. It turns out, he was much younger; 31 years old. When I came to in the recovery room the next day, my first thought was, “Wow. There is nothing to this heart transplant stuff. I feel great!”
While still in a groggy state, someone, a nurse, I guess, told me that the donor had advanced heart disease. As Lucille so aptly said, it was a clunker. Now, I wait for a new one. It has been a few weeks, I think, and each day at the top of the list seems longer.
The chaplain who later visited me in the hospital and mostly listened as I pontificated about this paradox gave indication that she wanted to leave when she said, “Let’s pray for a new heart for you.” I said, I couldn’t, and would rather pray for the donor who lost his life and whose heart could not be used. How noble of me. My nobility is waning.
I was in the Fresh Market at the fish counter on Ash Wednesday, standing next to two women in their late 70’s or so, each with the sign of the cross on their foreheads in ashes. They asked the guy behind the counter about the salmon. I interrupted and said, “Don’t buy that. Its farmed fish, eats corn full of chemicals and antibiotics and has to be colored to make it look like salmon.” They were a bit shocked at my interruption, and asked what they should buy instead. “The Copper River Salmon. Look at it. It’s rich in color and the best you can buy.”
They were shocked at the priced difference. The farmed salmon was $6 a pound, vs. $19 for the Copper River.
“We are nuns living in the convent. We can’t afford that.”
My lingering Catholic guilt came to bear on me while standing there with no ashes on my head, and having skipped church for more than a few Sundays…many more. I went into a diatribe of elementary school, Sister Mark, who was as mean as a snake, and Sister Bernadette who as kind as a woman could be. They laughed as I told them of the paddling I had received from Sister Mark. The fish guy waited with his elbows on the counter.
“I will buy a pound of the salmon for you,” I said.
“No, we can’t accept such a gift.”
“It’s not a gift. We are making a deal.”
The fish guy then weighed out a piece that was almost a pound and a half, looked at me with a sly grin, wrapped it and handed it to the nuns. It was nearly $10 over what I had planned on, but the nuns were cautiously pleased.
“I am waiting for a new heart at Florida Hospital. I will trade the fish for a prayer for a new heart, since you two have a direct link to God.”
They took the fish, smiled, and said they would say much more than one prayer. I thought, my heart is on its way, and the hell…I mean, to heck with the nobility I had displayed to the hospital chaplain. I wish I knew where the convent is. I am still waiting.
Today, I took a more direct approach. I was back in the same Fresh Market today, where the nurses come wearing scrubs. There was one picking oranges from the same bin as me.
“Do all the nurses stop here for food on the way home?”
“I am on my way to work, just picking up a few things for lunch.”
“I am on the heart transplant list at Florida Hospital. Dr. Silvestry is my surgeon,” I said with a bit of pride.
“I have heard of him, but never met him. I am in the neuro ICU.”
“What’s that mean?”
“We deal with brain trauma. Many of the transplant donors come from our ICU. They are brain dead and we keep the organs functioning.”
“Well, its Bike Week and Spring Break here in Florida. Maybe I will have a heart soon.”
“Perhaps. You just might,” she said with a smile.